Well, it happened again. An author submitted their manuscript for publication…and insisted we not TOUCH her formatting. She wanted it to be printed EXACTLY as she’d submitted it.
Years ago, when authors did this, and when their formatting was (let’s be honest here), truly AWFUL, I would try to gently explain to them that, at BookLocker.com, we can work some pretty amazing magic when it comes to making a book look professional. I would beg them to just let us take a crack at it. They could always choose to reject our improvements. Unfortunately, this simple request failed to work about half the time with those authors still insisting I “leave it alone.” Some of the books looked so bad that we couldn’t risk putting our name on them and we gave those authors a refund, and wished them well. We never want other BookLocker authors to look bad by association by having our name on a book that…looks absolutely horrible.
After awhile, when I realized my simple “please just let me wield my magic wand and see if you like it” offers were failing about half the time, I tried a different method. Rather than asking the author if we could “fix” their manuscript, we just went ahead and did it. Yes, we saved their original manuscript just in case they didn’t like what we did. We simply did the work, and presented them with a professionally formatted file that looked AWESOME.
None of those authors ever got upset. Rather, they thanked us profusely!
Some authors get too attached to not only their characters and story in general, but also to the look and feel of the manuscript they’ve been using during the writing process. While I, personally, understand this habit, I also know that letting a professional take it for a spin is always a good idea – especially when it will cost the author nothing extra at all. Test drives are always free!
Think of it this way… Let’s say you want to redecorate your bedroom. You have been collecting a hodgepodge of ideas from Pinterest and you start with the paint color you saw in one picture, use carpet you found in another, and find just the right bedspread in another photo. Yet, when you have everything purchased, painted, and carpeted, and when you make your bed, you realize none of it looks good together. The styles aren’t consistent. Everything clashes. And, it doesn’t look at ALL how you’d envisioned it would.
The same goes for a book manuscript. Some authors use different fonts (sometimes a dozen or more), different font styles, bolds, italics, underlines, single spacing mixed with double spacing, different margins in different chapters, etc. While all of these differences might have helped the author during the writing process, they’re only going to give readers a headache. And, one of the biggest mistakes new authors make it to having inconsistent formatting/design styles throughout the book.
The author in question above had:
1. GINORMOUS words on the page. Text should never, ever, ever be in a 28 pt font throughout a book. The book was long enough at a normal font.
2. Varying fonts, the most prominent being courier, which is, in my opinion, the least professional font on the planet. It looked really awful. There were at least eight other fonts in the book as well, and no rhyme or reason as to why different sections had different fonts. For example, the single paragraph under the page titled Part I was in Helvetica 18 pt while the single paragraph under the page titled Part II was Comic Sans 12 pt.
3. The spacing changed from single spaced, to 1.5 spacing, to double spacing, and back again with no rhyme or reason why. There was also some “after” spacing mixed in with blank lines inserted using the enter key, resulting in inconsistent spacing throughout the manuscript.
4. Some paragraphs were indented. Others were not. And, the margins were inconsistent throughout the book.
5. The cover was also really, really bad. It featured a huge courier font with every word in a different color on a white background. The author insisted it was “perfect.” No, it wasn’t.
The writing was excellent but the entire book looked AWFUL. But, it was a self-help book that I knew could help lots of people so I really wanted to help the author put the most professional looking book on the market that she could. The author did not want to give up even once once of control of her “baby” to the professionals so I took it upon myself to re-do the entire thing without asking. (Again, I saved her original file just in case she didn’t like what I did.) I also had a private discussion with our cover designer, and asked him to do the same thing with her cover.
The very first thing I did was get rid of the 28 pt font. I then made the fonts consistent by section, both in type and size. I made the entire manuscript have only two different kinds of fonts. I fixed the margins, coded the manuscript for an automated table of contents, put attractive frames around the graphics, and put the correct wording on her copyright page. I also added a standard disclaimer for her protection since she was giving personal advice to her readers.
When I sent the manuscript to the author, she was able to see what a truly professional book looks like and she was THRILLED! I hear that a lot. 😉
While I know grabbing the wheel and steering somebody else’s car onto a rapidly moving freeway can always be dangerous but, if we both arrive at the same destination, happy and intact, and looking FAR better than we did when we left, it’s a win-win for everyone involved!
And, again, when I have done this with picky authors in the past, nobody has complained. 😉
Unfortunately, many publishers don’t do this. They see these authors as easy money because they don’t have to do any work those books. We ensure every BookLocker book is one all of our authors would be proud to present to book lovers. 🙂
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