For Fear of Formatting

Today’s the day I’ve been dreading for almost a week – the day I tame the beast known as formatting.

I spent a good deal of the morning avoiding the task at all costs. There were plenty of chocolate milk breaks, two walks/waddles with the pup – I even got three loads of laundry done and five episodes in of Parks and Rec before I decided procrastination time needed to end. I opened my manuscript in word and proceeded to waste another thirty minutes just staring at it, waiting for it to magically convert itself into ePub or mobi.

Sadly that didn’t happen.

In the end, I decided to just wing it and upload the whole shebang as it was. I wanted to see how much of a mess I had on my hands. It was with great trepidation that I hit that little “preview” button, and much to my surprise it wasn’t that bad. The only issue? Indents. The bane of my existence. It took my husband all of ten minutes to resolve the issue. Ten minutes. The third attempt at uploading my .docx manuscript and voila, perfection.

Wait a second – clearly I’m doing something wrong. I’ve read through so many headaches concerning formatting that I was fully prepared to outsource the work to someone else. I even put up a job listing on Elance; I was that ready to not even try. But as far as I can tell, it’s not even near the realm of necessary. Hey, maybe I just got lucky.

There are only a few things that were important to keep in mind during the whole process:

  • Page breaks: I inserted a page break at the end of every chapter as I was putting the novella together, so it was a non-issue when it came to formatting. Simply click and done. You also need a page break after the title page, copyright page, acknowledgements, etc.
  • Indents: Don’t indent using the tab button. They will be all over the place, and it’s frustrating to have to go back through and delete them all. Save yourself the headache. Pull up the paragraph settings menu under the page layout tab in Word. Under “Indentation” there should be a pull down menu titled “Special.” Select “First line.” Your indentations will automatically be set at .5 inches, but you can adjust them if you want. These indents will convert perfectly. Easy peasy.
  • Keep it simple: This is probably why I encountered so few problems when converting; I was converting mostly just plain text. Some italics here, a few bold face words there, marginally resized title and chapter headings. That’s it. I’d imagine an image heavy or stylish manuscript might be more of a problem.

In the end, I’m grateful I didn’t go running to a freelancer with this one – and that my husband is far more tech savvy than I am. Hopefully I don’t discover in the morning, when the book goes live, that my so-called success was actually a terrible failure. But so far, the water seems pretty calm on this one guys. What about you? What have your experiences been with formatting and ebook conversion?

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