I promised to talk about formatting for Dangerous Metal so here it is. (For a straight up roundup of formatting links I’ve already made that post.) If you have questions about it please let me know!
For me there were really two elements to formatting. One technical. (Not entirely difficult, I used Scrivener, which made it much easier.) The other just…what should a book look like. This post got long so this is mostly just the techincal piece. Why I picked the tools, where it goes, etc. I’m not sure what else people want to know, so again, fire away with questions!
So the primary decision for me was to make it an epub. A couple reasons.
Works for just about everything. You can use it to upload your book to Amazon and Smashwords (which are the 2 places I’m going for right now). It is portable and reflowable. It is easy to make and easy to read. EPUB is readable on most devices. It isn’t DRMed. It is fairly small. Basically, it holds all I want and flows the way I want.
ePUB is the right tool for me. Or EPUB or epub or ePub or whatever.
I don’t have or use MS Word at home. (I do at my day job, I do so much that I cannot wait to be not using it. Some days I want to come home and hug my Mac just because it isn’t MS and I didn’t have to answer 300 questions about why does MS do things they way they do it.)
The Smashwords Style Guide talks a lot about formatting in Word.
I use Google docs (pretty extensively, especially for sharing, any feedback work I do is within google docs, I also use google sheets almost exclusively for my spreadsheet needs, I use google drive to share audio with authors, etc. So I’m pretty comfortable with the google sphere.
Google docs does let you export as an ePub. I did that once, never again. (Well maybe, if my workflow stops working and google improves I may have to look around again.) I would imagine that doing appropriate things like using headings is very important to getting a good product here.
But google is generally just a stop in the workflow (especially now that I can scrivener on my phone!) so it doesn’t stop here.
Sometimes I use pages. I’ve used it for some specific projects. I’ve used it when I want to do a lot of editing on a long document. My biggest issues with google docs is that it slow down so very hard on big documents. I feel like once I pass 10K I need a new solution. Pages has often been the long form editing tool. It’s not perfect either. But it is better so far than Google docs, especially when I want comments or markup/revision/whatever you call it on something longer. The big downside is I basically only use this with myself.
I have liked its direct exports better than I’ve liked the google ones so far.
YUP! So this is my primary making ePubs tool. It isn’t exactly super straightforward. I recommend this is super long and detailed from Garrett Robinson a whole bunch of steps. At the end of each post is a link to the next post. Or watch some of the videos.
I’d say that it would likely take a few solid hours of practicing, trying, tweaking, adjusting, and just learning. But less than a full day’s work can turn out a very good one the first go round if you know what you want. If you don’t know what you want it is a lot harder. At this point I can put out a ready to go epub in much less than an hour, including testing it out and going back to fix all the stuff I missed, because there is always something I missed.
I like all the tools that Scrivener has, but even if it only easily turned my novels into pretty, easy, useful ePubs that would be enough. Downside? You currently can’t make the ePub from the iOS version. You need the desktop for that. Good news? Highly syncable.
Why not PDF?
Because I’m not writing a textbook? I know this sounds a little snarky, but seriously. Please please please don’t make your novel in PDF. I know there is some value in it. Heck I know I have options for it if you look under “Free” up at the top. But the more I do this the more I go, no! No! Why?! When I have to read one it just feels slow, old fashioned, and clunky.
I will likely be re-evaluating my own PDFs later this year and possibly getting rid of them. I’d rather put in the extra work to make a nice smooth ePub. For me at least they open up nice and smoothly on my iPad. I’m not 100% sure how they flow on Kindles which is my primary concern with dumping them, but I feel like I’d rather make a mobi than a PDF.
I know PDFs are easy. They are SO easy. And they look exactly like what you tell them to look like. I get the draw. I am drawn. They are universal, everyone knows them. Every device opens them. Heck they probabally even work on Blackberries!
But there is no flexibility. The beauty of an ePub (or a mobi) is that in iBooks (or Kindle) I can make the font bigger or smaller, I can do that and it doesn’t make me move the book around. I can make the background a different color, I can go for a dark mode, I can change the font (if you picked a cutsey hard to read one? great, I can change it!). I personally am a sans serif reader. I know many others are serif readers. We can each do what works best for us. I can flip pages or I can scroll. I can do all those things.
So yes, I guess PDFs are important. But not primary!
This got long. I cut the next piece which was more what to include when formatting, and why I picked what I picked.