Formatting Frustrations (**UPDATED**)

Spent the majority of today, on and off again, compiling the novel into an ebook. The process went something like:

  • create new Word file from the text
  • define styles for paragraphs, chapter titles, and scene breaks and apply them to all the right places
  • add first line treatments to the beginning of every chapter and scene after a break
  • add front images – “back cover” description and title page
  • replace all the chapter headers with the images for each one
  • add all the extra publishing hoopla – dedication, author’s note, copyright statement
  • create linked table of contents
  • save as an .html file
  • edit the code to define the image sizes at 100% for the full-screen pages (description and title page) and 60% for the chapter headers
  • preview with Mobi pocket creator and upload same sourcefile to Amazon
  • convert to .epub file with Calibre to upload to Smashwords

A few things went wrong.

First, drop caps don’t covert from Word to .html, so I lost those immediately (*so I thought…they were not in my Mobi-created file, but they were in my Amazon-created file and in the .epub as all-caps). I pretty much said screw it, I’m not worrying about first line treatments since I got all fancy with graphics for chapter headers.

Second, the .epub file got kicked back to me from Smashwords as having a whole list of problems. I don’t sell enough copies via their retailers to spend time fixing the extra-pretty file for them. I don’t know how to be sure the chapter graphics stay the size I want (AKA not more than 1/3 of the screen height so there is at least some text on the same page) so I am going to revert to the file that just has the chapter header style applied, not the graphics. Won’t be as pretty but it will go through the Meatgrinder that way and get to all distribution channels, not just the ones that use .epub.

Third, the Amazon-generated file went wonky on both the graphics and the line spacing. I was sloppy and ignored the previewer looking funny, since the .html file that I used rendered perfectly with the Mobi creator. Sigh. The ebook did not render properly via their converter. As far as the graphics go, this is probably because I needed to upload the .zip file that would actually containt, you know, the pictures in it, not the .html file (at least according to a K-boards thread).  I don’t know how the line spacing got off, either, adding that annoying extra space between paragraphs that don’t have a hard return between them. That I am still looking into how to fix while I wait for my file to go “live” (yikes!) so I can actually reload it. That’s the thing I hate most about Amazon’s publication dashboard, that if something is in between published and live, you can’t change it. At least with Smashwords I could correct the problem tonight…if I wasn’t so fed up with all this that I’m about ready to punch walls.

Trying to level up is so much harder than trying for mere basic competence.

Nothing else to do tonight but have a drink.



Last night, after all, I revised the .doc file and ran it through the Smashwords converter, and it seemed to render fine. Not auto-approved for their extended distribution because of where I placed my copyright statement (at the back instead of at the front) but I’m not worried about that – either a human being will find it upon review, or their customer service will respond to my question about it and tell me that in order to get expanded distribution, the copyright has to follow the title page in which case…well, I guess I’ll move it. Eventually.

This morning I had the official “your book is live” email so I could finally edit it, well after I was able to buy my test copy and see the errors with dismay. I put a .zip file together of my .html file and the subfolder of items used in it, and that loaded just fine, even if the alignment was wonky on the online previewer. Hopefully it renders accurately. Should be able to find out in an hour or two…it seems like that was all it took for the original version to hit the U.S. store last night. I didn’t do anything with fixing the spaces between the paragraphs on the Kindle edition yet. That’s a fix that might take a little tinkering or re-filtering the .html file (which also means re-editing it for the 28 images) and was thus not on the table for doing in a rush before work just to get a non-broken file in place.

Once I’m assured that the correct file is up I’ll make an official publication announcement. 🙂



Filed under Rants and Storms

5 responses to “Formatting Frustrations (**UPDATED**)

  1. Word has worked for me with very minor problems. I finally save it in a filtered HTML format, then zip the HTML file, drag the photos into it the zipped folder and upload the folder to Amazon. The nice thing about eBooks is that we can constantly improve the format after they have been published. Although I know HTML really well, I don’t mess with it except for very minor tweaks. I don’t really like to mess with things that aren’t broken and word has been doing ok for me. Good luck with your book!!

    • Word generally works for me, as well. The only reason I felt the need to tinker with the .html at all was to define image sizes from a set pixel to a % of screen width. I didn’t want a situation where what looked perfect on my iphone kindle app looked like crap on someone’s ipad, or where the 200-pixels wide chapter header graphic that looked great on my netbook took up an entire page (vs just the top third of a page) when i opened the book on my phone. Otherwise, i let Word convert as it would. The only issue it’s causing is the space between the paragraphs. I *think* I have that fixed, but…well, I’ll know for sure when I can update the effing file. :/

      Thanks for the luck! I feel I could use some right now 🙂

  2. “Trying to level up is so much harder than trying for mere basic competence.”


    I gave up on Word, switched to Scrivener…which has a learning curve of it’s very own. However, I like being able to upload epub files, which I can output from Scrivener without any fuss.

    Smashwords’ Meatgrinder is a bugger. It really lives up to it’s name. However, the majority of my sales come from there, so I have to use Meatgrinder.

    Best Wishes on the publication project!

    • The funny thing about the meatgrinder is that i have no problems running my word docs through it, probably because i know how to strip them/build them appropriately…they just don’t get any of the bells and whistles (which i don’t really know how to do without building my own ebook file). I sell enough copies via their site and expanded distro that i don’t want to do KDP select, but not enough to pull hair over making the file as nice as what’s on my amazon page. As long as the files aren’t broken on SW, i am satisfied with their being on the interesting side of dull instead of actually interesting. 🙂

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