Daniel’s Journal #68 – Not Sorry for the Misunderstood Controversy I Might’ve Caused on Twitter Recently

I’m also not sorry for the long post title.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve made a blog post. You may be thinking, “Gee, Dan, I didn’t even know you still had your site open since you haven’t blogged in almost a year.” Well, stop acting like a dingus because I already cleared that up for you.

But that’s not why I’ve returned. I’ve been meaning to grace your timelines, but I didn’t know what to talk about. My last few posts were mostly bitch-fests about the former president, but I didn’t return to this forum to rehash all that bullshit either. I’m here to dispel some nonsense over some unintended controversy from the last few days.

Before I continue, I’m not being “canceled”, nor do I believe that “cancel culture” is a tangible thing. The subject at hand was something I posted about formatting books by indie authors. I thought my question regarding its importance had been decent enough, and I wanted to know about how people who purchased indie books felt about getting a book that hadn’t been formatted properly.

What in particular am I talking about? It’s not the editing. That’s a whole separate topic that should be discussed, but I’m not getting into it here. I’m not talking about cover art either, but that’s also important. I’m looking at how pretty a book is on the inside. We’re talking about the page-to-page aesthetics of your book.

If your curious about my personal list of formatting dos and don’ts, here’s my old post about it:

Daniel’s Journal #28 – Adventures in Formatting

Alright, so let’s move onto why I’m taking about this again. Well, let me add that I’m not going to name authors who have broken these rules. I’m not here to shame anyone or any book. That being said, it drives me up the wall when I buy an indie book (and I buy a lot) that has not been formatted.

On some level I get it. Writing takes time, and it can be a pain in the ass. The whole process of self-publishing is its own monster. But, as I said in the previously linked post on formatting, you are also the publisher now. Too quote myself from either that or another post, if you don’t look good, you look bad.

What am I taking about, though? OK… I’ve bought indie books in paperback because I love the physical copies. I can’t stand reading anything longer than a few pages on a phone or tablet. I buy the book, wait for the delivery, and open it to find no splash page, double line spacing, blank pages, no page numbers, large indents, unjustified text, huge fonts, and other faux pas. Some books have zero formatting, and some have committed only a few sins. I get that, and my heart sinks.

Someone responded to my tweet about this that I was insisting indie writers pay someone to fix this, stating the consensus that readers of our books complain about the lack of editing to writers who don’t have the money to pay for editors, being independent and not having the backing of a publishing house and all. Again, I’m not talking about editing, though I maintain that you should find ways to self edit if you can’t afford an editor. You don’t need to pay for formatting. Get on Google, and search for tutorials on how to fix this shit. You can even check the Help files in whatever document editor you use as well. It costs you nothing to do this.

One could argue that it costs time. Well, tough shit if that’s your issue. I can only talk about my own books, but it takes around two years from first draft to being able to publish a book between various drafts, going over beta readers’ notes, editing, creating the cover (which usually winds up having multiple drafts too), and… FORMATTING. If you’ve given yourself a deadline and can’t be bothered with working on your internal formatting, then I don’t know what to tell you other than to push it back. I’ve dealt with stubborn writers who refused to admit they needed it, stating their stories should be good enough for things like formatting not to matter.

Oh, but it does, and most readers aside from your friends will tell you that. Most will do it through a negative review, so have fun with that.

Imagine you’re in Barnes & Noble. You pick up a book, flip through the pages like we all do, and you see it’s double line spaced, the indents are a quarter of the page, and there are no page numbers to boot. Don’t tell me you’re still buying that book because I’ll call you a liar to your face. Now, imagine if you will, buying this book online since some indie authors can’t get their books into stores, myself included. You bought the book without being able to do that page flipping you could’ve done in the store. You get it delivered to your home and see the laziness of the publisher (which is also the writer) on the page staring back at you.

I’ll admit I do get how petty this all sounds coming from me, and I’m not doing this because I always take the time to fix these issues and painstakingly ensure the book looks pretty. I want you, assuming you’re an indie author reading this, to be successful. I’m sorry for saying this if it hurts, but it has to be said: If you’re self-publishing books like this, you will not be successful. You may not believe me, but your well-written, exciting, exhilarating story will suffer if it doesn’t look good on the page.

Besides, you can keep the paper cost of your book down by fixing some of these things. KDP takes its cut of paperbacks based on the size, so fixing the fonts, margins, indents, blank spaces, and other issues might gain you a little extra in the end or help keep the price down since Amazon takes a big bite already. This is especially true since most of the books I get tend to be the default 6×9 size, which I find to be too large for paperbacks, but that’s my personal preference and not a formatting sin.

This blog piece wound up longer than I had intended, but I still feel it needs to be said. For myself, I’d want to know when my books look like shit. I stopped offering creative criticism regarding formatting after I lost a friend who went off the rails over this issue. If, by chance, you want to know, I have no trouble telling you. Again, I want you to look good. I want you to sell books. I want you to succeed at this. In the end, indie authors and self-publishers will always be judged by the worst of us. It sucks, but that’s how it is. Don’t be their bad example. Write your story, polish it up, wrap it in a pretty cover, and make damn sure it looks good when your reader opens the book. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed.

If you want to come at me for this, come at me. You won’t change my mind that this is an important step you shouldn’t ignore. If you tell me your story is so good that you can skip this step, then you’ve already lost the argument. Sorry, but that’s how it is.

As a final note, I can overlook some of the faux pas listed if the story is good, but don’t you dare let me get another book in the mail that’s double line spaced!

-Daniel Aegan, 2/4/22


If you’re looking for a villainous romp that was most definitely formatted, you can check out by new book Reign of the Unfortunate, coming on 2/8. You can preorder the ebook by clicking here.

Reign of the Unfortunate by Daniel Aegan


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