Tuesday, 20 September 2011

My Kindle Ebook Keeps Showing Formatting Errors

You may have completed your enovel, uploaded it onto Amazon or Smashwords, and yet formatting errors appear out of nowhere. How does the writer rid of invisible ebook bugs for good? Here is a step by step guide, with images to help ewriters get to grips with formatting the ebook.
How Not to Upload a Kindle Ebook

I have encountered all sorts of bugs and formatting problems during my epublishing experience. Firstly, here is a list of what not to include in your ebook.
  • Tables.
  • Bullet points.
  • Indents using the tab bar.
  • Fancy fonts.
  • Page numbers.
  • Fancy graphics
Step by Step Demonstration on Debugging your Kindle Ebook.

Once you have completed your (perfect) novel minus the elements just mentioned, save a copy before debugging in case things go wrong on the original file. Purge the copy file of your novel by selecting all (ctrl + A) and then copying it into Notepad. Notepad can be found under ‘accessories’ after clicking ‘all programmes on the bottom right of your screen. Notepad will strip the file into the barest elements, getting rid of hidden tables and codes you don’t realise are there.

Select all again and then copy into a new Word document (not XML as this more modern version of Word is not supported by some epub viewers, but Word 1997-2003) This can be found by clicking on the graphic on the top left and then ‘save as.’ Paste the file onto this Word file.

Now select ‘change styles, as can be seen on the screenshot. This is not the same as ‘save as,’, as the style of the document is being changed, not the file type. I have found that using the style of ‘Word 2003’ causes my paragraphs to misbehave in previewers, so I use the style of ‘Word 2007 (remember, this is not altering the file type, only the look of the document.)

Next, get rid of hidden codes, such as superfluous spaces. Hidden codes can be made visible by pressing the ‘show/hide’ icon at the top of the Word screen. Back space superfluous spaces and tabs and never keep spacing to the bottom of the page to get a page break. Allow one line at the end of each chapter and then insert a page break in the proper way.

The Perfect Format for Ebooks

Select all again and then select ‘normal’ formatting as shown on the screenshot. This will ensure fonts will not change size erratically on the kindle previewer. The book’s fonts and spaces etc, will change. Select all and change the whole book to a commonly-used font and size (I use point 12, Times New Roman). Select ‘page layout’ and select 0pt before and after paragraphs.

See screenshot below to see how to indent all paragraphs by 0.3pt, usual for fiction books. Some fine tuning will obviously be necessary to ensure the book reaches the desired look.

Formatting Ebooks Made Simple

A more in depth guide to formatting Ebooks can be found in Mark Coker’s excellent book, ‘Smashwords Style Guide’ which is free. It is very detailed and requires a little taking in, but once read from cover to cover, your kindle Ebooks will format as required and minus the headaches.

See my other article which explains how files become corrupted if using the wrong Word document.

Once formatting errors have been eradicated, you can convert your book into the desired format (Epub or Mobi) by using Callibre, a free software that is great for book conversion.

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