Reflections and Advice on eBook Publishing


Since my first article on publishing an e-book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, some things have changed with the Amazon DTP (Digital Text Platform). Instead of uploading a zip file with an HTML document and other digital files to be included, there is now the option to upload a Word document. This was good news to me because I had already been working with Word documents and uploading them to Smashwords.com.

This process was actually quite easy. My boss, the irrefutable Zen Comma master of the universe, David Bowman, asked a couple of years back, “Hey, have you heard of Smashwords? Let’s publish our e-books through them, also.” Oh boy, I thought, here we go. 

Smashwords’s Founder Mark Coker published an e-book of his own, “Smashwords Style Guide, how to format your e-book.” It is about 88 pages of Microsoft Word formatting horror. After having gone through all of Smashwords’s dos and don’ts, I was able to apply the formatting requirements to Word documents I wanted to upload to Amazon-Kindle. 

I can sum Smashwords’s style guide up like this.

  • MAKE A BACK UP! When you open up your original document, do a “file, save as,” or copy and paste your original into a new blank document and save it. Do not reformat your original. If you get so lost in the formatting process, or do something crazy that you can’t undo (not unheard of) and have to start over, you won’t be able to if you don’t keep your original intact.
  • Make sure Word’s show/hide function is on.

 

  • Clear all the formatting in your document. (You can cry later; there won’t be time for tears now, honey.)
  • Don’t use font sizes over 14 points.
  • If you’re going to use a navigable table of contents, you have to hyperlink them using bookmarks within your document.
  • Remove all text boxes from your document.
  • E-book readers don’t require page numbers, so there’s one step you can scratch.
  • You can use .jpg or .png images, but they must be embedded by using “insert, picture, from file.” 

Now, this is a really brief summation. I skipped over a lot of in-betweens. This is not meant to replace Smashwords’s style guide. I still recommend anyone wishing to publish a Word version of an e-book to review this dreaded style guide because it covers almost every possible format issue a manuscript may have. Any little formatting that you missed will prevent your document from being uploaded (to Smashwords, anyway).

I did come across this nifty blog post by Catherine Ryan Howard, “How To Format Your E-Book (the Non Migraine-Inducing Way),” which explains the process she used in more detail than my article, and with less fury than the dreaded Smashwords style guide. 

Amazon Kindle DTP is much easier for uploading than Smashwords because it has the simple PREVIEW button that allows you to see what your e-book will look like before you complete the upload process, something I wish Smashwords had. Look at the preview carefully. If you have funky formatting the DTP will still publish your book and make it available as is. When the upload is complete, you will see this: 

I think that it is still much easier to go back to your DTP platform and upload an updated version that reflects what your e-book should look like than to go back to your Smashwords dashboard and start over. (Smashwords is too finicky for my taste.) 

You then have to consider all the different e-book formats. “My book looks fine in e-pub, but the formatting is all messed up in Sony Reader, and what the heck is plain text for again?” 

I am by far not an expert or the “go to” person when it comes to e-book formatting. There are so many details I haven’t had to explore. The best tip I can give you is to keep your document simple. I know this advice is redundant, but keep in mind your readers when formatting your manuscript. They are, after all, the main motivation for e-book conversions. 

I’m amazed that there is a niche market for authors who need help getting their manuscripts online and available as e-books. It seems like a process that should be, by now, much more straightforward and user friendly than it is. It shouldn’t be such a daunting task. Now, some Internet companies provide e-book services, and people are writing books, blogs, and articles on e-book formatting (ahem, me). 

What’s next? Maybe it has to get complicated before all the kinks smooth over. But I’m convinced now more than ever, that time is worth more than money to most people. They just can’t afford to waste either one. I can’t say I blame them. 

The initial step towards evolution from books on paper to digital devices is a noble one, but it’s still so much easier for me to just grab a book and go. I’ll wait and see—unless I write a book that I want to publish as an e-book! 

More Resources:

Kindle Formatting-A service of eBook Architects:
http://kindleformatting.com/index.php 

Catherine, Caffeinated:
http://catherineryanhoward.com/ 

johnaugust.com:
http://johnaugust.com/2009/kindle-formatting-for-web-geeks 

From Word to Kindle-How to Format a Text-Only Document in Microsoft Word and Convert It to a Kindle eBook—For Free:
http://www.newselfpublishing.com/WordKindle.html 

Natasha Fondren-Adventures in Writing on the Road:
http://www.natashafondren.com/writing/category/kindle-formatting/

Article by Alina Padilla
Marketing and e-book specialist for Precise Edit
APadilla@PreciseEdit.com

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