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Do’s & Don’ts of eBook Formatting

When I receive manuscripts from authors there is usually some strange formatting going on. I have noticed that the authors I work with the most, take the time to look at what I do when I format their eBooks and try and get the original manuscript over to me in a better state.
I thought it might be useful for me to go over a few things I immediately change when I format eBooks, so if you want to format your own eBook, or even get someone else to do it for you, you will know what to avoid.

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Do’s & Don’ts of eBook Formatting

  1. 1. Jo Harrison Virtual
  2. 2. Edit and proofread your work before formatting... It’s far easier to format a manuscript for eBook when it has been thoroughly edited and proofread. To format the eBook and then have to make changes is not especially difficult, but if you have already converted the eBook to ePub or some other version it creates more work to go back and do it again.
  3. 3. Press enter at the end of each line...This isn’t necessary at all, when I receivedocuments like this I wonder whether thewriter is still using a typewriter. In all wordprocessing software you can continue writingand only need to press enter at the end of aparagraph.
  4. 4. Use page breaks...This is really important, if you want yourchapters to start on a new page on e-readersthen you need to add a page break at the endof your chapters. Don’t use any other kind ofbreak in an eBook as these won’t convert well.
  5. 5. Use a lot of bullet points or numbered lists... Bullet points and numbered lists don’t convert well into an eBook if you’re using Word to format. I have found if you do use them then keep the points short, sentences are justified when converted and if they are too long the bullet points or numbers just don’t line up nicely.
  6. 6. Use styles...Again this is important, if you want somethingcentered, bold, or italic, such as for chapterheadings and book titles, then create a style.This is explained really well in the SmashwordsStyle Guide.
  7. 7. Use different fonts...By all means use different fonts for the titlesor chapter headings, but within the body of thetext you must use the same font and sizeotherwise the end document will again just lookugly after conversion.
  8. 8. Use a standard font such as Times New Roman... Standard fonts such as this convert nicely into an eBook, if you use fancy fonts then they may be unreadable or may not even convert at all. I have just started using Garamond as an alternative to TNR and it works really well, and looks more professional in my opinion.
  9. 9. Use the spacebar or tabs to create indents...There is a correct way to create indents as youtype, and to save me explaining it here, checkout this blog post eBook Formatting: How toProperly Indent Paragraphs (Book Baby). Italso explains how to remove all the tabs in yourdocument if you have used tabs. You can alsosee how to remove these and spaces in my post5 Little-Known Tips to Improve your eBookFormatting.
  10. 10. Use curly quotes...I guess this is just personal preference, but whyuse straight quotes when the curly quotesconvert and look so much better. The samegoes for apostrophes.
  11. 11. Use paragraph returns to create space between paragraphs... You don’t need to use returns to create space between paragraphs. When you open up the paragraph dialog box, instead of creating an indent, add space after returns (at the bottom), I tend to use 12pt. Don’t use the line spacings: Multiple, Exactly or At Least – they won’t convert well!
  12. 12. Keep it simple...When you’re formatting for eBook you need tokeep things as simple as possible. Any flashyformatting will not convert well to Kindle orother formats. Above all, ensure you don’tspend all your time making the eBook lookaesthetically pleasing on the screen and thinkabout how you want it to look on the Kindle orother e-readers.
  13. 13. Use more than 3 paragraph returns in succession... According to the Smashwords Style Guide, 3 paragraph returns is the maximum you should use in succession, this creates space, but should not create blank pages and ugly white space.
  14. 14. It yourself?Download the Smashwords Style Guide. Alongthe way you will pick up tips and tricks toimprove on the formatting. It may take youquite a long time to do the formatting yourselfthe first time, do you have that time? If not,then why not outsource the work to someonewho can do it for you. There are some greateBook formatters out there, some format inWord and some do it in html.
  15. 15. Visit my website: Check out my ‘Format your own eBook’ Template Sign-up to my free eBook Marketing Jo Harrison Virtual Assistant Follow me on: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube | Slideshare | Google+