I’ve published four books now, and did the formatting on all of them. Through repetition, I’ve gotten the hang of it, and even started pre-formatting my drafts so I wouldn’t have to strip it and start over later. There are also some great guides out there, such as the Smashwords Style Guide. If you’re looking to format your own books, this is a great place to start. The basics are the same for everywhere, though some things, such as page breaks, will vary according to website.
Recently, I purchased Legend Maker for Macs, a program that will convert my files to e-books for me. I must say, I am loving it. Again, the basics from the Smashwords Guide are still required, and the most significant difference is how to signal a page break.
Here’s the thing, though. No matter how many times I do it, no matter how many different ways, formatting e-books is like mud wrestling. It’s tricky and slippery, and no one comes out clean. It never fails; even if everything in the Word doc looks exactly as it’s supposed to and you’ve followed the directions to the letter, once you hit “convert,” something goes screwy. Why did my center text move right? Why is there an extra paragraph space when the scene hasn’t ended?
When I formatted Dreamwalker, I converted it six times before the final version came out looking as it was supposed to. The first one with Amazon links came out perfect, but the duplicate with B&N links came out funky. I can’t explain it. Except to say the computer gremlins came out to throw poo at me.
And that was using Legend Maker. Despite using Smashwords’s instructions (yes, they’re not infallible), their conversion didn’t recognize my page breaks at all. And the last time I let Amazon convert my files, the margins ended up squished.
Formatting is dirty, stinky work. So the next time you’re reading an e-book and something looks off, it’s possible it was an error on the part of the author/formatter. Or it’s just a little leftover mud from the techno gremlins declaring dominance. After all, isn’t that how we used to think the world would end—computers taking over? I know that’s been replaced with the zombie apocalypse, so perhaps our technology is feeling a little slighted.
What tasks, no matter how good you get at them, never go smoothly? I love hearing from you!