22 November 2011

Formatting an eBook

When I started writing Lives Interrupted I had no thoughts of Kindles or other reading devices, and so I formatted it with publishers and agents in mind.  And to look good for me as I spend considerable amounts of time looking at it, not gazing adoringly you understand, but working.  So it was in a print ready state, rather than an 'e-ready' state.
If you are intending to publish for electronic readers, you will need little more than the following for your manuscript:
  • A simple style for the major part of your content.  For example first line indent paragraph style in a 12pt standard font.
  • A style for your chapter headings.

I used Garamond 12pt first line indent for my content, and Garamond 14pt bold for the section headings.
This post goes into more details on that.
If you have an electronic reader you will already know there is no such thing as a page in an ebook, as the person reading controls how large the font is, and therefore how much shows on the screen at any time.  The document is basically one continuous page.
Smashwords advises not to use page breaks, and no more than four paragraph returns together (pressing the Enter key), or you could end up with blank pages on small screens.
I used one paragraph return after section headings, and two paragraph returns at the end of sections.
This is one area where the Smashwords Style Guide and the information on the KDP (Kindle) site differ.  The KDP formatting guidelines say to use a page break between chapters.  I guess it might depend on the style of your book and chapters.  The sections in Lives Interrupted are quite short and I tried it with page breaks, but when I previewed it on the Kindle Previewer it had some blank pages so I took out the page breaks and went with the paragraph returns as I've mentioned above.
Now we come to the front material.
I created two new styles: one called Book Title which was the same as my section title except it was centred, and a style based on the content style but with no first line indent and which was centred.
At the beginning of the manuscript I typed the name of the book using Book Title style (obvious really I suppose!) and my name and the copyright notice using the centred style.
For the copyright notice I looked at a few books from my bookshelf and Kindle and wrote what I thought was needed, some seemed excessively long.  You also need to add 'Smashwords edition' if you are going to publish on their site.
It was at this point I made another copy and called it my Kindle file.
That's pretty much it for the required front information. 
When I come to the end of a book I've enjoyed it's sometimes hard to let it go.  The characters stay with me for some time and I'm often interested to know if there are more books with those characters, or what else the author has written, especially if it's someone I'm not familiar with.
As an author the end of the book is a great place to do a little subtle advertising rather than just writing 'The End'.
I wrote a thank you for buying and reading the book, and put my website and blog addresses for any comments, and a little plea for a review if they felt so inclined.  I added a bit of information about me, and the book of short stories I'm working on at the moment, and added one of the short stories.  Hopefully after reading Lives Interrupted, and one of the short stories people will feel inclined to buy the book.


  1. Love the publicity plug idea Shauna and short story offer at the end. Clever.I need to think about starting up a blog but am putting it off until I place a short story and get through at least a third draft of my novel. But the American blogs I follow seem to be so gung ho. I just can't see the point of blogging till I know I've got something worth selling. What do you think? Liz

  2. Glad you like the publicity idea Liz, just wish I could take credit for it! A Joe Konrath idea. I have one of his books on my Kindle and there are at least six first chapter extracts from his novels at the end. Oh to have the choice of which extracts to add!

    You make an interesting point about blogging, and ironically I had that discussion recently with a friend in a similar position. A chicken and egg situation.

    Lots of people say you need a platform before publishers will take you on, though I don't necessarily agree with that, but whenever you do begin you have the question of what to blog about.

    I bought my domain name long before I was published, and long before I developed the website! Though I did manage to get it done a few months before getting Driftwood published. I started this blog just after I received the publishing contract. I always wanted the blog to be writing related, as opposed to more general things, and started writing about my publishing journey and the things I discovered along the way.

    I guess that's the longwinded way of saying I tend to agree with you, though I follow some interesting blogs from unpublished writers. I think the secret is to know what you want to blog about.

    I don't know what genre you write, but I think you have a great start with being a Kiwi living in Italy. There are blogs and/or magazines about living abroad. One is a UK magazine, though I can't remember the name, about life in 'foreign' countries. As someone who has also lived in other countries, I know people find the whole thing fascinating, especially if they've never moved, and love to read about the differences and your experiences.

    I think blogging is a good way to hone and practice writing skills, though like everything else it takes time, and has to be factored in against other writing time and tasks.

  3. Thanks for the advice Shauna. I write upper middle grade and am working on a (humorous hopefully) book about a British boy who ends up being whisked off to Italy by his mad mother. So I'm working on that foreigner in Italy idea. Blogging would be good practice but I suspect I would be like you and not do it till I get the publishing contract in hand. If ever. Thank you, thank you. Liz

  4. I'm pleased to hear you're working on the foreigner in Italy idea, sounds like a great storyline.
    I envy anyone who can write humour - I love reading books that make me laugh, but fail dismally when trying to write it.