One Space or Two After a Period?

One Space or Two

One or Two Spaces?

It turns out that, in today’s world, the correct answer is almost always one:

Use just one space after a period.

Later in this article, I will show you how that extra little space can make a big difference in Kindle formatting.

If you want to learn why one space is better than two, why most educated people believe that “two” is the correct answer, when it’s really “one,” and how this misunderstanding has evolved, check out a really cool article called “Space Invaders” by Farhad Manjoo in Slate Magazine:

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.html

If you self-publish, this becomes a practical matter:

  • Examine traditionally published books carefully. You’ll see that one space after a period is almost universal.
  • Two spaces after a period can exaggerate gaps in justified text. This is important for both print books and e-books.
  • On Kindle e-books, that extra space can create a noticeable formatting problem (as I’ll demonstrate in the last picture of this article).

Study the following picture. The first paragraph uses two spaces after each period, while the second paragraph uses just one. In both cases, you can see large gaps in the justified text. But in the second paragraph, on any given line, the gaps are consistent across the line. In the first paragraph, there are very large gaps after the periods.

One Space Example

Tip: Activate Word’s hyphenation tool to help reduce the gaps in justified text.

  • In Word 2003, find this in Tools > Language > Hyphenation. In Word 2010, it’s under Page Layout > Hyphenation.
  • Go to File > Options (look below Help) > Advanced > Layout Options (it’s at the bottom, and doesn’t seem like something you can click, but you can click it) and check the box to hyphenate like WordPerfect in Word 2010.
  • Increase the hyphenation zone to avoid excessive hyphenation. Something like 0.4 may work well.
  • Manually hyphen by inserting a hyphen in a natural syllable break (consult a dictionary).
  • Manually override an automatic hyphen by placing your cursor at the beginning of the word and pressing Shift + Enter.
  • Don’t do any manual hyphenation until the book is virtually ready to publish. If you do any revisions to your book, you must inspect carefully for the impact those revisions may have on manual hyphenation adjustments (e.g. a small revision in a paragraph could cause a manually inserted hyphen to no longer appear at the end of a line).
  • Don’t do any manual hyphenation in your e-book. (But, of course, you should have hyphens in compound words that use hyphens, like self-published.)

If you use two spaces after a period in a Kindle e-book, this becomes noticeable whenever a period happens to fall at the end of a line. Look closely where the red arrows point in the picture below. The top paragraph uses two spaces, while the bottom paragraph uses just one, after a period. The bottom paragraph has better formatting.

Kindle Test Two Spaces Show

If you already have two spaces after each period, it’s easy to fix this mistake. Simply use the replace tool. Enter two consecutive spaces in the find field and a single space in the replace field.

Chris McMullen

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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KDP now Supports HTML Descriptions

HTML pic

Amazon Book Description HTML

How it was:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) didn’t used to support HTML for the book description.
  • In order to use boldface, italics, ordered lists, and unordered lists, it used to be necessary to visit Author Central (https://authorcentral.amazon.com).
  • Once you used Author Central for your Kindle e-book description, republishing the e-book at KDP wouldn’t have any effect. You had to return to Author Central to revise the blurb.

It’s changed:

  • KDP now supports HTML for your description. (I know this because I just tried it and it worked.)
  • The HTML at KDP is the same as the Author Central HTML (e.g. there is a funny space in the linebreak tag, <br />).
  • If you republish your Kindle e-book, whatever description you have with KDP now overrides your Author Central description.

If there was any announcement regarding this, I missed it. I just discovered it by checking my product pages after republishing and hearing from others who’ve done the same.

Important notes:

  • Just a small change, like modifying your price, causes your Amazon book description to revert to whatever you have at KDP.
  • Before you republish at KDP, visit Author Central, edit your book description, select the HTML option, copy the description, save one copy in Notepad, and paste it into the description you have at KDP.
  • After your updated book goes live on Kindle, check your blurb at Amazon.

Good news:

  • This is better because now the Kindle description can include formatting when the book first goes live.
  • Although you can’t preview the description at KDP, you can edit the description with an existing book at Author Central and preview it there (then simply cancel the edit so it doesn’t affect your other book).

You don’t need the <p> tag to make paragraphs. Just use two consecutive <br /> tags; they work like using the Enter key twice to create a blank line between paragraphs.

Note that KDP respects the Enter key. Therefore, if you’re using <p> tags and using the Enter key, you may get much wider linespacing than you expect. Ordinary HTML ignores the Enter key. Author Central ignores the Enter key (in HTML mode). But KDP doesn’t.

Basic KDP Blurb HTML:

  • Place text between <b> and </b> to make boldface, as in <b>bold</b>.
  • Place text between <i> and </i> to make italics, as in <i>italics</i>.
  • Use <br /> at the end of a line to have the same effect as the Enter key.
  • Use <br /><br /> to create a blank line between paragraphs.
  • Don’t use the Enter key in addition to the <br /> tag.
  • If you use <p> tags, don’t use the Enter key in addition to the <p> tags. (Use <p> at the beginning of a paragraph and </p> at the end. Don’t press Enter between paragraphs.)
  • Use <ol> to start an ordered list (with numbers) and </ol> to end an ordered list.
  • Use <ul> to start an unordered lists (just bullets) and </ul> to end an unordered list.
  • Use <li> to create an item on a list and </li> to end that item.

You don’t actually need to know HTML to format your description with it:

  • Edit a book description for any book at Author Central.
  • Type the description with boldface, italics, the Enter key, bullets, or ordered lists.
  • Preview the description to see how it turned out.
  • Switch to HTML mode. (There is a little yellow rectangle for HTML and another called Compose. Click the HTML rectangle to switch to HTML mode.)
  • Copy the HTML for your book description into Notepad.
  • Cancel the edit at Author Central so it doesn’t affect the book’s actual description at Amazon. (That’s why it didn’t matter which book you used.)
  • Paste the HTML into KDP. (If you also want to use it at CreateSpace, remove the spaces from the <br /> tags. You can do a find and replace in Notepad.)

There is an important difference between KDP, Author Central, and CreateSpace HTML: At Author Central and KDP, the linebreak tag <br /> has a funny space, while at CreateSpace there is no space, <br/>. If you use the linebreak tag in your HTML, be sure to adjust the space between CreateSpace and the two other sites.

Also noteworthy is that KDP, CreateSpace, and Author Central all permit descriptions of 4000 characters (it used to be 2400 at Author Central).

 

About Me

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Kindle Educational Content: Calling Authors

Chem Basics Cover

Educational Authors

Do you write educational books? Any age. College material, high school, middle grades, elementary, kindergarten, preschool. Doesn’t matter.

Or have you been thinking about writing educational books?

Have you had any troubles or concerns with writing or publishing educational content for Kindle?

If so, I would like to hear from you. Not just me. Maybe even Kindle will talk with you.

Kindle Educational Team

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the Kindle Educational Team.

Wow!

Personal service. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-service website. Amazon is huge. The number of authors is huge. Personal service is a real treat. As you might expect, the Kindle Educational team’s role doesn’t ordinarily consist of contacting authors.

Kindle has plenty of fiction. They are looking for ways to make more quality educational content available to Kindle customers.

Evidently, they asked CreateSpace to identify some authors who have published educational material in print and who have opted to receive emails from Amazon. Lucky me, my name came up.

A few days following the email, the Kindle educational team actually called me. I was able to speak with two representatives on the phone.

They were interested in my concerns about publishing on Kindle. I mentioned such things as formatting challenges, difficulty with visibility on Amazon (I’ve gotten specific, like mentioning that if a customer goes to Amazon, clicks children’s books, and then clicks the K-12 Teachers link, CreateSpace and Kindle books rarely show up there), and category issues.

It looks like the Kindle educational team wants to help with visibility on Amazon, and it looks like they are thinking about long-term self-service options that can aid in formatting and publishing educational books.

Note that fixed-layout currently has features that might help with children’s book formatting and technical textbook formatting: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000729511. Hopefully, this will become easier for the average self-publisher to implement. The Kindle Comic Creator looks promising.

Are You Interested?

At the end of the telephone conversation and in a follow-up email, I’ve been asked if I know other educational authors.

Do you write educational books?

If so, let me know. I can pass along your interest.

Maybe Kindle will speak with you, too.

(Of course, nobody asked me to write this post. I took this upon myself.)

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Indie Publishing Is Dynamic

Updated

Introduction

Traditional publishing has its benefits, but so does indie publishing.

However, those benefits are meaningless if you don’t take advantage of them.

One of the great advantages of indie publishing is the opportunity to swiftly respond to the many changes that arise throughout a book’s life, and to give a book an extended lifetime that far exceeds typical shelf life.

How’s the Weather?

Even in the publishing industry, the weather is unpredictable.

Many factors come up, including those that are beyond your control.

  • Kindle changes the way that series books are displayed in search results.
  • Just as you begin your big promotion, one of your first reviews stings like a bumblebee.
  • The subject of your nonfiction book experiences a major change just months after it’s published. Now it’s outdated.
  • Amazon discontinues the 4-for-3 program, starts discounting paperbacks, or stops putting them on sale.
  • One of the main subcategories that you selected is suddenly eliminated.
  • Someone raises a valid complaint about an issue that you failed to anticipate.
  • Readers convince you that you needed more editing help than you realized.

As an indie author, there is much you can’t control, but there is much you can respond to swiftly.

Product Page

Many features on your product page are dynamic:

  • The cover. Just upload a new one!
  • The blurb. Easy to revise. You can even format it through Author Central.
  • The keywords. Wise choices improve discoverability. Hardly selling? Change them up.
  • The categories. Be careful, though. If you’ve built up good visibility, a change could cost you.
  • The reviews. You can rarely change them, but it’s dynamic in that there is always the potential for a customer to leave a new review. (It works both ways. If things are good now, a bad one can spoil it. If the last review stings, in time a new one may be favorable.)
  • The editorial reviews. Get a great review quote from a relevant source and it can spice up your product page.
  • The biography. In addition to trying to find what works, if you leave this unchanged, it can become outdated.
  • The author photo. Strive to look the part.
  • The page count. You could add content. For a Kindle, adding a paperback makes this more accurate.
  • The customers-also-bought lists. The more effective your marketing, the more sales will help with this.
  • The list price. Having doubts? There’s one way to find out.
  • The sale price. Amazon often changes the sale price of print books. You can’t count on the selling price (but for CreateSpace print books, you’re paid based on the list price).
  • The recent blog posts on your Author Central page. Amazon displays the three most recent posts.
  • The book itself. Republishing is so simple, we could interrupt this blog with an auto insurance commercial.
  • And much more. Expanded distribution adds third-party sellers. More print sales leads to a few used books for sale. Author Central and Shelfari offer book extras. There are customer discussions, which are (and should be) quite rare except for popular authors.

But Not Everything

A few things are static:

  • The title. Choose wisely. Changing the title requires republishing a new book.
  • The author name and ISBN are fixed, too, unless you republish.
  • Customer reviews. A bad review is a permanent public record, so do your best to perfect your book from the beginning.
  • The publication date. (Though there was a period recently where republishing a Kindle changed this date.)
  • If you comment on a review, as soon as the reviewer or anyone else replies to your comment, if you change your mind and delete your comment, it will say, “Deleted by the author.” Amazon means the author of the comment, but everyone will assume it’s the author of the book.
  • Print books remain on your Author Central page forever. (A Kindle book, along with reviews of the Kindle edition, can be removed by unpublishing. But if you republish later, those reviews may reappear, although you may appeal to Author Central.)

What Does It Mean?

It means two things:

  1. You’re not stuck with things the way they are now.
  2. Don’t get too comfortable with things the way they are.

Here are some examples of how you can benefit from a dynamic publishing environment:

  • Monitor your three most recent blog posts. At any time, a customer can look at your Author Central page. What will this combination of posts look like to a customer?
  • Advance review copies can help to get a few early, honest reviews. If you’re planning a big early promotion, this can help to offset the possible misfortune of an unexpected critical review from one of your first customers.
  • On the other hand, if you get several glowing reviews, nothing critical is balancing them, and your book hasn’t yet established a healthy sales rank, this may seem suspicious to customers.
  • Making the blurb more clear or revising your book may render a review less relevant. This offers a little protection against the foolish person out to sabotage a book: The comment motivates you to improve the book or even the blurb, and now you suddenly have a better product (or packaging) on the market. Turn a negative into a positive.
  • Sales super slow? Try changing things up with a new blurb, cover, keyword, category, author photo, biography, or list price.
  • That strong urge you feel to respond to a review may have consequences that affect your book for it’s entire life. Some mistakes aren’t easy to fix. If instead you revise the blurb to address an issue raised in the review, if you later realize that doing so was a mistake, you can revise your blurb.
  • Adding quality books to the market similar to those you’ve already published helps your customers-also-bought lists help you.
  • When Kindle adds new features, like the recent Countdown Deal, you can take advantage of them immediately.
  • Updating the content of your book is easy. Just republish.
  • Keep writing and marketing. Even if things are going well now, you never know. The best way to prepare for the unknown future of your book is to write similar books and spend some time marketing effectively.
  • Got a couple of bad reviews? (1) If there are valid points, update your book. (2) Drive traffic to your product page through effective marketing. This helps you get some sales even when the product page isn’t appealing much through discovery on Amazon.

Beyond the Product Page

Marketing is also dynamic. For example, social media used to be the craze. It’s still effective for some kinds of marketing, but not nearly as effective in general. A current trend is a content-rich website. It’s also good to try new things because doing what everyone else is doing isn’t always most effective for you.

Don’t rely on Amazon to sell your book. Even if you get 95% of your sales from Amazon, you should look beyond Amazon for help.

  • Amazon tends to help books that help themselves through effective marketing. The work you do to drive traffic to your product page helps.
  • Traffic that you direct to your product page can help you jumpstart sales when you first publish and can help keep sales going if your visibility in search results plummets or if you receive a couple of bad reviews (if you’re personally interacting, those customers may trust what they learned from you more than what a stranger posts in a review).
  • Getting your books stocked in small, local bookstores, selling from your own website, etc.—every added sales outlet helps you with branding, discovery, and improves the chances of selling books through some outlet if your Amazon sales suddenly drop.

Finally, don’t forget that authors are dynamic, too. You’re gaining experience as a writer and marketer. All writers continue to grow, no matter how seasoned they may be now.

About Me

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers