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Creating Word Documents to Make eBooks

Posted on 2015-Jan-20

by Paul Salvette

When Going Amateur is Required

In general, publishing a MOBI/KF8 eBook to Amazon and an EPUB eBook to all other vendors will give you the most predictable and professional results. However, most eBook vendors and aggregators (Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, etc.) allow you to upload a Word .doc or .docx directly that gets automatically converted into the necessary eBook formats (i.e. EPUB and MOBI/KF8). This may not give the greatest results, but for straightforward novels, the eBooks will be functional (hopefully). While the method of using a Word .doc or .docx may work well for first-time and hobbyist authors who don’t have a big budget, we generally advocate either DIY formatting into the EPUB and MOBI formats or hiring someone out. This is because properly constructed EPUB/MOBI eBooks using HTML and CSS allow for embedded fonts, flourishes, and other design features to set your eBook apart. They also avoid the algorithms used to convert Word documents into HTML, which can result in serious code bloat. Additionally, the internal hyperlink feature in Microsoft Word for building the Table of Contents, footnotes, and an index (if your book has one) can be very frustrating to deal with.

Although, there are two situations where a .doc/.docx is required to be uploaded to the eBook vendors rather than a properly-packaged EPUB is MOBI. One is for Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, and the other is if you would like Smashwords to convert to all formats. Let’s talk about some of the formatting restrictions in using both of these specific platforms.

Publishing a .docx at Kindle Worlds

Kindle Worlds was established by Amazon in 2013 as a way to publish fan fiction. It’s an interesting idea—allowing both the original authors and fan fic authors to profit—but, has unfortunately been met with a lukewarm reaction. As an example, the #1 book on Kindle Worlds is #6,049 in the Amazon paid store at the time of this writing. Although, Amazon has been courting the heavy-hitters in the indie community the last several months to elevate Kindle Worlds. Carly Phillips’ popular Dare to Love series and H.M. Ward’s The Arrangement have attracted other well-known indie authors to take part in Kindle Worlds. Who knows? Maybe it will be the next big thing.

For Kindle Worlds, formatting, it really needs to be as plain as possible and in the .docx format. The full guidelines are here, but the TLDR version is:

  • .docx format only (they can accept .doc but Amazon’s conversion of .doc to MOBI is wonky)
  • No tables
  • Table of Contents in the back
  • No images
  • No embedded fonts
  • No Copyright Page
  • cover should not be emedded in the Word .docx

The no copyright page requirement is because the Kindle Worlds team will actually add their own special copyright that applies specifically to fan fiction. If you require Kindle Worlds formatting, please contact us. We can do for very cheap since it’s just a Word .docx.

Publishing a .doc at Smashwords

For Smashwords, if you are using it primarily to aggregate to the major EPUB vendors (Nook, iTunes, etc.) it is advised that you only upload an EPUB, which is what will ship to those vendors. However, if you would like the sample option and the other formats (MOBI, PDF, plain text, etc.), you must upload a Microsoft Word .doc. The .doc will go through their Meatgrinder and get converted into all formats (including EPUB). You can upload both a professional EPUB plus a Word .doc if you would like to override the Meatgrinder-produced EPUB. For our clients who order a print-ready PDF, we generally provide a complimentary Word .doc that will work at Smashwords.

The Meatgrinder is not without its headaches, and you can learn more about it by reading the Smashwords Style Guide. Here are some rules to get into Premium status at Smashwords:

  • .doc format only (the Word 2003 version)
  • No tables
  • Table of Contents in the front matter
  • Title Page must be the first page or it will get flagged during the review process
  • Must have a copyright page
  • Images are okay
  • No embedded fonts
  • No internal hyperlinks (footnotes, cross-references, etc.)
  • Cover should not be embedded in the Word .doc
  • Do not have any links to other vendors except Smashwords (iTunes, Nook, and especially Amazon)
  • Do not say “Buy this Book at…”, you can say “Get this Book at…”
  • Do not use colored text

If you need help getting a Smashwords .doc, please feel free to contact us.

Label: Technical and Design

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