All week, I’m doing a series on Self-Pub Basics.
The problem with ebook formatting is that there’s a ZILLION ways to do it. I am not joking. And when you have so many options, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to make it work SIMPLY. Since this is the BASICS of self-publishing week, we’ll talk about the easy ways to format first.
Word: the format your MS is in when you write it
EPUB: Barnes & Noble format
Mobi: Kindle format
The Easiest Way of All
Pay someone to format for you. This can cost anywhere from $25 – $150 depending on whether you’re formatting print or ebook or both, and whether you want plain or fancy formatting. But it may well be worth your time to pay someone else to do it (I highly recommend my formater/cover designer Dale Pease). The problem with paying someone else is that if you have to make changes (typo fixes, updates to back matter, new links) either you’re paying them again, or you’re bugging them to do it for free (not so cool).
It is possible to edit your formatted Epub using Sigil and converting to Mobi using Calibre, but if you can understand that sentence, you probably already know how to do it The Hard Way (which we’ll talk about tomorrow). Even if you know how to code your own ebooks, you may still opt to pay someone else – it all depends on whether you’re more pinched for time or money.
The Easy Way
Kindle and B&N, your two biggest retailers, have nice interfaces that allow you to upload your manuscript pretty much directly from Word. This is only for a plain, text-only document (no images or fancy fonts!), and you need to clean up your file first. Here’s the 1-2-3 to easy epublishing:
- Format your Word document using Smashwords Style Guide (you may not want to publish to Smash, but the guide will tell you how to clean up your MS, getting rid of stray returns, problematic tabs, and various formatting no-no’s). Add in your front and back matter (the copyright, acknowledgments, etc). Make a version of your manuscript with Kindle-only links, and one with B&N-only links. If you’re not using Word…well, I can’t help you. I would export to a Word doc and start cleaning it up from there. Most of the hassles I see people having source from using a different word processor than the “standard” Word document.
- Upload your Cleaned Up Word document to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP/Amazon) and PubIt (Barnes&Noble). Kindle has a previewer that allows you to preview your Word-converted-to-Mobi file before it gets published. B&N has the same. They even both have options where you can download a Mobi or Epub file to test on your own devices (do this!). Press “publish.” You. Are. Done.
- If you want to distribute elsewhere: upload your Cleaned Up Word document to Smashwords, which will put it through a “meatgrinder” converter that will turn your file into a variety of formats. Use Smash to distribute to iBookstore (Apple) and Kobo, and anywhere else that Smashwords distributes. You can upload to those places directly, but it’s NOT EASY, and this is the Easy Way, remember?
Because plain text is, well, plain. And even if you don’t care about fancy fonts or titles, you might want to include pictures. In fact, if you’ve written non-fiction, it’s almost required. You can pay someone to do the fancy formatting for you, but then you’re back to being limited in making changes.
Also, it reflects well on you when you take time to format your ebooks well, whether by paying someone else, or doing the hard work to do it The Harder Way yourself. Dale’s formatting of my ebooks has netted me LOTS of compliments along the way.
So, if you’re greedy (like me) and want everything (i.e. beautiful ebook formatting plus the ability to make as many changes as you like), then stop back tomorrow when we’ll walk through formatting The Hard Way.
It’s not as hard as you might think. 🙂