A Journey to E-Books, Part 2

Last week I wrote about writing, editing and proof-reading, but I realized about mid-week (I’m a little slow sometimes) that I had put the cart before the horse. Because where e-books are concerned, there’s something just as important that comes before the writing: formatting.

Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords can publish your book from a Word.doc or Word.docx. But there are a few extra steps you have to take with that program so it doesn’t come out looking like a hot mess.

Most of my manuscripts were prepared for submission to a print publisher, so they had page numbers and all kinds of other no-no’s as far as e-publishing is concerned. A lot of my time preparing a manuscript for e-publishing is getting rid of stuff that print publishers want that makes e-publishing freak out. So I’m going to try to give you a run-down on what to do, or not do, as you’re writing your book for e-publication.

STYLES: I had never heard of Styles for Word before I went to a lecture by an e-book author, and I’d been using Word for about fifteen years at the time. I’d seen those letters up on the right half of the ribbon but had no idea what they meant. (In fact, I had no idea of what most of that author showed us about Word that night meant. I felt like Phoebe on a episode of Friends when she was arguing with Ross about scientists not knowing everything. She said something like, ‘Scientists thought the atom was the smallest thing there was, but then they cracked it open and all this crap fell out.’ That author cracked open Word and all kinds of crap I’d never known about was suddenly there.)

Styles is basically saved default formatting for various applications. Only for e-books, you need to change it a little. You start with the Normal style, and then modify it. Make the indent for First Line, but you don’t want the default of .5; you want to make it .3 or .4 (or the indent will look too large on an e-reader). While you’re working on the book, you can have the line spacing at 1.5 or 2 for ease in reading it yourself, but when you’re ready to publish, you should change it to single space. You can use a justified margin but if you don’t, I believe that’s the default when it is converted for e-publishing anyway. Don’t use any Before or After spacing, and uncheck the Widow/Orphan Control. Save this style as something like E-Book; I have my e-book formatting saved as E-Book 1.5 (for the line spacing) and then modify it to E-Book SS (single space) for the final copy.

PAGE NUMBERS: Don’t insert page numbers. E-books don’t have page numbers because the page numbers would vary because of the different sizes of screens and the different font sizes the reader can choose. If, like me, you’re re-formatting a manuscript that was prepared with page numbers, you can’t get rid of them by just deleting them from the header and footer; they leave a ghost that screws up the conversion to e-book. On Word 2010 you can eliminate them by going to File – Info – Check for Sharing – Inspect Document. There is a drop down list; check only Headers Footers and Watermarks. If numbers are still there in ghost form, it will tell you they are there and ask if you want them removed. You do. I don’t know if prior versions of Word has this feature; I know Word 2003 doesn’t have it. I haven’t seen Word 2013 myself yet, but I hope this is still there because it’s invaluable for an e-manuscript.

TABS: You might think that if you already have the indent set to .3 or .4, why would I bring up tabs? Because you can’t use them AT ALL or they screw things up royally. So if something goes wrong and for some reason your paragraph doesn’t automatically indent, or it did and you accidently hit the backspace, don’t tab it into the right position. If you need to center something, don’t tab to the center, use that centering spacing thing on the ribbon (I don’t know it’s proper name) to center it. Just forget your keyboard has a tab keY when you’re preparing an e-book manuscript.

HEADINGS: The aforementioned Styles has a style called Headings. You will want to use this for your chapter numbers or titles, whichever you are using. Only my preference is to also modify this. I think the default is a kind of large-sized font, 16 pts. or over. E-books don’t like fonts that large, or at least that’s what I’ve been told so I’ve never used them. You can modify the standard Styles Heading to a font the same size as our text or a little larger if that’s your preference, and to a font that matches your text to keep it looking cohesive (the default is something weird). You can set it up when you modify to either be flush with the left margin or centered, your preference.

FONTS: Speaking of fonts and font sizes, a fairly plain font is easiest to read on an e-reader. I use Times New Roman in a 12 point. This is allegedly the size that works best with the adjusting-the-font-size feature on e-readers. The only place you can use a font size up to 16 points is your title page, but even then, if your title is long as has some long words in it, you might want to go smaller as e-book screens are pretty small (and reading on a cell makes the screen even smaller!).

By the middle of this upcoming week, I will probably think of the other things I should have included here. That’s where I’ll pick it up next week.

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