She Who Comes Forth book spine

Get It Right the First Time!

Since I am preparing to publish the sequel to my novel, She Who Comes Forth, I decided to correct three tiny typos in that book, which I published in 2018.

As usual, everything was fine until I tackled the print version. I made the corrections in the original Word document and used Save As to create a new PDF. Note that the Word doc was the very same one from which I made the original PDF when I first published the book. The only differences between the original PDF and the new one were my three corrections, which involved adding two commas, deleting two letters, and adding two other letters.

But something else changed, either in Word or in the copying/saving process. Or more likely in Amazon’s quality checker.

I uploaded the new PDF with the corrections to Amazon. After being notified that the upload was successful, I was invited to use the Print Previewer, which informed me of two ERRORS. First, although I had selected a trim size of 5.5″ x 8.5″ (when I first published the book in 2018), the document I uploaded was 5.50″ x 8.50″. I don’t know where those zeroes came from, but they were unacceptable. And second, the gutter size was insufficient; it must be at least 0.625 inches.

On checking my original Word doc, I found that those critical dimensions were in centimeters, not inches, but when converted, they were exactly as the Previewer specified. 13.97 cm = 5.5 inches. 21.59 cm = 8.5 inches. As for the gutter, my inside margin was set to 1.59 cm, otherwise known as 0.6259843 inches, which rounds up to 0.626 inches.

Infuriating! I sent a (polite) note to the Help people outlining all this. I received a prompt response, which said that the trim size wasn’t a problem (hurray!), but the gutter insufficiency had to be addressed.

So I did that. I created a new copy of the Word doc. As advised, I activated Word’s Gridlines to show me whether the text fit inside the acceptable areas. Then I increased the inside margin to 1.61 cm (0.634 in.). This fixed some of the gutter problems, but not all. The five that remained all involved the italicized letter “f” (wouldn’t you know it!) right next to the gutter (i.e., the inside margin). A minute portion of the curly tail of the “f” projected over the gridline, which is unacceptable. (One more reason to avoid using italics!)

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

At that point, I thought about giving up. I emailed the nice person at the Help desk saying that if the latest PDF I uploaded was unacceptable because of those “f’s,” I preferred to cancel the corrections and live with the errors. Except you can’t cancel changes in KDP, only suspend them. The book’s status had changed to “Live with unpublished changes,” meaning it was available in its original state (still with the three tiny errors, of course). It could remain that way indefinitely.

Before really giving up, I decided to experiment. For that purpose, I made a copy of the original Word doc. At first, I gradually increased the inside margin to 1.65 cm. Even at that size, the “f’s” still exceeded the gridline by a tiny amount, and what’s worse, the overall size of the book increased from 381 pages to 383. If I kept increasing the inside margin, eventually the book’s spine width would grow to the point the cover would be incompatible with the text document. Which wasn’t going to happen.

Then I had an idea–what about reducing the outer margin while increasing the inner one? That would create more wiggle room for the inside margin without increasing the number of pages. The original size of the outer margin was 1.59 cm, or 0.626 inches. I decided half an inch (1.27 cm) was my absolute minimum. Any less of an outer page margin looks too skimpy. So in my experimental document, I set that as the outer margin and proceeded to increase the inner margin (gutter), hoping to correct the italic “f” problem. At 2.0 cm, the book’s size jumped to 383 pages again, so 1.9 cm was the max. And did that fix the “f” problem? I didn’t think so; the tails of those pesky italic “f” descenders were still edging over the gridline.

So I tried another approach. Since italic text was the problem, what about “de-italicizing” the bits noted as problematic by the Print Previewer? A couple of unspoken thoughts became spoken, and one paragraph that represented a vision is no longer distinguished by italics. After I made sure the changes didn’t affect the book’s overall size or cause other problems, I created yet another PDF and uploaded it to Amazon.

Success! The book is now “Live.” And the three tiny errors are no more. But what a process!

One thing I don’t like about my solution is that the print and ebook versions are now slightly different, which doesn’t seem right. (Someday I will probably make those changes in the ebook text, but right now I’m fed up with the post-pub updating business.)

In retrospect, this whole thing doesn’t seem right. Why would margin settings that passed Amazon KDP’s quality control checks in 2018 fail in 2021? The helpful help person offered no explanation. Why is an awkward workaround my only option to correct errors in my book? I would think people who buy the book would notice the errors more than the gutter issue. But then, what do I know?

On the plus side, I have learned a few things that will be helpful for future formatting:

  • It’s worthwhile to reduce instances of italics to a minimum, watching especially for “f’s” that end up in the gutter. (Haha!)
  • I’m now comfortable with changing margin settings and have a better idea of optimal sizes.
  • I won’t finalize the cover of the paperback version until I know the interior file has passed the quality checking process. That way, I won’t be limited by spine width.

All this tells me that when I prepare the text of She Who Returns for publishing, I will have to make sure there are NO errors. Because post-pub fixes are too much trouble. I will never do post-pub corrections again, at least not for print books. Yes, there will very likely still be a few little bugs, but I declare now that I will live with them. Maybe those errors will make the books valuable collectors’ copies some day, long after I’ve gone to the big remainder pile in the sky.

gargoyle grumpy

Has anyone else experienced a problem of this sort? Have you changed the text of a book to get it past Amazon’s quality checks? Do you correct errors after a book has been published? How important is it to make your book perfect and error-free?

74 comments

  1. Dear Audrey, You have the patience of a saint! I salute you, It’s hard enough writing and finishing a book, without all that terrible hassle.(I know the past is the past, but bring back MORE ,mainstream, efficient, publishing ‘houses’ someone, PLEASE!. .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, Joy, I’m still happy to be able to publish my own works. Formatting can be frustrating, but at least I can do it (so far). Submitting to the whims of publishers is beyond my capabilities. Although I agree that more publishers who aren’t owned by multinational mega-corporations might be helpful, at least to aspiring writers who are younger than I.
      As always, thanks for your comments!

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      1. Ingram required that the Word file be converted to a particular PDF format, so it was easier to make typo corrections in the PDF and risk a problem with the formatting by converting the corrected Word file.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You are perseverant, Audrey! After finally formatting my first e-book and banging my head against the wall many times, I will never, ever, ever complain about another author’s formatting or oddball mistakes in a review again. (And that was just an e-book. I can’t imagine the stress of formatting a print book!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My ebook formatting experience is with Smashwords’ infamous “Meatgrinder,” so I guess I’ve learned how to do that. They do have a really detailed guide, which I still refer to. And I don’t do a lot of fancy stuff for my ebooks.
      With print, it’s mostly a matter of getting the section breaks right, and then the headers and footers. This margin business is new to me, however. One good thing is that the rest of my formatting held up okay while I was fiddling with the margins.

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  3. As someone who has had to make many corrections over the years and who has changed covers on a whim, I can say from experience that it’s always an adventure and often a mystery. I even have problems with ebooks on Smashwords — I make a typo correction and they bounce it back for some sort of table of contents error, even though they’ve accepted it in the past. I don’t include a table of contents, so it’s a frustrating game of trial and error to get something they’ll accept. I’ve had to eliminate section headings just so their program will accept a book after making a couple of typo corrections.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve done fairly well with Smashwords so far. I understand there is a successor to the Meatgrinder, but I haven’t published anything new for more than a year, so haven’t experienced it.
      I’m somewhat apprehensive about formatting the new book in a few months.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that I set my gutters to be wider than the minimum just because I thought the words went too far into the bend of the paper. I don’t think they kick about the gutter being too wide. And starting fresh you don’t have to worry about page count.

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      2. I used the meatgrinder to publish The Last Dragon In London and it looked just the same as always … gotta love those little Word from Windows HP images! πŸ˜€ I do hope they get that successor up and running by the time I’m ready for the next book in the series. πŸ™‚

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  4. You’re so meticulous! I’ll tell you what I do. All my books (except Monster, which is only 70 or so pages, so requires a smaller format) are 8.5 x 5.5 in. Long, long ago I downloaded to a Word document KDP’s template for this size. Now when I do a new volume I copy the last one I did, erase all the contents piece by piece, i.e., I usually do a chapter at a time, and then insert the new text, adjust the paging (for example, the ToC might be longer in the new volume and so take extra pages), and then do the usual editing for divided words at ends of lines, etc. Sometimes you have to work on the extra blank verso problem, but If I am unsure it is right, I make a preliminary PDF and check it out. I never mess with the gutters or the margins because they are given in the template and can be viewed at any time in the Word doc.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve heard of templates, but haven’t used one as yet. From what you say, I could use She Who Comes Forth as a template for the sequel. And I think KDP still has those templates.
      Thanks for describing your process, Lorinda! Patience is definitely needed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like my experience with formatting The Dime when I published it last year. For some reason, formatting for the paperback version has become more difficult than it was when I started this almost ten years ago. And, in particular, it’s those pesky margins that cause all of the problems.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get that impression too, Mark. I had a close look at my copy of SWCF, and I’m pretty sure the tails of those italic f’s do project beyond the other letters in the inside margin by a fraction of a millimeter. So that was OK in 2018, but no longer. I’m going to take a close look at italicized text before I format the next book.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Could be worse. No KDP, no internet, no self-pub, only Big-5 publishers…
    ebook formats diverging? I set the fontsize to +2 so none of the pages match anything in print.
    But, yeah, what else would Amazon engineers do beside tweak shit, just to flummox authors? Their jobs depend on changing code.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point! I’ve thought at times that’s why everything is always being “improved.” Those guys have to do something to make people upgrade. It wouldn’t do to leave the product as is. “The status quo is not an option,” right?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I had the exact same thing happen, and I wish I could remember how I ultimately fixed it. Damn! I think I fiddled with the line breaks until the offending serif wasn’t in the gutter anymore. In any case, I wish I had your stoic doggedness!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If I run into major problems formatting the next book, I may ask you for tips, Kevin! But hey, when it’s all done and you flip through the print book you designed, and it looks good–it’s worth all the agony.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m with you – I won’t be fixing paperback stuff ever again. Drove me nuts, and I didn’t even have a margin problem (it’s all because Word changes so much, how it determines ‘default’, etc.).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The words “section break,” “header,” “footer,” and a few others can bring on the shakes, I have to say.
      I didn’t expect making a few corrections to be such a pain, that’s for sure.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’ve done well. I was once an expert on these things, but even I get a bit flamboozled on occasion, especially with mirrored pages. Now, I always put the page numbers on the footer and centred, and no headers. All chapter headings on a new page via a style rather than hard page break – auto-sectioning!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I put page numbers in the footer too, but I still do headers: title on the right hand page and author on the left. It does all hinge on section breaks, though. I’ll have to try that chapter headings by style thing, if I can summon up the right attitude!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I looked at a bunch of my old books — the ones that did have headers had either the book title on both pages, or book title on the left and chapter title on the right, though I do think I’ve seen title and author in the header. My attitude is that if you don’t know what book you’re reading, the header isn’t going to help…

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            1. No, but it looks right. When I formatted a print book for the first time, I used a trad-pubbed book as a model. But anyone who wants to avoid headaches can omit headers and stick to page numbers only. Even then it’s necessary to set things up so numbers don’t appear in the preliminary pages or on blank pages. No, there’s no harm in that, apart from looking wrong.

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              1. Page numbers on the title pages are the bane of my existence. You should be able to set the number of title pages you need, and have the numbered pages start with page one of chapter one. I can get that, but all the title pages also have numbers (1-6) as well (in LibreOffice). I’ve resorted to a little white box “image” that I place over those numbers to cover them up and not print.

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              2. What I do is make the preliminary pages a separate section with nothing in the footer. The first page number appears in the footer of the next section, which is the first page of Chapter 1. I set that as the actual page number, e.g., 7, but it could just as easily be 1. That’s in Word; don’t know if it works the same way in LibreOffice.

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  9. I haven’t had any of these problems, Audrey, and I’m so sorry to hear that the process has been so frustrating for you. I’ve found that the word doc has to be carefully formatted but once done, it converts well. And yes, section breaks drove me nuts until I finally got them down!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I avoid Amazon entirely but the issues you describe remain no matter what publishing methods are used. I’ve solved it by editing and proofreading and getting a 2nd pair of eyes to look at it all. Then I edit and proof a million more times. Whenever I’ve done the best I can do I publish the dang thing. Even after publishing I can usually find something I could nitpick but I just don’t do it. I did the best I could and now it’s time to go on with the next project. As time has gone by I’ve learned that few readers will notice a mistake. Still fewer will make the effort to contact me just to tell me that I missed a comma on page 36. My motto is to do my absolute best and while others are reading my work or not, loving it or not, I’ll just go on with the next project.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like your approach, Sue–check everything thoroughly, double-check, and then let it be what it is. That’s what I will do from now on, at least for print books.
      Thanks for the reinforcement!

      Like

  11. That struggle sounds positively Wagnerian Audrey. Congratulations for persevering and battling Amazon into submission, not an easy task.
    I was in all innocence going to attempt a print, thinking it would be so easy. There is obviously more to this than meets the eye.
    Certainly one to be reblogged as a warning to others.
    Thanks
    Roger

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Formatting for print is more complicated. Ebooks are a kind of electronic scroll, but print books need settings for page numbers, margins, trim size, and other physical details.
      Thanks for reblogging!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Audrey — Interesting: Amazon once, a long time ago, bounced one of my books because the story, Chapter One, did not start on page 1. Apparently this is no longer the case. You just never know.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I have nothing but admiration for your persistence. πŸ™‚ … I’ve come to realise that no matter how much I try, there’ll always be at least one typo, and I’m fine with that. Once I hit ‘Publish’, I’m done with the entire thing. I push the little darling out into the stream and let the current take it where it will. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Wow, what a nuisance! I’ve only done two books with print versions, and so far haven’t had a problem, but thanks for sharing this. I’ll have to watch carefully how it goes in the future!

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Love your determination and initiative. That is probably why I will remain unpublished except for my blog and whatever quarterly writing publication the read and critique group continues to publish. Too much like real work for the inherently lazy.

    Liked by 1 person

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