Maureen Shelley turns technical in Part 7 of Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author”, on preparing your digital file.
The good news about digital files is that the eBook format takes care of all the extra formatting that is required in a print-ready manuscript. The bad news is that you have to take it all out: all those extra section breaks, footnotes etc. you put in for your print book – they all have to come out. This is where you will thank yourself for using the inbuilt formatting available in word processors.
Less is more:
Remove all section and page breaks, all footnotes and end notes, remove all underlining.
if you want to emphasise a point use italics, not underlining.
Remove the table of contents and page numbers.
Leave in your chapter headings.
Remove any hidden commands.
the long dash in Word is an example: some digital programs don’t deal well with these so use short dashes or change your punctuation.
Apostrophes are another punctuation mark that can cause issues. You may have seen a question mark in some digital files; it is usually in the place where an apostrophe would be.
Remove all blank pages. Remove all notes pages.
Your file should be continuous (no separate pages; the text should flow on) with your title page, frontispiece, the introduction and your body copy.
It may be tempting to save your file as a text file to get rid of all the formatting. This is a temptation you should resist, as it will only create additional issues, such as having to replace all the chapter headings’ format.
EBooks aren’t necessarily great places for tables and graphs. You may need to convert these to JPEG files. Then you will need to embed your images or convert them to outline files remembering to save them in the correct format if they are in colour. Your eBook platform will have specific instructions on each of these steps.
Hyperlinks need to be formatted differently for eBook versions, so if you include them read up on how to do it. There are plenty of digital publishing blog sites, so search and you shall find.
There are about 40 digital formats
An ePub is the most widely used. However, as a self-published author you will want to get onto Amazon and the Kindle uses proprietary software. Also, Apple’s iBook store uses a modified ePub (it has different cascading style sheets or CSS), so you may need at least three versions of your eBook.
Storyist is great publishing software that lets you create manuscripts (and screenplays) and convert them to popular digital formats. I recommend you investigate your options. When you upload your manuscript you will need two PDFs: one for the cover and one for the body copy.
There are dozens of eBook publishing sites and platforms. They will convert the file for you and publish to thousands of outlets. However, they will also manage your sales (which could be a good thing) and you will get the proceeds. Expect to receive between 30 and 50% of the RRP or recommended retail price.
Another way to publish is simply to use a PDF file, thereby avoiding formatting challenges. Scribd will publish PDFs and Scribd has a very large readership, or you could chose to have a downloadable file from your own website; that way you don’t share your sales with anyone.
You will need to decide whether it is better to have all the money and fewer sales or less money on more sales. If you have good traffic to your website – say 2 to 3 million visitors a month – then by all means publish only on your own site.
You will need a separate ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your digital manuscript and a separate National Library entry for the digital format. You will not need a barcode. If you publish on Amazon, you will be given their equivalent of an ISBN.
A last word on digital files: use the strengths of the format.
You can add social media buttons and links, links to your GoodReads review page or Amazon listings for your other books – all from within your manuscript. It makes sense that if someone has just read your book, they may want more or they may tweet about it. Don’t stand in the way of your readers doing your marketing for you. Read up on the HTML codes to insert these buttons into your manuscript. It could be well worth it!
We will publish a list of sites for self-published authors at the end of this series or you could just Google it if you don’t want to wait.
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