All these tips you can find online yourself by doing a simple search, but you need to know what you’re looking for. When I come across a problem when I am formatting an eBook I search online and 9 out of 10 times I come up with an answer.
My opinion on eBook formatting is the same as Mark Coker’s (the founder of Smashwords), keep it simple!! People want your words, not fancy formatting that has the potential to make the reading experience unfriendly.
If you are new to eBook formatting, then I would suggest taking a look at an older post of mine called Self Publishing your eBook the DIY Way! – it will give you an idea of what you should be doing to get started.
Here are my top tips I use when formatting an eBook, you won’t find these in the Smashwords Style Guide:
Tabs and Spaces
In the guide it tells you never to use tabs or extra spaces in your manuscript, but it doesn’t tell you how you can remove them easily with the find and replace feature in Word.
To quickly remove tabs open the find/replace command and in the find field type ^t – in the replace field leave it blank or click the space bar once – click replace all and all tabs will be removed. You can then continue through the document with the show/hide activated to see where you might need to change your formatting where the tabs originally were. (Click on the image below to see a larger version)
For spaces it’s a similar command, in the find field press the space bar twice and in the replace field press the space bar once and hit replace all. This should remove any extra spaces which could cause some formatting issues later on. (In the image below, replace the dashes with spaces using the space bar)
Automatic Indent Removal
Amazon Kindle will automatically add an indent on the first line of your paragraphs, whether you have set-up first line indent or not. So say you’d like your book to have block paragraphing and you format everything and upload it to Kindle, when you preview it the first line is indented. I found a way of stopping this happening, and it’s very simple to implement.
I have a template set-up in Word with various styles set-up for different formatting, it makes it easier to work with when you’re formatting many documents to the same specifications. For your Normal style (so all the narrative of your book) you will need to modify the style, in the modify window click on format at the very bottom and choose paragraph. In the indentation area of this box under special choose ‘first line’ and in the by box choose 0.01cm. (In the image below this is my Normal style, so I also have spacing after which you may not need – so feel free to ignore)
By creating a very small indent in your document it will fool Amazon into thinking you have set your own indent and it will abide by your specification. The same goes with indent paragraphs, if you want to indent yours more than Amazon’s default then you should change the style in your manuscript and it will override the default.
I found that when I used the default headings in Word that when the document was converted to ePub or Mobi that the headings were not aligned properly. So if you use Heading 1 in Word, even though it appeared centred in the document when it was converted it was left aligned.
To solve this issue I set-up my own styles in Word, it’s very simple to do and works every time. You have complete control over what you want your headings to look like and it doesn’t get lost in conversion.
I should make a note here, for some reason on the Kindle Fire, even if you have your headings centred, sometimes they show as left aligned still. I get round this by entering an extra return just before the heading.
Italic, Bold and Underlined Words
Depending on whether you are formatting your own book or whether you are doing it for someone else, by following the nuclear method in the Smashwords Style Guide all italics, bold and underlines will be removed. I formatted a book a few weeks ago that had so many italics that it took me hours to replace them all in the unformatted version.
A quicker way of doing this is by marking all formatted words before you attempt the nuclear method. By using the find command in Word, search for the various formats (italic, bold and underlined) and mark them in a way that is easy for you to find afterwards. For me I use the following:
Italic – [i] [/i]
Bold – [b] [/b]
Underlined – [u] [/u]
Put these either side of the word and when you come to find them in the new document you can use the find command again and search for these. When you have finished formatting the words you can use find/replace to replace the above and put nothing in the replace field, they will all be removed in one go then.
By following the instructions in the Smashwords Style Guide you’ll get your images showing perfectly fine in your eBook, but I found trying to get them centred became a problem if you just used the centre button in Word. So instead, the way I make sure that after conversion the images are all centred is by clicking on the image and assigning it a style. I have a centre style set-up in Word for copyright and title pages so I just use the same one to apply to the images. Select the image and then click the appropriate style, it’s as simple as that!
So there are my 5 top tips for eBook formatting which you won’t find in the Smashwords Style Guide. If you have come across any problems in the process of formatting your book then please get in touch to see if I have an answer, I would love to be able to help.
If you have a book and you just don’t have the time or inclination to format it yourself my prices start from €45 (that’s about £35 or $55) so it won’t cost you a lot to get a professionally formatted eBook you can then start selling, you’ll easily make your money back in no time.