Archive for September 1st, 2011

Today we welcome guest blogger Paul Salvette to The Hylander Diner. Salvette is the author of the novella America Goes On.

Paul Salvette

I just finished formatting my first novella, America Goes On, which is the story of a Marine returning to a country that ignores him following his service in Iraq. Many authors who self-publish spend a vast amount of effort outside of their normal writing routine to sell their books: finding a good editor, designing their own cover art, promoting themselves on twitter thirty times a day, etc. Yet, they cringe at the thought of having to format their own eBook and contract out the task for an absurd fee (up to $150 in many cases!). This is unnecessary. Unless you received wedgies everyday in high school, eBook formatting may not be the most exciting thing in the world. However, it is critical to have a basic understanding and knowledge of how to format your manuscript so that your readers can have the best product possible on their eReading devices.

To gain access to all the big markets for eBooks, you need to take your final manuscript that is sitting in your word processor and convert it into the following formats: MOBI format for the Amazon.com Kindle store, EPUB format for the Barnes & Noble NOOK store, and Microsoft Word .doc format for Smashwords.

At this time, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have almost the entire market share on eBooks. But don’t overlook the benefits of Smashwords, because they sell and distribute eBooks to a wide variety of vendors that most self-publishers do not have access to. By providing quality eBooks in these three formats, you will maximize the opportunity to sell your eBook.

To convert your word processor document into MOBI and EPUB, you are going to have to do basic XHTML programming. Don’t be scared, because you will not have to get that nerdy to obtain your perfect eBook formats. I even whipped up a tutorial on basic XHTML for self-publishers, if you need help. Word processors tend to add in a bunch of automatic formatting and other junk that will not look good on an eReading device, especially the Kindle. That is because word processors are in a fixed format (specific number of pages, specific font sizes, etc.), while eBooks are reflowable based on the size of the eReading device and the reader’s preferences.

The first order of business is to take your entire manuscript and convert it into text format. This will strip out all the ugly formatting inherent in your word processor. You can do this with a simple text editor, and there is a tutorial available for best practices and tips on accomplishing word processor to text conversion. Once your entire manuscript is in a text editor, you can use XHTML coding to make your eBook compatible with a web browser. Web browsers and eReaders actually have a lot in common. Once you’ve gotten the XHTML all ready, you can then guarantee a perfect conversion into the MOBI and EPUB formats with the help of Calibre.

Smashwords uses a different process called the Meatgrinder, which processes a .doc file that you upload and coverts it into MOBI, EPUB, and various other formats. The Smashwords program can be a bit finicky. However, if you convert your manuscript into a plain text document and then send it back to Microsoft Word, you will guarantee a clean conversion. I’ve created a separate tutorial just for Smashwords if you need assistance.

These processes may seem daunting and time-consuming at first, but it is the best way to have perfect formatting for your eBooks. Your readers deserve the best, and I guarantee that eBook formatting is much easier than the hardest part of writing, which is writing.

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Sean E Thomas

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Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. William Wordsworth