Learn to Format Digital Books for Smashwords
Overview and How to Get Started Helping Authors Format their Digital Books
The market for digital ebooks has exploded. That means support services for authors to help them format and bring their books to publication – have also exploded. As graphic designers, there is a great need for people that are skilled enough to change a book manuscript into a form that converts well for the various ebook readers like Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony eReaders, Kobo, etc.
Let’s say an author creates a book in Microsoft’s Word application. There is formatting in the Word document that does not work well when converted to .mobi format, which is the file the Amazon Kindle Readers use to display the book. Ereaders have very limited functionality at the moment, and that isn’t changing very quickly.
There will be a need for someone to manually go through each ebook and format it with new guidelines so the conversion to .mobi, .epub, goes smoothly. This will be necessary for years until someone works out the perfect conversion application. I’m not betting on that happening for a few years at least.
Smashwords is a company that provides a great service. They convert digital books into many different formats, so they can be read on the most popular e-readers. There are some pretty strict guidelines for perfect conversions, so much so that the owner of the company, Mark Coker, published a free ebook that teaches you exactly how to format Word Docs so they convert well.
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In addition to this, Smashwords does a couple more things:
- They sell your book on their website.
- They give you an ISBN number – paid or free – you choose.
- They distribute ebooks to Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and other markets after they convert the book.
To get started you should learn how to format ebooks so they convert perfectly in Smashwords “Meatgrinder” application on the first try. Review Mark Coker’s ebook in the resources section.
Positives About Creating Digital Books in Thailand
1. Though it seems like a bewildering process at the moment, it will only take you 1-3 days to figure this out at a basic level, and a few more weeks and/or months to become an expert at formatting digital books.
2. You can charge authors immediately, and likely finish one book in a day – complete with conversion to the various formats e-readers require.
3. Cash business you can do from anywhere in Thailand or any other country where you have a good internet connection.
4. No real technical knowledge required. Know how to use MS Word and some computer basics.
Negatives About Format Editing eBooks
1. Tedious work. Formatting books is highly detailed work that will take a high level of concentration.
2. Errors in your work will be noticed by authors and talked about. Word will spread quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, if you do know what you’re doing, you’ll be able to build your business quickly and have a lot of work from customers sharing with each other. Word of mouth among authors can be your greatest friend or enemy.
Resources for Learning How to Format Digital Books
- Smashwords.com – join first. Create a simple ebook in Microsoft Word format and upload it as a new title. Get familiar with the process.
- Smashwords free formatting guide – Click here.
Comments About Digital Book Formatting
This is something that could be combined with graphic design for authors, or done separately. I like this idea a lot. When I first had to figure out the process for cleaning up my Word Docs before converting them, I had numerous occasions where I almost threw in the towel and said, “Forget this!”
But, I persevered and in the end, I’m glad I did. It’s rather difficult if the author has already gone through and edited the book alone, without the help of an editor, to also go through and format the book according to a very strict, bare-bones style so it can convert to the ebook formats. I did this. It was not fun, but I stuck it out because I didn’t want to pay someone. Most authors probably do not want to deal with the frustration of converting their own books – and will pay $100 for it. Maybe more.