Formatting ebooks

People who choose to self publish their work are faced with the decision to do everything themselves, or to farm some of the work out to people who specialize in one aspect of book production or another, whether that’s editing, cover design, formatting the ebook files, marketing, or any one of a hundred other things.

Some of these things can be done by almost anybody. Formatting the ebook files is the obvious one (if you can find your way around Microsoft’s office software, you can manage this too) yet there are services out there charging as much as $200 to produce the finished ebook files. And as a self publisher that’s a couple of hundred dollars that could be pumped into marketing, or you know, the mortgage.

I see a couple of problems with paying for a service like this. The foremost being what happens if you want to change something post production: try a new cover, update the text, or fix a typo?

With my first book, A God-Blasted Land, I spent many hours formatting the HTML and generating the finished ebook file for kindle, and later tinkering with the .doc file for Smashwords. If I hadn’t already been familiar with HTML and coding I would have wasted many more hours figuring it out, or even turned to an ebook formatting service.

Luckily for me (and you) I discovered Scrivener shortly after publishing A God-Blasted Land (actually, I’d been hearing Mac owning writers sing Scrivener’s praises for years, but didn’t own a mac until recently, and now they have released a windows version too). Scrivener makes formatting ebooks as simple as clicking a couple of buttons, tinkering with some options and hitting ‘compile’. It will compile both mobi and epub formats, and will even let you export your work to a .doc file (important if you plan to publish with Smashwords though you will still need to follow the Smashwords style guide to get the .doc file just right) or plain old PDF, RTF, or HTML.

Scrivener isn’t free software, but as a writer I think it is probably the most useful piece of software I own, and the time it saves me formatting ebooks alone makes the price of the software a worthwhile investment. Plus, you’ll only have to buy the software once, whereas you’d need to pay a formatter for every book you want formatting.

The following video (from the Scrivener team via YouTube) provides a walk through of compiling ebook files. If you’d like to see samples of the finished files, you can check out samples of my books from amazon.com, A God-Blasted Land or d.evolution.

Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X or Windows.

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