Editing and Formatting an Ebook {What NOT to Do}

Once you’ve written your book, you need to edit and format it. This was where I think we made the most mistakes with my book. We fixed the mistakes so you don’t see them, but doing it right the first time would have saved us a lot of headaches.

Here’s 4 things I’d suggest to smooth out the editing process…

1. Edit BEFORE you format.

Please! You don’t want to go to all the trouble to format your book for the various forms in which you will sell it (PDF, Kindle, Nook, or POD) and then find a typo. Or a half dozen typos. Because then you have to go fix the same misspelled word in each of the different copies of the book you’ve created. Trust me on this. It’s an insanity-inducing process. Edit it right the first time, before you format.

2. Get yourself a good editor.

To do editing right, you need a nit-picky grammarian who can spot a misplaced comma from a mile away. You may not mind the occasional typo in your blog posts, but people should and do expect more of a book they’ve paid money for, and an over-abundance of typos can really lower people’s value of your work.

Where do you find an editor?
Well, you can hire one. But I find there are individuals out there that find such pleasure in righting grammatical errors, they would pay YOU to get their hands on your un-edited manuscript! You know that blog reader who politely emails you whenever you misspell ‘their’? She’s the one! Email her and ask her if she’d like to help you with your book in exchange for one or maybe a couple of copies of the finished product. Let her go over your work with her God-given eye for details.

Even if you consider yourself are the local deputy of the grammar police, it’s always helpful to have another set of eyes. Everyone can benefit from an editor.

3. Simplify your format.

There’s two levels of formatting:

  1. Formatting a blog post or word document, getting the paragraphs, bullet points and headings just right.
  2. Formatting your PDF file for eReaders (Kindle, Nook, etc).

I’m talking about the first one here. If you do the first one well, it will make the second level of formatting easier.

I had not seen the inside of too many ebooks when I formatted my own, or I would have realized the difference in formatting between a traditional book and a electronic book. I formatted mine similar to several of my favorite traditionally published cookbooks – lots of different types of paragraphs and sidebars full of juicy tidbits. It looks great when you print it out and bind it. But it was time consuming to format and a pain in the neck when we prepared the file for eReaders!

Most ebooks I’ve seen lately have fairly simple formatting compared to paper books. Many are even laid out horizontally on the page, which makes for easier viewing on a computer screen. In future projects I’m going to simplify my design and format with the goal of readability and ease of navigation over what it looks like in print.

In Ebooks as in so many areas, Simplicity is Elegance.

4. Hire out what you can’t handle yourself.

It’s ok to get help. I was blessed that between my husband and gifted friends in my online community we were able to DIY almost every aspect of the publishing process. But there’s no shame in hiring help. Each aspect of publishing, from editing to formatting to cover design to marketing can be hired out. Even with a small launch and minimal success, it’s not hard to make back that couple hundred dollars with the first few months of sales. Consider it as you would any investment. Your time may be more valuable elsewhere.

{Real Life Peek Behind the Scenes}
I totally ran into a brick wall when I tried to make a video to help promote my book. I kept clamming up in front of the camera, and my video editing skills were not capable of making anything presentable out of the scraps I’d managed to tape. Thankfully, my new friend Jendi had the skills I didn’t, and I had something she wanted, so we actually bartered.

A Gown for the Videographer

I sewed her a beautiful Titanic-style gown she’d been dreaming of, and she made me this video, which I loved so much, I’m probably responsible for half the hits it has on YouTube:

Don’t forget the bartering option!

This whole series is a behind-the-scenes look at one smaller blogger’s DIY approach to successfully publishing and marketing her first ebook. If you have enjoyed this series, or know of someone who could use the encouragement, would you share this post? Here’s the perfect tweet—> “Tips for #DIY eBook Publishing” <–just click it to tweet it!

Next week we’re gonna talk about Cover Design!

Other Posts in This Series:
Cover Story {The God Factor in Self-Publishing}
Do You Have an eBook in You? {Psst! I think so!
Don’t DIY by Yourself {It Takes a Community to Publish an eBook}

All posts in the series can be found and shared via this tag: Path to Publishing.

How’s your manuscript going? Are you in a season to create? Tell me—are you loving the process or resenting it? Is your current project a privilege or a burden? I have a few of each. I shelve the ones that feel burdensome, believing that’s a sign they’re for another season. What about you?

9 responses to “Editing and Formatting an Ebook {What NOT to Do}”

  1. Monica Avatar

    Love this! Thank you so much for sharing. The video is adorable. I’m curious where you used the video? On Facebook? In a blog post?
    Great thoughts and now I’m on to reading your husband’s technical stuff. (Wish my husband were an IT guy about now! :))

    1. Trina Avatar

      Hey, Monica!
      I used the video on the sales page. A video giving people a peek inside your product is a great ingredient for a sales page that converts. I also used it in the blog post announcing the launch of my book and shared it on facebook–pinterest wasn’t around yet. 😉

  2. John @ SPi Global eBook Conversion Services Avatar

    Hey Trina,

    Thanks for this! While the writing process is a one-man operation, the publishing process is not. By building relationships with people in the industry, you’ll come to know how you can best sell your e-book. And not only that, it can put you on the map by association, especially if your fellow authors have an existing fanbase to point to you. So even if it goes against the grain for you to be social, be social and actively so. And of course, don’t just think about how the community can help you. Be willing to help your peers by reviewing, sharing, and commenting.

  3. Dana Brown Ritter Avatar

    Trina, okay. I think you may really be inspiring me to DO THIS. I’m so excited/scared/overwhelmed. Thanks so much for your tips! What eBook publishing software do you recommend? I was just reading about BookBaby today. I have no idea on what is a fair price to pay, what I would sell my ebook for, and how much I could expect to make off of it.

    1. Trina Avatar

      Dana, I’m so excited for you! I plan to share my two cents on the questions you posed in future posts, meanwhile, I’m emailing you now…

  4. Ashley Pichea Avatar

    These are GREAT tips!

    I see so many eBooks that should have had another set of eyes go over them before publication – don’t be in such a hurry to publish that you don’t do a good job with the final product.

    Also, I have to wholeheartedly agree with the formatting tip – I get so many eBook drafts to format for publication {http://ashleypichea.com/vba} that have been “fancied up” with different fonts and headings and extras that add to the time I then have to spend undoing the “fancy” in order to make the eBook look presentable on Kindle and Nook. It’s so much easier to start with a simple layout and then add the flourish to your PDF version AFTER the Kindle and Nook versions are ready to upload to their respective platforms.

    1. Trina Avatar

      Ashley–sounds like you have way more experience at this than I do! Thanks for your insight!

  5. Elizabeth @ DogFurandDandelions Avatar

    Great points! I’m at the editing stage in my ebook. And I love what you mentioned about simplicity. I needed that reminder 🙂

  6. Katie @ Mexican Wildflower Avatar

    I’m still working away, bit by bit. Thanks for sharing your tips! Blessings!

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