A Journey to E-Books, Part 3

“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.” From last week’s post.

I didn’t mean it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it wasn’t quite, because I began to think of things I forgot to include about formatting even before the middle of this past week!

One important thing I forgot to mention is that at the end of each chapter, you must put in a hard page break (control + enter, or use the insert tab – page break on the ribbon). If you don’t do this, all your chapters will just run together in one continuous stream. That might not sound too bad, but I recently read an ebook in which the author had forgot to put in the page break about 95% of the time, and it got pretty annoying after a while. (And I don’t know if she used tabs or what, but all her indents were seriously messed up too.) (Nook Publishing has a slightly different take on the page break thing, but I’ll address that when I get to the publishing part.)

Once you’ve got your manuscript prepared, there are a couple handy things to use to check the formatting. One is the pilcrow. That’s the thing on the ribbon that looks like a paragraph symbol. It lets you see the hidden things on your typed page. Maybe you’re sure that each time you started a new paragraph you let the auto indent space it, but maybe there was that time you hit the backspace by mistake at the start of a paragraph and just automatically tabbed back into the right place. That will show a little arrow when the pilcrow is engaged. It will show your spacing and that you’ve put your page breaks where you should have (or if you didn’t). If you combine it with the ‘draft’ view (on the bottom ribbon, on the far right), you’ll get a pretty complete picture of what your manuscript looks like format-wise, as the draft view will also show the formatting style in the left-hand margin. If you’ve forgot to use the ‘heading’ style for a chapter number or title, or somehow started to use something other than your e-book formatting for the text, it will let you know that.

On Word there is also a Proofing option, which is not the same as proofreading. It checks all kinds of spelling and grammar matters. It’s accessed by going to File, Options, Proofing. I suppose some people find it useful, but I find it annoying. The person who introduced me to this feature recommended having everything it offers checked, but if you do that, it will probably take you longer to run your manuscript through it than it took you to write it in the first place. It will stop at every contraction, every sentence that starts with But or And, every passive sentence — the list just goes on and on. Even with being selective about what it checks, it can still take a couple hours to run, and it’s something that requires your active attention, not something you can let run in the background while you do other things.

One of the things the Proofing option will check is spacing, i.e., whether you have more than one space between sentences. I learned to type at a time when (a) it was still called typing, not word processing and (b) we were taught that two spaces were required the end of each sentence. That extra space, apparently, is something that does not go over well when your manuscript is being converted for e-publishing. But for me two spaces after a sentence is a habit I can’t break, so I used ‘find and replace’ to remove the extra space. I have found you can just space twice on the ‘find’ line and space just once on the ‘replace’ line, and it will take out the extra spaces, but to be on the safe side I’ve also gone back and put a . followed by two spaces on ‘find’ and . a followed by one space on ‘replace,’ and also the same with ?’s and !’s and quote mark’s, etc., as I’ve found some spaces have slipped by the first run (maybe I have some quirks in my version of Word).

In case you’re interested, most of the things I’ve mentioned here, I’ve learned from a couple sources. The first was an e-author named Ann Macela, who I saw speak at a local library. I thought at the time something she recommended was ridiculously complicated but I have learned since why it could be necessary (which she didn’t explain then). Her recommendation was that after you’ve done all the formatting, you save a copy of your file for reference, and make another copy and transfer that copy to Notepad. Putting it in Notepad will strip all the formatting from it. You then recopy the stripped manuscript back into Word, and replace all the formatting. (I don’t think I was the only one in the audience sitting there thinking WTF?) I have since learned that if you are writing your manuscript on several different programs, like Word and Open Office or on the cloud and putting it all together, you will have all kinds of formatting hidden in it from those programs and you need to clean it out before you can submit it for e-publishing or else it will be nothing but a hot mess. But if you’re just working on Word, that is just an extra step you don’t need. I’ve never done it and I’ve never had any problem with formatting, including going through the ‘meatgrinder’ at Smashwords. Ms. Macela has a website at: http://www.AnnMacela.com and under Articles she has an 89-page PDF about e-publishing.

I have found the book Publishing E-Books for Dummies by Ali Luke very helpful. This book is copyrighted 2012; there is a similarly titled book that is copyrighted several years earlier (and not by Ali Luke) that is not as helpful. I am not affiliated with her in any way (nor am I an Amazon associate), but here is a link to it on Amazon: http://amzn.com/B0091996BK

I also took a six-week class called Publish and Sell Your E-Books through http://www.ed2go.com. The class was very helpful to me as I am something of a computer phob and having a teacher available by email for my many, many stupid questions (which probably made her roll her eyes, but hey, I couldn’t see it, so what did I care) was great. But I have certain reservations about recommending the class in that it covered many things that were of absolutely no use to me (e.g., converting your manuscript to mobi or epub yourself — why bother when Kindle or Nook does that for you), or dated (e.g., there were instructions on downloading a book to Kindle which said your cover had to be part of the manuscript itself, and also had instructions on inserting the cover into the manuscript. My first time publishing on Kindle, I found Kindle has a separate step for downloading your cover, and the cover definitely did have to be inserted into your manuscript. I found out later the cover-in-manuscript deal had stopped in something like 2008; I took the class at the end of 2013.) However, I was able to take this class for free through my library, and if you have a chance to take it for free and need to build you confidence with computers, give it a try. (My library, however, would only pay for the class if you completed it and passed the final — you only needed something like a 60 to pass; if you dropped the class or didn’t pass the final, you’d have to pay for the class yourself, and it costs $149! Which is another reason I wouldn’t whole-heartedly recommend it; you probably have better things to spend your money on!)

This is getting long so I will end here. Next week will cover the final things you have to do to your manuscript before e-publishing, and if that doesn’t run too long, an overview of the publishing process at Kindle, Nook and Smashwords.

Enjoy your week!

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