18 November 2017

Formatting the Trilogy into a Digital Box Set

Three novels, formatted to (almost) perfection, to be amalgamated into a single file for a trilogy box set. How problematic can it be?

Quite a bit, as it turns out. And it’s down to technology, or the incremental improvements in technology. During the period it has taken to write and launch the individual novels into the digital world I have changed computers twice, and the version of Word probably three times. Who keeps count?

The first flag came when I emailed the file destined for Amazon to my Kindle for a check. My shortened internal Table of Contents worked fine, but the bookmark did not connect with the Kindle’s Go To button to allow readers to link to it. Mmm.

Most of my titles are available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and Nook. However, as I don’t have a Mac computer and I don’t live in the USA, I use a distributor to intercede on my behalf for the last three. I use Smashwords. There are others.

So I altered the file slightly and uploaded to Smashwords. There were no autovetter flags and the mobi format transferred to my Kindle worked first time. Brilliant! Except within hours I’d had an email from Smashwords saying the ePub’s NCX list was not corresponding to the internal Table of Contents. Cue loud groan from me. Which was when I sat back to consider why I was having problems when I don’t usually.

Ah, changes in technology were inputting unseen code, probably countermanding one another. I could see only one option: Nuke the file.

The term comes from Smashwords’ own Style Guide – How to Format Your Ebook. No matter which digital retailer is used this free download is both extensive and written in the language a non-techy can understand.

The ‘nuclear’ option, when all tweaking fails or, as in my case, I’ve no idea what to tweak, is a fail-safe method of clearing all unseen code. The Word file is copied and pasted into Notebook, and from Notebook it is copied and pasted into a new, fresh, Word document. Then the formatting is re-applied via Styles. Say it quick and it doesn’t sound much, but for a trilogy it is time-consuming, to say the least.

And this is where I’m at. Having the old file and the new file side by side for guidance, all the indents, centres, emboldens, and page breaks have been reinstated, and I am halfway through reinstating the 927 instances of italicised text. Word is good, though. On the old file Enter italics into Search and Replace, tick Highlight, hit Find All, and it does just that, allowing me to slide through the pages.

Note to self for the next novel: Use fewer italics.

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