Pretty much everyone I know writes in Microsoft Word. It’s the easiest way to create a source file, or original document, so I like to use it, too. Write your whole book and then copy everything into one Word file.
Remember to always back up your work before you edit it!!
Now, MS Word has a lot of formatting built in, and some of this can actually distort your text in the later conversions you’ll need to do. So I recommend making sure that the regular text is written in the “normal” style. Whenever you need to italicize or bold, it’s also best to use the styles available in the style list, which looks like this in Office 2010:
Italics, bold, and chapter headings should be adjusted using these styles, rather than manually changing the font, size, etc. because the styles add html tags to the file. Let me explain that a little bit more before we go on.
HTML Tags and MS Word Styles
Later, when you convert your book to an eBook, these html tags will automatically adjust based on an eReader’s settings. The text looks like this:
However, manually adjusting a Word document’s formatting makes the file look like this:
Messy, huh? The difference between those is that the latter has a lot of unnecessary html, some of which can become corrupted in the conversions. When you see eBooks with random symbols or odd spacing, that’s typically what happened: somewhere, someone messed with the source html such that it was converted improperly.
So that’s why you need to focus on these keys in your original document:
Use the specific styles for italics, bold, and chapter headings.
Do center text if need be using the typical means, but aside from alignment, you shouldn’t use the typical font/paragraph options.
Don’t bother with crazy fonts. The Kindle overwrites all fonts anyway, and the uncommon ones are washed out of the ePub file. The only format that preserves fonts is a PDF, and that’s the least common format. You can, however, create a separate Word file that saves all your crazy fonts. You can later convert this one to PDF. More on that in post #3 (Converting Your Book).
Saving as HTML
The next step is to save your word file as a “filtered web page.” This will preserve the tags you just painstakingly created. You’ll need to make it HTML if you want to customize the formatting, which is necessary when adding a linked TOC. It’s not necessary if you’re only uploading to Smashwords or Amazon without a linked TOC, so you can skip straight to the last step if that’s all you’re doing. However, ePubs come out cleaner if you convert HTML, rather than a Word document.
To save as a filtered web page is as easy as it sounds. Make sure your Word document is open and hit F12 (or go to File> Save As). At the bottom where you have the option to choose the file format, choose “filtered web page” as shown:
Ta da! Your file is now an HTML-accessible file. To test this, right click on the file and choose to open it with Notepad. If Notepad isn’t available, you can search for it by browsing to the program, which is (by default) in C:\Windows\System32\notepad.exe.
Don’t worry, because the file will undoubtedly have a lot of formatting in the beginning that looks like nonsense. This is normal. If you scroll down, you’ll see the rest of your book. Hurrah! Step one is completed!
More on customizing the file as HTML tomorrow, which is the next step towards getting your eBook ready.
The Full Formatting Bootcamp Syllabus:
Creating Your Source File
Customizing & Editing Your Book’s HTML
Finding a Conversion Software & Converting Your Book
Uploading Your Book for Sale
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