F is for Formatting
In the publishing world – formatting is the Devil.
The following is a story of aggravation, so my indie author friends can point and laugh.
When I self-published “Okatibbee Creek,” I knew I would need someone to format it for me. There were two reasons. A) It had a lot of photographs and documents that needed to be included. B) I didn’t know squat about formatting. So, I paid a reputable (insert shitty) company to do the grunt work. I was told it was a six-week process, beginning with a mock-up, followed by a full format, followed by a paperback proof, followed by the finished product. The six weeks included the week-long time to incorporate any changes I would make at each stage of the process.
I requested a few specific things upfront: 1) I wanted the chapter titles to be the same font as the cover, 2) I wanted drop caps at the beginning of each chapter, 3) I wanted fleurons (the little fancy squiggles separating times or at the end of a chapter), and 4) there were letters included in the story, so I wanted those indented and a different font, perhaps something in the neighborhood of handwriting.
The first week became twelve days, and the mock up contained ZERO items on my above wish list.
Back to the drawing board.
The revisions (insert starting over from scratch) were supposed to take a week, and ended up taking another ten days, but the mock up came back perfect, except I didn’t get a sample of the indented, handwriting font for the letters, nor did I see one fleuron. Oh, well, take what you get at this point. We’re now well into November and I’d like to get this book out before the holidays.
The completed full format, supposedly a 10-day process, took another couple weeks, and it looked good…until the last 50 pages. Photos were in the wrong places with the wrong captions, single lines were left lonely at the bottom of a page when they obviously should have been at the top of the next page. One page actually had a paragraph in a totally unrelated font in a strange size just looming there for no reason at all. Apparently the formatter grew tired after lunch, or got into a fight with her boyfriend, or needed a Pepsi, or was anxious to get out the door and go on her Thanksgiving break.
I emailed the corrections – which would take another week (but probably more because of Thanksgiving).
After two weeks, I called them because I hadn’t heard back. Apparently, someone over there didn’t click the right button, and my file was hanging in limbo with no one working on it. They were sorry. How nice.
After another week, I received a paperback copy in the mail. It only needed two or three minor changes. Would they let me request those over the phone or by email and call it good? No. They needed me to download the full format, make the changes on the document, email it back to them, and they would incorporate the changes, and send me yet another paperback copy. Another ten days of waiting.
Finally, after ten weeks, it was finished. Of course it would take another week or so for it to appear on any of the online retailer’s sites. Being too late for holiday sales, I guess it didn’t really matter at this point. Sigh.
I received an email from them a month later asking me to fill out a survey about their services. Well, you can imagine what I wrote. Actually, I was very nice (insert a little bitchy) and told them specifically where things had fallen apart.
Here’s the rub. I got an email back, telling me I was WRONG. It explained that they were well within the six-week time frame they initially told me. They said I uploaded my manuscript on Oct 12, 2012, and they published the finished product on Dec 21, 2012. I don’t know how they figure that was six weeks. They must be using that Mayan calendar.
The moral of the story: I’ve spent the last three months learning how to format for paperback, Kindle, and Smashwords. I finished the formatting for my next book for all mediums in five days. 🙂