Diary of a Reluctant E-Publisher: Formatting and Other Adventures in Tedium
Now that I had all the elements assembled for the e-book it was time to format, turning them from the base lead of mere doc files to the gold of- well gee what the hell are you supposed to do to them anyhow? The general consensus is that formatting, like breaking up, is hard to do. It’s easily the most intimidating part of the ebook process. Entire cottage industries are devoted to getting your e-book ready for the Kindle and Pubit (The Nook’s platform), and those who haven’t done it yet speak of it in hushed tones, as though they might have to sacrifice a goat on the second night of a waxing moon, or drink a concoction of Salamander Eyes and Peyote.
This is of course, ridiculous! It’s Toad Eyes not Salamander- every neophyte should know that! But in all seriousness, formatting is much easier than it is made out to be, and I promise you that even the biggest Luddite among you can probably do it. I’m a pretty big Luddite myself (I know some basic HTML coding but we are talking truly basic here) and I managed to get most of my formatting for both marketplaces done in a single day. If you managed to type your story on a computer then you can format it.
Perhaps the biggest source of intimidation to the novice formatter is the fact that Kindle Direct Publishing and Nook Pubit demand two similar, but distinct protocols. Really there’s not much of a difference between the two with the similarities outweighing the divergences by a good margin. Starting from your original single document, it’s a good idea to first copy and paste your text onto a program like Notepad or TextEdit, and then copy and paste from that onto a new document. From there set your paragraph indentations using the Format option on Word rather than relying on single indentations, and then set your text size to an e-reader friendly 14 points.
Now comes the tricky part. It’s not that tricky, don’t worry. While Pubit allows you to load a doc file straight onto their system, Kindle Direct Publishing demands that you change your file to an html one first. To accomplish this you must drag a black goat up to a lonely hill- ah damn, there I go mixing up my notes again. What I meant to say is that you need to save your document as a webpage. To do this you go to “Save As” and choose “Web Page”. Seriously. That’s the hard part. That’s what you’ve been stressing over!
Beyond that the differences are superficial. KDP has you separate your chapters with Page Breaks, while Pubit asks for Section Breaks (though in both cases you need to put said break at the end of your last paragraph, not the end of your actual page, otherwise you’ll get an annoying extra blank page between chapters) and that’s just about it.
Of course there are other unofficial differences between the two but most of these seem to be caused by the gremlins who live in the internet. For Amazon the biggest problem is with encoding pictures. No matter how stringently I followed their instructions regarding file type and size I couldn’t get the damn things to show up. Your cover is added automatically, but my author photo remains an anonymous red X.
Though my author photo shows up just fine on my Nook, my Pubit file has a smattering of inexplicable formatting bugaboos that are just sort of baffling. These aren’t numerous enough to be a real problem (aside from one case where the title of a book is spelled out one letter at a time down the margin of a page). Just strange idiosyncrasies of spacing, with no apparent cause, that probably wouldn’t be noticeable to someone who hasn’t been wrestling with it for a year and a half.
Perhaps I should have tried that goat after all.