Digital Formatting

I promised yesterday that I’d talk a bit more today about formatting for digital books. Here we go!

In the past, I have followed the Smashwords Style Guide to format my own Word DOC files. This is picky work, but it’s not that hard – it just takes time when you have old files that have been converted from format to format and version to version. They seem to carry some junk along with them from each version. I would then upload the DOC file to Smashwords, and let the Smashwords Meatgrinder convert that file to MOBI and to EPUB. The EPUB version I would then download and check with Adobe Digital Editions. I let Smashwords distribute their EPUB to Apple, Sony and some other sites.

Next I would save the DOC file as an HTML file. (There is one change to make between these versions: the Smashwords Terms of Service requires that each book say Smashwords Edition on the copyright page. Before saving to HTML, I would change the word Smashwords to Digital.) The HTML file could be uploaded to Amazon – and their conversion engine would convert the file to MOBI.

I would then import the HTML file into Calibre to create MOBI and EPUB files for other portals, like KOBO, B&N, ARe and Overdrive Content Reserve. I would check these files with EPUBCHECKER before uploading them.

I could have used a formatter from the beginning, but I had concerns about that.
• I had a lot of books to digitally publish.
• I wanted to have a better idea of what was required so that I would know whether the person I hired did a good job or not. My system made simply laid-out but readable books.
• There were so many formats and I didn’t know which ones sold best, or were worth the investment. Over the past two years, it’s become clear that the two major formats will be EPUB and MOBI.
• One of my other concerns was that I would need to pay for an update at regular intervals, as I kept thinking of things to add into my books. This fall, I finally finalized my content and links.

Also, with the introduction of new e-readers, there are many more options for layout than was once the case. I was feeling overwhelmed and out of my depth this fall – but most of my questions above had settled into final answers. I decided it was time to call in a professional formatter and hired Pam Headrick of A Thirsty Mind.

Concurrent with this update, I will be moving to directly publish on Apple, instead of having Smashwords distribute my content there for me. Yesterday, I uploaded the new EPUB of The Jewels of Kinfairlie Boxed Set to Apple and it’s already listed for sale in the iTunes store in 32 countries. That was easy! It’s possible that both the Smashwords and the directly-uploaded version will be visible on Apple in a period of transition, but that will be sorted out quickly.

I also uploaded a new EPUB to Smashwords, where it replaced the existing EPUB file. The only other format I have available on Smashwords is MOBI – this still must be generated by the SW Meatgrinder from a DOC file, so it has not been changed.

In addition, I uploaded the new EPUB directly to Barnes & Noble, KOBO.

The new MOBI file created by the formatter – which includes formatting for different versions of the Kindle – was uploaded to Amazon.

I will be updating my editions at All Romance eBooks and Overdrive’s Content Reserve, as well. At All Romance eBooks, there will be PDF editions of individual books only, not of the boxed sets – the boxed sets will exceed the maximum file size for upload at ARe, in PDF format, if JoK is any indication (and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be.) The ARe updates will be done along with each title, while Overdrive’s update will be done in a batch once all the new editions have been prepared.

There are several lovely touches in these new editions. The formatter has added drop caps at the beginning of each chapter, for example, which gives a more polished and professional look. She’s set the book to open at a specific page, and for the boxed set, she constructed a nested table of contents. The file is also dead clean, with no residual gook. There are links in the back to my websites (where the buy links and excerpts live), social media presence, blog and newsletter. There are two excerpts in the back of each book, usually one from Cooke and one from Delacroix. I’m very pleased with these new digital editions, as maybe you can tell.

I’ll let you know as each one is finished and uploaded.