Welcome back to my series of posts about Marketing Indie books! I’m honored to have you here again.

On January 18th, I talked about how hard and time-consuming creating covers can be. If you haven’t read the post, please, click here. I think you’ll have fun with the exercise I proposed there.

Today I will share my discoveries about – FORMATTING EBOOKS

Do you remember the first part I posted on this subject two days ago? We reflected on how frustrating it sometimes is to see that your beautifully written book looks ugly on somebody’s eReader. Have you felt that frustration as well?

I get it, my friend! You spent countless hours searching for your book. After all, it doesn’t matter if you write fiction or non-fiction – you research information before putting pen to paper. Or cursor to screen, nowadays. You poured your heart and soul into the story. You made sure it was the best story you could have written. You uploaded it to the online stores and crossed your fingers. Readers liked it. They posted positive reviews about it. One day, somebody pointed out the story was great but they couldn’t give your book five starts because there were too many blank spaces in it. The next reviewer stated that they wouldn’t have mentioned problems with the formatting if no one else had done so, because they valued the story; but, since another customer had mentioned it, they would like to say they agreed on that. All of a sudden, you started getting one-star reviews based solely on the formatting issues. Before you knew it, the online store froze sales of your book and sent you a friendly email asking you to fix said issues before they could put your book back on sale at their store. *PANIC*.

Do you think I exaggerated? Do you reckon the story is unlikely to happen? Well, I cannot gauge the frequency of cases like the one I described above, but I know at least one. It didn’t happen to me. A dear friend and fellow author went through this ordeal over Christmas and New Year. He ended up missing a good period of sales for his brilliant, non-fiction book because the major online store where he had published it froze the book’s sales until he fixed the formatting issues. Namely – a few words that weren’t properly separated on the final ebook file and extra spaces between paragraphs that ‘hindered the readers optimum reading experience’. Bottom line is – we never know when an apparently small issue will amount to a huge one.

Furthermore, I believe delivering the best quality product possible is the minimum a supplier should do. In the business of publishing books, writers are the suppliers. Ergo (don’t you love this word – ‘ergo’? I do!) we must do our best to offer our readers a good-looking, easy-to-navigate eBook for their enjoyment. The important question is – is formatting eBooks a difficult task?

Well… yes and no.

It took me a while to figure out how to do it. I wasted a lot of time downloading apps, reading their instructions, and proceeding to create eBooks that looked awful. You see, it turned out I was doing things the other way around. I wrote my texts on Word® documents first and used apps to convert them into eBooks before uploading them to the online stores. Or I uploaded the .doc files directly to the stores automated converters. In both cases, I would set up the fonts, margins, headings on those Word® documents as I pleased. I didn’t know I needed to set the files in a specific way before converting them.

Almost by accident I stumbled on a comprehensive guide on formatting Ebooks called ‘Building Your Book for Kindle’. I downloaded it free of charge at the ‘Help’ section on my KDP Account Dashboard. It is a step-by-step text with screenshots to guide you through the whole process – from setting up your .doc file to uploading it to the automated converter on Amazon KDP. Once I created a compatible file, I used it as template for the following ones.

Although most of my titles are published exclusively on Amazon, I have a handful of books published elsewhere. Smashwords also offer good guides to formatting and publishing on their store. If you want to sell your books on Barnes & Noble and Apple, I recommend Draft2Digital. They offer excellent service for free, and attractive royalties plans.

To quote Bugs Bunny: ‘That’s all, folks!’ Come back next week for Part 4. I’ll talk about the ancient question – ‘to turn or not to turn’ your eBook into a printed book.

See you then!

Liz Gavin

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