Formatting, Formatting, Formatting

Floppy Disk Pen and Pencil Holder from Etsy

In the early days there were complaints about Smashwords’ Meatgrinder creating bad e-books. Many of these reports were early on in 2009 when I first started grad school. Since it was at the beginning of the software’s life, it was hard to tell if it was the user base or the software. Turns out it was a bit of both, with a sprinkling of confusing communication. Things are much better now, according to their own data the system has published over 140,000 books.

To format the story I read Smashwords Style Guide, but I wanted a more deconstructed walkthrough. There are several guides online, and I went with Paul Salvette’s fantastic “Smashwords Formatting Tutorial.” His breakdown was invaluable and explained the why, in addition to the how and what. If you are looking to format your first book for Smashwords I recommend using his tutorial. His explanations cleared up the formatting process and resulted in no errors in the uploaded file.

For the Kindle Copy, I considered David Gaughran’s advice in Let’s Get Digital that I would have to delve into HTML and CSS. As he suggested, I did read Guido Henkel’s tutorial on formatting e-books in HTML and started the process. However, the last step in the formatting process required the use of Calibre, and there were some reports that Amazon was booting e-books that were converted using the Calibre software.

Instead, using Scrivener and Kindle Previewer with Kindlegen I:

  1. Laid out the story in Scrivener
  2. Complied the story as an EPUB.
  3. Converted the EPUB to a MOBI file by opening the file in Kindle Previewer (Kindlegen must be installed in order for this to work).
  4. Checked the text for errors in the various Kindle Previewer emulators.
  5. Opened the file in the Kindle App and reviewed it there
  6. Gave the story to a family member to open on their Kindle and checked for errors.

In the future I will be formatting the stories in HTML as some of them have specific layouts, and I want them to read well in their respective formats.

Even if the files pass their respective vetting software, make sure to download them from the sites to proof them. I noticed a few days later that one of the links in my table of contents for the Smashwords copy was broken. Catching the error, I uploaded a new version with the fixed link. The link was fine in the Kindle copy. Remember to proof, proof, proof. (This is more a note for me than others out there.)

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