smashwords

eBook formatting-how to get it right the first time

Are you ready to publish your first eBook but are not quite sure how to format it properly? Maybe you already have a few books published and are looking for an easier way to format them. Maybe you realized like me that you have had bad formatting all along…

When I started out, I purchased many books on formatting for Kindle. I read everything I could online about it. I learned all I could so I would get it right. I failed.

Well, fail is a harsh word; I learned. I thought I had it right and in fact it did look good when I previewed my books. However, I started my self publishing with Amazon Kindle like many others have. Before I actually published my books I would do a preview using Amazon’s previewer and things looked good. I published and forgot all about it. Why worry, it looked good.

Fast forward a few years and 13 or so books later. I decided I needed to expand beyond Amazon to get a larger exposure (The jury is still out, stay tuned for an article about my experience) and decided on Smashwords because of the reach of their distribution. Yes, Amazon has most of the book market in the bag but getting your name and books out there for more exposure can’t hurt, right? With Smashwords, your book cannot be included in their premium catalog (ie; Apple store inclusion) unless it passes an EPUB validation. My books files were failing their validation even though they were accepted by Amazon. Some of the books have been on Amazon for years, why were they failing the validation for the formatting at Smashwords and not Amazon?

problems with eBook formatting
Amazon’s previewer did not reveal these errors with my formatting. This is how my book actually displayed on actual eBook readers.

So once again I researched to see what was going on. I found many resources on Smashwords about eBook formatting (You MUST grab the Style Guide) and marketing. Best of all, they are free. More digging around and I found a Microsoft Word document available (again for free) that is set up to use for formatting eBooks. The template was a bit more than I typically need; I write non-fiction and it was more tailored toward fiction. I used the template anyway and submitted my book for validation. It passed with no problems; same book, just a different formatting template.

I decided to try to figure out what was going on with my original formatting of my eBook on Amazon. I downloaded my files from Amazon and took a good hard look. What I learned was that some were indeed not displaying correctly when viewed on a Kindle or other device. Amazon was allowing my improperly formatted books to be accepted and sold. Think about that; anyone who purchased my book would have a hard time reading it. What are the chances they would buy another? Slim to none!

I started to frantically redo all my books I had on Amazon with the new formatting template. Not only did I redo the formatting, I added links to my personal websites, Facebook profile, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. I also listed other titles of my books so the reader would be aware of them.

The lesson I have learned through all this is that even though I did a ton of research beforehand, my books were still not formatted correctly when viewed on various devices. I am sure I have lost sales and more importantly, readers. Readers that may never look at another one of my books because of the bad experience they had.

To help you get started on the right track, grab a free copy of my eBook What I have learned writing and publishing Kindle books or get a copy of my eBook Formatting Tips. Most of the information in them has been hard earned. Learn about tables of contents, picture sizes, tabs, bookmarks, tables, lists, and more! Formatting is covered as well as information about covers for your eBook.

What has been your experience publishing eBooks?