Formatting an eBook’s a B***h

Before I get into the topic for the provocative title of this post, let me take your time to discuss a few blogging changes.

If you come here on Wednesdays to see “Politics Wednesday,” well, I’ve changed things around again. I’ve decided to separate my political blogging from my writing blogging–not because I’m ashamed of either or because I don’t want them to be associated, but because logistically it makes sense. For months I’ve been putting the same post on this WordPress site and on a Blogger site. That led to a lot of confusion, not to mention work. For me.

People have often commented that they like both sorts of postings, some like only the political, and some like only the writing. Now, it’ll be easier for me and for the reader seeking just one type of post.

From now on, this site remains as “Unexpected Paths,” and will feature my posts about writing and the writing life on Mondays and Fridays. So, if you visit here to read the writing posts, you don’t have to do a thing. However, if you want to see my political commentary, you’ll have to go to my Blogger site and follow “My Musings” there.

Now, on to eBook formatting. I recently transcribed my print book Rarely Well Behaved, published in 2000, and separated it into two files for two eBooks. I finished polishing and editing, had someone proofread, got eBook publishing advice from an experienced indie author, downloaded an excellent guide for formatting your file for eBook publication, spent several hours Saturday night following that guide to the letter, uploaded the first book, Fences, did a preview, and was discouraged beyond description.

Despite my careful following of directions (anyone who knows me, knows I operate from checklists), there were a plethora of formatting errors. Now, I could have been the typical indie author and clicked on “Submit,” but I withdrew the file, went back over the formatting process, and uploaded it again. (No offense intended. I’ve found from reviewing indie published books, the conscientious indie authors are atypical.) The same formatting errors prevailed. I took it down again, and did a Scarlett O’Hara–as in, thinking about it tomorrow, because tomorrow is another day.

Now, it’s two days later, and I’m about to give it another try. The issue may be that the guide was written for MS Word for Windows, and I have Word: Mac. This guide is excellent, as I said, because it includes illustrations for various formatting menus, i.e., “This is what it should look like.” But they are slightly different in the Word for Windows and Word: Mac versions. In some cases, I had to give it my best guess.

The other issue is the file you upload goes through a conversion program, in my case, to make the file viewable on Kindle. (Smashwords, for example, calls its conversion program the Meatgrinder. How apt.) That means you can have some basic formatting–e.g., font type and size, first line indents, and centered text–but not much more. One indie publishing friend who received a discouraged DM from me suggested perhaps I’d left in the “curly quotes” instead of using “straight quotes,” and that may have caused the formatting issue. The formatting problems did involve multiple lines of dialogue; all lines of dialogue were indented, instead of the second line’s being flush left.

Today, then, is attempt number three, from the beginning through 30 steps and uncounted sub-steps and then another upload and preview. Wish me luck. If it doesn’t work this time, I may have to resort to something drastic. Like hire a professional.

As my indie author friend said in trying to console me, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

2 thoughts on “Formatting an eBook’s a B***h

  1. I think every content conversion system I’ve worked in has been “twitchy”. For Kindle coming from MS Word, I went down to a text format version to try to get rid of all the extra code. There was a lingering “style” applied to part of the text that gave me all sorts of problems, too. Also, Kindle isn’t good about consistently telling you that you need to save the file as a “web page, filtered” in their instructions. That caused me all kinds of grief. I don’t remember Nook being as hard. All this was for a very simple book: all text in body type. For something complicated, a smart kid could help. A local art school with a web design program would probably yield students who could do the job, and think $150.00 to do it is a lot of money.

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