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Writing Advice & Discussion > Formatting a (Kindle) e-book

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message 1: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 27 comments Hello everyone,

I am getting close to making the final edits on my to-be debut and thus I'll need to delve into formatting. For now, I'm focusing on the Kindle edition only. Based on my so-far light research, I've come across three methods I am considering (described below), and I'd like to know the opinions of other people. I also mean to do this myself rather than paying. Thus, I'd love to 'hear' what were other people's experiences with formatting and what method you'd recommend - and that's not just limited to the three I mention but I'm open to any other way, as long as it doesn't rely on a specific device (such as Apple-only software) or a paid software aside from MS Office.

So, the methods I came across myself:

Simple Calibre conversion
This method is something I have experience with because I used it for the conversion of my WIP drafts for self-proofing. Hence, I did not play with the formatting at all and I just let it chew the Word file and spit a MOBI or AZW3 file out. I have no idea how complex it would be to adjust anything in Calibre - especially if I wanted to play with chapter numbers/titles.

I also don't know how well would the conversion pass if I'd embed the map in Word and then let Calibre do the conversion.

Using Kindle Create
I had a look at Amazon's simple too and it seems to work quite well, if you're okay with one of the four templates. If not, well, you gotta use another way.

The best part of KC I've spotted so far is a tool to add a copyright page, title page, and other possible elements of both front and end matter with a single click and then adjusting the template. And I believe it'd also code it properly so the % progress you see when reading reaches 100% by the time you reach 'the end' (before the end matter) as well as the fact the e-book will open at the start (thus skipping the title and copyright page) - something I don't know if the other methods can do.

HTML editing + Calibre
The method I had a look into recently is probably the one that can do the most. I know some basic HTML (and, by what I saw so far, should be able to do the 'coding' myself if I have a guide open to Alt-Tab to), which makes this method viable, but there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done manually.

When I tried to export my current draft from MS Word to HTML directly, it produced ~1800-ish (yes, that many) lines of weird code at the very beginning, and the paragraphs were each screwed up by a lot of meta-attributes MS Word uses for styling. Ugly mess.

Copy-pasting the text into Notepad++ avoids these issues but strips any bold and italic formatting - which I'd have to re-add manually. Considering that I use italics for internal thoughts, and there's a lot of them, this seems like half a day just to fix this - a tedious work.

The massive advantage is that I can do fancy stuff with chapter headers (such as playing with sizing chapter numbers and titles individually) and replacing special characters with their typographical 'HTML equivalents' (such as ... with … to assure the three 'dots' won't end up split between lines). But, again, I'm not sure how exactly it'll pass through Calibre when I insert the map and how bothersome it'll be to add the front and end matter.

So, if you can share your formatting experience and what ways you used, I'll welcome your experience and advice.
Links to guides will be welcome, if it's something you've found helpful.

message 2: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Renna | 12 comments Formatting for Kindle is relatively easy.
1: Download the Kindle Create program.
2: Format your manuscript. 8.5x11. Use page breaks at the end of front matter and chapters. For scene breaks: double return between paragraphs and/or return then a line of asterisk symbols and then another return.
3: Set your indents so they are auto rather than tabbed.
4: Margins throughout manuscript can be 1" all around.
5: Line spacing can be 1.5 or 2
6: When you upload into Kindle Create, it will read your file and generate the ebook. Title pages, etc. will be auto. You confirm their placement.
7: Then you need to eyeball your MS for mistakes. If you see mistakes, you can fix them with the Kindle sidebar for headings, fonts, etc. (Or correct them in your doc file since you can use it elsewhere. If so, then you'll upload the corrected file.)
8: If your original doc formatting was good and correct, then the Kindle mobi will be a pretty quick process.
9: Save. And Kindle also gives you the option to publish to Amazon in the program.
10: If your original doc file is fine, you will be able to use it with Barnes and Noble as well as Draft2Digital.

Reach out to me if you have any questions.

message 3: by J.R. (last edited May 17, 2020 01:15PM) (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 276 comments I just uploaded my Word document (which includes everything including front and back matter) to Draft2Digital and got my ePub and Kindle files that way.

I've also helped a friend to do his through Kindle Create, but then you need to go back through Calibre to convert to ePub, unless you're going to go exclusive to Amazon. (Everyone else in the world, other than Amazon, uses ePub.)

Word has always been notorious for producing messy HTML code. Also note that it's generally not a good idea to get overly ornate with formatting an ebook. People may be reading your book on anything from a Kindle to a full-size iPad to their phone. Different devices display differently, different size screens will display differently. Keep it as simple as possible so it'll look the best across the most devices.

(Also be careful with your copy and pasting and playing with HTML -- this is a very easy way to introduce errors into a proofread manuscript.)

message 4: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 27 comments Thank you both for your replies. You made some valid points, though I hope more people are willing to share their experience.

message 5: by J.R. (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 276 comments Since you're going indie, you may want to also check out the Writer's Cafe over at Kboards:

I recommend lurking for a little bit prior to posting there to get a feel for the board. (It's less new poster friendly than this board is for example.) But you'll find people very well-versed in all the issues related to independent publishing there.

message 6: by robert cann (new)

robert cann | 5 comments Thank you all so much. It has been very useful information. I just joined the group as a new writer seeking to self-publish.
Your information has been invaluable.

message 7: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Tarn (barbaragtarn) I also upload a word.doc directly to Kindle, but formatted with the ToC as per Smashwords guide to formatting for ebooks:

Or you can use Draft2Digital like someone else suggested. I'm wide, so I upload the doc to Amazon first (because they have some kind of spellcheck), then D2D (for Apple and B&N and libraries), then Smashwords (and I usually download the mobi and epub from Smashwords to upload on Amazon and Kobo respectively).

You can also join the Smashwords Authors group here on Goodreads if you want more info on indie publishing (but none of us there is Amazon exclusive).

message 8: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 27 comments Barbara wrote: "I also upload a word.doc directly to Kindle, but formatted with the ToC as per Smashwords guide to formatting for ebooks..."

Makes me wonder what's the point with insisting on ToC - it seems redundant in an e-book considering Kindle can navigate by headings.

Again, thanks for the tips. Still hoping for more.

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