When I decided that I was going to publish Welcome to Newtonberg as an eBook, the first thing I did was go through all of my stories to choose which ones I would include. I’ve been saving these stories, written and edited in a number of different word processing programs, for almost twenty years. Notepad gave way to Wordpad, Wordpad gave way to Word in several different versions. Occasionally I used OpenOffice or some other free program that I could install on my USB drive.
During this period, the files have also been saved on a variety of different media. Floppy disks got copied to other floppy disks, which got copied to hard drives, which got posted online, which got backed up to USB drives…
In short? In terms of formatting, my stories were a mess. And apparently it didn’t help matters that I had copied and pasted those stories into Word 2010 to create my final document.
Each word processing program adds its own coding behind the document you see. Sometimes, italics and bold print are done with style sheets, sometimes it’s specific to the particular word or phrase, similar to HTML code. The only way to get rid of it is to take it back down to base level (something SmashWords refers to as the “nuclear method”) by copying and pasting the whole thing into Notepad or another text-only editor to remove all of the formatting. Because I tend to hit the space bar twice when beginning a new sentence, I also had to do a find-and-replace to reduce all of those to one space.
Then you have to set up your new document in Word, define the styles (normal, heading, paragraph indents, etc.), copy and paste your document from Notepad back into Word, then go through your document again, assigning the styles as needed.
Because I knew I was going to have to do all of this, I printed out a copy of the complete book, italics and all before I “nuked” it. Then I went through the manuscript with a highlighter, marking any italicized or bold-faced words. I marked any places where the text was indented or centered. I needed to add a few things to the book. A title page, copyright page, and an “About the Author” section finished out the book. I also took this opportunity to do a final proofread, making a very small number of changes to the text. I incorporated all of these changes as I went through the document to re-format.
I am a creature of habit. As I went through the document, I will admit that it was very hard for me to not simply use CTRL-I to italicize and CTRL-B to boldface. It was also difficult for me to manually assign page breaks and not simply press ENTER until I reached a new blank page. And it was nearly impossible for me to assign titles to the sections of my book using pre-defined header formats than to simply highlight it, center it, and hit CTRL-B.
One of the things that I had to wrap my head around was how different an eBook really is from the printed version. Pages as we know them don’t exist. An eBook is much closer to a Webpage than a printed page. My background in Web design helped immensely. When I started to think of the Table of Contents as hyperlinks rather than an index, it started to make sense to me.
From start to finish, re-formatting the book only took me a few hours, since I had my printed manuscript as a guide. Of course, my manuscript was significantly shorter than most. Single-spaced on normal 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper, it takes up only about 60 pages or so. My printed book, on 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ paper, is just shy of 100 pages. Your formatting time will vary based on the length of your manuscript and how much re-formatting is needed. If your book involves pictures, that will add to the time.
Still, the process itself is relatively painless if you follow the instructions in the Smashwords Style Guide. I cannot stress enough how important this guide is if you want your book to be accepted the first time and be included in their premium catalog.
So, now the book was ready to submit. I logged onto SmashWords and simply filled out the form that was there. I decided to price the eBook at $2.99 since it was just a book of short stories, barely 100 pages in all. If it had been a novel-length work, I’d have priced it higher; but as an eBook reader myself, I know there is no way I personally would pay more than that for such a short book. I attached the cover art and the DOC file containing the actual book and clicked “Submit.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and waited to hear back from SmashWords. I’d never have to re-format this book again, right?
Next: I have an idea — let’s print this thing!