This is the third part of a series about self-publishing a short e-book as a completely DIY project. Part 1 introduced why you should consider trying to self-publish on your own at least once. Part 2 dealt with some of the tools you will need to gather at some point to accomplish the project.
It has become almost axiomatic among writers to advise other writers to hire out their formatting. I generally agree for full-length projects but I don’t think it’s worth the cost for short ones. Many authors believe that e-book formatting is just too difficult to do and would take away from their writing time and other tasks. But there are reasons to consider trying it at least once – cost and experience.
What Exactly is Formatting
Many writers don’t realize that their work is already formatted when they complete it. However, the formatting may have been set-up incorrectly. There may need to be styles applied at various points in the book. Also, there may be hidden characters that appear incorrectly in e-book format.
I’m Finished. What Next?
Let’s say that you’ve finished your e-book. Formatting is probably the next thing you need to do. The manuscript needs to be corrected for uploading to a vendor.
If the project is developed in Scrivener you can use this software to compile the manuscript into an ebook. However, it may be best to simply compile the book into a Word document for two reasons.
1. You may still need to format the e-book – more on that in a moment.
2. Uploading your book to Kindle and Smashwords requires a Word document unless you already have a clean e-book file that is appropriate to the vendor.
Formatting is like sanding your manuscript’s rough edges away but it is not editing – think typesetting. You will need to consult with something like the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker (as mentioned in part 2 of this series). I’ve used this guide and highly recommend it as a straightforward, simple guide – with screenshots included – to help anyone through formatting.
To hit the high notes, you need to make sure all erroneous formatting is removed from the book. It’s best when writing a book not to use manual indent but rely on the auto-indent in your word processor. The quide gets deeper by detailing such tasks as adding internal links and the use of styles. Again, follow these directions well and you can easily add the these elements as necessary.
Formatting is an important tool to completing the project. It is a powerful tool but it is not too complex to accomplish on your own, especially for a shorter project. By handling this task on your own you gain valuable insight on the process.
When addressing your longer projects you may have developed the skill and confidence to do it on your own. But even if you hire out the task of formatting you will have developed more understanding to work with your formatter as well as develop your projects more cleanly.
Bonus Tip: Once you’ve finished formatting you can view your e-book using Adobe Digital Editions to verify that it looks right. This software will allow you to make this “test-run” before you officially publish the e-book.
Have you ever tried to format any or your writing in preparation for an e-book? If you’ve formatted before, what tips can you share? If you haven’t formatted previously, what keeps you from trying? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed on 11/10/14 so take a look.
Thanks for reading.
P. H. Solomon
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