Formatting the E-book: Just Shoot Me Now

I had been warned. Michelle Argyle had already told me in no uncertain terms that formatting an e-book is a royal pain in the nether regions. She has just completed the same arduous task on her book when I happened to mention off-handedly that I was starting the process on my own book. She put up her virtual hand on Facebook chat and told me it would be harder than I thought. Yeah, right. Whatever.

Little did I realize the firestorm I’d just created in passing. Here  I was thinking the e-book would be the easy part. I’d already done the hard part with the print version. How could it be hard? After all, it’s just a simple conversion of a Word document or PDF, right?

Silly me.

My first clue should have been when I discovered that Amazon put out an entire e-book (free, fortunately) about how to create e-books. So I dutifully downloaded it to the Kindle app on my phone and dove right in. Being impatient, this didn’t last long. I was bored with reading the minutia and decided I was smart enough to just log onto the Kindle publishing site and do it myself. After all, I was sure they’d have easy to follow instructions. A monkey can do this, right?

Silly me, again.

The first thing I had to do was read all the instructions from top to bottom on Amazon’s site. Remember the part above about being impatient? It was agony. My fault, not Amazon’s. Their instructions were perfectly clear and very useful. I just didn’t want to read them all. I guess I’m a victim of the get-it-quick information age where we just want a 3-second synopsis of everything, requiring no real brain power. Anyway, I managed to drag myself all the way to the bottom of the page, while clicking back over to the Word document to see if I needed to do any of the things they suggested. I did. In fact, I had to completely reformat the entire document.

One thing about computers is they are way too detailed oriented. And they find stuff you try so hard to hide. For instance, the Word file had my mark-ups from all the editing — all of which showed up in bright red ink in my first attempt at the e-book conversion. But I didn’t realize that until after I’d run the entire document through Amazon’s e-book converter software I had downloaded (also free) from the Kindle publishing site.

Curse words! I double checked to make sure I had turned the mark-up option off before I converted the file. I had. Now what?

Ah ha! I know! I’ll copy and paste the whole thing into a new document. That’ll show it! Successfully pasted, I converted it again.

One more time, silly me. The rash of nasty red marks still appeared.

Then I remembered a trick. Pay attention, all you authors out there, or anybody else who uses Word on a regular basis. Ever used the Paste Special function? It’s under the Edit tab. Paste Special allows you to paste the text verbatim but leave off all the formatting, thus eliminating all the bold, underline, etc. But would it ditch the mark ups, too? Sure would be nice.

With fear and trepidation, I pasted special and ran the document once more through the converter program. And held my breath. Well, not really. In fact, I think I actually took a sip of coffee, but that’s not important to the story, aside from the fact that caffeine was probably not helping anything.

Anyway, with much apprehension, I opened the converted file in the Kindle app (again, free) on my computer and…success! It had converted perfectly like it was supposed to. Now all I had to do was upload it to Amazon, and then Barnes & Noble, and then Smashwords, and then…which is how I spent last evening.


But it’s over now. All the sites now have their e-book files, ready for you to order. Bon appetite!


4 thoughts on “Formatting the E-book: Just Shoot Me Now

  1. *Walks away, whistling*

    I did offer to help, but I figure if you’re going to do this for future books, better learn now, eh? Oh, what fun! The joys of formatting. And it doesn’t seem to be any more fun the more you do it. Try formatting an anthology with submissions from lots of different people in all different formats. THAT’S fun. Yeah.

    1. You’re soooo hilarious. Not. Yeah, it was a barrel of monkeys. [Note to self: never, NEVER, compile an anthology.] At least now I know what to do in my book formatting to make the e-format easier for future books. Maybe by the fourth book…

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