Day 18: The 30-Day Book Launch Challenge

Focus on the Formatting to help your eBook stand out

w/c 18th December. What has to be done by the end of this week?

Writing. Continue working on the manuscript.

Publishing.  Create a template eBook and Print book document for this book.

Focus on the Formatting to help your eBook stand out

Poor formatting is one of the major reasons that eBooks are returned for credit, and readers will post damaging reviews if they are pulled out of the story by technical problems or gaps in the text.

When you read a printed book, every page has a number and there are specific breaks in the text between scenes and at the end of every chapter.

An electronic book is completely different.

Basically an eBook is a long string of continuous electronic code.

The key thing to consider when formatting your manuscript is that the text in eBooks needs to flow and be fully responsive to whatever device the reader is using to read the words. This could be anything from a laptop to smart phone or smaller, and to the magnification setting they are using.

There are no chapters or scene breaks unless you introduce code to introduce them and no limit to the page width. Every word can be adjusted to the size and sometimes even the font that the reader choses.

When you load your text onto the online publishing platforms to be converted into the online file, this conversion process can run into a lot of problems if your manuscript has not been stripped back down to a very basic font with a simple style sheet.  In other words, the simplest code possible.

So the golden rule is to keep the layout simple and functional and professional. No fancy fonts or cute clipart.

Be prepared for all of your lovely fonts to be replaced by a standard font for the eBook, since the free online publishing platforms will only accept three or four standard fonts. It is probably best to stick to two fonts at most.

Formatting your manuscript makes sure that your text document will be accepted by the online publishing platforms for both the Kindle mobi format for Amazon KDP and the ePub format for the other online publishing channels, including Kobo, Apple iTunes and Barnes and Noble NookPress, and most importantly, will not have any formatting errors which will be picked up by a reader.

Formatting your Manuscript for Kindle

You can buy specialist software such as Vellum, or Scrivener and I know many authors who find them easy to use and have had excellent results.

Manual Method

If you are familiar with Microsoft Word then it is possible to format your Word document yourself, by following the formatting instructions given in detail on each of the online publishing platforms.

I personally followed the step by step method in the free The Smashwords Style Guide and the Kindle Direct Publishing Formatting Guide which gives you easy to understand instructions.

There are also countless free blog posts and YouTube videos and low cost eBooks telling you how to format your manuscript.

Basically the formatting process is to strip back the Microsoft Word document that you have created, into plain text, and then and add back those text Style elements that you need.

For example: Starting at page one of the document, go through your entire book and apply the default Heading 1 style to each section or chapter title  such as ; Introduction, Copyright, Chapter One… etc. and the default Heading 2 style to any subheadings throughout your book that you want to appear in the Table of Contents.

Then when all of the text has been changed into a set of standard styles, you can insert a special Table of Contents without links to page numbers – use hyperlinks instead. Then take out all of the page numbers from your document.

The important thing is to make it clear when one chapter ends and another begins.

Scene breaks are not marked with several line carriage returns, but by a row of symbols or asterisks and these need to be added to the text.

Using Kindle Create

Kindle Direct Publishing has recently introduced a very clever free formatting option called Kindle Create.

And it has one HUGE benefit. The same formatted file can be used for both Kindle eBooks and print books.

Until now, I have always used the manual method to format my Word documents before uploading them to KDP, but this week I have been experimenting with the options available within Kindle Create and so far I am impressed.

You still need to organise the content into a logical order, but Kindle Create makes it faster and easier to use than manual formatting. I downloaded the program into Word on a pc but there are other options for macs etc.

Kindle Create essentially works by helping you to create an interior design for your document inside Word which meets the criteria for a print book – and is accepted by KDP.

This means that your eBook will look great and have features such as:

  • Automatic first paragraph styles with dropped caps. You can create dropped caps manually but it is time consuming and they don’t always work when you upload the file to KDP.
  • Automatic fully justified body text with a range of fonts and styling.
  • Scene seperator options.
  • Headers and page numbers are automatically added when you allocate the book title and author name – and start in the right place.
  • You can preview what the formatted text will look like from inside Word using Kindle Previewer.

For example. Here is the opening of a chapter after formatting using Kindle Create;

Some downsides/snags.

  • Page headers on the chapter title page. In the example above you will notice that the title of the book is in the header for the chapter page. If you are manually formatting a document to create a print interior design, then you can separate each chapter into a section within the document and set the page header of the first page to be different, so that the first page of that chapter does not have a header. This is a convention for print books but not a rule. Will a reader notice or care? Perhaps they will. I shall see.
  • The template trim size for the book is 6 x 9 inches and all of the margins are based on that size. I am using a 5 x 8 inch trim size so I had to change the custom page size and adjust the margins. The full specifications on the minimum margins for print books are on the KDP Print Publishing Guidelines.
  • The copyright page is moved to the front which tends to be standard practice in print books. Some authors like to keep the copyright page to the backmatter of an eBook so that the ‘Look Inside’ sample goes straight to the Table of Contents and the first chapter. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem – just move the page.
  • Images and Tables may not convert well. And you will definitely have to check that the formatting stays true after you have uploaded the file.

You can find out more about Kindle Create here >>

It could be well worth your time to experiment with this option and see if it works for you.

Have a good one. Nina

Week Five: Mon. 18 Dec. to Fri 22 Dec. [5 days] Days 18-22