Book Formatting

PG apologizes for no posts yesterday.

He was frustrated while attempting to use his former book formatting system to prepare Mrs. PG’s latest book for publication.

He thinks he may have found a better solution during his reading last night. If it works as anticipated, he’ll put up a post about it later today.

20 thoughts on “Book Formatting”

  1. I consider the interior formatting similar to the cover design. I’m not creative in that area and don’t want to spend time on that creation or making sure my paperbacks and ebook files are correctly formatted. I use these folks in Australia and have for about five books. I’m not suggesting anyone reading this abandon their formatting software. I only suggesting an affordable, quality alternative for those frustrated by formatting software.

  2. When I asked ChatGPT for help for PG (“In the style of a CNET review, what are the best options for e-book formatting software for Windows?”), it timed out.

  3. Atticus is $147. Word is $149 and the package includes Excel and PowerPoint. Why wouldn’t I use Word? Once you have the formatting for elements saved (paragraph, heading, quotations etc etc) and the page formatting settings for size, margins, gutter etc. I don’t see where there would be an issue but maybe I am missing something.

    • Albie, Word can’t accurately create epubs without leaving artifacts behind. Even just using Word as the “source editor” can be extremely problematic, and it gets worse the farther one goes from very generic HTML baselines like Epub 2.0. And if one uses Word only as the “source editor,” one is in PG’s position: Determining what to do to transform that source file into a commercial-distribution-ready epub (or mobi or whatever).

      And this doesn’t begin to consider “graphics” at all. Or character sets and encoding. Or cross-platform issues. Or (although these are probably not major concerns for Mrs PG’s books) tables, footnotes and other references, version control, non-default-character-set font embedding (consider a mystery that includes street signs from Addis Ababa)…

      • Yes, this, especially the first paragraph. The thought of formatting an ebook with Word makes me so glad I’m already reclining on my fainting couch : ) The artifacts … the horror … the horror …

        More seriously, Sigil and Scrivener get excellent results for me. Sigil is free, but the catch is that you have to know basic HMTL / CSS. Otherwise, Scrivener by itself is serviceable. No frills, though.

        As for the matter of ornaments, I will personally be glad for the day when Kindle quits meddling with pngs or gifs so they’ll be properly transparent. I just loathe how Kindle adds a white background to any png or gif image used as a fleuron. This bug is revealed if a user is using black & white, sepia, or green screens for their Kindle backgrounds. I haven’t a clue what Amazon has against transparent images.

        It’s been a minute since I’ve experimented, but an icon font might be a workaround … except for the part where the font adds weight to the file. It may be negligible, though. I still have to experiment with using SVG files, but I suspect the juice won’t be worth the squeeze there.

        P.S. … is there a mystery set in Addis Ababa?

        • I don’t know if there’s one set there. Yet. (I also left out the Amharic v. Tigray v. Arabic issues…)

          The “method” that I use is to dump into a plain text editor, hand-massage the necessary HTML, and then do my other preparations before the next full moon, usually including selecting an appropriate sacrifice dump it into Calibre’s book editor. But then, I’ve been hand-tweaking SGML and LaTeX files for technical documents for a quarter of a century, so I don’t need to rely on WYSIWYG systems.

    • It doesn’t look right or professional. At least, I’ve seen printed books by indies where I can tell all they did was print an MS Word file. Gutters etc. weren’t wrong, but they didn’t look professionally done, either. Some people really care about stuff like that – my husband is one.
      I can spot it, but not itemize off the top of my head what is wrong with it. Other than it looks like it came straight from Word, that is.

      • Word is a document/manuscript tool.
        Good for writing and document organization (which is likely to include research shortly when they add GPT) but not for formatting or format conversion.

        For publishing I’d rather look at MS PUBLISHER instead and even then I doubt it be too useful for anything complex. Its heritage is from the DTP era. It’s got its uses, though.,…%205%20Step%205%3A%20Save%20the%20Book%20

        • The fundamental problem with MS Publisher is now, and always has been, that it is actually not production-printing friendly. If all you’re going to do is run 20 copies of a flyer off on your office printer, fine. If you need to worry about imposing double-sided color printing with folding elements on commercial printruns, fuhggetaboutit. (I’ve seen the $1600-in-2007 wasted output when someone tried this, following all of the “documentation.”)

          If you really need a “book,” Scribus is a far better option — it’s free, it handles all book-publication tasks at least as well as the horrifically expensive Adobe products, and it doesn’t save to proprietary formats so you can go back five years later for a revised edition without difficulty because New! Improved! cloud-based versions have rained on your parade. The less said about the curious inability of Adobe products to save to production-ready PDFs with the correct resolution and font embedding if any illustrations were greyscale photographs, the better… Scribus may be overkill for a straight-text epub; and it may not, if there are lots of illustrations (such as an illustrated children’s book).

          The key problem is that too many people want one-program-does-everything-exactly-the-way-I-want-it and are disappointed when their multitool is missing the tool actually needed for the particular project. “Creating and editing text” is a distinctly different task and mindset from “laying that text out for production, whether to print or to screen” — so different that tasks and approaches appropriate to one actually get in the way of the other. Nobody should be any more surprised at the disconnect than when they try to use only a hammer and nails to assemble a bookcase.

          • I hadn’t heard of Scribus.
            I will be looking into it.
            It fits with my preference (from way back) to use tools optimized for each phase of the project. I don’t fell obligated to do the epub with the same print-output tool or vice versa. Back in the day the suite of tools I crafted for the day job team used Micrographix Designer, Corel Draw, OmniPage, and Ventura rather than the far pricier Interleaf. Of the set, the one I most miss is Designer.

            And that’s one reason I’m keeping an eye on tools like Bing Create (and MS Designer) for line art. I see a lot of potential for chapter header art. A declining practice that I hope comes back.

              • Another plug for Affinity Publisher is that it can open one’s old InDesign files, so that’s a jump-start right there. I bought the whole suite when they were on sale, all three for $75. If anyone is not in a hurry, and shares my allergy for paying full price for things, just set an alert for when Affinity has another sale.

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