In my “Publish Your eBook Blueprint: Home Study” course, I really get on a soap box about using the preview functions every time you publish an eBook.

You wouldn’t publish a book, or even an article, without proofreading it for grammar and spelling errors, right? The preview functions work the same way.

Now, here’s where I differ from just about every other how-to teacher out there. I tell my students they need to check every single link in their (clickable) Table of Contents. Don’t do the first few links, assume that since they work, all the links will work. But I take my instructions on previewing one step further:

Look at every single page.

Yep, every single page. Is that a huge PITA (pain in the a$$) for large manuscripts? Yep! Do I care? Nope!

Here’s why I teach this, and why I do it for every book I write or publish, because I always catch errors in the previewer that I’ve missed in every other version of the book. Occasionally, those errors are typographical, but more often than not, they have to do with formatting. In the previewer, “little” formatting errors like commas not attached to a word will stick out. Like this , comma that isn’t touching the s in this. I’m purposely hiding this typo in the middle of a paragraph. Maybe it’ll catch your eye and maybe it won’t. Stuff like this drives me crazy! Especially in a published eBook.

Will you catch every single formatting problem? Nope. One of my books, “Easy Camping Recipes from The Outdoor Princess: 33 Simple Camping Recipes” was first published with a formatting error. And a reviewer was “kind” enough to bring it to my attention:

Kim has done a decent job with the text layout and has thoughtfully included an interactive Table of Contents, though the interface does need some work and the Table of Contents includes a link to a blank page titled “Return to Table of Contents” and another called “Open Carefully and Enjoy”. (You can access is just fine from the TOC button, but the back arrow will take you to a page with a non-working link that says “back to the Table of Contents.) Kim might want to take a second look at that and issue an update.

Imagine my panic and embarrassment when I saw that review! I pulled open the eBook on my Kindle and the reviewer was correct. I fixed the problem and uploaded the changed file. Whew! Crisis averted. I then went back and triple checked all my other titles.

Lesson learned. While this was embarrassing, it wasn’t the end of the world. The entire book was still readable and usable. Why do I bring this up? Because a fellow independently self-published author shared a similar story but with more unpleasant results.

She published her book, set a free download day with Amazon.com, and paid for some advertising. She had an unheard of 22,000 downloads and hit the bestsellers list “free” in several categories. Then negative reviews started pouring in:

Due to a formatting issue, the book was unreadable: a margin had been set incorrectly and all the sentences were cut off. This began a third of the way through the book; beyond where she double checked using the previewer.

I really can’t imagine the stress of trying to deal with this! Fixing the formatting, begging Amazon to contact the people who downloaded the book to issue a corrected file, seeing one-star reviews, and having wasted advertising money. It gives me a stomach ache just thinking about it!

Moral of the story:

Preview each and every page on the previewer! For every eBook format you publish. Every time.

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Kimberly Eldredge

Kimberly is an author, illustrator, and entrepreneur. She helps coaches, speakers, and authors take the content they already have and FINALLY get their book written and published.
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4 Responses to Previewing Your eBook: A Cautionary Tale

  • This post is very timely. I was just about to take a quick look at my ebook before releasing it. Now I’m going to take your advice and check everything, including looking at every page. You may have just saved me from a big disappointment later. Thanks so much!

  • What do you think about hiring a copy editor for this purpose? I don’t think it would be too expensive, and it would certainly be worth it to have the book look more professional. A few months ago, I read an ebook from a colleague, and I was frankly embarrassed for the author. It was just full of mistakes.

    The problem is, it’s very hard to see your own mistakes. I once wrote a paid article for a major newspaper in my field. Before I submitted it, I hired an editor to go over it. I could not believe how much better the article was after she was done with it. The same content was in there; it was just so much clearer and more engaging. In that case, it wasn’t about typos, although I’m sure she fixed a few. It was more about the flow and excellence of prose; the storytelling. Ever since then, I’ve been a big believer in editors.

  • This was a great reminder. I hate proofreading, I love to write about my ideas and I hate proofreading (did I say that already?). I highly recommend hiring someone to do that for you. One of the challenges I found with an ebook is that the formatting might look good on a kindle but not another device. Or if you have pictures in your book it can be difficult to get them to format properly on an e-book. So, working with someone who knows the techie side of e-books is a MUST.