Formatting and publishing your own eBook can be an intimidating experience for a novice self-publisher. That’s why services like Smashwords are so popular: they can take a standard Word document, convert it into all popular eBook formats, and publish them to a bunch of venues for you. They take the hassle out of independent publishing.
But, for those of us who want bit more control over their publishing experience, formatting and creating eBooks by hand can be a rewarding experience. Why would you want to do this by hand, when there are services out there that can do it for you?
Microsoft Word is a pain. Basically, it is overkill for the eBook writing process. Most Word features are either not needed in an eBook (e.g., margins, padding, page numbering), or won’t translate during the eBook conversion (e.g., font selections and footnotes). And, your Word document has to be meticulously formatted for it to convert cleanly. (If you’ve glanced over the Smashwords style guide, you know what I’m talking about.) Most people default to Word because it’s what they’re used to using, but I find that other options are much simpler, elegant, and conducive to the writing process.
Formatting by hand gives you greater control over the look of your final eBook. I’m a typography snob, and I love the control that formatting eBooks by hand gives me. I can embed fonts, change the way that paragraphs and headings are formatted, even include drop caps into my opening paragraphs. While there is a bit of a learning curve involved in tweaking eBook output, I find the result to be well worth the effort.
In this three-part series I’m going to go over writing and formatting your eBook file, converting it to popular eBook formats like ePub and MOBI, and tweaking the output with a bit of styling. You’re resulting eBook files will be ready to upload to popular outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble for sale and distribution.