Road to the Self-Published Author – Part VI

Happy New Years! Yes, 2012 is behind us, and with 2013 comes many a new horizon: such as a looming release date just 2 days away. Whilst wrapping up loose ends, we’ve stumbled across numerous small typos that evaded our earlier editing passes. It’s now clear to me how even in a professionally edited book some small mistakes leak their way in. Still, I know some errors are not the fault of editors or writers at all.

One example that stands out clearly was when I purchased a book from a chain bookstore in the mid-nineties. Imagine my surprise when, half way through the manuscript, I encountered a big problem: The numbering was consistent (as was much of the headings and layout), but not the chapter name, illustrations or topic! Come to find out, somehow two separate books – both by the same author – had been bound together. So I had the first half of the book I wanted, and the second half of a book I hadn’t. Thankfully, the bookstore was happy to exchange it for a new (correct) copy. Just how often this happens, I never did find out.

Well, back to the subject at hand. I’ve laid out the print copy for the digest and A5 sizes of the book (explained in Part V) and now I’ve largely finished with the eBook versions. Aside from Lulu’s offering of an ePub version which can be distributed to the iBookstore and Nook, I also researched the possibility of a Kindle version. And came across Kindle Direct Publishing. The nuances of formatting a manuscript for eBooks are many, and they vary depending upon the file type and converter being used.

Definitely one hitch is Microsoft’s use of Styles. This one can work for or against you. It was in our favor as far as Headings, which eBooks use to denote sections and chapters. Since text on an eReader is reflowable, there are no true ‘page breaks’ – rather, the reader determines where a second or chapter should begin and creates a break just before it. This is also used by some converters to determine the Table of Contents, which gives users a list of navigable links.

The problem with styles, however, was that Microsoft word pretty much tries to create a ‘style’ based off every combination of formatting you’ve used in your document. You may have a normal style for your text (the fontface/size and paragraph settings you use in 90 percent of your book) but Word may also be making separate styles for each time you italicize or bold a word for emphasis. In my case, when I removed all the page breaks and unnecessary formatting, my ePub file still displayed some sentences in a larger font than others. Eventually I discovered that any italicized word was displaying at the same font size as my other body text, but all the other words in those sentences containing the italicized words were being pushed to a font size larger. Which made them stand out glaringly.

The end result was stripping all the body text of any formatting/styles, then manually going back and reapplying the italics and bold as necessary. Now I see why some people take their print-format manuscript, and copy the text directly to notepad or some other format-less file to drop that extra markup. Then they copy that text back into a word document and manually restyle only those things necessary for eBook conversion.

~Meredith Purk