Thursday, October 11, 2018

Dear O'Abby - Do I need to hire a service to format my Kindle book?

Dear O'Abby,

I have recently decided to self-publish my book.  Never having formatted an e-book, I decided to ask some writers in a forum I frequent about it, and several of them recommended I use a service to do it, rather than doing it myself - something about the book losing formatting like bold and italics if I don't know how to write HTML?

Is this true?  Some of these services seem to charge a lot of money for something that looks pretty simple if I am to believe the instructions for creating a Kindle book on Amazon.

Sincerely,

Baffled.

Dear Baffled,

It never ceases to amaze me how much misinformation there is out there in cyberspace, and how many people are willing to perpetuate that misinformation.  It also pains me to see how many people are making a buck preying on misinformed authors.

You don't need to know HTML to format an ebook.  You can do it in Word with some effort, and there are numerous other programs that can help too.  Some of them cost a few dollars, others are free.  If you are trying to do it in Word, I suggest you copy and paste the entire document into a text editor first, to strip out any formatting that is already in there, and then start from scratch in Word.    

Just be aware that there is more than one ebook format and the book you formatted perfectly for Kindle (.mobi file), will not work with other ebook retailers that require .epub files or PDF files.  So you will need to format your book differently for different platforms if you want to sell your book in a variety of places.

It will take time, but so did writing your book.  And it's worth taking that time to ensure you get a professional-looking ebook.  There are few things that drag a reader out of a book faster than inconsistent or kooky-looking formatting.  I've read ebooks where the fonts are different sizes or styles.  I've read books where the paragraphs are formatted inconsistently or in the wrong places.  I've read books where entire sections are in italics for no particular reason.  All these things are a result of careless ebook formatting, and do nothing to recommend your book to readers.

So take your time.  You don't need to pay someone else to do it, but you do need to invest in your book by not rushing through this final, important step to getting it into the hands of readers.

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