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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Not Tech-Savvy? Four Easy Steps To Format Your Ebook For Smashwords And Amazon Kindle

King Samuel Benson

Before we talk about how you can format your ebook to suit the various eReaders, I want to assume that you have already finished writing and editing your book. That you already know and understand all the pre-publishing tasks, and that you already have a publishing plan. Otherwise you'll only be reading this article for theorical knowledge.

While there's nothing really wrong in that, you're not helping yourself. If you're beginning to spend thinking energy on pre-publication issues like editing and formatting, you're sucking out your creative energy. I advice you to save your energy and expend it on the actual process of writing and finishing your book first.

That's the hardest part. You can spend hours, days, months or even years thinking about how you'll be able to format your ebook so it looks great when converted and read on an eReader but if you never actually complete the writing process, none of your musing will blossom to fruition.

If you're still reading this right now, I'm assuming you have already completed the prerequisites. Just in case you've forgotten, I'm listing them below:

1) You understand this whole publishing business.
2) You have a well-thought out writing-publishing-marketing plan.
3) You have the whole concept of your book - fiction: character development, plot, sequels (if there are going to be any); nonfiction: lesson or general idea.
4) With your concept you've written and completed a great, well-edited book.

Well done!

Now you're ready to format, convert and distribute to retail stores.

So back to the topic of this article, how do you format your book if you're not tech-savvy? I'm going to list and explain the process in four easy-to-grasp steps.

1) Choose a Word Processor:
I could've said it doesn't matter the kind of word processor you use but it does matter. Since almost all ebook publishers demand your manuscript must be in Microsoft Word, that is going to be the subject of our discussion.

Now many experts insist that, before creating a new document for your ebook, you make certain changes to your page setup like adding indents, modifying your gutter positions, line spacing before and after paragraphs, and lots of other actions that are enough to make the process seem preposterous. While it is okay to make those changes, it is really unnecessary.

2) Remove All Formatting:
Maybe I should rather say, don't add any formatting.

If you do not understand your Ms-Word page setup, then do not tamper, I repeat, do not tamper with it. If you have already done that, then go back and restore it to default.

No indents, no tabs, no page breaks, no page number, no header and footer. No unusual font type, no text style, no beautifully flowing characters. During conversion, many of those formats will be truncated or modified and after conversion your ebook will contain jargons and look jumbled and amateurish on an eReader. Reading experience will become poor. Readers who paid money to buy your ebook or spent their precious time to read it will not be happy. Don't spoil your readers' enjoyment in an attempt to make your ebook look fanciful. You'll lose potential fans and destroy any chance of future purchases.

Type your book like you would on a simple text editor. Let your sentences fill a page and flow to the next page, and just continue typing. Use fixed spaces - like three or four strikes on the Enter key - to separate new chapters, copyright information, preface, acknowledgements or something similar.

By default, every new page on Ms-Word is set to align 'left'. Don't change it unless you really have to.

3) Save Your New Document:
Of course that's only normal!

That's probably what you just thought. If you are uploading your new ebook to Smashwords, then all you have to do is save your work in the .doc extension and upload it! Yes, that's only normal. Smashwords will handle the task of converting your new ebook into all the major ebook formats.

If you're uploading to KDP, it's a bit different. You'll need to save your work with the .html or .htm extension. The Kindle has a different format for its books. Call it .mobi, .prc, .pcr, whatever you wish. They are all different names for the same thing.

To get the best from your Kindle conversion, you need to have a basic understanding of HTML coding. Why? Because Kindle books are basically web pages. Once you understand that, you can do anything. You can ignore the rules (No, I don't mean the terms and conditions for publishing on Kindle). You can add new formats and/or images because you know what will display properly and what won't.

After saving your work with the .html extension, you can take it to an html editor and do further editing to remove several unnecessary Word add-on codes. Then you can preview it to see how it would look like when published.

Usually I don't write Kindle books on Word; I do them directly on html editors. There are a number of free html editors. Two of which I use - Kompozer and PageBreeze. Kompozer is completely free (as at this time). PageBreeze is paid but also has a free version. They are both very good and easy to use. It's easy to download them. Just do a Google search of either of both and you'll come up with download links in the search results.

Wait! Wait! So you have no knowledge of HTMLs? Don't falter out yet; you can still publish a very good book on Kindle without knowing html. Just save your ebook as .html/.htm and upload it. Or easier still, use the same .doc file you uploaded to Smashwords. So long as you followed my instructions and removed all formatting from your ebook, and as long as your ebook does not contain spelling or punctuation errors, your ebook will appear error-free and easy to read when converted for the Kindle.

4) After Publication, Download a Copy:
Your upload is successful. The interior design checker on your publishing platform has not detected any error. Your ebook is now live. But you're not done yet. There's still one more task. Go and download the first copy of your ebook. Read it. Is it what you really wanted? If you followed my instructions to the letter, there shouldn't be any error. But not always. If you do find errors, they'll be mostly spelling and punctuation errors. In such cases, go back to the original .doc file you uploaded. It should still be on your computer. 
Check the section of the book where you found the error on your eReader. You should also find the error on the .doc file. Correct it, and upload again.

So there you go.

Use Microsoft Word to type your manuscript. Do nothing to your page setup. Remove all formatting; just let your sentences flow. Tap the Enter key multiple times to separate title, copyright information, chapters and the rest. Depending on how you arrange your paragraphs and chapters, your ebook will look attractive. When you finish your ebook, save and upload to your preferred publishing platform. After conversion and publication, download/buy a copy and read it to check for errors.

It's really that simple.

If you found this article helpful, don't forget to share it with your friends. They may benefit from it as well.

King Samuel Benson is an ebook editor, a poet and a freelance writer. He is featured as an expert author on EzineArticles.com, one of the biggest article directory on the 'net. 

He is the author of 'Why You Are Not Wealthy' and he is currently working on a new fiction titled '2018' which will be released in September. 

Try out his editing and formatting services.

Find King Samuel Benson at: 
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