The Story of the Carriage Return pt 1 of a lot

Once upon a time in a mythical land called Denver, a boy tried to self publish his book, Mara and the Trolls. After many years and many character building moments, he had obtained a manuscript and was ready to submit to Nile Direct Publishing, or NDP for short.

In the world of self publishing, small errors abound. They are the biggest and most common complaints among readers. Dropped commas, bad hyphenation, and misspellings lead the list of problems. If you’ve ever seen anyone complain about the use of Comic Sans as a font, understand that using the wrong their/there/they’re is met with derision a hundred times worse.

It is for this reason that the boy OneTrueStudent went to immense and unpleasant lengths to make sure no such errors existed in his manuscript. He relied on two content editors and a copy editor, employed a layout specialist, and spent hours poring over the material. To make the book the best it could be, he went fishing for errors and tried to catch every one.

After three-ish years working on this, not including the years of writing the book, he submitted his manuscript to NDP.

NDP rejected it.

He submitted it again.

It got rejected again.

It turned out that NDP didn’t actually explain their cover bleed criteria in the texts of ancient lore, and the cover he had didn’t meet their standards. This took him several weeks to fix. However, in the fullness of time, the book was submitted, and in the process of submission, OneTrueStudent wrote a description of the book for the NDP page.

NDP used an html parser (American pronunciation) to create his book description page, and that parser stripped out a carriage return. Thus began the next phase of his opus.

A carriage return is a hard enter. The term comes from old typewriters because hitting the enter key moved the wheel with the paper on it back to the left, or ‘returned’ it, and rotated the printing drum one line. In modern English, a carriage return, hard return, hard enter, etc. is hitting the ‘Enter’ key to manually indicate the line ends. On paper, most paragraphs are broken up by a carriage return and an indent, but in online reading, most paragraphs use two carriage returns. The latter is easier on the eyes, the former is cheaper (because paper costs money) and since reading physical books is usually a bit easier on the eyes than screen reading anyway, the formatting has largely bifurcated to everyone’s satisfaction.

But not to the satisfaction of Nile Publishing.

Nile decided that they would remove OneTrueStudent’s carriage return and merge the second paragraph of the book description with the first. They decided this after the preview and submission. Since OneTrueStudent used a double carriage return, he didn’t include a space after the final punctuation in the first paragraph, which meant the new long, run-on paragraph had two sentences stuck together with no space between them.

Remember how in the world of self publishing typos are a great bane? Most readers avoid books with excessive typos like the plague. Now imagine how bad it would look for a book to have a typo in its description!

Obviously, this was unacceptable, and OneTrueStudent went to NDP to get it fixed.

‘No,’ said the Nile Customer Service Representative. ‘You should have fixed it before you submitted it.’

‘I did,’ said OneTrueStudent. ‘The parser messed up.’

‘Then submit the whole work again.’

This would take a week or so, but OneTrueStudent did.

‘No,’ said the next Nile Customer Service Representative. ‘We don’t like your cover anymore.’

‘But it’s the same cover you approved before,’ said OneTrueStudent.

‘Tough. We don’t like it anymore. Get a new one.’

So OneTrueStudent went back to his designer and commissioned a new cover based on NDP’s new standards. These new standards were fickle and changing lore, unwritten in any of NDP’s ancient texts.

But the wait is now on, for another week must pass before the designer will create a new cover, and another week must pass after that for NDP to review and approve it, and the description with NDP’s typo remains.

Part One of an ongoing tale.