My Self-Publishing Journey – Three


This is the set of tasks that are required to take the completed manuscript (in a Word document) and make it available for people to buy on Amazon or elsewhere.

I decided to publish on Amazon and via Smashwords as an ebook, and via CreateSpace for a Print On Demand (POD) paperback version. Here’s how I did it, slightly edited to omit a few mis-steps.

Why those sites? Here is an article which covers the basics: Note that this is a little old: Smashwords do now allow direct uploading of an epub file. Also, it was the case that non-US authors had to go through an aggregator like Smashwords to get access to Barnes & Noble’s Nook store – the second largest after Amazon, apparently – but this is no longer true for the UK and a few other countries.

1: Create a Clean Word Copy

This is what the Smashwords Style Guide calls the “Nuclear Method” and, although it sounds drastic, is probably worth doing in every case even if you think you have been using Word cleanly throughout. This means using Styles to set up your paragraphs, and NEVER using local formatting options to change font or size or alignment. And of course NO tab characters or multiple spaces or paragraph marks! I’m pretty good at using Word properly, and I still got caught out by mysterious formatting in my output. So I decided not to mess about, just nuke it.

See the Smashwords Style Guide for step by step instructions, but in brief:

1. Create an empty Word document with just the paragraph styles that are needed. For example: Normal, NoIndent (for 1st para in a chapter/section), ChapHeading, ChapSubheading, Spacer, Title. (Tip 1: the NoIndent style should have a very small first line indent, not zero.)(Tip 2: Don’t include the word “chapter” in the name of a paragraph style).

2. Copy the text of the masterpiece into Notepad.

3. Copy the text from Notepad into the empty Word document.

4. The new document now needs to be fixed: all paragraphs will now be “Normal”, so the correct style for each of the exceptions has to be applied. You also need to reapply any exceptional formatting such as italics or (surely not!) bold from the original manuscript (Tip: I used Word Find/Format to locate these). Find and remove any Tabs, multiple spaces, and multiple paragraph marks. Check ellipses, en-dashes and em-dashes.

5. Create a manual Table of Contents: add a bookmark on each Chapter title (and any other ToC entries, such as your end matter) and an internal hyperlink from each ToC entry to its target bookmark.

At this point I had a cleaned up version of the manuscript, with only basic formatting applied. Now I made separate copies for Kindle, Smashwords and CreateSpace.

Note! From here on I was maintaining three separate versions of the manuscript. If I found a change, for example because another typo turned up (and it did!), that change needs to be made in each version. There is no substitute for being very careful and methodical in how files are named and managed.

2: Create Kindle Version

In principle it’s so easy: from Word you just Save As / Other Formats / Web Page Filtered. This produces a “simple” HTML version of your document which you upload to the Kindle Website. If only!

Note: there are many, many ways of doing this and different tools you can use. This is just what I did…

The HTML file produced by Word will contain a <style> section which defines the paragraph styles in use. If you just run with the default, you run a very high risk of your book looking horrible when someone tries to read it with a Kindle – for example, if you have defined a font or font size for your Normal style (this is a no-no: the reader gets to choose this, not you), or defined indents or line spacing in absolute measurements such as cm or pt.

I created my own separate text file which contains an alternate <style> section which I can just copy into the exported .htm file: this is slightly uglier than referring to an external CSS style sheet, but means I only have to worry about one file to be uploaded. This defines paragraph styles where indents and line spacings are measured in “em”s, therefore relative to font size. Thus Normal is defined as:


And my H1 style (for Chapter headings) is:


I also created a logical Table of Contents using the advice in this rather technical guide.

I then tested it with the Kindle Previewer, which is a free download from Amazon. This allows you to check that your book looks good on any of a number of different Kindles: don’t forget to change font size on the reader to see that it continues to look OK.