If this has happened to you, then you know what it feels like. One second, your LITB (Look Inside the Book) on Amazon is fine, and the next--KABLAMMO! The whole book is suddenly in italics. What happened?

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I received a panicked email from a long-time editing acquaintance of mine.  Her award-winning book needed some updates, so, being über-competent in making her own ebooks, she made the changes and uploaded the book.  She checked back a few hours later, and it was one of those, "good news, bad news" moments.  The good news?  The LITB (Look Inside The Book) had updated, almost immediately.  The bad news?

Holy Typography, Batman!  Her entire Look Inside The Book was in italics.

What happened?  She asked me if I could very quickly fix the book, because she had recently received a prestigious award, and sales were brisk.  She had had such a shock about the "all italics" that she'd taken the book off sale.

Now, I would love to say that I'm a genius, but the truth was the same thing had recently happened to another client of mine, who had not updated her book, a mobi file that she got from us.  So:  what the heck had happened?

So:  Wha'Happened?

Both author-publishers had created their own nightmares, through sheer inadvertence.  Both had read recent blog posts or "how-to" information on how to use HTML in their book descriptions in order to draw more attention to their books.  They used header tags, bold, italic; all the things that any diligent publisher would do.  But they had made one mistake. 

Somehow, somewhere, they hadn't closed an italic tag.

But WHAT, you say?  How can something in Author Central affect what is inside of your ebook?

Author Central Ruined My Book?

The answer is, it doesn't.  But what it can affect is the rendering of the LITB, which is, after all, just part of a web page.    If my editor friend had downloaded a new sample from Amazon, she would have seen that the book itself was perfectly fine.  But of course, the LITB is a crucial part of the selling process, second only to fabulous covers and of course, a great book (and wondrous, professional-looking formatting, naturally). 

A web page renders like people read.  Top-to-bottom, left-to-right.  When your Amazon page comes up, the page renders top to bottom.  The very last thing that gets rendered, long after the rest of the page, is the Look inside the Book.  If, in tweaking your Book Description or your About the Author page, you've left a formatting tag in HTML open, then the formatting will continue, throughout the web page, until a new command tells it to stop.  So, if you have forgotten to close ANY of your HTML tags on your Author Central page, you will accidentally make your entire book look like a total, unprofessional mess on the LITB. 

So, today's lesson is, if you do try to tweak your Author Central pages, take a tip from old programmers.  Every time you OPEN a tag, like italics, with an <i>, create the closing member of the pair right away, like this:  <i></i>.  Then start creating your content, inside the pair of tags.  Never open a tag without creating its closing partner.  Place your cursor between the closing bracket of the opening tag, and the opening bracket of the closing tag, and the type or paste your text. 

If you do this, you will never have to solve the problem of The Mystery of The Corrupted Book.