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View Full Version : I Need a Primer (sung to the tune of "I Need a Hero")!



Deb Kinnard
05-11-2012, 05:42 PM
So I'm reading David Gaughran's book LET'S GET DIGITAL (on my Kindle), and I'm about 60% more lost than I was before.

What I believe I need is a direct-to-reader for idiots book. I mean, dumbed down to the max, because I'm so entrenched in the "this is how you do it for trade publishing" paradigm I can't seem to see how to change.

I'm currently editing and formatting HELLO AGAIN for the Kindle. Now I'm told that simply going through the steps spelled out in Mr. Gaughran's book is NOT ENOUGH -- I have to format it a bunch of other ways because MS Word sneaks a bunch of code into my writing even though I set it up not to.

I'm also failing to understand what steps one must use to take the book into other formats; i.e., for the Nook and other platforms. If I'm understanding any of this, I have to reformat the book multiple times and then try to figure out how to release it for these platforms?

HELLLPPPP! If anyone knows of a true primer (I thought LET'S GET DIGITAL would be such a work, but I'm more confused than ever), please respond before I set my hair on fire.

SBibb
05-11-2012, 06:35 PM
My suggestion would be to get the formatting document from Smashwords, and use that on your whole document before formatting to Kindle. It helps to correct all those inconsistencies, and tells you how to get rid of things. Afterwards, use the suggestions on Kindle to do the additional formats.

I've found that helps out quite a bit. Still not perfect, but helpful. :-)

Celeste Carrara
05-11-2012, 06:44 PM
Oh I feel your pain! This was me a few days ago! I couldn't figure it out. My husband who is a web developer even found it frustrating. So, I just felt it wasn't worth the time (I need to get back to writing!) or aggravation (I need to keep a happy marriage lol) so we used a company to format it for us. It was worth the small amount we paid to have it done. It was done in minutes and formatted for Kindle and the other platforms. We used Folium Book Studio.

Deb Kinnard
05-11-2012, 06:49 PM
Thanks, ladies, for the info. I even went to Guido Henkle's site for his so-called formatting primer, and got lost about lesson IV when it said to start putting HTML tags into your document -- and then never said HOW. Celeste, like yours, my DH has a MS developer's license, and he couldn't figure out how to turn a Word document into a HTML document either. Why do people assume that just because we can create a document in Word, that we're code experts?

I may not go direct to reader with this book after all, if it's going to cost so much in time and consulting multiple, mutually contradictory sources in order to figure it out. I cannot spend more hours on trying to force it into these formats than it took me to write the piece in the first place.

JanDarby
05-11-2012, 07:51 PM
I found Catherine Ryan Howard's site useful. It doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense as you read it, but if you take a practice file (take a manuscript, make a copy of it to play with, without risking the original) and walk through the steps, it does make sense.

Here's the link to the basic formatting post: http://catherineryanhoward.com/2011/09/05/backpacked-week-a-new-and-improved-even-easier-way-to-format-your-e-book/

EngineerTiger
05-11-2012, 07:51 PM
Deb, this is what I did. The key is "step-by-step" so you don't get overwhelmed. You can't rush the formatting anymore than you can rush writing or editing. Bringing a book out is a lengthy process and, as a self-publisher, you're taking on additional skills that trade published authors don't need to worry about.

Start with the Smashwords Style Guide (it's free and you can get a pdf to view or print on your PC). It is laid out very well. The best thing to do to get rid of MS Word hidden formats is what Mark calls the 'nuclear' option. The The Style Guide takes you through that.

One thing I recommend is that, after you've finished formatting save a MASTER copy. Don't touch it or make changes to it. Whenever you open it, use the SAVE AS command to call it something else so you don't accidently change it. This way, you should always have a pristine copy available to you for subsequent updates or as a jumping off place for different formats (Kindle, print via CreateSpace, etc.).

Once you've gotten your eBook uploaded for Smashwords, you can then use Amazon's Guide to format for the Kindle. It's not quite as well done as Mark's but, if you follow his guide, you will have a pristine master copy to use for Amazon. This is why I recommend starting with Mark and Smashwords because it helps you to learn the process so that later formats for different applications will be a bit easier to manage.

One thing, for the Kindle version, don't depend on MS Word to automatically generate your chapter links. It works much better if you manually make your hyperlinks. I have mine set up so that, in addition to clicking on the Table of Contents to go to the Chapter, I can also click the chapter to go back to the TOC. You will need to be familiar with bookmarks and hyperlinks so, if you're not, you may need to read up on that MS Word's HELP or via Internet articles and blogs.

The goal is to make your eBook as easy to navigate for your reader as possible so approach the formatting with the same degree of care you used to write your book. You can also do a search for Kindle format tips and Smashword format tips which will bring up various blogs and articles that may help you.

If you find that you don't enjoy this process or it's just too frustrating a learning curve, there are a number of folks right here on AW who provide services to handle the formatting for you. Just make sure you check reviews and fees as you would with any professional service.

Good luck and don't hesitate to send out a call for help.

Depending on your version of MS Word, HTML is easy. Just use the SAVE AS command, select the WORD DOCUMENT option. When the file window opens, go to the SAVE AS TYPE box (just below the box where you enter the file or document name). Scroll through the choices and select WEB, FILTERED (earlier versions may show HTM or HTML). One caution, if you open the HTML file later, it will open in your web browser so, always make that conversion last. If you need to make changes, go back to your pristine MASTER copy and just do the SAVE AS command again when you are finished.

evilrooster
05-11-2012, 08:05 PM
What I believe I need is a direct-to-reader for idiots book. I mean, dumbed down to the max, because I'm so entrenched in the "this is how you do it for trade publishing" paradigm I can't seem to see how to change.

If anyone finds such a self-publishing reference online, it would be an ideal reference to link to in our new Publishing FAQs and Resources section.

Old Hack
05-11-2012, 08:17 PM
I've read some of Let's Get Digital and was not at all pleased by the amount of misinformation it contained. It's not a good guide at all, and is misleading.

Catherine Ryan Howard has written some useful stuff, though. And I'm sure I saw a good e-book about this quite recently: I'll see what I can find with a bit of digging.

J. Tanner
05-11-2012, 08:20 PM
I second EngineerTiger's recommendation for starting with the Smashwords guide, and starting with what they call the "nuclear option". You're going to need to learn it anyway if you want to be on iBooks and Kobo so you can save yourself some time and trouble by starting there.

With a simple text story/novel, you will get through this long guide quicker than you expect because you'll be skipping all the special cases. Take your time and work through the steps at your own pace. If you fail to understand a step, people here will help--stop and ask.

This will result in clean Word DOC file that will upload to Amazon, BN, and Smashwords. You will need to make only minor changes to the equivalent of the copyright page since you won't want the required Smashwords notification on your other editions (unless you use SW to distribute to BN which cuts out the steps of creating a Pubit account and edition.)

(Note that I don't do it that way. I hand code my own HTML as in Guido Henkel's guide because the results tend to be perfect rather than good enough, but for someone struggling with the process good enough really should be.)

merrihiatt
05-11-2012, 09:49 PM
Another vote for Smashwords' FREE Style Guide. My first e-book had tons of problems because I wrote the book first, then learned about the formatting required. I ended up using the nuclear method and starting the formatting completely from scratch. After that, I made a template that has all the formatting in it and I simply type into it whenever I start a new book. I may need to tweak something here or there, but it saves so much headache down the road to start with the correct formatting.

mpclemens
05-11-2012, 11:00 PM
Another upvote for the Smashwords guide. The big things I took away from that are:


Use "styles" in your word processor program for everything. If you don't know what styles are or how to use them, then you need to learn this first. All(?) the converters appear to use style information to format your text for readers.
Never, ever use a tab to indent a paragraph. Or multiple spaces. That's what styles are for.
Chapter links are a pain in the a**. The merits of a table of contents in nonfiction are more clear to me than a fiction book. This took me the longest to set up, and again, I followed the Smashwords directions.

Different w-retailers have different ways they want you to format chapter breaks: Amazon likes new pages for breaks, for example, Barnes & Noble doesn't. But you can control all of these through styles. That's Step #1.

FOTSGreg
05-12-2012, 02:06 AM
I'm finding/rediscovering that I'm pretty decent at writing instruction guides (it's what I do at the new day job). I wonder if I should take a shot at writing a formatting and self-publishing guide? I'm not a big fan of "Let's Get Digital" either, and I've had decent success at formatting my stuff for Smashwords, B&N, and Amazon (even CreateSpace)...

It's a thought...

Hmmm...

Deb Kinnard
05-20-2012, 09:31 PM
Greg, bring it on! I'll be your first satisfied customer.

Thanks, all, for the suggestions. Smashwords' guide seems to be winning, hands down. And I no longer feel so stupid anymore for failing to understand LET'S GET DIGITAL.

JTanner, you say you hand code your own HTML. How did you learn how to do this? Does there exist a primer for that?

J. Tanner
05-21-2012, 12:53 PM
I knew basic HTML before and learned the specifics in relation to creating ebooks from the excellent guide by Guido Henkel who does freelance ebook formatting for trade (and self) publishers.

Link to part 1 (of 10 or so...)
http://guidohenkel.com/2010/12/take-pride-in-your-ebook-formatting/

brianjanuary
05-21-2012, 06:20 PM
For Kindle formatting, have a look at: http://www.cjs-easy-as-pie.com/ and the KDP forums: http://forums.kindledirectpublishing.com/kdpforums/forum.jspa?forumID=13

You don't need to know html and the formatting specifics aren't hard to learn.

Medievalist
05-21-2012, 06:40 PM
So I'm reading David Gaughran's book LET'S GET DIGITAL (on my Kindle), and I'm about 60% more lost than I was before.

No more lost than he is.

I'm collecting resources, and creating FAQs.

So please keep posting what's helpful, and what isn't, here, or you can PM me privately.

Be a little patient though--I'm treading water at present and juggling, and that's going to be true for a bit longer.

K. Taylor
05-23-2012, 11:42 PM
Save As a Word .doc as a Web Page. This creates a .htm file that uploads to KDP no problem. (I'm using Word 2003.)

I've been using Smashwords for over 2 years, so I write mss in the proper format now:

I start with selecting 1" margins all around.
1.5 line spacing.
Indent using the ruler at the top.

NEVER hit the Tab key.

For scene breaks, I use four asterisks centered.

At the end of a chapter, I hit Enter, then Ctrl+Enter to start a new page. Then start the new chapter.

For Smashwords formatting, you never want to hit Enter more than 4 times, or it creates a blank page on small devices like phones.


Covers: You want an image that's at least 1000 pixels tall and 300dpi.

Deb Kinnard
05-24-2012, 03:24 AM
KTaylor, thanks. Those are standard routines in my "normal" format in Word, since most of my small presses seem to want the formatting done similarly. I cannot recall the last time I hit the "tab" key (well, maybe in my Annoying Day Job but not in my real work).

Some people say that you have to start with the correct style and write from scratch within it. I can't do that with this project, since it's already complete. Other folks say if you have such a file, import it into Notepad so it strips all of MS Word's freakish coding, and then re-copy it into a fresh Word document.

Is this helpful? Has anyone tried it?

I did download the Smashwords document and am currently plodding through it on my Kindle app. I do have to say it's more understandable to an old fart than LET'S GET DIGITAL was.

Thanks, all, for the good suggestions. I'm plugging along and will tell you when/if I upload and successfully create the book.

merrihiatt
05-24-2012, 06:17 AM
Some people say that you have to start with the correct style and write from scratch within it. I can't do that with this project, since it's already complete. Other folks say if you have such a file, import it into Notepad so it strips all of MS Word's freakish coding, and then re-copy it into a fresh Word document.

Is this helpful? Has anyone tried it?

Yes, it works. Smashwords' Style Guide calls it the Nuclear Method. It means you start over at square one with your formatting, but you have a clean document to start with. I had to use this method for my first couple of books because I had written them before ever thinking of self-publishing in e-book format.

mpclemens
05-24-2012, 07:02 AM
Other folks say if you have such a file, import it into Notepad so it strips all of MS Word's freakish coding, and then re-copy it into a fresh Word document.

Is this helpful? Has anyone tried it?

I did this, too (the nuclear method.) Took me a while to find all the places I'd italicized, but it was worth it. Upload went without a hitch, and now I know how not to format.

Old Hack
05-24-2012, 10:07 AM
Here's a brief discussion about Let's Get Digital. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=219457) I'm told that the errors which were mentioned in that thread have still not been corrected.

There's a clear need for a good guide but meanwhile, we can all help one another here, right?

JustJas
05-26-2012, 12:28 PM
So I'm reading David Gaughran's book LET'S GET DIGITAL (on my Kindle), and I'm about 60% more lost than I was before.

What I believe I need is a direct-to-reader for idiots book. I
mean, dumbed down to the max, because I'm so entrenched in the "this is how you do it for trade publishing" paradigm I can't seem to see how to change.

I'm currently editing and formatting HELLO AGAIN for the Kindle. Now I'm told that simply going through the steps spelled out in Mr. Gaughran's book is NOT ENOUGH -- I have to format it a bunch of other ways because MS Word sneaks a bunch of code into my writing even though I set it up not to.

I'm also failing to understand what steps one must use to take the book into other formats; i.e., for the Nook and other platforms. If I'm understanding any of this, I have to reformat the book multiple times and then try to figure out how to release it for these platforms?

HELLLPPPP! If anyone knows of a true primer (I thought LET'S GET DIGITAL would be such a work, but I'm more confused than ever), please respond before I set my hair on fire.

"I'm holding out for a primer till the end of the night" :banana:

I have nothing to add, I just wanted to share the next line in the song which comes into my head every time I see this thread.

Old Hack
05-26-2012, 01:04 PM
Medievalist, who has been working in e-publishing for longer than most people have even known that such a thing exists, has begun a very useful piece about e-book production in our Publishing Resources room (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7305571#post7305571). It's a work-in-progress, but it's looking very good.

ETA: Medie has also written a piece about formatting e-books (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=245850), with lots of lovely links.

John Chapman
08-21-2012, 06:00 AM
Having produced 11 ebooks using Smashwords, Amazon and CreateSpace. I think I'm getting to be an expert in the book publishing process - so much so that I wrote a 'Guide to getting published' which is currently on it's 3rd revision and will include Smashwords and BookTango. (It will be free on Smashwords)

Certainly read the Smashwords guide. it's full of good tips. Amazon produce a similar guide worth reading too. Both of them are free.

If you have a simple text book, doing the conversion is simple. I recommend creating a blank ebook template in Word 2007 or 2012 with a minimum of styles set in it. Stick to Normal for the body of your text, Heading 1 for chapter titles, Title and Subtitle for your cover page. You can modify the styles as needed - see the Smashwords guide for this. Copy and paste the text only into this document by right clicking and using the 'A' (text only). You'll then need to add page breaks and apply heading 1 style for chapter headings. Start each chapter heading with the word 'Chapter' and Smashwords will create the table of contents for you when you import it as a .doc file.

The problems start if your book is not just plain text. If it contains images, tables, footnotes, a contents with subsections, a 'from the author' section or an index then Smashwords becomes a real pain. It's then better to save your file as filtered html and import that into Calibre (open source/free program). Calibre is great at creating TOC - far simpler than manually creating a TOC in Smashwords. Calibre will also convert footnotes into endnotes for you and is a LOT more forgiving than Smashwords Meatgrinder. You can add meta tags and cover there too. Calibre will let you save your ebook as an epub file or mobi file. The epub file can even be edited directly by importing it into Sigil, another open source program. If I'm publishing on Kindle I submit a .mobi file from Calibre to Amazon.

Unfortunately Smashwords demands a .doc file now so if you want to publish a complex book there either be prepared for a lot of work or pay someone to do the conversion for you.

merrihiatt
08-21-2012, 07:37 AM
Having produced 11 ebooks using Smashwords, Amazon and CreateSpace. I think I'm getting to be an expert in the book publishing process...

Sounds like you have learned a lot in the process; however, I would be cautious about using the word expert. A lot of folks have learned to create e-book and paperback books, that doesn't make them an expert at it. It simply means they can follow directions.

Nightmelody
08-21-2012, 05:19 PM
I started with Amazon--and had some formatting glitches, which I had to correct. You can re-up if you find a problem, so there is no scorched earth with a mistake. I am now branching to B&N(that was easy) and am waiting on ARe and Smashwords. ARe is not quick--you set up the account as a publisher, then have to email for an ARe isbn substitute.

Old Hack
08-21-2012, 07:42 PM
Having produced 11 ebooks using Smashwords, Amazon and CreateSpace. I think I'm getting to be an expert in the book publishing process - so much so that I wrote a 'Guide to getting published' which is currently on it's 3rd revision and will include Smashwords and BookTango. (It will be free on Smashwords).

With all due respect, I'd dispute your claim of expertise. We have members here who have trade published and self published many more books than you, and who have (like me) worked in trade publishing for a long time, too.

I've downloaded a sample of your book from Amazon and I'm not impressed with it: you mislead your readers about trade publishing, and misrepresent parts of trade publishing too. Carole Blake's book From Pitch To Publication is a much better book about the business, and I recommend it to all writers.

Please be aware, John, that you're coming across as spammy by mentioning your book in this way. You're welcome to add a link to your book in your signature, but please don't keep pitching it in your comments here. Thanks.

John Chapman
08-21-2012, 11:52 PM
Sounds like you have learned a lot in the process; however, I would be cautious about using the word expert.

I always understood 'expert' to be a contraction of 'ex' as in useless and 'spurt' as in drip under pressure :)

If I am expert in anything it's in reading poor instructions and making sense of them.

As I said in my profile though - the best advice I can give is 'don't listen to me.'

MMcDonald64
08-22-2012, 01:10 AM
Having produced 11 ebooks using Smashwords, Amazon and CreateSpace. I think I'm getting to be an expert in the book publishing process - so much so that I wrote a 'Guide to getting published' which is currently on it's 3rd revision and will include Smashwords and BookTango. (It will be free on Smashwords)

Certainly read the Smashwords guide. it's full of good tips. Amazon produce a similar guide worth reading too. Both of them are free.

If you have a simple text book, doing the conversion is simple. I recommend creating a blank ebook template in Word 2007 or 2012 with a minimum of styles set in it. Stick to Normal for the body of your text, Heading 1 for chapter titles, Title and Subtitle for your cover page. You can modify the styles as needed - see the Smashwords guide for this. Copy and paste the text only into this document by right clicking and using the 'A' (text only). You'll then need to add page breaks and apply heading 1 style for chapter headings. Start each chapter heading with the word 'Chapter' and Smashwords will create the table of contents for you when you import it as a .doc file.

The problems start if your book is not just plain text. If it contains images, tables, footnotes, a contents with subsections, a 'from the author' section or an index then Smashwords becomes a real pain. It's then better to save your file as filtered html and import that into Calibre (open source/free program). Calibre is great at creating TOC - far simpler than manually creating a TOC in Smashwords. Calibre will also convert footnotes into endnotes for you and is a LOT more forgiving than Smashwords Meatgrinder. You can add meta tags and cover there too. Calibre will let you save your ebook as an epub file or mobi file. The epub file can even be edited directly by importing it into Sigil, another open source program. If I'm publishing on Kindle I submit a .mobi file from Calibre to Amazon.

Unfortunately Smashwords demands a .doc file now so if you want to publish a complex book there either be prepared for a lot of work or pay someone to do the conversion for you.

Hi John, I found your guidelines helpful. I've used Calibre just like you said, and was telling a friend about how to use that for her book. However, reading your suggestions, I realize I forgot to tell her to save it as html filtered. (I always forget which file type Calibre doesn't take--if it's doc or html and usually have to re-save it because I guess the wrong one!) I only sent her a message less than an hour ago, so I hope to catch her before she has a lot of grief.

Deb Kinnard
08-22-2012, 09:46 PM
John, thanks for the advice. I now have it is a filtered HTML document and as a .doc document. There are no tables, graphics, or other miscellany in the file -- it's a novel with no "extras". Just text. I've created my TOC as specified in the Smashwords guide, but that's only one step and I'm wondering what I've neglected to notice that's going to keep my book from importing smoothly.

I copied the source document (kept a pristine copy -- thanks for the good advice!) into Notepad and couldn't see anyplace that it glitched. The spots where I want italics are gone and the paragraph formatting looks to be gone also. Is this normal?

After that, I did try to import into Calibre, which didn't accept it. I don't know why, since no error message popped up. But it simply isn't there.

See why I'm singing I Need a Primer?

MMcDonald64
08-23-2012, 12:29 AM
John, thanks for the advice. I now have it is a filtered HTML document and as a .doc document. There are no tables, graphics, or other miscellany in the file -- it's a novel with no "extras". Just text. I've created my TOC as specified in the Smashwords guide, but that's only one step and I'm wondering what I've neglected to notice that's going to keep my book from importing smoothly.

I copied the source document (kept a pristine copy -- thanks for the good advice!) into Notepad and couldn't see anyplace that it glitched. The spots where I want italics are gone and the paragraph formatting looks to be gone also. Is this normal?

After that, I did try to import into Calibre, which didn't accept it. I don't know why, since no error message popped up. But it simply isn't there.

See why I'm singing I Need a Primer?

Deb, did you use tabs or did you set your paragraphs indents? I usually go to the paragraph formatting in Word, set the First Line to about 0.3 or so. I don't use tabs at all for paragraphs.

I also just do the italics in Word and they transfer fine. I'm talking about Amazon though. It's been awhile since I uploaded to Smashwords.

Do you have an e-ink Kindle? If so, you can send the file directly to it by allowing Calibre to send email to your Kindle email account. I've done that so I can check formatting before uploading it for real. It is usually a pretty close match to what you get after uploading for real.

grizzletoad1
08-23-2012, 01:18 AM
Please don't tell me that all the work I did formating and reformatting my ms using the Smashwords guide for my so called Kindle version is just a "start." I did the nuke method, then followed the Smashwords guide step by step to create a completely "Normalized" word document and a fully linked Table of Contents that can toggle back and forth between the chapters and itself (Pretty neat thing!) So now you're saying I have to do more before I can upload this thing to Kindle and Nook? I think I need the name of that formatting service. This is way beyond anything I've ever tried to tackle. Suggestions?