Sunday, November 16, 2014

Style Sheets: KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!) The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 7

Today, we’re going to take the final steps to create a manuscript ready for conversion to EPUB/MOBI. As you’ve probably figured out by now, the manuscripts I convert are written in Mac word processing software. Although I’m training myself to write in Storyist, I currently use iWorks ’09 Pages in the Mavericks OS.

Although I write in Pages, I learned to clean up a manuscript in Microsoft Word (for Mac 2011) because my small publishers requested I use Word for submissions. As I do with any software, I learned enough about Word to do what I have to do. I’ve compiled a manuscript preparation checklist (available at on the For Writers page) for cleaning up a manuscript that was written or pasted into Word. 

I go through each of these steps to ensure possible HTML stumbling blocks to a clean copy for e-book conversion are removed. 

This is the first step in my publishing process.

Even when I write the original story in Storyist, I still copy the manuscript to Word and run through the checklist to ensure I haven’t inadvertently added something that won’t convert well in an EPUB or MOBI. Parentheses and colons are my major weaknesses, but I’m trying to learn to write without using them.

Stripping Format

After I’ve run through my checklist and gotten my manuscript as clean as I can, I select “copy all” and copy the entire document. Then I paste the text content into TextMate which immediately strips the formatting even more. 

TextMate is a powerful Mac editing tool, but as usual, I don’t know how to do much more than paste content in and cut it out. My goal in using it is to remove anything I missed that might cause issues when I’m setting up my manuscript for EPUB or MOBI. Any quality editing tool works for this purpose although here again, I’d suggest using one dedicated to the editing process over one built into a word processing program. 

Now I select “all” and copy the stripped text from TextMate. 

I open a new Storyist project and paste the content into the novel template. A clean, stripped copy of my manuscript has now been pasted into the default Storyist novel document. After I review the new Storyist document to ensure it arrived intact, I either delete the earlier Storyist version or rename it and file it elsewhere. The goal is to make sure I don’t mix up the two versions later. I want to use the clean version of this document to make an EPUB or MOBI.

Style Sheets

To be honest, I know squat about style sheets. From the time I bought my first Mac, I thought more in terms of making the computer act like my typewriter because I knew nothing of word processing programs. Following the established protocol of manuscript submission, I juggled margins and font to obtain the magic 250 words per page. In those days, word count was an average number obtained by manually counting the words per line and the lines per page.

I had no clue what a style sheet was before working with Storyist. After hours of research, I can see why I’m more of a template person than a style sheet person. But to obtain a viable version of a manuscript that Storyist can crank into an EPUB or MOBI version, some basic style sheet steps are required. 

My attempts to use style sheets successfully led me to follow the KISS concept. Keeping it as simple as possible seems to work best. Again, if you’re a HTML guru, you’re probably not reading this because you can program software to do all kinds of neat things. This whole blog series is for the writer who uses the computer to write.

If you use the Storyist default novel template, everything is pretty much set up for you. With a little tweaking, the Storyist style sheets have consistently exported into clean EPUB and MOBI formats readily accepted by the major distributors.

In Storyist, style sheets are located on the Inspector menu under the little ¶ icon and the window will display five styles. There is a greyed drop down arrow to the right of each style selection. To make any style changes, click on the arrow which will give you a drop down menu. Choose Edit Style to open a window that informs you of all the options available for that particular style. I have found it best to make as few changes as possible  from the default settings.

Of the five styles available, three choices: Section Text, Chapter Title, and Section Separator produce a clean, easy to convert Storyist manuscript. 

After I paste my cleaned up manuscript into a novel template, I select all and chose Section Text on the Style Inspector. With everything selected, I enter Edit Style. The only change I make in the Edit Style window is to adjust First Line Indent under Spacing to 0.25 rather than 0.50. This is a personal preference that doesn’t seem to affect anything, but lessens the indent of the first line of paragraphs. This setting seems to look better on the finished e-book than an .05 indent. 

I do not change the font since Courier translates well into EPUB/MOBI. Why worry about fonts when e-readers allow the reader a selection of fonts if they want to use another one? 

With all the manuscript still selected, I click on Section Text. This makes everything uniform, giving me a basic, uncluttered format. For the bulk of the manuscript all I’m going to do from now on is use Chapter Title and Section Separator to make the necessary breaks. Again, I don’t mess with what Storyist has set up in the style sheets because they work. 

I just put the cursor in front of the chapter (for example Chapter 2) and click on Chapter Title in the Style Sheet. It will automatically put the chapter into all caps and center it about one third down the next page. It will also add that chapter to an index list beneath Manuscripts in the lefthand column.

Since Pagination default in the Chapter Title style sheet is set for “paragraph starts on the next page,” I sometimes have to fiddle around with the following text to prevent an empty page between chapters. I’ll turn that chapter back into section text, do some back spacing to give the upcoming title more room, and then redo the Chapter Title sequence. Sometimes blank pages can’t be helped.

Section Separator will put the cursor in the middle of the next line, basically adding an empty space between sections of text. I add an asterisk to let me know I’ve broken the section with the style sheet. This ensures I’ve place the section separators correctly. Before I export into e-book format, I’ll go back and remove these.

I also use the Section Text, Chapter Title, and Section Separator formats to add the pages containing front and end material. It’s a good idea to keep front matter to a minimum to ensure the sample version at the various book distributors contains some of your story. A cover page, title page, and short introduction are usually sufficient. In e-books, the rest of the information goes at the end.

Keep in mind distributors pull a sample of the book from the front material. For the reader to get a feel for your writing, the story must start within a few pages. And yes, 
some of the major publishing houses who’ve jumped on the e-book bandwagon convert popular print books straight into e-book format. Which means all the front material of book reviews or ads for other books clog up the front of the sample with no writing to showcase the book offered for sale.

In Storyist, I arrange the following information under Manuscripts. These sections convert in this order into EPUB/MOBI format:

Body of manuscript (chapters or essays)
Thank you to readers
Author bio 
List of my other works
Copyright info 

Storyist has many other categories useful for writing purposes, such as Main Plot Thread, but information in these categories has no impact on the finished project. When exporting into EPUB/MOBI, I can chose what I wish to be included in the export.

Title Page
I use the Notebook category for Title Page information because this page needs to be formatted a little differently than the manuscript pages. How does this page differ? For starters, the accompanying style sheet is different. 

In default Notebook, the style sheet lists Heading 1 and 2, Body Text, and Default. I pretty much leave the settings alone except for the font and text alignment in both Heading styles and Body Text. 

I change the font from Helvetica to Courier (to match the rest of the manuscript). I change the font size on both Headings. I use size 16 on Heading 1 and size 13 on Heading 2. As for the Text Alignment, I set it at center.

My goal is to create a centered page of information about the e-book. As you can see in my example, I also use this page for the dedication.

Love to the Rescue

Ginger Hanson

Copyright ©2014 Ginger Hanson
Visit Ginger at

All Rights Reserved
Published by Saderra Publishing
Cover Design by Earthly
ISBN 13: 978-0-9860557-2-0 
Digital Edition 1.0


To my wonderful fans whose encouraging letters and emails have kept me writing.

The cover art goes in the Images category. With a Mac, you just drop the image in. My attempt to get my first e-book into Apple did not go well because my cover image was too large. And yes, I thought I was following their directions. Even the customer service rep trying to help me thought I had completed the step correctly and added the correct size image.

We both learned something that day. An embedded cover, the one that will be loaded into Storyist (think the cover of an actual book) and be converted along with your manuscript, can be no more than 2 million pixels. You cannot use the file size shown by various programs because it apparently doesn’t reveal the correct size. The 2 million pixels is arrived at by multiplying pixel width by pixel length of the actual image. 

Confused? I was! My cover artist had sent me various sizes of my cover. And while the 
largest file size said it was less than 2 million MB, it was too large for Apple to accept. 
When we multiplied pixel width and length, it was more than 4 MB.

Since I’m not a computer expert, I have no idea of the why, I just need to know how to produce an embedded image acceptable to the Apple program. To maintain clarity, I export the largest cover image from iPhoto via custom export. I use 1400 as the length which usually shrinks the file into about 1.5 MB when the actual pixels are multiplied. 

The EPUB was accepted immediately with the new size cover.

Keep in mind I’m talking about the embedded image in the EPUB/MOBI. The distributors usually accept a larger size file for the cover image to be displayed in their catalog. This size information is readily available when you download your EPUB. If you use the wrong size, the distributor’s program will tell you. I keep separate files for the cover images I use in the Storyist program versus the cover images I download for the catalog when I enter the EPUB into distribution. 

It’s important to use photo software that will maintain clarity while shrinking the image. One of my programs shrank the image but in the process it became quite blurry. 

One Last Step
When you signed the contracts with Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Amazon, you agreed that you wouldn’t put hot links into your e-books. Links that hook readers to an online site. Apple, on the other hand, has no problem with hot links. To abide by the contracts, I make two versions of each Storyist template before exporting. One contains hot links for Apple while the other has the Internet information, but I do not activate the “link” capability in Storyist. 

When  It’s Time To Export
Once all the various parts of your e-book have been assembled, it’s time to export the completed project. Don’t worry about the cover image being at the bottom of the list in Storyist because the program allows you to set up the sequence of the content prior to exporting into EPUB/MOBI. You can place the cover image first, then the title page, and finally, the body of the manuscript.

Exporting into an EPUB and running the EPUB check are the next steps.