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Quick Guide to Preparing Your Manuscript for eBook Conversion

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GetFileAttachmentBy Doris Booth –

[Originally published at Authorlink. Used with permission.]

The key to producing a quality eBook is to properly prepare your manuscript before it goes into the ebook conversion process. A little forethought can make the complex experience go more smoothly.

Here are five quick tips to get you started.

1. Microsoft Word is the friedliest (most compliant) software program to use when creating your manuscript, though like PDF are acceptable. Adobe InDesign offers a lot of whistles and bells, but the truth is few, if any, tablets, smart phones and other reading devices can’t handle all those whistles and bells, which means they can’t properly display your book the way you so carefully planned. Your hard work potentially can either disappear or look really weird in the final product.The best practice is to think simple.

2. If you want to distribute your book to the greatest number of sales outlets and reading devices, stick to the basics of layout. Familiar fonts, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Courier and a few others are the best choices because most e-reading devices can display them correctly. When a fancy type has been used in a converted book, and the device dosen’t know how to display the font, it will replace the type with something it recognizes–sometimes delivering disappointing results. In other words, the best practice is to design for what most devices can understand and process.

3. Choose at least 12 point type. Remember, your book will be displayed on a screen that’s much smaller than your computer screen. To get a rough idea of how the book might look, reduce your “view” in MS Word to about 75%, then return to a normal view before sending your document for conversion.

4. Best practice is to use “ragged right” justification for your paragraphs. Fully justified paragraphs can cause unintended breaks in words when the book is converted.

5. Generally speaking, there are two main formats for eBooks–reflowable or fixed. Most books, especially novels, can be converted in a simple “reflowable” format. That means the text moves wherever it finds room to go, flowing naturally from one screen to the next depending on each device’s screen size, resoluton, functionality and user settings. A reflowable book will not appear exactly the same from one device to another. For example, your book may appear one way on a Nook, and another way on an Apple device, unliess the file is optimized for each device. The newer fixed formats do a better–though not perfect– job of keeping everything you designed pretty much the way you intended. The difference between the two formats lies in the programming code underneath the hood–the stuff the user never sees. There are at least two big drawbacks with fixed formats. They cost more to produce, and they depend on newer technology. Thus, very few devices can correctly read a fixed-format book. The best practice is to decide up front which specific devices you want to target, such as Kindle Fire, or Kindle for IOS (tablets and phones) or Nook, and have your conversion house process the book for that device–especially if you have a lot of photos included in the book.

Doris BoothAbout the author: Doris Booth is editor-and-chief and founder of Authorlink.com, a news, information and marketing site for editors, agents, writers and readers. Authorlink’s Digital Publishing unit offer design, conversion and distribution of eBooks for individual authors and small presses. An experienced leader in print-on- demand and eBook publishing, Booth personally coaches clients through the often baffling digital process. The company turns out hundreds of quality eBooks and print books every year, and is an approved vendor for Nook Kids (EPIB), iBooks, Kindle, Sony, Kobo and others.

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