Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ebook Formating: Thermonuclear Option

I've been a little busy this week working with my free Ebook I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE. I had a little problem with the formating. A few months ago a virus took out my Windows, rather than spend hours getting rid of it I just installed Ubuntu and have been using Open Office instead of Word. The switch was remarkably easy, the only two things I found different in the applications is Open Offices dictionary gives the strangest words for replacement of misspelled words, a few years ago that would have killed me but at this point it is just annoying, and sometimes amusing. The second problem with Open Office is every time I open it either the phone rings or my wife comes into my office needing me to do something. I've searched the options and can't seem to find a way to turn this feature off. If someone knows please tell me.

It wasn't until I needed to turn my book into a Word Doc that I ran into trouble. I sent it over to my Mac and opened it in Word 2001 and found I had a problem. Smashwords wants the document in “Normal” and I wasn't given that option. I could only get it formated in “Body Text Indent” which I know from experience is almost the same thing.

Smashwords suggests copying the text to notepad (or text edit for Mac) then copying it back into word. They call this the “Nuclear Option”. I tried that but got the same results, I still didn't have the option to make it “Normal”.

I uploaded it and previewed it as a PDF, as a PDF it looked okay, not great but okay. It was both indented and it had a 6 point space at the end of each paragraph. It wasn't prefect but it was readable. After a week they had the Sony Ereader preview up and I eagerly looked at it, it was absolutely horrible.

The 6 point space turned into a double carriage return, the 5 indent turned into a 10 space. There was more blank space than there was text. This would not do. I re-read all the instructions and they didn't deal with this problem so I had to come up with my own.

Smashwords offers the books in RTF (Rich Text Format) I downloaded it and found it had been converted into “Normal”, so that was a good start.

From that “Normal” text I was able to strip all the formating and start clean. I could then go into the paragraph settings and set them properly, but in my bookmarks and do all the cool formating stuff. Somehow in doing all this I accidentally hit the tab in one spot, and that kicked it out of the premium distribution channels but that was an easy fix and the latest version is being uploaded now, and should be ready this evening.

I also found a cool program that lets me preview the (lrf) Sony eReader files so I don't have to wait a week for the preview. Calibre, it lets me read the different types of eBooks on my Mac. The new eReader version looks good, and the Kindle version is okay, it put everything in single line instead of 1.5 and the Kindle doesn't have page breaks so there isn't a space between stories, and it tries to justify everything. I assume that is just the limitations of the Kindle.

If you are wanting to put your books up on Smashwords but Words formating is fighting you here is a method I'm going to call the “Thermonuclear Option” as it is a step above the “Nuclear Option”. If I come up with a stronger one I'll have to get into quantum physics to name it.

Load your book up on to Smashwords. When it is loaded, download the RTF version and unpublish it. Use the downloaded version to redo all your formating. Upload the new version and download all the formats. View them on Calibre to see how they look, make any changes necessary.

This is a long about way to clean up your formating but the results are worth it.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

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