My new best friends for formatting e-books

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So today, I finally got around to converting Diary of a Penguin-napper into a suitable format to upload to both Smashwords and Amazon (for them to then turn into an e-book).  I have to say going through the conversion process has been something that I have been avoiding because:

  • From what I’d read, it sounded like it was going to be very hard.
  • There are words like ‘Meatgrinder’ involved.
  • My book has about 30 pictures in it, which I had been led to believe were going to cause me a whole world of e-book formatting pain.

And yet, it is something that had to happen so that the zillions of people with Kindles, Kobos, Sony Readers, iPads, etc etc etc can enjoy my book too.  Not to mention the affordability factor that comes with the e-book format rather than POD paperbacks.

Anyway, this morning, I decided that today was the day to stop avoiding it and just do it.

In total, it took me approximately 3 and a half hours to go from paperback formatting to a Word document that could then happily be converted by the Smashwords Meatgrinder into ePub (and about 7 other formats) and for Amazon KDP to convert it for Kindle.

It would have taken me significantly longer, however, if I hadn’t had my two new best friends to help:undefined

1. Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed 2.0
If you have read any of my other posts, you will know that Catherine’s Self-Printed is pretty much my bible when it come to all things self-publishing.  The e-book formatting section is pretty much foolproof as long as you follow Catherine’s step-by-step instructions, including starting with a large coffee and the parts where she anticipates the ridiculous things you really reeeeeally want to do along the way but shouldn’t.  Her humour stopped me from pulling my hair out at several points along the way this morning.

2. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide
If you want your book to survive the Meatgrinder and not to be turned “into hamburger” you really should take a look at this free e-book before you get started.  It is extremely detailed and contains a lot of screen shots to support the information.  I found some aspects a bit tricky because Word on my Mac is a bit different to the version in the screenshots, but between Catherine’s book and this one, I managed to get all problems resolved.

And what problems did I encounter?  Well, I decided that I would take on Smashwords first because they also do Kindle formatting, so I figured that if I could get past the Kindle formatting checkbox on the Meatgrinder, then my book would format ok when I uploaded it to Amazon KDP.  There were two issues that were picked up by Smashwords in the formatting process:

(a) I chose the wrong e-book cover file to upload and ended up with one that too low resolution to be included in the Premium Catalogue.  I eventually worked out how to upload the new cover and my title is now being considered for the Premium Catalogue (which is what I wanted for greater distribution opportunities).

(b) Due to the number of pictures in my interior, the entire interior file ended up being too large.  This was a bit of a hassle, but I eventually rectified this by opening the pictures in Photoshop and changing their DPI from 300 down to 96 (which is the DPI recommended as being ok by the Smashwords Style Guide).  I only had to change about half of them to get my file size down to under 5MB.

Once I’d fixed those two issues, there didn’t seem to be a problem uploading my Kindle version to Amazon KDP (Well, so far, anyway!)  Fingers crossed, it will all be uploaded converted and sorted ready for the launch of Diary of a Penguin-napper on November 15! (Eeek! So close!)

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