Saturday, April 6, 2013

Indie Author Series: Formatting

Welcome back to the Indie Author Series. This week, the contributors will be talking about their challenges/ achievements/recommendations as it relates to formatting.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that formatting can be painfully excruciating... can make you scream curse words you had no idea you knew. The most important thing I can tell you once you've gotten to the point of total frustration you should walk away, take some deep breaths, and go to Smashwords Style Guide for step-by-step instructions or let a company like @WriteIntoPrint do the work for you.

For me, there are three standard versions of formatting:

  • Printed Copy Format for createspace
    • For this version, I create a formatted word document that includes all of the 'extras' I like to see in a book (glyphs, large first letters when new chapters begin, headers, footers, blank page so that the new chapter can begin on a odd numbered page, etc.).
    • Once this version is created, I have to create a PDF file and upload it into Createspace's tool and let them vet the formatting.
    • Usually 24 hours later, I have a confirmation that the formatting is approved, and I order a PROOF to do my own quality review or I can go through their electronic real-time reviewer. The electronic reviewer is not quite the same as looking at the book in your hand and making sure you catch all mistakes, but it is pretty darn good.
    • If all is well with the book, I approve and begin selling.
  • Kindle/Nook
    • With this version, I can can leave within the file most of the extras I included in the paperback version.
      Thank goodness! But I have to remove the blank pages.
    • Once I do this, I upload the Word file into KDP/pubit's tools. Once it's uploaded, I have the option of viewing every page. I try to take advantage of doing that, but it will only help you catch BIG errors.
      • KDP recently implemented an upgrade to their tool that I LOVE. It catches spelling errors that are missed by you and your editor. Now, periodically, we've both seen the error and we mean for them to exist, but it's very, very nice to have a tool that acts as a final checks-and-balances.
    • Every time I upload a new file, I order a new copy of the ebook so I can see what the reader will see. There have been times when the upload didn't 'take' even though I got confirmation that it did (or its a matter of timing). I'll admit this can be difficult for both Kindle and Nook because they are committed to making sure you never repurchase a book. I have to go through lots of trouble to delete my previous version so I can do a quality review of the newest version. Again, there are times when Kindle and Nook work against me on this, but I try very, very hard.
      • The only other thing I'll mention here are the periodic page skip errors that I notice with
        Nook's versions. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about them because they don't exist in the file. I've tried uploading and uploading and uploading, and they continue to be problematic. I've even opened dozens of customer service tickets and they can't find the problems either. With that being said, Nook owners may periodically have a page that ends abruptly and goes to the next page. All of the information is there, but it bothers my need for perfection... and I should mention that I never see traditional publishers with this type of problem on Nook. Hm!
  • Smashwords Formatting
    • This is the version that is the most problematic because it requires someone with lots of technical skills to get the books to pass the rigors of their meat grinder so your book can be sent to products geared toward iPads and phones.
      • I should clarify this. If you simply want your book on Smashwords, you can upload the same file you uploaded for Kindle/Nook. No harm. No foul. If you want the book to be mass distributed, you must get the formatting past the meat grinder. In order to do this you should grab Smashwords Style Guide and dive in for the long haul. 
    • I can tell you right away to get rid of headers, footers, glyphs, any type of uniqueness. They are looking for conformity and consistency, which for me is quite interesting since the tools where these books will be read are among the most technologically advanced tools (iPads and smart phones). They should be able to accommodate these variances. Maybe they can. Maybe it's Smashwords meat grinder that can't. Either way, you must conform. 
    • Interestingly enough, I have books that have made it through the meat grinder that I pulled back to add something (the announcement of a new book) only to find that the book's formatting will no longer go through the mead grinder because of issues not touched when the additions were made. In other words, the standards have changed, and I find they are getting harder and harder to 'overcome'. As such, I'm looking seriously toward finding a company who can do this job for me and let me get back to writing. This is where @WriteIntoPrint comes into the picture. 
    • If you find you can't create a link-able table of contents, one that takes you straight to the chapters as you click on them (or you can do it, but Smashwords keeps telling you it's not working when you know that it is), you can contact a company like @WriteIntoPrint. They will update your document to meet  Smashwords' specifications. 

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