Struggling to format your eBook for Amazon or Smashwords?

Frustration
Frustration | Source

This article describes the frustration that can be experienced from trying to format an eBook prior to uploading it, only to find that even when you thought you had got it right, you hadn't. Both Amazon and Smashwords require different formatting methods, and these can cause no end of frustration and wasted hours to someone unfamiliar with the formatting process.

Publishing an eBook is a great idea if you are keen to see your writing actually on sale so that you can generate a decent income from it. Let's assume you have written what you hope will be a best seller. You have spent many hours slaving away over a keyboard until you completed your masterpiece. Then began the proof reading process, which took another few days as you read, corrected, re-read and further corrected, got a friend or family member to read and point out further corrections that you then made etc.Once you have got to this stage you are completely happy with the finished result you then have to convert this document to the Amazon and/or Smashwords format in order to upload it, and this brings on a whole new level of stress.

This is a problem I was faced with about a year ago now. In my case the eBooks were not mine, they were my Step Father's formerly in print books. Bearing in mind James (my Stepfather) is in his late seventies now, computers are still rather an alien concept to him, so converting his books into eBooks was not even on the radar in terms of his abilities which is why I offered to help out. I managed to get the Microsoft Works files for one of the books, but the second file had been lost, so I had to literally scan each page of the book using text recognition software and then not only save the file, but proofread it for text recognition errors and convert it back to being one long document. After this I had to convert both documents into Word.doc files, as neither Amazon or Smashwords like to have the files in the Word.docx format. After this my real problems began, and after taking a look at the formatting requirements for both Amazon and Smashwords I realised that I was well out of my comfort zone.

Admittedly I did spend some hours reading through the guides both sites provided, which explained what they needed in terms of the layout and format of the documents in order for a successful upload. It seemed the more I read the instructions the more confused I became. I realised that either James or I had already probably committed a few significant mistakes such as using the space bar more than three times in a row to create indents, or using the return key to move blocks of text down a page instead of using page breaks. In fact any formatting we had done in Microsoft Word now needed to be stripped out completely, and I had no idea how to do this, much less do it for two books.

It was then I recalled having read a forum thread on Hubpages. It had been started by a grateful Hubber who was thanking another Hubber known as Sandy Spider for her help in getting his eBook correctly formatted so that he could get it published. I decided to contact her myself and see if she could help out or quote her fees for doing the formatting for me. James was happy to pay a sensible fee for such a service, and it was obviously going to be a lot cheaper than re-publishing his books in a printed version.

I emailed Sandy and explained our predicament with the books and asked how much she charged for her services. She responded promptly and I was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive she actually was. I immediately warmed towards her as she was friendly, upbeat and patient in all of our communications. She certainly saved my sanity and answered the many questions I bombarded her with about what I needed to do to upload the completed files to the relevant sites etc. Apart from anything else she was quick, and I mean really quick. Both the books were completed and the Amazon and Smashwords files for each were emailed back to me within a few days. She had even managed to include the maps (that were a feature in one of the books) at the end of the Amazon version so that people using a Kindle would be able to see them. She had successfully included the cover picture in the Amazon PRC upload file, and had appropriately adjusted the image to be uploaded for the Smashwords version (the cover is uploaded separately on Smashwords). We were fortunate that we already had cover designs for the books, but if we hadn't, Sandy had also offered a cover design service. In fact she also offered a proof reading service, but at the time we knew the books should be okay because both had previously been in print through a publisher. All in all she was a real 'One Stop Shop'.

More frustration
More frustration | Source

The uploading process was now easy, and went very smoothly. We sent Sandy her payment via Paypal, and were extremely satisfied with her customer service and the quality of her work. In fact by now I thought of Sandy more of a friend than a business acquaintance.

Meanwhile James was busy writing a third book, and it wasn't long before we utilised Sandy's services again to get this eBook formatted and published. Again the procedure went without a hitch and we were delighted.

Again some time passed, and as a surprise for James I decided to get all three of his books into print by using Createspace. St Elmo's Fire (his most recent book), had never been in print before, and I know it had been a dream of James' to actually have hard copies of this book in the way he had of the other two when they had been in print. The two that were no longer in print 'Rough Sea Justice' and 'Bailiwick Gold', would benefit him by being in print again, only this time James would get a better profit margin than he had from his original publisher Pegasus. I spent some time on the Createspace website and after jumping through a few relatively easy hoops, I managed to get all three books uploaded, although in two cases I had to slightly redesign the cover pictures due to not having large enough files on my computer for a full sized book cover. This done I order a proof copy of each book to surprise James with.

The proof copies duly arrived, and I presented them to James for him to check over. He was delighted and promised he would go through them carefully. Little did I know that he was going to come back to me with a load of errors he had never realised he had missed in the original documents, and apparently even the Pegasus proof readers had missed some basic errors like missing speech marks, or different styles of speech marks appearing in different locations. With St Elmo's Fire James had found a number of mistakes, and to cut a long story short I had to go back and edit the documents correcting the errors. In order to do this I had to open all three documents on my screen (Createspace, Amazon and Smashwords) for each book, one book at a time, and make each edit to all three formats. As I had somehow lost the original document for the Amazon version of Rough Sea Justice, Sandy advised me to use the Smashwords version and simply change the introductory text and insert page breaks where relevant. Each error had to be corrected three times, once in in each document, and as I went along I kept finding more punctuation etc that even James had missed. The process took ages, at least two days per book, and at the end I was totally exhausted and had effectively read Rough Sea Justice and St Elmo's Fire at least six times (I am still waiting for Bailiwick Gold). I thought the new uploads would be easy now... wrong!

Well in fairness I suppose I should say that for St Elmo's Fire it went smoothly, and I relaxed thinking Rough Sea Justice would no doubt be equally easy. The trouble was that whilst correcting the mistakes I had also had to change the layout of the Rough Sea Justice Amazon copy, as if you remember, I was using the Smashwords file and adapting it. This is where I made some pretty bad mistakes, such as using the enter key to create page breaks, the space bar to replace indents and as per a request from James I had moved the maps to the beginning of the book. When I tried to upload the Amazon version it was immediately rejected, and as I had no idea how to undo all the mistakes I had made I panicked. Frantically I emailed Sandy and sent her a copy of the offending document to see if she could advise me how to fix it. Again she quickly responded, but I immediately realised to repair the mistakes was going to take me hours and hours, and that was if I could work out how to do things like undoing the use of the enter key to create the page breaks, and then correctly replacing the page breaks using the 'page break' feature in Word. I resorted to asking Sandy to do it for me as the task was just too daunting after all the hours I had already thrown at it.

Again Sandy came through for us, and she had the document fixed by the following day ready for me to upload it again with all the corrections in place. To be honest for the prices Sandy charges I feel it is well worth paying her to format your eBooks as opposed to going through the learning curve yourself.

If you are struggling to format your own eBooks to comply with either the requirements of Amazon or Smashwords, or you simply want a cover designed or some proof reading done, I strongly recommend you contact Sandy directly. She can be reached through the following email address:

sandyswebnetwork@gmail.com

or through her profile on Hubpages

http://sandyspider.hubpages.com/

I am sure once you have tried her services for one project you will never want to use anyone else.

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Comments 12 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Very interesting hub Misty. I am currently trying to compose an ebook or print book of poetry but it is daunting. I have joined both Amazon and Lulu, but as you found, the correct formatting is scary. Maybe when I've fnished compiling it I'll contact Sandy. Thanks for the info.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Jodah, for eBooks I definitely think Amazon is the way to go, plus you can also easily use 'Createspace' to put your book into print free of charge (this is also a part of Amazon).


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Ok thanks Misty, you are the 2nd person that has told me Amazon is best.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 2 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

Thanks for the the write here.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Any time Sandy, you have been fabulous in the past :)


David Trujillo profile image

David Trujillo 2 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

That is great info that I was looking for.

I may pay Sandy a call in the future


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

She is really very helpful David, so I would recommend that you do.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 2 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

Please do David.


Alan 2 years ago

Seems quite a complex process writing a book for Kindle Cindy, just been reading your post and about Kindles in general from Amazon, they seem very strict on how they are written, even deleting some stories off. I sometimes see mainly women reading from a Kindle on the bus when they are going to work. The Kindle DX Graphite from Amazon seems quite a good buy to have, however I think I will just keep reading your excellent posts here on Hub Pages than go out and buy a Kindle.

Regards

Alan


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Lol, thanks Alan, glad you enjoy my writing. Yes Amazon are strict about quality more thesedays, and will remove books that are badly written or on banned topics.

Regards

Cindy


DebMartin 19 months ago

Thanks for the direct connect to Sandy. I'll be contacting her soon. ;-)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 19 months ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

No problem. Glad to be of help.

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