Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Formatting For Ebook

As part of our editing process, Starfish have a style guide to help the person converting the finished document to ebook (that's me). I thought you may find it useful as there can be problems formatting documents out there.

It's not designed to impose a house style, just allow the conversion process to flow more smoothly.

(p.s. The software I use is OpenOffice, but the same tips apply to MS Word)


You can have an indent or no indent, it makes no difference to the conversion process. If you are going to have an indent, then use 'format - paragraph'. You will find 'format' at the top of the page among the line of menus (File, Edit, etc). In MS Word this may be different, but you will find it in a similar place.

If you want an indent you will need to adjust the first line indent and select how far (0.5cm is a decent length). DO NOT set the 'before paragraph' or 'after paragraph' to anything other than 0.00cm. All paragraphs, including dialogue, will then follow this standard in your book.

If you prefer to have no indents, then to make the book readable, hit the enter key again to leave a one line space. There is no one standard for ebooks in this regard. There are ebooks with indented paragraphs and ebooks with a space after each paragraph. Choose a style, stick to it and make it yours.

POV Changes/Story Breaks
You can use either a number of blank lines or 3 asterisks (* * *) centred on the page or any version of these you choose. A one line break is usually enough if there are no gaps between your paragraphs, but it's up to the author.

Treat them as you would any other contagious disease. They make life difficult for the conversion software and, by extension, me. If you use the paragraph formatting instructions, you won't need to use them at all.

Page Layout
If you fancy writing your book in landscape, that will make no difference to the conversion process, nor does it matter how big a margin you leave on the outside of the page. These two things are for the word processing program and printing and will be ignored by the conversion software.

Single/Double Spacing
Please send it single spaced. I haven't tried to convert with a book that's double spaced, but I'm willing to give it a go if you are.

Totally up to you, but with a warning that 'serifed' fonts are considered easier to read, and unusual fonts do not convert well. Times New Roman is always good one to use and you can't go wrong with it.

Paragraph justification will translate to the ebook. So pick whether you want right, left or justified. More to the point, who decide to use the word justify to describe this?

New Page
If you want to start a new page, press 'ctrl + enter', or you will end up with blank lines that the conversion process will add to the beginning of your next chapter, as in the two examples below.

Pressing 'ctrl + enter' after the last word leaves no extra lines

Pressing the 'enter' key leaves lines which have to be removed or will be added to the start of your next chapter

This is not the final list, as I'm sure other things will rear their ugly heads over time, but it'll do for now and is based on the things I have had to correct in the three books converted so far.


I hope that helps.  Adieu.


Kelley Lynn said...

Bookmarking this page for sure!

Martin Willoughby said...

Kelley: Glad to be of service.