Tuesday, 5 July 2011

7 Steps to Format Your eBook

Do you have a masterpiece wilting in a drawer/on your hard disk? Do you have a book ready that is for a small readership? Do you want to share your work? Do you want to make money (actually the last one is not a given, not by a long stretch)

My first novel, The Story of Plan B, was shortlisted for the London Lit Idol but it had been sitting on my hard drive ever since, pretty well. So having seen some other people I knew successfully publish their books as eBooks, I decided it was a waste to keep it just to myself and to share. I published it as an eBook.

Step 1. Start, I think with Smashwords. This site has been going for ages
Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform, serving authors, publishers, readers and major ebook retailers. Smashwords is ideal for publishing novels, personal memoirs, poetry chapbooks, short and long-form fiction, and non-fiction. If you've written it, we want to help you share it and sell it!
So create an account. At this point you can download or sample loads of other books. Have a look around. There's a whole world of eBooks out there, some wonderful, some less so. How do you tell the difference? Same as paper books. Word of mouth, reviews, popularity and by reading samples.

Step 2. First, and really, really importantly, read through your book looking for typos and grammar errors. Yes, use the spellchecker and grammar checker but that is not enough. There will be typos. Find them. Exterminate them. Ideally use another reader. You can pay a professional. Be ruthless. Even then, there may still be typos. And it's really annoying for your readers and a sign of an indie-publisher.

Step 3. Now format your book. Do what I didn't do at the start and try and use your current version. If you're anything like me, you've been working on it for years. It's been through the mill. It's been rewritten, edited, cut and pasted, different version of Microsoft Word, or whatever your chosen word processor is. You've changed fonts, changed them back.

Step 4. So do what Smashwords call the Nuclear Option. Open a new document. Select all in your current novel. (Ctrl-A) Paste without formatting into the new document.
(This is Word 2007. You're version may look a little different)

Step 5. Now you should go back and correct the formatting.
Use Normal Style for the whole book. There's a big long spiel in the Smashwords style guide on paragraphs, well worth a read if your knowledge of styles in Word is any way shaky. To summarise, use one indent at the start of each paragraph, single line spacing or multiple a max of 1.15, no blank line after each paragraph.

Chapters are different in eBooks. In paper books, a new chapter will start on a fresh page. In an eBook, you don't know how big a 'page' is so each chapter starts after a couple of blank lines from the previous chapter.
“Hello?” I said again. Something was wrong. I looked at the phone. It was upside down. I turned it the right way up. “Hello?” I said for the fourth time. “This is Zoë Madison. Who is this?”


Chapter 2

Two minutes later I sat down on the sofa, my head whirring. Larry Harte was still on the TV, digging steadily through a bed of muddy earth. The muscles of his shoulders moved under his olive-coloured T-Shirt. The hand-knitted jumper was draped over the red wheelbarrow.
I have the Chapter markers in Heading 2.  I have one blank line at the end of Chapter 1. a line of squiggles. Another blank line, Chapter 2, a blank line Then the first paragraph of Chapter 2.

So get rid of all your page breaks, section breaks, whatever. Get rid of all your multiple blank lines. Don't mess with Tabs.

If you need anything more fancy, change those paragraphs individually.

Smashwords recommends using one font (Times New Roman, Helvetica, Verdana, Whichever appeals but is easily readable. Font size doesn't matter, as long as it is consitent. eReaders can modify font size to suit the reader.

This shouldn't take hours to do.

Step 6. The start of your book must have the title, author, "SMASHWORDS EDITION", a copyright notice and may have a brief link to your website or blog. This is mine

The Story of Plan B


Kate Dempsey

Copyright Kate Dempsey 2011


Read more news, views and stories on her wildly popular blog emergingwriter.blogspot.com

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Step 7. And at the end of the book, you should put something about yourself and point the reader in the direction of other books or blogs or whatever.


Kate Dempsey is a writer and poet living in Ireland. Her poetry and fiction is widely published in Ireland, the UK and Europe in magazines and anthologies as well as RTE radio and in the Poolbeg/RTE anthology 'Do The Write Thing.' She has won and been nominated for prizes which include the Hennessy New Irish Writing for Poetry and Short Fiction, Frances MacManus Short Story Award, The Plough Prize and the Cecil Day Lewis Award. reads with the Poetry Divas Collective who love to blur the wobbly boundaries between page and stage and are available to perform at all cool events.

Tweet at PoetryDivas and let her know what you thought of the book.

OK, that's enough to be going on with. Next post addresses the legendary 'meatgrinder' which formats your book for all sorts of platforms and cruel, autovetter errors. Also pricing and coupons.


Donna OShaughnessy said...

I cannot you believe you just did that ! Just fantastic information that you could have kept to yourself and by sharing may be increasing the number of ebook competition . You are so very kind. Many many mnay thanks !

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks donna. I should've added if your grateful for the advice. You could show your appreciation by buying a copy of my book!