Today’s Writing Tip

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If your book is fiction, the print version can do without a table of contents. Since it’s more difficult to find your way around an ebook, however, a table of contents is not only helpful but required by some ebook distributors.

Generating it through Microsoft Word, however, is not going to work properly. Per the Smashwords Style Guide, you should bookmark each chapter heading, which is then connected via hyperlink to the table of contents. This works nicely for the Kindle version as well.

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Today’s Writing Tip

alphabets-2306479_1280 copyFormatting an ebook boxed set requires attention to detail. When you create the bookmarks for each chapter (which will be used to generate the table of contents) they must have unique names or it will crash. Each book needs its own set which operates independently, wherever the reader happens to be in the ebook. This can get tricky, but worth it so the final result works properly and gives a professional impression. If you can’t figure it out, then hire someone who can.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Give your book a professional appearance by formatting it properly, whether for an ebook or print version. If you don’t want to bother doing this, hire someone to do it for you. Proper formatting contributes significantly to your story’s readability.

Improper or sloppy formatting is distracting and pulls the reader out of the story, a big author no-no. Proper formatting should be virtually invisible to the reader, allowing him or her to be entirely immersed in the story.

The Importance of Formatting

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Typos, grammar and such are an amazingly common complaint in reviews, something which many indy authors encounter at some point. However, there’s another issue that can get you a bad rapp (or rep, as the case may be) that you may not even be aware of–formatting.

The guidelines for a printed book with an interior that looks professionally done are substantially different than those for an ebook. Considering how there’s a good chance most of your readers are going to opt for the electronic version, it’s in your best interest to make sure that it looks professional as well, not like an afterthought.

I suspect that numerous indy authors, after getting their book set up on Create Space, simply hit that button on the last screen to publish their book in Kindle format. This is all well and good, but don’t trust that automated process to produce an electronic version that looks anything like the printed one. At the very least, check it yourself, especially if your printed version has dropped caps at the beginning of each chapter.

The first thing you need to do is save a second copy of your book to use for the electronic version prior to formatting it for print. Then you can add headers, footers, chapter headings, dropped caps and so forth to the printed version without introducing potential corruption into the electronic version. If you’ve already done the formatting, then obviously when you save that second copy it will be to remove such things. typewriterEither way, it’s a lot easier than the old days, when authors wrote on a device like the one shown to the right. Those of you who haven’t had that experience don’t even want to know what it was like handling simple revisions that changed the pagination. Gives me a panic attack just thinking about it.

If you want to produce a professionally formatted ebook, the best guide for doing so is the Smashwords Style Guide, which you can download for free from their website here.

Even if you don’t use Smashwords’ service (perhaps because you’ve opted into Kindle Unlimited, which requires giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your work), the instructions will enable you to format a clean version that won’t aggravate readers enough to blast you with a bad review. It takes a little extra work, but it’s worth it.

Writing a book entails a lot of hard work, but that’s just the beginning. If you want it to be well-received by readers, it also needs to provide a comfortable reading experience. It’s not difficult to do and will be worth it. If it’s not something you care to tackle, then check into some of the services that will do so for a reasonable price, such as Fiverr.com.

Showing respect and appreciation to your audience starts with clean copy. Getting yanked out of a story by errors of any type, whether they’re typos, incorrect spelling, punctuation problems or formatting in nature, is not only distracting, but annoying. Some readers are more forgiving than others in overlooking such things, but sure as death and taxes, sooner or later, a reviewer will say so.

After all the time, sweat and blood you’ve put into your story, don’t let its message be diluted or even lost due to careless formatting. Take care of your readers and they’ll take care of you.