Friday, August 3, 2012

Impalement Unabridged-- Formatting for Ebook

Some of you might remember my earlier post, "Hanging, Drawing and Quartering: You know, that thing writers do called Editing?" Well, editing is a walk in the part compared to formatting for an ebook. And when I say 'Impalement Unabridged', history buffs, you know what I mean. When I first started self publishing, I thought formatting for the regular hardcopy was bad, but when I set out to make an ebook for "On a Foreign Field" I realized how easy normal formatting was after all! Hopefully, today, I will be able to give all you other indie writers who might be hitting your heads against the wall a little help and insight into how to make your life easier when formatting for your ebook.

First of all, I am against electronic books, but I know a lot of people really love their e-readers, and I'm okay with that! It doesn't mean I'm going to stat using one, but I want to make sure I make all my readers happy, so I bit the bullet and decided to publish my newest novel as an ebook as well as a hardcopy. I didn't realize quite what I was getting myself into when I started, until I put it into the previewer for Amazon Kindle publishing and realized that it was complete junk. Odds Fish!!! So after trying everything I could think of, I finally got smart and went onto Goodreads to ask around and see if I could get any pointers. I really love all the other indie authors on Goodreads; they are always ready to help each other, and it's just nice to know that you will most likely be able to find someone who knows what they are talking about!

So I was directed to Smashwords, and let me tell you, that is a wonderful site. I would recommend anyone who is new to ebook formatting/publishing to get an account on Smashwords. It's free and you make a good cut of the money from it. They also have a wonderful step-by-step download booklet to help you format the ebook. Seriously, I couldn't have done it without that. In truth there are only a few things you really need to remember when getting your book ready for ebook formatting:

(1) Make sure you get rid of all headers/footers and page numbers. Otherwise, you will have weird spots and random numbers showing up through your ebook.

(2) Get rid of section breaks because they make blank spots in the ebook.

(3) Take everything out of the formatting and put it into standard letter size (8 1/2" X 11"), justify it to the left, and put it in 12 pt. type single or 1.5 spaced lines.

(4) This is the tricky part; fixing the indents. If you have had trouble formatting your ebook, you might have noticed the paragraph indents are whacko. This is because you need to get rid of all the tabs. The Smashwords guide explains this better, but what you have to do is set up the paragraph indents in formatting, and delete all the tabs. This can be done easily by using the "replace all" setting (Who does not love this feature???) and just replacing it with a blank. Again, the Smashwords document explains how to do all this.

(5) Lastly, make sure you never have any more than 4 returns between anything. For some reason this messes up the formatting. Even if your ebook runs together when you look at it, this is how it's going to be. I made the mistake of thinking that at ebook was a perfect replica of the hardcopy, just not on paper, but that's not true, because every e-readers sees the file differently and since the reader can format it to the way they want when reading, the font and size will change anyway.

These are just the basic rules, and I highly encourage you to join Smashwords and read their free formatting guide if you are having trouble. Though ebook formatting was totally painful at first, I also think it was a good experience for myself as a self published author to be able to do it for myself. And now I know what I'm doing so it will only be easier the next time around.

Now for some shameless plugging: My ebook version of "On a Foreign Field" is only $2.99 (Reg. $4.99) right now on both Smashwords and Amazon Kindle and is also only $12.00 (Reg. $15.95) in paperback from Createspace and Amazon, so get a copy now!!

Slainte, Hazel


  1. You're welcome, I hope they help!

  2. Better, for a relatively small amount, you can hire a ebook formatting company that will deliver a product better than the Big Six Publishiers.

  3. That would be nice if one had any money to spare ;)