Monday, 24 June 2013

Ready to create an ebook? Check again.

Making your ebook Word file

If you thought you were ready to start making an ebook, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Word makes a horrible mess of its files which may look fine but will totally confuse ebook conversion programs. Before you can make an ebook you’ll have to correct this. The method I use works for Amazon and Smashwords. The first step is to clean up the styles used.
Stage 1 in creating your file should be to remove all the hidden data and personal information in Word documents.
Make a copy of your document and remove the unwanted stuff from the copy. To do this in Word 2007+, use the Document Inspector.

 1. Open the Word document copy that you want to inspect for hidden data and personal information.
2. In the copy, click the ‘File’ tab, and then click ‘Info’.
3. Under ‘Prepare for Sharing’, click ‘Check for Issues’, and then click ‘Inspect Document’.
4. In the Document Inspector dialog box, select everything found
5. Click ‘Inspect’.
6. Review the results of the inspection in the Document Inspector dialog box and click each of the ‘Remove All’ buttons.
7. Save your document.
Stage 2 is to make sure your document offers the minimal styles favoured by ebooks. These are the styles I use for a novel:
Normal - Font: (Default) Garamond, 11 pt,
Indent: First line:  0.5 cm,
Line spacing: single,
Widow/Orphan control,
Style: Quick Style
No Indent - Indent: First line: 0.01 cm,
Style: Linked, Quick Style.
Based on: Normal.
Following style: Normal
Heading 1 - Font: Cambria, 12 pt, Bold, Font color: Black, Indent: First line: 0 cm, Centered,
Space Before: 18 pt, After: 12 pt,
Level 1, Style: Linked, Quick Style, Priority: 10
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent
Separator Centered,
Style: Linked, Quick Style
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent

For a non-fiction book such as this one I also use:
Heading 2 - Font: Cambria, 11 pt, Bold, Font color: Black, Indent: First line: 0 cm,
Space Before: 16 pt, After: 11 pt,
Level 2, Style: Linked, Quick Style, Priority: 10
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent
Heading 3 - Font: Cambria, 11 pt, Bold, Font color: Black, Indent: First line: 0 cm,
Space Before: 14 pt, After: 11 pt,
Level 3, Style: Linked, Quick Style, Priority: 10
Based on: Normal
Following style: No Indent

Stage 3 is to remove the unnecessary styles. Word has a nasty habit of using lots of styles which seem identical but will stop your ebook formatting properly. There are three methods of correcting this. You can either remove all formatting, then apply just the styles you want (what Smashwords calls the nuclear method) or you can go into Word, select each style in the document and remove that style if it’s unused or change the style to one of a restricted selection. Finally you can remove unnecessary styles after you have created an epub file by using the Calibre editor.
Use the first method if you have only used a single style in your book. Use the second method if your document is more complex like this one. Use the third method to 'fix it later' if you've already created an epub file or submitted a document to Smashwords and it refuses to go through 'Meatgrinder' or pass epubcheck.
Smashwords Nuclear method: Open your file in Word, select all the text (Ctrl A), copy it (Ctrl C) and paste it (Ctrl V) into a text editor such as Windows Notepad. Close and then reopen Microsoft Word to a fresh new Word document, then copy and paste the book from Notepad back into Word. You can then re-apply the minimal necessary styles.
The Style removal method: This method is much more complex but might be preferable if you have used bold text, italic text or have a large document. In our novels we use italic text for thoughts, stressed spoken words and for the remote side of telephone conversations.

1. Click the Styles menu button – the tiny icon at the bottom right of styles section on Home ribbon.
2. Click the ‘Options…’ link at the bottom right of the ‘Styles’ window.
3. Set 'Select styles to show’ to ‘In use’.
4. Right click each style you DON’T want and select ‘Select all X’. Word will select all text which uses that style and you can now select the appropriate style from the minimal styles you wish to use.
Getting rid of unwanted styles

5. Reselect the style and delete it once nothing is using it.
Save your document.
The 'fix it later in Calibre' method. If you've come here to find out how to fix a document which simply refuses to go smoothly through Smashwords Meatgrinder and Epubcheck this is what to do first:
  1. Add your Word document or Epub file to Calibre.
  2. Add the cover and Meta information if you have not already done so.
  3. Add a table of contents if you have not already done so.
  4. Create or re-create an epub file
  5. Right click the document in Calibre and select 'Edit Book'.
  6. From the 'Tools' menu select 'Remove unused CSS rules'. You'll probably find it useful to then select 'Fix HTML - all files' also.
  7. Save your document.

Stage 4. Create the front content of your book.
On separate pages create the following at the beginning of your book. Some are optional:
1.       Title page – Remember the maximum font size used here should not exceed 16 pt and you should not use four or more consecutive new lines.

2.       Copyright notice – Follow the format used in this example from the book ‘A Vested Interest’ I co-author: The bits you need to alter are in square brackets.

[John & Shelia Chapman] have asserted [their] right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author[s] of this work.
This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright © [2014 John & Shelia Chapman]
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
Copyright Conventions.

3.       Dedication (optional)
4.       List of figures (optional)
5.       Foreword (optional)
6.       Preface/Introduction (optional)
7.       Acknowledgments (optional)
8.       Prologue(optional and probably undesirable)
9.       Table of contents (Probably desirable in non-fiction but optional in fiction)
10.    Main body – Your book text
11.    Back matter (optional but desirable, see ‘Promotion’)

Note. An ebook may contain two table of contents. One visible at the front of a book and one not normally seen unless called up from the menu in an e-reader. This latter type has to be present in ebooks. The easiest way to create it is to use calibre.

Done all that? Use ‘Save as…’ to save your document as a Word 97-2003 document (*.doc) file if you want to publish on Smashwords or as a docx file if you want to send it to Calibre to create an epub file for KDP. Hint - don't use any spaces in the filename! It will save you a lot of problems later.

Now you’re ready to create an ebook!
If this post has helped, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
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Saturday, 1 June 2013

My Take on Mark Coker (Smashwords) Indie Author Survey

Mark Coker of Smashwords

Smashwords Survey 2013 findings

I'm hugely gratified by the results of Mark Cocker's recent survey results on indie author publishing. It reflects conclusions Shelia and I have already arrived at and put in place with our 'A Vested Interest' book series. Here's Mark's main findings:

  • Longer Books Sell Better
  • Shorter Book Titles Appear to Have Slight Sales Advantage
  • $2.99 is the Most Common Price but $3.99 is the Price Sweet Spot
  • Giving away a Free Book 1 in a Series is Effective 

So how does that fit in with our books?

Book length -  It seems that in the past readers were reluctant to buy a really thick book since it was heavy to hold and difficult to carry around. With the advent of ereaders though this size and weight restriction has been removed and readers are happy to buy a longer book. Presumably people see it as value for money. I know I feel cheated if I buy a book which turns out to be 30,000 words or less - no matter how good it is. Amazon often give a page count but in practice it's often unreliable. Today, before I buy an ebook I download the sample or look at the preview. It represents 10% of the book so if it's short - expect a short book.

We currently have nine books available in our series. Here they are with their word counts:
A Vested Interest - 265,708 words
Dark Secrets - 135,542 words
No Secrets - 98,918 words
Stones, Stars and Solutions - 144,964 words
Leap of Faith - 93,053 words
Regret and Retribution - 102,770 words
Consequences - 98,998 words
Ashes to Ashes - 137,740 words
Blood of the Rainbow - 167,526 words

As you can see all of our books are longer than the former 80,000 word 'standard' length.

Book titles - According to Smashwords survey the average word length of the top selling ebooks was 4.2 words or specifically 25.2 characters long. This seems to make some sense. A shorter title is easier to remember. In fact I can only think of one long title I remember and I remembered that one because it was so long - a track on Pink Floyd's Ummaguma album - 'Several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a pict.'

We chose shorter book titles the shortest being 'No Secrets' and the longest being 'Stones, Stars and Solutions'. Our titles average 2.8 words, 16.3 characters.

Book Price - Some time ago I came across a complicated formula which attempted to back engineer the Amazon book rank formula. One of the factors it included was the price Amazon perceived as the book's 'normal' price. In most cases that was the price the book was initially sold for. Now it just so happened that I had two books which had sold about the same numbers and were released at about the same time but were different prices $2.99 and $3.99. The $3.99 book had a much higher rank! It makes sense I suppose for Amazon to rank books at higher price better than those at lower price - it will after all, make them more profit.

It seems to me that $2.99 is not the best price even though lower prices tend to lead to increased sales. Mark Coker's survey tends to confirm that the best price for an author's book is $3.00 to $3.99 rather than the most common $2.99. It seems that most authors are charging about one cent per 300 words.

And our books? Ours average $3.95 with the most expensive being Stones, Stars and Solutions at $5.01 and the least expensive being No Secrets, our shortest book. Dark Secrets, book 2 in our series, is probably under-priced at 0.75 cents per 300 words.

Giving away a free book - Back in April 2012 we joined Kindle Select and gave away free copies of our series book 1, A Vested Interest. The response was incredible with over 2,000 copies being downloaded in the three days it was free. Ten days later sales of our other books took off and by the end of the month we had sold eight times as many books as we sold in the previous two years! Why the ten day lag? That's the time an average reader took to read it.

It was clear to us that giving away book one of our series worked as a method of boosting sales. For every 16 books we gave away we could pretty well bank on someone buying more of the series.

The trouble was that after that three day period sales steadily decreased and we used the remaining two days we had for freebies to boost things again. It helped only slightly because half way through April Amazon changed it's system of book ranking so that free downloads no longer counted with paid sales when working out book ranks. The solution was to withdraw our books from Kindle Select and publish them at Smashwords where we could make book one free all the time. It took a while for Amazon to price match but now book one - A Vested Interest is free all the time at and free most of the time at In total we've now given away (as of 1st June 2013) 18,128 free copies of A Vested Interest and are convinced the policy works for a book series.

You can read the full Smashwords 2013 survey at If you're an author - you should read it.