Jumbled type, when conversion goes wrong

Why Does Your E-book Look a Mess After Converting From PDF?

January 1, 2021
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Converting your manuscript from a PDF file to e-book,  can sometimes cause the type or pages to look weird.  The problem is likely due to mistakes in your underlying document. Formatting an e-book can be a daunting task and it is getting more and more difficult as technology advances. Your best bet is to go back to your original manuscript and use Microsoft Word for formatting first, before saving as a PDF.  Thoroughly read Amazon’s formatting guide here: eBook Manuscript Formatting Guide.

Reasons for the mess can be numerous or due to a few critical errors. Amazon points to the following items it considers for rejecting your Kindle file.

“Critical Issues

  • Body text rendered as bold, italicized, underlined or hyperlinked text
  • Extra body text margin padding that is more than 1/4 of a screen wide
  • Primary content is oriented in landscape mode without any detail page disclaimer
  • Body text not set to default color
  • Forced white text or forced black background that causes text to be unreadable. For example, forcing a code such as Font = white will cause text to be unreadable while reading on a white background mode or on an e-ink device.
  • In-line page numbering is present

Page numbers entered within the book file break the flow of the reading experience and must be removed.

Here are some examples of other formatting issues:

  • Forced alignment of body text
  • The size of the body text is forced, causing it to be larger or smaller than standard text sizes
  • Body text incorrectly changes size
  • Bullet points missing from a bulleted list
  • A list has bullets which appear on a different line that the list contents
  • Missing list formatting

A best practice is to preserve the reader’s customizable reading experience by not forcing formatting for text.

Lists without proper formatting can be unintelligible to the reader.

  • Incorrectly added line break
  • Missing indication of paragraph separation (indentation or single line spacing between paragraphs)
  • Missing line break that indicates a section or scene change
  • A hard page break in the middle of a section or chapter
  • Extract or block quote not differentiated from body text

Additional or missing breaks may confuse the reader and break narrative flow.

  • Sidebar text interrupts a sentence, paragraph, or section
  • A footnote interrupts a sentence, paragraph, or section
  • An image interrupts a sentence or paragraph.

Improperly inserted sidebars, footnotes, or images can fragment the reading experience, leading to confusion.

  • Extra body text margin padding that is less than 1/4 of a screen wide
  • Double spacing between each paragraph
  • Consistent incorrectly added line padding between section/chapter headings and first paragraphs

Readers should set their own reading preferences and not have to page forward more than needed.

  • Split monograms; the first letter of each chapter in your book should appear on the same line as the rest of the word.
  • Individual paragraph incorrectly rendered as bold, italicized, underlined or hyperlinked text
  • Forced black text or forced white background that causes text to be unreadable. For example, forcing a code such as Font = black will cause text to be unreadable while reading on a black background mode on color devices.”

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Use Microsoft Word default settings.
  • Don’t justify paragraphs. Use ragged right justification to minimize formatting problems.
  • Don’t hit “enter” twice after a paragraph to insert extra space or repeatedly to get to your next chapter.
  • Apply default styles such as “Heading 1” to each section or chapter.
  • Insert page breaks
  • Follow Amazon’s guidelines for images.
  • Minimize tables

These are the most frequent problems we see in client manuscripts but by no means all. Using the above steps does not always guarantee your Kindle book will remain free of errors as Kindle software is constantly changing.

If your manuscript has a complicated layout, consider hiring a professional conversion service.

Visit me at www.authorlink.com, or on Quora for more answers and tips.

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This post was written by Doris Booth

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