Ebook Formatting ~ Kindle Version
Formatting your manuscript for Kindle, or any ebook format for that matter, uses the same formatting methods as the print copy version, with a different end result. In a print book, there are expected formatting and layout components, such as page numbering, header or footer, and gutter margins. Those are the primary differences between a print book and an ebook.
I use Microsoft Word (2007 version) as my writing program of choice. Long story. Just one more thing to learn from self-discovery, over a long period of time. Word is a full service program that can perform far more feats of prowess than I am able to decipher, or discover how such a thing is actually done. What I have come to learn are the basic functions that when done correctly, in the right order, one arrives at a formatted document that meets the demands of POD publishing. The finished manuscript ready for uploading and printing. Here is what you need to know about that process.
Once you have a finished manuscript file, assumedly a Word document, or equivalent, and also assuming that document has been spell checked, and thoroughly vetted for grammatical error, you are ready for conversion. The first step is getting rid of the header on the opposing pages of your manuscript. That would be the title of the book, and author’s name that show up at the top of each page, one on either side of the two pages respectively. If you put them there in the first place, you know the routine of revisiting that function and deleting those two headers then save.
The second step, using the same header/footer function, is deleting any page numbering throughout the book. I will address forward pages numbering separately later, for those that like using that option.
The final remodeling has to do with changing the margins, back to center. If you have done your formatting correctly for the print version, you will have used the (opposing) margins selection and offset the margins outward, leaving the ‘gutter’ in the center fold area, for printing purposes. For ebooks, change the margins back to centered; I use a margin setting of one-inch.
Ebooks don’t have gutters to worry about (opposing pages) nor do they have paging numbering or headers on each page. Just continuous reading as the theoretical pages scroll by, or jump from screen shot to screen shot either through swiping or touching a page icon.
Now your manuscript has been stripped of header/footer and page numbering, and has centered margins. Most tablets and smart phones control and have adjustments for font size and type. I use Times New Roman font type at 12 font size. Once your manuscript is in final form you are ready for the final conversion. Before I go any further it is important to address the peculiarities of digital conversion, and efiles. What constitutes ‘pages’ in a digital reader, tablet or phone, is the screen size readable area with text flowing through, sometimes controllable by the tablet’s ‘page touch area’ which blinks to another page, either forward or backward. It can also be accomplished by swiping the page with a finger. The end result is there are no distinct page lines, just the text formatting driving how that text moves through that flow. If there is a page return in the text block, it will of course been seen as a space in the text flow, leaving breaks in the text areas.
There is also the ‘page break’. In print form a new page begins at the top of the new page, sometimes with a chapter title, which I will address here. Using chapter titles in the print format and really want to use them in your ebook, understand this. It will likely show up quite differently in the Ereader from what you expected. Page breaks. Digital readers see the break between the last text on a page, and the beginning spot where the text picks up at the top of the following page. That shows up as a large blank space in the digital form. To have a truly, fully converted digital manuscript, you will need to do this simple, yet tedious task. Clearing the formatted page breaks.
You aren’t going to like this.... but here goes. There is a hot key combination that does this task; <control key/enter key>. Put the blinking text curser at the end of a chapter. Last period after the last word. (there are two methods) method 1; use the delete key to bring up the first word of the following page, be it the chapter title or first word in the first paragraph. When you have the two separate text blocks right next to each other, put the cursor under the first letter of the beginning text of the next chapter, then use the hotkey shown above. That sets the end point from preceding page to the next page, without leaving the open space between the two, such that the digital reader begins the next chapter page without a lot of blank space beforehand.
Method 2; Place the text cursor at the end of the ending text of the chapter page, then use the hot key combo to jump to the spot for the following chapter beginning, then use the delete key from that spot to bring up the beginning text, or title of the next chapter. Of course, this would have to be done for each chapter, although most books don’t have all that many chapters, leaving this task fairly easy. Say less than a half hour once you get the hang of it. If you are fussy about making your print book look professional you will want your ebook to look and read just as professional. This is why a formatting industry has sprang up online. Prices for formatting range from doable to breathtaking.
I have been focusing on the text body of your manuscript. There is also the forward pages to your print book. Forward, introduction, and the copyright page with ISBN numbers, etc. In the ebook format take out all the information pertaining to ISBN number and other non-print essentials. You can leave the forward pages that you find important, such as the forward & introduction. Keep the forward pages section separate from the text body. When you have completed the formatting process of the text body of the manuscript, Then use the hot key; <control/enter> process to connect the last forward page to the beginning of the text body.
The finished manuscript at this point can be used for upload to Kindle. Says so right on their page. Your file will be converted into Kindle and you are done. I go one step further, as it is also stated that an exact replica of your reading file may not be exactly as expected. My words of their description of what takes place during conversion and methods employed. The algorithm used to convert a Word document to a MOBI file (Kindle) doesn’t do the page-break function and other little anomalies. You have to do that yourself.
Being something of a control freak, over my own work, I have come to make that conversion myself, using a free application called Calibre. Google that and you will find it easily enough, in 32-bit or 64-bit versions, to match your computer operating system. I have a 64- bit system so chose that version. The program is easy to use even for first timers. Everything is intuitive and clearly market. This program allows you to convert a standard print file into a number of digital reader formats. For Barnes & Noble, the file would be in NOOK format.
Before you import your completed Word file into Calibre, save the Word file as a Rich Text file.
That is the final file you will import into Calibre, then begin the conversion process. I use Kindle for my ebook publishing so I convert my files to MOBI format. There is a ‘metadata’ tab in Calibre where you put any metadata for your book you want represented. There also the ‘convert books’ tab where the main tweaking occurs. This is the tab I will address.
On the left of the ‘convert books’ page are tabs that control the functions of your conversion. At the top is the ‘metadata’, which is the book’s information. You will see the pertinent windows for that information with some of them filled in. That process is intuitive. The second tab to deal with is the ‘page setup’ tab. There are two windows, one showing the file type you want to convert to, and the window below showing the format of the file you are importing. Keep that setting at <default import file>. The top window showing the file type you want to convert to, is a bit trickier to deal with, being there are several Kindle file choices, covering the Kindle reader collection, like Kindle, Kindle Fire, etc. I chose Kindle Fire as it is a newer reader, which would tend to have more readers owning them. The second to the last tab on the left is the ‘Outgoing’ type you selected. Make sure it is the same as what you chose, as it defaults to EPUB reader, which is an open standard for readers.
When you have completed that setup, use the ‘Save’ function tab to save your converted ebook file to disk. That conversion will leave three files; the original Rich Text File, an .opf file (don’t ask) and the mobi file. It is that mobi file that you will, finally, upload to Kindle for publishing. That file will then look in the kindle reader exactly as you saw it in your own preview. I should mention there is also a free download for the Kindle Previewer, which shows how your file will look on different Kindle devices.
It is assumed that you will also have a cover design file in the form of a JPG image from the print version of your book. That is the file you will use for your ebook cover. If you have your print book listed through Create Space/Amazon, you might find that your cover becomes automatically visible during your listing process, from its print connection. Either way, you should see your cover as the first thing in your ebook version, then the forward pages, including forward, introduction, etc., followed by the text body of your ebook, without the large blank spaces. Your book should show a text flow screen by screen without interruption. If you find blanks showing up or other formatting issues, that means you need to continue the formatting ritual where needed to correct the aberrations.
Forgive the length of this article. I didn’t see a way of carving this subject into smaller articles in a way that wouldn’t be disruptive or confusing. This is one process, with the fuller explanation pertaining to program design and setup, which the reader may not know or be aware of. Hence the lengthier explanation. I have accomplished this process by using the method described above to convert four print books listed on amazon.com into their ebook counterparts on Kindle. I never said it would be simple, or easy. The task is not all that daunting, considering you have a finished manuscript in hand. That was the harder task.