Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ereader Typesettting And The Single Novelist

And now the red-headed stepchild of this freakshow family steps in. Having utterly no business sense whatsoever and a long history of frustration with the traditional publishing industry, I am following Keri into this madcap experiment and praying we all see tomorrow. What I bring to the table is a motley array of every non-business skill imaginable, so today we will discuss typesetting and ereader formatting.

I was terrified by the exotic demands for file formatting I was SURE were right around the corner, but I have a lot of experience with word processors of all kinds and decided to strap on my Larnin' Boots and figure it out. What I discovered floored me.

It really just isn't that hard.

The unifying theme is that for ereader publishing you need to strip almost but not quite all formatting out of a document. The ereader's going to change page lengths, font sizes and types, all that stuff. If you're publishing general fiction without illustrations, this suits your needs just fine. Smashwords is kind enough to provide very, very detailed instructions at this page of how to do it. Extremely detailed instructions. The huge size may seem intimidating, but don't be scared. If you fall into our 'general fiction' category only tiny bits of that document apply to you.

To sum up what I did, I selected the entire book and set it all to be single-spaced 12 point in a generic font. I used search and replace to remove all indents that rely on tabs. Instead Smashwords showed me how to set (in Word 2007's bewildering command structure, no less) all of my paragraphs to be generically indented at the beginning. I was allowed to keep my page breaks, but told not to trust they'll still exist in all formats. I padded with a couple of blank lines between chapters, and made sure that I never had 4 blank lines together (that's bad, apparently).

And that's it. Their guide will walk you through all of that. They even have a bit telling you what they'd like to see for a title page and how to make a table of contents that links to your chapters and links your chapters back to it. I went crazy and did that and it seemed pretty simple. One thing to know there - a regular table of contents WILL NOT work, because page numbers won't be the same on an ereader and you'll be taking page numbers out of your manuscript anyway.

Now we get to what I thought was the scary part. Kindle Direct Publishing DUN DUN DUNNNN! Their submission guidelines seem quite terrifying, because they're not that well explained and they demand exotic file types. I dug down into the nitty gritty and discovered that they're just a less publisher friendly description of the same formatting Smashwords wants. I used Word 2007 to save my Smashwords formatted manuscript as an .htm file. Didn't change it in any other way. Downloaded 'Kindlegen', their freaky little command prompt program and ran said manuscript through it. This gave me a .mobi file. I opened that .mobi file in my Windows Kindle Reader and... behold! It works perfectly! Even the table of contents links!

Summary: Ereader publishing formatting sounds scary scary. It's almost entirely 'remove all the formatting'. Smashwords has a tremendously friendly guide. Kindle uses the same standards, but you have to make it an .htm file and run it through their Kindlegen program.

You may now resume your regularly scheduled word processing already in progress.

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