Formatting: alternating boredom and terror.

80. formatting

So I’m on some kind of home straight with at least two novels. Beta work has been done, text amended to meet various concerns, proof reading done, by me and one of my ‘editors’, and now I have to format for self publishing. It’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions and we’re already in March.

The tedious bit is altering everything so that it has indented paragraphs (preferred for fiction) with no line spacing. Word happily indents previously unindented stuff but I can’t get it to remove all line spaces. Modern versions of Word won’t move between styles easily. The trouble is that for fanfic, especially for AO3, and for travel writing (currently for blogs but possibly for publication) I’m used to writing in block paragraphs. Same with any non-fictional writing I’ve ever done and that’s quite a lot. I tried training myself to use the other method and then had the reverse problem (fortunately on a short fanfic). From now on, I’ll remember to start off in the correct format but for stuff I’ve already written it’s a question of going through and manually altering it where necessary – which gives me yet another chance to spot typos but is boring in the extreme. And until I truly accepted the fact that I would need to do manual edits I was on the way to anger-management classes. Yes, I know there are ways of correcting the text in Word but they take as long as manual editing.

The frightening bit is the formatting for chapter headings and an index that will work for Smashwords and Amazon. Very technical and even one incorrect keystroke can throw the whole thing into disarray (at which point Smashwords/Amazon reject the book and you have to start again). Also, I was using an e-pub program to check, and a much published friend tells me that particular program has been ‘stealing’ work and breaching privacy so I’m going to have to think again. It was bad enough for my novellas; now I’m dealing with novels. Plus, the rules for Smashwords and Amazon aren’t quite the same so you have to do everything and check everything twice.

The other frightening bit is the covers (I design my own), the first ‘front’ pages with all the stuff like copyright info, dedications, etc. and the end pages with links to other works. Plus the afore mentioned index. Smashwords and Amazon keep changing the ‘rules’ so you can never relax. Covers have to work for e-books and also for advertising thumbnails so the sizing is crucial. It also annoys me that after all that hard work Amazon still makes the default first page on Kindle the first page of the story and you have to scroll back to see all the other stuff!!

I keep thinking of all I have to do and then going away and writing something else to cheer myself up. But I’ve chosen self publishing deliberately and must get my act together!! *g* I also need to re-read my own post of November 2012 – and I notice nobody leapt in to guide me through it all!

10 thoughts on “Formatting: alternating boredom and terror.

  1. Congratulations, not before time :)!

    The first time I tried to upload a book to Smashwords it took me three attempts to meet the formatting requirements. Now, I get it right first time, without any effort. I have changed the Normal formatting in Word to give me what I need. Personally, I don’t like indented paragraphs so I don’t use them, but there needs to be a clear distinction between paragraphs. A hard return gives too much space on readers, so I now use single line spacing with 0pt before and 6pt after and it looks great.

    I find it best to create and upload a .mobi file to Amazon – that way all of the formatting and chapter headings etc are right. I use Sigil (free) to creat an epub file (which I need to sell on my web site anyway) and then use Calibre (free) to convert the epub into a mobi.

    I agree that it’s frustrating where Kindle opens a new book.

    • The books have been finished for ages but co-ordinating my brilliant editing team is like herding cats, not helped by my habit of disappearing to the virtually internetless wilds of the Portuguese mountains for months at a time!!

      I like indented paragraphs for fiction and understand why Smashwords and Amazon recommend them. I can see your alternate style looking good too but it would be just the same problem for me – one style for original fic and another for stuff I intend to load to the fanfic Archive Of Our Own.

      Whilst I can see that creating a .mobi file for Amazon might help, there are two questions.
      First, does the ‘live’ chapter heading thing still work? Not that I ever use it, but Amazon like you to have it all sorted.
      Second, are they happy to have it on Kindle Direct or are your books actually published by you and then sold through Amazon? I think that makes a difference in what they will and won’t accept.
      Actually, both those points relate to Kindle Direct.

      • You might say that about editors, I couldn’t possibly comment :).

        Most people seem to like indents and I have seen people almost come to blows ‘discussing’ them :).

        You just need to have two different Word templates and select the appropriate one for whatever you are writing. I have one for work reports and one for writing.

        In Sigil, I create the Table of Contents, which are live links, and these carry through to to the mobi file. (You just need to format the chapter titles as headings (touch of a button) rather than normal text.) If you are used to writing in html then you can toggle text and html and do lots of extra smart stuff. For example, I have added audio files in my children’s books. I copy and paste each chapter at a time from Word into Sigil (or select and copy the lot and then break it into chapters, either works).

        Then I double check everything when I get the file into Calibre.

        I have had my Amazon files created this way on Kindle Direct, although I now rarely do that as I prefer a wider distribution, not that it’s reflected in sales 🙂 Sometimes I start a book off there for a few months and see what happens.

        I have never had a mobi file created this way rejected by Amazon. They have questioned a few spellings but that’s all.

      • For some reason WordPress seems to have renamed you Chrid and asked me to moderate your comment…

        I realise I will need two Word templates from now on. The main problem (the tedious bit) is that I have an enormous amount of writing in the wrong format at the moment.

        Actually, it’s the table of contents that terrifies me. I used to use an E-pub reader to check but one of my friends who has published a lot (she and her sister have created their own ‘indie’) says there are problems of piracy with the reader I was using – still, I suppose Smashwords and Amazon can only send me back to try again.

        This conversation is probably doing me good – I can’t just build up a store of finished work on my hard drive for ever – or can I???

      • Sorry – big fingers and the s and d keys are too close together 🙂

        The fix is easy. Create a button in the quick style gallery with your format. Select all text. Hit the button and change everything to the new format. Scroll through and fix up any headings etc.

        Don’t be terrified by the table of contents – when you have done it a couple of times it will become second nature. I don’t believe there is a requirement to have a table of contents, or one with live links, so you may not get a rejection if it isn’t quite right.

        Hope you have got a good back-up system in case that hard drive fails. Get them published!

  2. Backup system is fine – overkill probably. External hard drive, CDRWs, pen drive and files sent to my gmail. (I think it was you who originally suggested that last one.) I am not paranoid, just cautious.

    Will report on actions taken – feel free to nudge via email or via your editor if I don’t!!

  3. These days, storage on the cloud is feasible at no/low cost – it also means you can access your files from anywhere – no more excuses when you are in Portugal 🙂 Check out Dropbox, which gives enough free storage for most individual needs – also good for sharing files with others.

  4. Using the cloud means internet access – or at least that’s how I’ve understood it. If there’s some other kind of magic, do let me know!! We have a shared dongle, which we try to limit to an hour a day – partly because of the cost, which is high unless you go for an annual contract and that would make it equally high for our random visits. And partly because we can only top it up by a visit to town with our card (between 9.00 and 8.00), not online, so we don’t want to ‘run out’. That means I can download emails, answer and upload my replies, and look up essentials like ferry timetables and the occasional bit of information we really need. Not much else. I’ll stick with CDs etc! And my gmail but I wouldn’t access it till back in UK. Your editor uses Dropbox but I can’t share their photos while I’m in Portugal!

    • You store your important files, such as your WIPs on the cloud AND on all of your devices. So if you have a desktop in the UK, for example, and a laptop in Portugal for arguments sake, then whenever you change a file on one it will update to the cloud and then to the other devices when they are on-line. So you don’t need to be on-line to use it but when you go on-line the files that need updating will upload/download themselves.

  5. That’s helpful info – thanks. I admit I thought I had to make a conscious decision to upload. And as i probably do more writing in Portugal than UK I decided it was too much bother – clearly it isn’t!

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