Pretty Words: A Practical Guide to Formatting for Online Publishing– The Importance of Formatting #2

Formatting eBooks is very different from formatting for print and has different requirements. When formatting a book for print you know exactly what the end product is going to look like. As an example, for a print book you will know:

· The size of the pages in inches or millimeters

· The size of the font

· Line spacing, indent and margins

· The number of pages

· Where exactly each chapter starts and ends

Since every printed copy of a specific book looks exactly like the others, you can format your work with that in mind and optimize as much as you can for readability. As a formatter you have full control of what the reader will actually see and experience throughout your print book.

This is quite different for eBooks.

In the case of eBooks you know pretty much nothing:

· The book might be read on a small phone or a large tablet changing the size of the page itself and how much text you can fit on it

· The reader might want to pick different font sizes and styles based on her or his personal preference

· The reader might pick different column layouts or multiple columns per page

· The concept of a “page number” loses most of its meaning due to all the factors above

AT this point you might ask “why should I spend any time formatting my eBook?”

Most eBook readers, like the Amazon Kindle devices, will allow the reader to control these aspects of the reading experience providing the user with unprecedented control compared to the traditional paper medium. Readers will expect your eBook to behave in a certain way when changing font sizes or font faces.

On the side you can see an example of the text appearance dialog for Amazon’s Kindle Fire clip_image002[54]HDX. From here you can control the text size, the background, the margins, line spacing and the font face. In some Kindle apps you can also control the number of text columns per page.

Common issues with a poorly formatted eBook are fonts not resizing or font face not changing despite the reader changing the settings, problems with font color like a white font on a white background, problems with pictures being too big or too small, etc.

This is in my opinion a bad experience. Some books might have a need for fixed formatting, with a specific font and font size. In those cases it’s really important to understand that the reader might be confused and due to the extremely large number of devices and screen sizes, you might run into formatting issues that actually make your book harder to read. Not something you generally want.

Formatting an eBook is a crucial aspect of the publishing workflow and needs to be taken seriously to make your product look professional and provide the reader with a great reading experience.

The formatting workflow looks something like this:

· Preparing the content for formatting

· Assembling the book content: cover, front matter, content, back matter

· Adding content navigation

· Adding the eBook metadata

· Testing the eBook

After successfully testing the eBook you will have your content ready for publishing.

Next article will start looking at how to prepare your content for formatting and make your life easier. See you soon. If in the meantime you have any questions, feel free to hit me on Twitter @robertoruggeri

clip_image002_thumbAbout me: I am a technology freak, that’s pretty much it. I spent pretty much all my life in Information Technology. I started working for Microsoft in 1998 and I am still there making up the future of Xbox. When I am off work I play videogames, but every day that goes on I feel more like a videogame collector, I wish I could play them all. I am an amateur photographer, a Canon guy really, and a comic book collector, X-Men FTW! You can find me on twitter, Xbox and PlayStation Network and I have some photos up on Flickr if you want to connect.

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Pretty Words: A Practical Guide to Formatting for Online Publishing– The Importance of Formatting #2

Pretty Words – A Practical Guide to Formatting for Online Publishing

Starting today, and without a proper introduction—and that’s entirely my fault—my formatter, aka dear hubby Roberto, will explain, once a week, the art of good formatting. Since he is very knowledgeable and has lots to say on the topic, I’ll leave the floor to him right away:

When Monica started her book business we looked at all the different components of the workflow, from inception to publishing and marketing, and decided how to tackle each phase. We wanted to have a professional approach and put out on the market a polished product.

Some parts were clear: she does the writing, you need a professional for the editing and you definitely want an extra pair of eyes for the final proofreading.

For the covers, we started working with our good friend Alessandro, even though lately we started doing our own covers with some encouraging results. Yes, Alessandro, it takes two of us to even come close to what you did Smile

The last part to figure out was how to get the manuscript from its raw format to a format that could be published on one of the online services like Amazon, B&N/Nook, Kobo etc.

We looked around the room and thought, who has some background in publishing and IT that can get help with this?? She looks at me. I look at her. I look at me. I decided that it was me, the one with 25 year experience in IT, who should take this. The skills in setting the clock on my parents’ VCR and fixing remote controls prepared me for this and I was ready to support my better half in her new venture.

I went into it without much knowledge of the process and I have learned a lot. Now we can take one of Monica’s books from the original document to formatted and uploaded to the service in a matter of few hours.

This is meant to be a series of articles and practical advice on how to publish your work online and have it look good on your readers’ e-devices.

I will be focusing primarily on publishing to Amazon’s Kindle format which I believe will cover 90% of the cases. I’ll start with the basics of editing and how to prepare your document for formatting. We’ll then have a look at the tools for formatting and finalizing the document for publishing, including all of its metadata. Finally look at some of the variances for different online publishing services like Smashwords and Createspace for print-on-demand.

If you have any questions or have suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered, feel free to hit me on Twitter @robertoruggeri or Monica @momilp. For now get ready and let’s start with the basics and why formatting is important.

clip_image002About me: I am a technology freak, that’s pretty much it. I spent pretty much all my life in Information Technology. I started working for Microsoft in 1998 and I am still there making up the future of Xbox. When I am off work I play videogames, but every day that goes on I feel more like a videogame collector, I wish I could play them all. I am an amateur photographer, a Canon guy really, and a comic book collector, X-Men FTW! You can find me on twitter, Xbox and PlayStation Network and I have some photos up on Flickr if you want to connect.

Pretty Words – A Practical Guide to Formatting for Online Publishing