My Horrible Formatting Error…A Cautionary Self-Publishing Tale



It was a pretty scary day when I sent my final draft of my first novel to the formatter. I’d had it professionally edited twice and read through it myself who knows how many times, so it was as perfect as I could possibly get it.

Or so I thought….It was so weird to think that it was finally locked down. No more changes, no more adding lines, tweaking words, or rearranging sentences. This story started life (as a screenplay) in 2005, so I’d made an awful lot of changes to it in in the years since then. Not anymore. It’s done.

It was scary, exciting, exhilarating. It cost about $300 (!) to get the book formatted for Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Createspace (for the physical book). It was a small fortune to me and it’s money I won’t get back – ever – since I’m donating the funds from QUEEN HENRY to the Harvey Milk Foundation. Still, it really was a small price to pay for peace of mind. Many self-publishers format their own books, but it’s tough to do. You have to carefully format your manuscript to fit for each device that it can possibly be read on – with wraparound texts and other stuff that makes my head spin. I wouldn’t even think of trying it myself, for fear of my precious book looking amateurish and awful.

Speaking of amateurish and awful…

After I sent QUEEN HENRY to the formatter and after spending $300 non-refundable dollars (well, non-refundable if I’m the one that screws up) I realized one minor detail.

I never spellchecked my manuscript.

I’ll say that again, people.


I realized this as soon as my completed, expensively-formatted Kindle document arrived in my inbox. Of course, I’ve had the book professionally edited, then re-read by other people for further proofreading, and then finally proofed it one more time myself. Of course, even during my final proof, I was still tweaking stuff, adding words, etc.  It only takes about five minutes to run a spellcheck and I simply overlooked that item on my agenda. Several times in the past, I’d found something weird like- 000035 – right smack dab in the middle of a document. That means I leaned my elbow on the numberlock keys… That was one of my biggest fears about my manuscript. There’s really no fix for that if it ends up in your final document. After all my painstaking editing, I just simply forgot to do a simple spellcheck. Sure, I noticed all the underlined words as I edited and fixed any that were wrong, but spellcheck underlines so many things that are actually correct (words like wanna, gotta, gonna etc in dialogue) that your brain kinda tunes them out sometimes. The biggest danger is when you make a “tiny change” in a line to make it sound better – AFTER the professional edit is done. If you’re not really careful, you’ll miss a word or a letter, then you’re done for.

Enter spellcheck.

Unless you forget.

As soon as I realized it was too late to do a spellcheck, I did what anyone else would do.. I did a spellcheck.

I spent the next excruciatingly long five minutes spell-checking QUEEN HENRY now that it was too late to do anything about it. It was terrifying.

In my 100,008 word document, I found one word that was incorrect. It had a missing letter.

I can live with that.


This publishing stuff ain’t for the faint of heart…

– Linda Fausnet



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