Formatting Frustrations (learning by experience)

I find most technology somewhat frustrating. Code is written by left brain people and organized in very logical ways – logical to them. To others of us, those hierarchical layers of processing do not compute.

That complaint aside, my personal method for utilizing technology is persistence…try and try and try and then go to Google to chat threads to see how other people like me managed it. My hope is that this short article will do the same for someone else who thinks like me.

The subject is formatting an e-book. I spent this last week doing just that. I had decided that the second novel in my series (Mestaclocan) would make its first appearance with Amazon KDP Select. Because this program does not permit the work to be published anywhere else for 90 days, I needed to format specifically for Amazon.

Mr. G II

My first novel (The Other), I published with Smashwords (as mentioned in my last post). Mark Coker recommends the ‘nuclear’ method of preparation which involves copy and paste of the entire manuscript to simple text to erase all of Word’s (or Pages’) hidden markers, which can cause chaos with your publishing.  I did the same with my second manuscript and then returned it to Word 2011 (Mac Edition).  Then came the elimination of all automatic settings, paragraph indent as desired, line spacing, preferred font, etc., etc., just as I had done before.

Yet there are always unforeseen problems.  I had written chapters with multiple breaks within them separated by asterisks. I now found I had too many spaces. With 40 chapters and several breaks per chapter, I was kept very busy finding and then fixing those. Then I found that my Chapter Titles were not centered correctly. Forty more fixes. All of this was annoying, time-consuming drudgery, but not completely unexpected. These are the bits that make formatting so interesting.

Finally, all was ready. Check, double-check, triple check… publish. Then I waited 12 hours to see what I had wrought.

Finally, there it was. Beautiful! The wonderful cover by Digital Donna, the front matter all correct, the prologue perfect, and…but wait! Where was the Table of Contents? There was none. With my Kindle I could go to the beginning and to the end, but I could not go anywhere in between. What happened?

I hadn’t put one in.  I didn’t know I needed to. Publishing with Smashword, a simple TOC is placed automatically. But Amazon is not a publishing platform, just a very large retailer, and they don’t create TOCs. It was up to me.

Unfortunately, I’d never made one. And even more unfortunately, it seems that while Microsoft Word for PCs has an automatic TOC building feature, Word for Mac does not. I tried to follow the Mac Word instructions for creating one manually – again and again.  Nothing worked. I went to Google.  Everyone there had a way to do it, but the first six I tried didn’t work. But then I found a saint who had written out some very simple instructions just for people like me. This time it worked. Finally, my hyperlinks functioned and my heretofore typed out but not connected TOC actually took me to the page it advertised. I republished and the rest, as they say, is history.

The above mentioned saint can be found at Blackbird-Digital in an article written specifically for the problem I just described. Hopefully by sharing this link I am Paying it Forward for some other poor soul caught in the quandary that is technology.

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