She’s back, WG2E-Land!!!
Here’s the fabulous Susan Kaye Quinn with Part Three of her superb Self Pub Basics Series. In case you missed them, take a peek at Parts One and Two as well:
Take it away, Susan…
Self-Pub Basics (3 of 4): Formatting, The Hard Way
by Susan Kaye Quinn
Thank you D.D. for having me on WG2E!
This is a continuation of my series earlier in the month about self-publishing basics – nuts and bolts like Where to Publish and Formatting (the Easy, the Hard, and the iTunes). Hopefully this will help smooth the kinks in the process and get you on your way! Today I’m talking about The Hard Way to Format.
When you pay someone to format, you lose the ability to easily make changes (typos, changes to front/back matter, links). If you don’t plan to make changes, and you’re pinched for time, this could well be your best option. You can format your books The Easy Way, but they will have plain fonts and titles, and a prettier book reflects well on you.
I use The Hard Way because I like fancy fonts, titles, and pictures in my ebooks. And I like the flexibility to change things, update backmatter, or create quick-epubs that are still pretty (like when I handed out sneak peeks of the first chapter of my new book before it was released). Once you know how to use the tool, your creativity can kick in to try new things. With ebooks being our trade, I think this is a skill you would do well to invest in eventually, even if you start out with The Easy Way.
The Hard Way
If you want to format The Hard Way, it will help if you understand (or learn) some basic HTML:
If reading that HTML made you cringe, then you might want to stick with The Easy Ways.
Programs You’ll Need (all free except Word)
Word: I’m assuming you are starting with your MS in Word.
Sigil: this is an Epub editing program
Adobe Digital Editions: will allow you to view your Epub
Calibre: will allow you to convert your epub (nook format) to Mobi (kindle format)
Kindle Previewer: to preview your mobi file
1. Clean up your MS using Smashwords Style guide; add in front/back matter (copyrights, acknowledgments, etc.). Make sure any retailer links go to Amazon (we can change this later, but we’re focusing on Kindle first – you’ll see why in a moment).
2. Save your Word doc, then save again in Web page, filtered format (this is a Save As… option with an *.htm extension)
3. Create any images you want to use (chapter header fonts, scene separation symbols, pictures). I download free fonts from the interwebs, install on Word, create the headers I want, screencap it, and paste it into Paint. Do whatever works for you. Save in jpg format (takes up less space, which means less distribution charges from Amazon, if you have a lot of images).
- Insert page breaks in Sigil, fixing any stray formatting problems, etc.
- Insert all your images/chapter headings/etc
- Include a cover (instructions).
- Build a Table of Contents (instructions scroll down).
- Hard-code your ellipses (…) and em-dashes (—) so they will always look nice (instructions).
- Learn about style sheets, to make your life easier (instructions)
- Set Title, Author, Language, Copyright, Publication Date, Description, and ISBN if there is one, in Metadata. This is a good place to add descriptors to your metadata such as “young adult science fiction” that can be picked up search engines.
- Set your first text file (where the book will open) as Semantic type Text (right click on htm file, choose “Semantics”).
- Run the “Check” to compile; fix any errors (this may be where you have to edit the HTML) – pay particular attention to having your styles consistent throughout your ebook, which is best viewed in the HTML screen
- Save file as an Epub
HINT: Calibre has a plugin that will allow you to merge multiple epubs, in case you want to combine books into a box set or collection. I recommend merging first, then tidying up in Sigil. (secret squirrel hint: before you merge, make sure all your file names are unique and ordered, so that the files won’t get mixed up when you merge.)
6. Convert to Mobi: open your Epub into Calibre. Convert (individually) to Mobi format (see Calibre FAQ). (Note: You can also use Kindle Previewer to convert to Mobi, but you will not preserve your Table of Contents). Use the “Save to Disk” option to save your Mobi converted file.
– to get the spacing to work correctly on Nooks.) If you own any Nooks, check your Epub there too. You can also upload to PubIt (B&N) and use the previewer there. Your Epub is now ready to load up to PubIt (Barnes & Noble).