Pretty Words – One Way Trip #5

Past articles in the series:

1. A Practical Guide to Formatting for Online Publishing

2. The Importance of Formatting

3. A Good Start is Key

4. Retouching Existing Documents

Whether you started writing your novel using the template or by formatting your existing document, you should now be ready to move to the next step and convert your document to an eBook.

This particular step is a one-way trip though. That means that once you start this process you are going to sever the relation between the eBook and the original Word document. Any changes you need to make to the Word document you either need to make them both in Word and in the eBook – if there are a small number of them – or repeat the formatting process from this step forward again. Thankfully, the rest of the process is pretty mechanical and, with a little practice, it should not take you long to format a document from scratch.

Before we start we need a couple of tools that we’re going to need in order to convert the Word document into an eBook ready for publishing.

The first tool is a nice little gem called Sigil. To download Sigil go to the Downloads section of the site and click on the file that says “Windows” or “Mac” in the title depending on your platform. The latest version at the time of writing is 0.7.4. Sigil is an open source project and it’s free to use. Unfortunately, development of Sigil has stopped as of October 2013, but the tool works extremely well for our purposes and we’ll keep using it until it does.

Sigil will help you take the output from Word and turn it into an ePub file. ePub is the industry standard format for eBooks, used by many publishers.

The second tool we’re going to need is Amazon’s Kindle Previewer. Also available for Windows and Mac, Kindle Previewer will convert the eBook from ePub to Amazon’s proprietary mobi format for publishing to Amazon’s KDP. Kindle Previewer will also allow you to preview the final eBook simulating a number of different Kindle reading devices.

The conversion process will go something like this:

· Convert the document in HTML format from Word

· Use Sigil to edit the HTML and compose it in an ePub file with all the appropriate section and metadata

· Use Kindle Previewer to convert the ePub to mobi and do a final test pass to make sure it look and works great

Before you convert the document make sure that:

· All the editing is done and the document has been proofread

· Accept all the changes in the document and make sure there are no more revision marks and the document is final

· The entire document is properly formatted in Word according to the guidelines in the past two articles

· There are no page breaks between chapters and that text flows from one chapter to the other. If you have left page breaks we’ll take them out during eBook formatting, but it’s better to do it in Word.

· You have included all the front- and back-matter and that these sections are also edited, proofread and formatted appropriately

The book is now starting to resemble the final structure, ready to be converted:

· Front matter

o Book title

o Copyrights

o Dedication

o Table of contents

· Document text

· Back matter

o Acknowledgements

o Bio

The eBook template includes all the sections and the appropriate formatting, feel free to add or remove sections to match what you want in your book.

Ok, now we’re almost there. One last check. Make sure everything is all right. Save the document one last time and close it, just to be sure.

Open the document again and go to File, Save As. Pick a place where you want your HTML document to be saved. From the “Save as type” drop down pick “Web Page, Filtered”. This step is super important as by choosing the Filtered option, Word will remove a ton of extra formatting that we do not need, or want, in our HTML file.

And we’re done for the day! Congratulations, you are one step closer to publishing your masterpiece!

Next week we’ll work in Sigil to create the ePub. Until then please let me know if you have any question @robertoruggeri. Ciao!

Pretty Words – One Way Trip #5

Pretty Words – A Good Start is Key #3

This week we’ll get deeper into the workflow of formatting your novel. I will use Word 2013 as my word processor, even though the recommendations and steps will largely apply to any recent version of Word or comparable programs. Additionally, we’re not going to deal with embedded images for now. They add quite a bit of complexity, mostly due to the variety of devices that your eBook can be read on. We will deal with images in a future article.

Without a doubt, the single most important piece of advice I can give you when it comes to formatting your work, is to start with a clean Word document. In other words, the work of formatting your document starts as you write it, not when you’re done.

What do I mean by “clean?”

A clean document is one that avoids, as much as possible, any direct text formatting. While it’s Ok to apply formatting such as bold and italic, you should avoid at all costs formatting such as font size, color, paragraph spacing and indent, page margins, tabs or spaces to align text, multiple paragraph marks to go to next page, page borders etc.

The reason is because all these settings translate very poorly to an electronic format that can be read on a multitude of devices. Additionally you will want to leave the reader in control of settings such as font size and font face.

Before we start, I want to briefly explain how Word deals with text formatting. Word uses Styles to define how text will look like. A Style is a collection of properties such as font size and color, paragraph spacing and indent and many, many others. You use different kinds of Styles for different kinds of texts. A Style for the body of the document, a Style for the chapter titles, etc. If you want to change the look of a particular kind of text, you simply change the Style definition. In a single step you will have changed the look of all the text and paragraphs with that style in the document, without having to manually change each individual piece.

This is a very powerful feature in Word, unfortunately is one of the least used and understood. Understanding how this works will make your life much easier later.

This gives us some indication of how we need to approach the document:

· Every piece of text that should be formatted in a specific way, should have its own style definition. In our case we care about:

o The style of the chapter headings – typically “Heading 1” in Word

o The style of the text of the document – typically “Normal” in Word

o The style of the text of the first paragraph in each chapter – we’ll have to define this one

o The style for centered text – we’ll have to define this one

· Any changes to the way the text looks should be applied to the style, not the text or the paragraph. This way the definition of the formatting will remain the same for each piece of text with that formatting

· The only formatting that should ever be applied to the text directly are bold and italic

The good news is that when you start a new document, Word already gives you most of what you need. The “Heading 1” and “Normal” Styles are already defined and you should use those to begin with. I will show you how to define the other two.

For this first part I am going to assume that you’re starting your novel from scratch with a new document. That will give you a basic understanding of the process. In the next article we’ll have a look at how to turn your existing document into one that can be easily formatted.

The first step is to create a template that we will use for all of our future novels. The initial part is always the same, so let’s do it once and for all.

Let’s start by creating a new document in Word. Write “Chapter 1” and press Enter, then write two full paragraphs separated by paragraph marks. Make sure you write enough text so that the paragraphs wrap around.

At the end you should have something like this:


The first thing we want to do is define the style for the paragraphs of the novel. We will first change the formatting of the first paragraph in the text to what we want, then update the definition of the Style “Normal” to reflect the changes we made. This way everything that is formatted Normal in the document will look exactly like we want.

Let’s start by right clicking on the second paragraph and select “Paragraph…” This will open a dialog box that will allows us to change the paragraph formatting.

Now let’s do the following:

· Under Indentation, Special, select “First line” from the drop down and enter 0.2” where is says “By”.

· Under Spacing, After, enter “0 pt”

· Under Line spacing, select “Single” from the drop down


Press the Ok button to close the dialog box and get back to the document.

Now the first paragraph will show a small indent and no spacing after it. We want to change the definition of the “Normal” style to reflect that. To do that, right click on the Normal style in the toolbar and select “Update Normal to Match Selection”.


Once you do that, every paragraph in the document will change to show the formatting we just applied. Since every single paragraph is formatted as Normal, this is expected and a good thing indeed.

Let’s get to the heading style now. Click on the paragraph that says “Chapter 1” and select Heading 1 in the list of styles. You’ll notice now that the chapter heading is not quite right, as it starts with an indent instead of right along the left margin. To fix that, right click on the “chapter 1” text and select “Paragraph…” Under Indentation, Special, select “(none)” and then press Ok. We now want to update the definition of Heading 1 by right clicking on the Style and selecting “Update Heading 1 to Match Selection”


The last thing we want to do is create a style for the first paragraph in each chapter. When not specified otherwise, the Kindle reader will automatically apply a paragraph indent. This improves legibility and it’s generally a good thing. It’s also good habit to have the first paragraph of each chapter indented at 0”.

To do that, right click on the first text paragraph in the template, right after the chapter heading and select “Paragraph…” Under Indentation, Special, select “(none)” and then press Ok.

To define a new style based on the new formatting, open up the list of styles and select “Create a Style”.


Name the Style “First Paragraph” and press Ok to add it to the list.

At the end of the process, you end up with a document that looks something like this:


Your styles will be ready to use:

· Heading 1: use this for all the chapter headings

· First Paragraph: use this for the first paragraph of each chapter

· Normal: use this for all the rest of the document

Now you can save this document and use it whenever you want to start writing something. Just make a copy and use it as a starting document. This way all the styles will be already defined for you and you can concentrate on writing right away.

As a bonus I have shot a short video to show you how to do it, and I have uploaded a document template here where I have already done all this for you. In the video, I also show you how to define a fourth style for centered text, used mainly as a separator between paragraphs when you do not need a new chapter.

Next time we’re going to look at converting an existing document into a format that will be easier to format. See you next time. If you have any questions ask Monica or me @robertoruggeri.

Pretty Words – A Good Start is Key #3

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.

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