“I tried to upload my file for an e-book, but it isn’t working.” “I’d like to offer a Kindle book, but it’s too complicated.” “I thought I followed all of the instructions, but my e-book looks terrible.”
These are a few of the comments that prompted me to start offering e-editing as part of my services. During the process of formatting my own e-books, I learned there are details that can easily be missed. Even if you’ve never formatted or published an e-book, you can e-edit by looking for common problems.
What To Look For During Editing
Charts, graphs, tables, photos
Images require special handling. Each publisher has specific size, placement, and even file type requirements. Encourage your client to know what is required before adding images. Another problem you can look for is landscape layout of images, charts, or tables. E-readers allow screen rotation from portrait to landscape, but the image won’t change orientation. It will still be “sideways” when the reader turns the device. While image files aren’t hard to include, your client needs to know the requirements and pitfalls.
Footnotes and page numbers
Footnotes need to be endnotes. E-readers give users options for size of fonts. And e-books are one long page, rather than individual pages as in a print version. These characteristics mean there is no way to know exactly where a header or footer will land in the e-reader, which also means page numbers can’t be used.
Mark Coker of Smashwords says, “If it isn’t on the keyboard, it probably won’t work.” Not even simple symbols like the copyright symbol will convert correctly. Other options are needed, such as using the word “copyright.”
Sidebars and pull quotes
Pull quotes and sidebars don’t format well. As an editor you may not see pull quotes, but you’ll see the sidebars. If your client plans to have the additional material in a sidebar, it will need to be handled differently than with print. If the material is integral to the manuscript, then include it in the text. If it’s supplemental, put it in an appendix.
Paragraphs and line spacing
There is a general rules for paragraphs indentation and line spacing.
- Fiction: Indent the paragraphs with no line spacing between paragraphs.
- Non-fiction: No indentation, with the possible exception of the first paragraph of a chapter, and has a line space between paragraphs.
Other little details
- Encourage your client to use standard fonts. E-readers offer choices in font size and style. Standard serif for body text and san serif for chapter heads and sub-heads are recommended.
- Use simple chapter titles. Simple chapter titles make the table of contents easier to create and easier for the reader to get a glimpse of the content.
- Don’t add an index. With the search function of e-readers, an index isn’t necessary.
For more an editor’s e-editing checklist http://practicalinspirations.com/1137-2/
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
You may be asked about using digital rights management. This is a method of protecting a document from being duplicated, and in some cases, from being printed. It also prevents moving from one device to another. This is an issue the writer must decide. For more information on digital rights management http://practicalinspirations.com/1133-2/
If you know that your client is publishing an e-book, you can offer advice that will make it easier to format the book. Your client may only need answers to basic questions, or you may offer these details as part of your comprehensive editing. Whatever the situation, by knowing these few details, you can guide your client to a good product.
Known for practical solutions to real-world situations, Susan K. Stewart is a teacher, writer, and speaker. Susan teaches Steps to Your Homeschool Philosophy, Writing for the Homeschool Market, Creating and Formatting e-Books http://thechristianpen.com/learning-center/2016-e-mail-courses/, and other classes online and at conferences. Susan is the author of three books, including Preschool: At What Cost? Her newest book, Practical Guide: Formatting e-Books for Writers, is due to be released in February. Susan lives in Texas with her husband, Bob, three dogs, three cats, five chickens, and a peacock. The Stewarts have three children and five grandchildren. www.practicalinspirations.com. http://www.practicalinspirations.com