The process of formatting for ebook starts in the same way as formatting for print; in fact, ideally I’d be working from the same Word file, and preparing it for both types of formatting by first ensuring all the formatting is done through styles, and not just ad-hoc. Once the Word file has styles applied throughout, importing it into Jutoh, the program I use for ebook formatting, is straightforward.
Within Jutoh, I’m prompted to fill out a form containing the metadata for the book, including author and publisher details, genre and information, and then choose which files to import for the main text and the cover. With styles applied, I can set the document to split at the chapter heading style, and then complete the import.
Now I need to go through the document, checking the formatting has imported properly, making sure the splits are at the right places – while the chapters should split automatically, the front matter and back matter often need attention – and ensuring that any blank lines at the end of chapters have been removed. While these can easily go unnoticed within a print book, there’s a risk that a single blank line at the end of a chapter, falling at the wrong place, will appear as a complete blank page in an ebook.
The options for variation of text in an ebook are very limited. While in a print version almost anything can be achieved (and one of my projects is exploring the possibilities in a fun way!), in an ebook there is only really relative font size as an option, as the reader can (and should be able to) override font and font size choices for their own reading comfort. Another trick that I’ve used to make text stand out is to block-indent rather than just indent the first line of the paragraph, but ebook readers vary in how they handle indents, so varying indent size or adding a right indent isn’t a viable option.
With most fiction ebooks, the table of contents can be handled automatically, while for others or for non-fiction, I often have to handle the table of contents separately, ensuring that links are provided for the parts that need links, that they are displayed consistently and that all links point to the right place.
Images need checking to ensure they are the right size. While Jutoh offers a facility for resizing images, this can be inconsistently handled across readers, and it is far better to ensure the images are correct before importing.
Once I’m happy with everything, it’s time to hit the export button. I can choose the export type (epub or mobi, usually) with the click of a button, and the file is created.
That’s not the end, of course! There’s still viewing on different screens, checking the front matter and back matter are displayed correctly, making sure the table of contents works if I’ve had to handle it separately, and skimming through to see whether any special formatting is handled right. I have a few different devices available, from ipad and iphone to kindle touch and kindle keyboard, and so I’m able to check how they each deal with any issues.