Posted by: nancycurteman | June 6, 2012

How to Prevent/Correct Format Disasters in E-Books

Bookmark and Share

When my first novel was published in an e-book format I was so delighted that I rushed to my computer and immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. I started reading it and was shocked to see serious formatting issues. I’m not talking about the basic format standards like: • Double-spacing
  • 1-inch margins all around (at least)  • A clear, readable font  • Paragraphs indicated by indents (tabs), not by an extra line space

Most authors are careful about this type of formatting. I’m talking about totally unexpected problems that many authors may not see coming. Some you can prevent. Some your publisher needs to solve.  Here are some of the ones I encountered and what I did to correct them and will do in the future to prevent them.


• Font variations popping up in different sections of the book.

Cause: You may have actually used more than one font because you pasted some Internet information or you did type some sections in a different font.

Solution: Go through your manuscript and highlight sections. When you come to a section with a different font, change it to your preferred one. Best of all is to set your font when you begin to write and don’t vary from it.

 • Loss of paragraphs indents.

Cause: You didn’t set paragraph indents using your Paragraph Menu. You applied them manually. This problem could also be one your publisher needs to correct for you because e-books can lose some formatting during publishing.

Solution: Set your paragraph indents by using your Paragraph Menu commands.

• Inconsistent spacing between words

Cause: You varied your Style or Font.

Solution: Again go through your manuscript highlighting each section and check to see that you stuck with your selected Fonts and Style. Better yet, go to your style menu when you start writing your manuscript. Select one style for your body text and one for your chapter headings (other styles for various special needs). Don’t vary from those style settings.

• Whole sections indented as if inserting a long quote.

Cause:  A mysterious glitch of some kind.

Solution: In my case, this needed to be corrected by my publisher. They said it was a problem I did not cause.

All of the above problems could also relate to upgrading your word processing program. In my case, my document was created in an earlier version of Word. As a consequence, when I converted to the new version I lost some formatting and the program did not allow me to make changes.

Solution: Save your manuscript in the .docx file format.

If you’ve experienced any formatting problems in publishing your e-book, let us hear from you. Tell us what they were, how you solved them and how you will prevent them in the future.

More Editing Tips:

Developmental Editing: How to do it

How to Edit Your Mystery Novel


  1. I have yet to read an e-book that does not have formatting issues.

    And I’ve seen lots of “widows” (lone line or word) at the top of “the next page” instead of hanging out with the rest of the sentence, paragraph, or chapter.


    • I’ve seen this also. I think you need to try to take care of this in the paragraph menu in your word processing program by clicking Control Widows and Orphans.


  2. […] […]


    • Thanks for the pingback. You made some good suggestions in this posting.


  3. I’m with Nancy H on this. Problems abound. The GREAT thing about ePublishing is that you can update your work. That is also the bad thing, because it can keep you working on a book long after it hit the “shelves”.


    • That’s true. Even more frustrating is when you see a problem but are unable to correct it. This often happens when you upgrade or change your word processing program.


  4. I used Amazon service: receive a Kindle version for personal use (not published to the world). I was happy with most of it except got the last problem Nancy mentioned: Whole sections indented. When you read Kindle with big type as I do, you barely get any word on a line, and it sure is ugly. In dialog, you can’t tell when you have a new speaker. I noticed it usually began when I started a long train of dialog. It would revert to the correct way eventually, but that seemed random as to when. I’d say the goof was usually less than, say, 2 to 8 screen-pages. I can’t imagine I did any different formatting. Will try that docx thing you mentioned, but then I assume it won’t recognize some of my styles (in old word 97-2003), which most editors and some agents might need for compatibility. Most my critique readers need the old version.

    A related question is most publishers insist you do not get fancy by incorporating or typing in indents, different fonts and formats for chapter titles (or this is left vague). Well I have styles with exactly the brief indent I want; syles for double spaced & single spaced version. I interpret publisher and contest entry rules to mean they don’t want styles at all, but that’s ridiculous. For example, my Chapter style automatically numbers chapters for me. I’d be crippled without that. Then there are long quote indents or font changes that you do want, for example, someone’s mailed letter is part of your story.

    I’m guessing all the restrictive publisher rules are probably aimed at beginners who manually type space-bar five times at the beginning of each paragraph. Btw, how does rtf handle the need for styles? Same question for open software? I never compose with either.


    • Richard, Great comment. You mentioned some issues related to Kindle. I’m guessing author formatting will not cure these problems because the reader creates them by changing the font size.

      Using a different word processing program than your publisher uses will cause problems.

      I’ve found that using Styles consistently throughout your novel results in pretty good print and e-book outcomes. You’re right, manually creating indents etc. will cause big problems in your published novel.

      Bottom line, most problems can be controlled by the author but some glitchy things will happen anyway.

      If anyone has any solutions to these problems, please share them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: