Formatting for ebooks

When you’re done writing your story you’ll think about publishing it. That means you’ll need to think about appropriate formatting for the medium. For the most part, using Word and formatting the chapters and pages how you’d like them to look is fine. What you’ll have to do is save this Word document as a PDF and upload the PDF. You can do this for Kindle and even Smashwords. The document will look like a PDF and read just fine on most screens. This is also excellent if you are using special fonts, charts, graphs, artwork, pictures, advertising, and hyperlinks. PDFs keep those things and they get uploaded in true form.

You can also format your document specifically for ereaders using epub. Epub is great in that it allows the text to configure to whatever ereader you’re using. What it won’t do is accept charts, graphs, advertising, or hyperlinks. You can include art, but it has to be formatted per epub rules. What you can’t have is special fonts, special characters, different sized fonts, and so forth.

For epub, you cannot just set your Word parameters and type. You need to use a different process. You will have to use the Style menus.

Because ereaders show only straight text, epub likes to keep things as simple as possible. You’ll only need to use three Styles: Heading 1 for titles, Heading 2 for subtitles and/or chapter headings, and Normal for text. You can’t use fancy fonts so stick to Times New Roman, Garamond, or Arial. Most Epub converters will not recognize any other fonts. You can use inline formatting of your fonts such as italics or bold and you can also add first level bullet or number lists (second level bullets or outlines need to be done separately and inserted as a jpeg).

Formatting for the the Normal Style for body text is simple too. Set your text to be left justified, single spaced. You can either set the first line of a paragraph to be indented or block style paragraphs. Do not check the “don’t add space between paragraphs” box. you will need the automatically included extra space between paragraphs. Personally, for ereaders I prefer block style paragraphing.

The key to successful formatting for epub conversion is to NOT USE THE HARD RETURN AND NO EXTRA SPACES. This is difficult for some to do. Stop adding double spaces after closing punctuation. Stop hitting the enter key to add more space between paragraphs or at the end of a section looking for the page break to start a new chapter or section. Habits are hard.

First, extra spaces can skew the spacing in the text. Most extra hard returns will be stripped out anyway. To get your ebook to look like you want it to look, you have to use the style keys. To end a chapter: following you last sentence a single return. Then change your style to Heading 2 for a new chapter heading. During the Epub conversion a page break will be created before Headings.

These are the basics for epub conversion formatting. There are superb tutorials that include details on removing proofing instructions and auto defaults in Word. Lulu has one. You can see it here. Smashwords has one too. You can see that one here. Both are free and both are pretty easy to follow. Even I can get it and I’m not tech savvy.

AND finally, the clock is ticking down and you have just a few days left to submit for our October issue! The theme is “What Lies Beneath.” Do you have any deep, hidden secrets or fears? Write them down! Send them in!

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