Making an ebook —what I did

Although I bragged about being an ebook wizard the last time, I have since been humbled, particularly after spending 2 or 3 full days revising my ebook (primarily because of photos, but more on that next time).

As I mentioned in my last post about this, I decided to use Smashwords to be able to provide multiple ebook formats in addition to publishing on Kindle.

One of the problems I found was that the ebook field is changing all the time. A lot of people have posted helpful advice on the web, but much of it is dated. If you start Googling for help, it can become very confusing, very rapidly. Trust me on this. You  don’t need to know html. You just need to know how to format a document.

My advice is, start at Smashwords. The site is way more helpful than Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) in providing detailed information; the turnaround time is almost immediate so you are able to check your ebook right away and re-cycle if the changes you made didn’t work; and it is not a popular site (I’ve sold very few books there), so I can try things out and not jeopardize my Amazon Kindle product. Then, once you have a good document for your ebook, you can upload it to Kindle yourself.

At Smashwords, under the “publish” tab (the link above takes you there), you will find important, and helpful information. Start with the Style Guide by Mark Coker. It is free and will help you format your document. I downloaded a pdf of it.

The steps I took, as advised by Mark Coker, in a nutshell are:

  1. I made a backup of my Word document and saved it as a doc (not docx). I had been keeping my book in Scrivener, so I first had to generate a Word document there.
  2. I copied the document and pasted it into a text editing program. On pcs I think that is Notepad, since I have a mac I used TextEdit. This strips out all your formatting styles that you inserted intentionally or not .
  3. I opened a new Word document, making sure Word’s auto formatting, auto correcting, tracking changes were all turned off. Then I turned on the show/hide feature on Word. Mark Coker explains how to do all this in the Style Guide.
  4. I copied the TextEdit file and pasted it into the new Word document I had created.
  5. Everything in your document should now be under the “normal” formatting style. From here I defined styles for headings, the front matter paragraphs, the book’s body, and picture captions. Mark Coker gives you very specific advice on how to do this. I used many of his suggestions, and made up a few styles of my own.
  6. Then I scrolled through my document and applied the styles to the headings and picture captions. It’s a simple matter of highlighting the text involved, going to the style drop-down menu in the upper left corner, and clicking on the style you want. Again, it’s very well explained in the Style Guide.
  7. If you have an isolated word that is italicized or bolded, you can just format that manually. I kept a printed copy beside me as I worked to make sure I made all the formatting changes I originally intended.

Once you are happy with your document’s formatting, it is a simple matter to upload it to Smashwords where it will be made into a mobi, epub, etc. I downloaded the mobi and epub (free from Smashwords if you are the author), and checked the books on my computer screen and other devices. If I wasn’t satisfied, I recycled through the process. When I was satisfied, I published it on Amazon’s KDP as well.

The biggest challenge in this whole process is formatting the text. I have never adhered to using “styles” when I am writing. I’ve learned a lot about using styles through this process, and intend to use them in the future from the get-go. If you don’t already know, learn how to use and modify styles. You won’t regret it.

Here are some of the styles I used in Where Memories Meet:

Normal: For the body of the book. I modified whatever Word had assigned to “normal” so that the font was Times New Roman font at 12 pt, the first line of the paragraph indented at  0.3″, and the lines spaced at 1.5 lines.
Center: I used this for anything I wanted centered. The copyright page uses this style. I created a new style using normal as the base and modifying it to no indent on first line and centered text.
Front Matter: This makes the front matter, and end matter in my case, have a block paragraph look. I learned this directly from Mark Coker’s Style Guide. I used normal formatting to create a new style and modified it to no indent on first line, single line spacing, space after the paragraph at 6 pt.
Name: I used this name to define the headings of the chapters, which happen to be names, and used it for all similar headings like Preface, About the Author, etc. Defining the page break and the spacing before and after the name of the chapter ensures the chapters all start on a new page, a little down from the top. I used normal style to create a new style with arial font, 14 pt, bold. Indent 0″, Space before paragraph is 30 pt, space after is 18 pt, Page break before paragraph.

It’s really not difficult to format the text, it just takes a little time to assign the headings and special paragraphs their style. It’s rewarding work when the document ends up looking professional.



Author: CMSmith

I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, photography, genealogy and travel. I have opinions about many things, but am trying to age gracefully and not continually tick people off with them. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

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