Thursday, 31 January 2013

Creating Your Ebook the Right Way: Part 2

In the previous part of this series, we collected together all of the material we are going to use in our ebook and figured out all of the different types of formatting we were going to need.

Now, we're going to utterly destroy it.

The Patented, Double-Nuke Destruction

The thing is, Microsoft Word (and other similar word-processing programmes) fill your document with vast amounts of crud. You probably aren't noticing, because it's hidden from plain view, but it's there, and if you don't get rid of it, your ebook is going to be a mess.

So, we're going to get rid of it. Violently and permanently. And we're going to get rid of all of our formatting at the same time.

Then we're going to put the formatting back in properly.

Unfortunately, we're going to end up repeating our actions a few times in this process. That's because we're going to be producing both a Word document that can be used for Smashwords (and Amazon, and a PDF) as well as the mobi and epub versions. If you've decided only to create the mobi and epub versions, some of this will be redundant. It should be fairly easy to figure out which bits those are.

Okay, if you're a Microsoft Word genius, you might already have done all the formatting perfectly. If so, good for you. Otherwise, for those of us who are fallible mortals, let's go...

Actually, wait! Let's not go just yet.

See, if you're like me, your manuscript is full of italics. We writers do love our italics. And we've probably got a few bolds as well. When we fireball the formatting, we're going to lose all of those. And who wants to go through the whole manuscript putting every single italic back in?

So, let's be smart about this.

Being Smart About This

We might have to lose our italics and bolds, but we can put in placeholders to show where they should be, and then automatically reinsert the italics and bolds afterwards.

The problem with this is that we are going to end up putting those placeholders around our headings too. And we don't want to do that. We're going to format our headings in a different way.

So, before we even put in our placeholders, we're going to clear all the formatting of the headings. Luckily, Word makes it easy for us to do this.

Click anywhere on a heading. Then use the dropdown menu shown and select 'Clear Formatting'.

Note: I'm using Word 2004 (on a Mac), because this is my preferred version. I think it's easier than more recent versions. Different versions of Word may have the functionality we're using in different places. However all the things I'm going to do should be possible on any recent version of Word. You may have to go digging around menus or the help section to find them, though.

Once you've selected 'Clear Formatting', your heading should now be formatted in exactly the same way as standard text ('Normal'). Do the same for all other headings in the document. (Make sure you do it for all the headings in the supplemental material, as well as the story.)

Done that?


Now let's go through and deal with those italics and bolds.

First up, the italics.

In your version of Word, go to "Replace...". On my ancient version, that's in the 'Edit' menu. You can also get to it on a Mac by this shortcut: Shift + Command + H (I assume on a PC you would use Shift + Ctrl + H, but I haven't used a PC for a few years now).

In the 'Find' box you need to select 'Italic' for format. On my version, you click on the down arrow, then select Format.

Then choose Font from the 'Format' dropdown menu, click on 'Italic' and 'OK'. Your version of Word, again, may vary in exact details.

This gives you:

In the 'Replace' box you need to select 'Not Italic' for the Format (same process as above) and type in the following: <em>^&</em>

Then click 'Replace All'.

What you've told Word to do is find everything that is in italic, take that content (denoted by ^&), wrap it between <em> and </em>, and then remove the italic formatting. (The <em> and </em> are the HTML way of denoting italic; you can choose whatever you like, as long as it's not something that actually occurs in the text).

For example, if your original document had the following:

This is in italics.

It should now look like:

<em>This is in italics.</em>

In the document now.

You have removed all the italics from your text, but you know exactly where they will go for later use.

Fantastic. Now you are going to do exactly the same with bold.

In this case, select Format: Bold in the Find Box and Format: Not Bold in the Replace box. (You may have to clear the previous italic and not italic formatting in these boxes. You should have a 'No Formatting' button in Find and Replace that does this.) In the Replace box type exactly this: <strong>^&</strong>

(Again, <strong> is the way you represent bold in HTML. More on HTML later; it's not that hard, and I'll explain these tags we've used.)

Now we're ready to clear the formatting from the whole document.

Nuke Number 1

Select all the text in the document (Command + A on a Mac; Ctrl + A on a PC) and choose 'Clear Formatting' from the dropdown menu, just as you did for the headings.

Everything should now be in basic text formatting.

That should be enough, right?

Well, not quite. There could still be crud lurking around.

Nuke Number 2

Select everything again. This time, copy it.

We're going to paste everything into a plain text editor.

Plain text editors include:

  • Notepad (On your PC already ... hopefully)
  • TextEdit (On your Mac already ... hopefully)
  • TextWrangler (Free; Mac only)
  • TextMate (Free trial period; Mac only)
  • Sublime Text (Free trial period; PC, Mac or Linux)
  • Any other basic HTML editor

And so on. Don't use any text editor with formatting facilities. For example, WordPad would be completely unsuitable.

Notepad is ideal for this, but we will be using either TextMate or Sublime Text later on in this series, so you may want to consider getting one of those at some point.

So, paste everything you copied from Word into a new document in one of those text editors and save it as a .txt file (e.g., 'my-book.txt').

Right. That's enough for today. Next time, we'll put the text back into Word and do some cleaning up of this text so that we can get it properly formatted for Smashwords or Amazon upload.

See you then!

Part 3 is now available: read part 3 here.

(Note: if you are interested in hiring me for ebook cover design or ebook formatting, you can see samples of my work here: and see details (including cost) of my services here:

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