If you decide on the DIY approach and are stuck with, e.g. Word, how do you get a clean result when you convert to Ebook?
Remember the “Garbage in Garbage out” maxim; you need a clean input file to get a clean output file.
There is no way around it, you are going to have to learn about some of the functions of Word that you may not have had any need to know about before. Specifically, you need to learn about:
- How to Show all formatting tags
- How to set up & use Style sheets (fiction writers may be able to get away with only three or four paragraph styles)
- The Find/Replace function
- Using Formatting tags
Key points about formatting your book!!!!
- Remember that you will NOT be printing your Ebook file so it really doesn’t matter what the source file looks like. You don’t need to make it look like a print book and if you try to do so you may end up with problems
- We are only concerned with the OUTPUT file. “Less is More” really applies where formatting is concerned. Avoid formatting unless it is absolutely necessary for the story. Ebook readers have a limited repertoire of display options.
- Fonts. I will have more to say about fonts later but at this stage do nothing with fonts other than selecting basic fonts for the body of your text and for Chapter headers.
In most E-readers the user sets up their favourite font type and size, e.g., most Kindle readers have “publisher” fonts turned off by default and they will probably never see the font that YOU chose. The most important thing is to write well and lay the book out properly and consistently.
- There are some things that e-books do better than print and one of these is hyperlinks. Especially if you are writing a non-fiction book, hyperlinks can give the reader a very different experience. Remember too that you can create hyperlinks inside your document as well as externally. Keep in mind though that your reader may not be connected to the web whilst reading so it is best not to have too many external links if they are essential to your narrative.
Step-by Step Setting up in Word
If you are already an expert with word then the next bits will not be of interest so just skip to where it becomes more interesting. If you are not an expert you will find it useful to try out the examples below and see the results for yourself.
The illustrations here use Word 2010 but if you have 2007 or 2013 it will be much the same.
Step 1 ‑ Show the formatting marks
- You need to set the Options to show all the formatting marks:
- Go to File / Options / Display and select “Show all formatting marks”
Once you have set up what you want to see in the Options menu you can toggle the “Show all” option using the main Ribbon menu. Go to the Home tab and in the Paragraph group click on the paragraph mark to toggle between “Show” and “hide”
This method only toggles whatever settings you chose using the Options Menu
The display that you see will be different but it is important to be able to see the paragraph marks, tabs, spaces, page breaks, etc. so that you can remove unnecessary ones and correct any problems that occur. You can easily un-tick the box to turn them OFF if you find that the extra info on the screen interferes with your writing but you need to have them ON when you are proofing or fixing your file.
The Display info shows you some of the main formatting marks so that you can see what they mean but if you need more information about the marks there is a good post about it here: https://kranjac.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/formatting-marks-in-word-2010-showhide/
Step 2 ‑ Set up styles
If you have not used styles before then you need to read this section. This will give you a basic outline of what you need to do but you will need to do some more reading if you want to get really proficient.
The first thing to do is:
- Reset your Word default “Style set” to “Default (Black & White)”
Do this on the “Home” ribbon menu over on the right side…
- Then reset the default Font Set to e.g. Arial, Times new Roman.
Do this on the “Home” ribbon menu as before over on the right side…
- We always recommend using a Serif font (Times New Roman being the classic standard) for the main body text and only using Sans Serif fonts (Arial, Helvetica or Verdana) for headers or small sections of text. Serif text has the “serifs” because these make it easier to read blocks of text. Sans Serif is more difficult to read but works well to highlight headers etc.
Remember that it is most likely that the fonts you choose will be overwritten by the defaults in the E-reader so your customer may never see your choice. The only thing that DOES carry through is the choice of “Serif” or “Sans Serif”.
Styles are probably the single most important thing to learn about when preparing an Ebook. Microsoft Word, like most other word processing applications, has the ability to set up custom styles for your document. They also have a large number of built-in styles which make it easy to create a well formatted document very quickly.
If you also use Word to write your Blogs then using Styles there will make that job much easier too, particularly if you stick to the built-in styles in Word.
Main styles for your book
Whatever genre of book you are writing it will have many common parts so the Framework for most books will be similar. The best plan is to set up the Framework in Word first then, when you are writing the book, you can concentrate on content, not style.
You will need styles for the main parts of your document and the essentials are:
- Copyright page
- Dedication and/or Acknowledgements
- Table of Contents
- Preface or Foreword
- About the book
- About the Author
- Also by the author
One of the reasons for using styles is to get the page breaks and Table of Contents to work correctly, so we need to identify what needs to be in the Table of contents so that we can set that up quickly.
- Preface or Foreword
- Part numbers, if the book is split into major parts
- Chapter titles and/or numbers
- Section headings
- Paragraph headings
- Paragraph sub-headings
- About the book
- About the Author
- Also by the author
Clearly not everyone will want the same number of styles so you just need to create those that you need.
How to set up Styles
When you create a new file you will see a large selection of styles available along the top right side of the Ribbon.
As this layout can be a bit cramped I prefer to have the list constantly open down the right side of the page. You can do this by holding down the “Ctrl, Shift and Alt keys, all at the same time and then hit the “S” key. Your page should now look like the snapshot below, although the actual styles shown may be different.
With this layout it is easy to see the available styles and to apply them
Main body text font “Normal”
If you are happy with the default font and size for “Normal” just leave it be, but if you want it to be bigger or different you can modify it by Right Clicking the Style and clicking on “Modify”.
The first style that we want to change is the Heading 1. This will be our Chapter heading and we want each chapter to start on a new page. Right click and select modify. Then select Format, then Paragraph:
When the Paragraph options box opens, select “Line and Page Breaks” and then tick the Page break before box. This will force a new page every time the Heading 1 style is used.
I prefer to have my chapter headings centered and also like to see a good space before and after the heading so I also modify the paragraph position and spacing:
With just these few changes to a standard style we now have enough structure to be able to force a new page for each new chapter, have a nicely centered chapter heading with plenty of white space above and below it and when we set up the table of contents to point to the “Header 1” style each new chapter will be added automatically.
Table of Contents
You can use the “References” tool to create a table of contents automatically.
When you have a basic framework already designed you will know where to insert your Table of Contents (TOC). Here is the process:
- Left click in the document where your TOC will start.
- Type in the title for the TOC, “Contents” should do it, and hit enter.
- Find the “References” tab in the Ribbon and you will see the “Table of Contents” section on the left end of the screen.
- Click “Table of Contents” and select “Insert Table of Contents…” at the bottom of the drop down menu. This will open a dialogue box:
- Un-tick the box that says “Show Page Numbers”.
We want a re-flowable Ebook so page numbers don’t apply.
- Set the “Show levels” box to 1
- Click “OK”
- The table of contents should appear automatically
When you add more chapters, or headings that need to appear in the TOC, and apply the “Heading 1” style you need to make sure that the TOC is updated. All you have to do is click anywhere in the TOC and hit the F9 key; this will add new chapters and delete any that you have removed or changes.
If you have sub heading that need to be in the TOC use Heading 2, Heading 3, etc., and go back to the TOC definition and simply increase the number of levels to show.
You now have the basic essentials of the Ebook in place and we will continue in the next post to finish the framework.
Here are the other posts in the series so that you can catch up if you need to. At the end of the series there will be a Clinic where you can ask questions if there is anything that you find when reading the posts that you need clarified.