Ever read a book and the formatting made you cringe?
Aurora has mentioned in a previous blog post about how certain fonts irked us. Today I want to talk about formatting, especially with paperbacks. A lot of the classics I read growing up had certain paragraph formatting, line spacing, margin settings, and alignment that I hated. The page resembled a huge rectangle of words. It was bland, it was boring, and worst of all, it was distracting.
I hate reading a story that has the “justify” formatting the most. Not only is it an assault to my eyes for the way it cuts off words of any length at the margin by splitting them in half, but it also sometimes has those lines where a few words are just spaced out for whatever fricking reason and it looks ridiculous. Why do the classics always have single spacing as well? Headache inducing. I need paragraph indentations, too. I need something my eyes can easily follow. I don’t need anything to jar me out of the story. Am I alone in this? Does this drive anyone else crazy?
This is a distraction. As a reader, I have often gotten frustrated enough that I just closed the book and resolved to finish it later, if at all. As a publisher, this kind of distraction is a huge no-no.
Publishers and editors are already spending hours devoting themselves to ensuring that each book they put out is appealing to the reader. Checking and rechecking for those typos that sneak in. Finding the best cover. All that fun, time-consuming stuff. The last thing we want is the formatting of a book to distract our reader from the story. We want you pulled completely into this world; not pausing every few minutes, blinking, because you were jarred back to real life by something so small but so irritating.
Now that I am a publisher, I can make my own choices about how to format our books. I can decide, through my decades of experience as an avid reader, which alignment, spacing, indentation, and margin size to use that is most visually appealing and least distracting.
So, self-publishers take note: this may seem like a minute thing, but you should take it seriously if you do your own formatting for publication. This tiny detail could be why your readers stay fully immersed in your story so easily, or why they put it down while shaking their heads in annoyance.