Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ebook formating issues

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a good assortment of stories to include in my upcoming Kindle short story collection.  I've even narrowed down my choices so that the overall collection has a fairly consistent theme.  One of the hardest things I'll need to do, I've realized, is learn the ins and outs of formatting for the Kindle (and potentially other ebook readers, down the road).

It's not actually that learning to format for the Kindle is difficult; it's not, really.  The hard part comes from the pressure to get it just right.  Even though the good thing about ebook publishing is that anyone can do it, the bad thing is also that anyone can do it, and this leads to a lot of poorly written work being put out there.  Whether my work is "good" or not is something I'll leave up to the readers, but making sure it looks good on an ebook reader is something that's almost entirely up to me.

One thing that's at the same time scary and exciting about self-publishing is that the author has complete control over the presentation of his or her work. When you're published by a traditional publishing house, most (if not all) of the editing and formatting is handled by them.  With self-publishing, not only do you have to create compelling stories, but you also have to make it as error-free as possible.  The more errors you allow to creep into your finished product (whether grammatical or formatting), the harder you're making it for yourself to be taken seriously as an author.

I realized how hard it must be to ensure a perfect translation to the Kindle format while reading Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME.  There were a few places when the formatting went a little wonky, where a return or a line break appeared to have been inserted in the middle of a paragraph.  It didn't cause more than a momentary distraction, but I admit feeling a small amount of trepidation that even a Stephen King book could contain errors on the Kindle.  On one hand, it could reduce the pressure to get things just right, but on the other hand, I'm no Stephen King.

As the ebook and self-publishing platforms grow, it'll be even more important to get presentation just right.  Authors who can both craft good stories and create good presentations will be the ones who win out in this exciting new era of publishing.

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