Saturday, 21 January 2012

Make the Most out of the Look Inside Feature of Your Ebook

Few things are more offputting to a potential reader than to view the first pages of your ebook online only to see formatting errors, a messed up table of contents and typos. If your book is well-written, more’s the pity if such issues deter the reader. What is the easiest way of creating a great preview for your novel online?

The Best Preview of an Ebook

Book publishing platforms offer the reader the ability to sample the first part of the ebook free; in Amazon, this is around 10%; with Smashwords, this can be anything up to 20%, which is why it is crucial the writer ensures the opening pages of the novel are perfect in every way. Sadly this means not only a compelling opening that is free of typos, but also free of formatting errors. The self-published author must be a techie as well as a wordsmith.

A Great Story Opener

Making the most of your opening chapters is an involved process, and therefore, I have dedicated separate articles to the matter of novel writing with such issues as:

How to begin your novel.
Improving your writing style.
Turn your passive writing into active writing.
How to tighten your novel.

Cleaning Ebook Formatting Errors

So, the plot, narrative and writing style are fabulous. Now to the separate matter of formatting errors which can be caused by a number of things, which might be:

Inserting a table to format your table of contents. Kindles and other book readers do not like tables and will cause all sorts of horrible formatting errors, not visible on your Word document until you see the preview of your novel on a Kindle or online. So avoid them.

Hidden formatting instructions. Saving your enovel onto Word 2007 (the latest version) can often cause formatting errors. Ensure your novel is saved on the older Word 2003, but before doing so, expunge hidden formatting symbols that could stowaway into the older Word by copying and pasting onto Wordpad. Wordpad will strip the document to its bare elements. Paste it onto Word 2003 only once this is done.

Once you have cleaned up your document and saved it as Word 2003, ensure the entire document is formatted under ‘normal’. Select ‘all’ by pressing ctrl and A at the same time. Navigate to ‘styles’ (to the right of your screen) and click on ‘normal.’ You can now reformat your document to how you want it to look. Don’t use fancy fonts and lots of sizes, keep to Times New Roman or Tahoma and limit to points 12 and 14. I would use point 12 for the main body of text, as Amazon’s Look Inside Feature will display your book in larger fonts first-off, convenient for the poor-sighted. Bold and italics are fine.

Formatting a Table of Contents

The prematter, I try to keep simple and to a minimum, as I want the reader to get to chapter 1 as soon as possible. Always insert the book cover on the first page. Compress the picture to make the file smaller. I will then display the copyright details as small print (points 8 or 9), as no one will want to read it anyway. A short dedication might follow. The table of contents comes next, and this is crucial.

UPDATE: after reading this article, learn how to make your contents go live on Kindle readers.

Create a TOC for your Ebook

As previously mentioned, inserting a table will mess up your formatting for sure and this will drive readers away. However, if you have more than 20 chapters or so, putting them in a long list can be unsightly. Instead, I centre my chapters and display two on one row. No table is inserted, it is just down to line spacing; one between chapter and number; two between each chapter. Putting two chapters on one row saves on lines and it looks visually more appealing. See the following example:

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Chapter 2
Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6

Inserting hyperlinks to your chapters in the contents page can easily be done by linking the chapters to the page concerned. Follow these steps:

Inserting Links to Your Table of Contents

  1. Navigate to the page where your chapter is located (say chapter 1 is on page 9). Place the curser at the beginning of the chapter heading.
  2. Click ‘insert bookmark.’ A bookmark box will open. Name your bookmark. For ease, use the same name as the chapter itself. Don’t use spaces. For instance, ‘chapter1.’ Close the box.
  3. Navigate to the table of contents and highlight the words ‘chapter 1.’
  4. Right click on the mouse to hyperlink and click on ‘insert in this document.’
  5. The bookmark box will open again. Highlight the bookmark name (chapter1) and press OK.
  6. Test the link by clicking on it and see if it takes you to the page concerned (page 9).

These links will work on the online book previewer as well as the Kindle reader.

Note: if you update the first few chapters of your ebook, the 'look inside' feature will not show these amendments immedialely. Wait a few days and they should catch up.

The Best Ebook Previewer

The first part of your ebook is the most crucial in generating sales for the self-published author. This not only means being a great wordsmith, but also understanding how ebooks format on various Kindle readers. I keep the pre-matter simple and to a minimum. Avoid formatting errors on the ebook by steering clear of tables and Word 2007. Use simple fonts and minimal point sizes. Time New Roman point 12 is easy to read first-off when previewed on Amazon’s Look Inside Feature. A great novel perfectly formatted will increase the likelihood of books sales.

Now learn how to create a NXS File by converting your book into an Epub that will make the contents go live on the Kindle.

Helpful Tips on Ebook Publishing

How to make the NXS file of the contents page go live on Kindle
Self publishing seems complicated
How do I claim back tax on my royalties?

No comments:

Post a Comment