Fifes of Formatting

I figured I needed to say something about formatting, since it’s pretty critical.  In real publishing, the fastest way to get your stuff rejected is to format it incorrectly.  I know that I as a reader would be irritated by stuff like that, too. And when publishing an ebook, all the typos and grammatical errors become your fault.  No pressure!

1. Research your formats.  I went the Smashwords route, and they have a very nice built-in set of guidelines for how to format your ebook so it appears correctly across all file formats.  (Like Kindle versus an iPhone or so on. Considering file format bit me in the ass for my book trailer, I paid extra close attention this time.)  I worked in Word because it called for that.  I usually type in an extremely ancient and outdated program called Corel WordPerfect 8, because it has a decent thesaurus and my version of Word suggests synonyms like “conversation” for the word “conversations”.  I had to convert to an .RTF to open in Word, and “nuke” my text, i.e. I cut everything out of Word, pasted it into Notepad, cut it out of Notepad, and pasted it back into Word.  This got rid of any formatting or internal corruption in the text, but also eliminated all my previous formatting and italics.  I’m still debating whether to start writing my rough rafts in Word, but that’s my problem.  Your ebook publisher/distributor should have guidelines on what you need to do, so take the time to read them carefully.

2. Turn off Autoformatting.  In Word, this seemed to be the biggest obstacle, at least according to my guidelines.  Once I turned it off, I was able to create my own formatting for paragraphs and chapter headings without fear of messing all my other paragraphs up.  My guidelines advised not to go crazy, and so since this was my first ebook, I didn’t.  I set a first paragraph indent and stuck to bold and italics.  I had the option to stick my book cover in the file, but I decided against that.  The book cover will appear in certain formats that support it; otherwise, it still serves its purpose as an eyegrabber on a website.  I had to go back and redo all my italics and bolds, but that may not necessarily be your problem.

3. Reread until your eyes fall out. I can guarantee you that no matter how many pairs of eyes have seen your manuscript, you’re going to miss something.  Even if it’s an extra period or a missing “had.”  I had about 6 people critique my manuscript, one of which was a professional grant writer with a wicked editor’s eye.  I was still correcting stuff.  Read in spurts if you must; if you feel yourself getting fatigued, you’re not going to pay attention as well as you should.  Take a break and come back.  Odds are you’re going to hate yourself and get a massive attack of the hacks, combined with the nauseating feeling that you’re about to put yourself out there to thousands of people that will hate you and every sentence you fumbled onto the page. In addition, you have no professional credentials to reassure you that you don’t suck; agents and publishing contracts lend themselves to legitimacy and you’ve got nothing but your flimsy dreams and self-confidence.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go breathe into a paper bag.

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About coyoteclockwork

I am 29 and living on the outskirts of the North Austin, TX area. I'm an illustrator and a writer of YA fantasy. I'm also an avid video gamer and have a lot of background in good-old tabletop RPG, when I'm not editing manuscripts for myself or part of my writing group at the Austin SCBWI.
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