Now, I just want to say at the outset, the only book of his I’ve read was the book, A Game of Thrones. But that was a long time ago, when it first came out as a Science Fiction Book Club book of the month. I was not really that impressed with it. I found the book distinctly hard to follow, and nearly quit reading it several times.
But just because I don’t find his work to my taste does not mean I consider him to be a hack! On the contrary, Mr. Martin deserves every one of his many awards and good for him! This is a rough business, and I love it when people succeed as authors. There are many fine, popular authors out there whose books don’t ring my bells. My own work is certainly not to everyone’s taste, although I am sure it should be. (Insert Shameless Plug Here: buy my books, please.) (The buy-links are to the right, clearly labeled.) (Just sayin’.)
Needless to say, Mr. Martin’s publisher is one of the Big Boys (Bantam Books) and one would think SOMEONE would have caught these wonderful bloopers. The author put his faith in the publisher, and the publisher let him down.
There is the remote possibility these moments of literary mayhem could have been caused by a last-minute global change to the manuscript. If so, it is a good example of why we should never click “Replace All” when we discover a particular word we need to change. Instead we should take the time to see each appearance of the word, and determine whether or not to make that change individually.
But in this case, I don’t think that is the problem. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the words the blooper replaces. I think it is an OCR error (see number 5 below.)
What these images of the book from the NY Daily tell me is that formatting issues are common and are a hurdle the indie must overcome. If the big boys have problems with this, then formatting is a real skill set that we must develop, because we all compete on the same field, only we indies have fewer advantages.
There are a few simple ways we can avoid some of the more common issues:
1. Do not put extra empty spaces between your paragraphs. If it is a section break, make sure to put something there to indicate it: *** centered in the empty space will do the task of indicating the section break, and will not look ugly.
2. Make sure your page breaks are “hard” i.e. NOT made by repeatedly hitting the “enter” key. You must limit those empty spaces to less than three, preferably only one. Go to the ribbon at the top of your WORD page and use the “Insert” tab. With the cursor next to your chapter heading, click on “Insert Page Break”.
3. Do Not Use Drop Caps to begin your first paragraph, no matter how pretty they look in the print edition. They screw the heck out of eBook formatting, causing all the paragraph indents to go away, making the book nothing but a WALL of words.
4. Stick to standard serif fonts like Times New Roman, and make it a decent size, like 11 pt. Use NOTHING larger than 16 pt. and use that only for chapter headings.
5. Random inexplicable letter changes can be caused by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) errors when the uploader for Kindle or Smashwords converts the manuscript to PDF format. Converting it to PDF yourself first does not help, because the errors are hidden in the PDF. Thus you may find all the “p”s converted to ‘bl’s. (people becomes bleople.) I am not very knowledgeable about the WHY of this, but I have learned how to avoid it:
I always save my eBook ms in Rich Text Format (.rtf) and I NEVER upload a manuscript to eBook format that contains headers or footers. Remove the headers and footer BEFORE you upload to Kindle, Nook or Smashwords. I think this is what happened to A Feast of Crows. Headers and footers use OCR elements and this confuses the uploader program. My theory is: someone at Bantam forgot to remove the header before it was uploaded. But I could be wrong– this whole formatting thing is magic after all, and magic is an iffy science at best.
6. Comb your eBook ms for extra spaces at the end of paragraphs and remove them. I’ve been told this will eliminate the random “Words Spread Across The Page” problem.
7. DO NOT USE THE TAB key to indent your paragraphs!!! DON’T DO IT! Go to the ribbon at the top of the page and use the paragraph formatting option. Set the indent to 3 or 5 pt. But 3 is the optimal for me as a frequent eBook reader.
The bottom line is this: the indie must spend many long hours combing the ms for the random extra spaces, removing all the possible error producing elements before we upload it. THEN you must use the option Kindle and Nook both provide and spend more time seeing what the book actually looks like BEFORE you hit the publish button.
Unlike George R.R. Martin, you won’t be able to blame the big-name publisher if your book looks like the dog’s dinner when your friends buy their downloads. This is our curse. We indies only have ourselves to blame for our less than perfect efforts.