I suspect that a "simple" novel or short story will not create the same pain as trying to convert a complex format book (such as my cookbook) into an eBook readable on multiple devices. My cookbook is my lesson in self-publishing and yes, I worked with a layout person the first iteration through. Even then, the format varied in success depending on the size of the device. Also spacing , paging and text formatting wasn't consistent across the various devices I used for testing. I'm not sure what software they used, as I didn't get a source file back, just a .PDF.
Since I wanted to add a new recipe \to my cookbook I decided to update the Kindle version first. Without the same software or source file, I had to start over with the .doc file I'd provided to my layout person, basically a Word document. The added recipe and reformat has been a trial and error project with lots of lessons learned. I figured I'd share what I've learned with you.
Lesson #1Take full advantage of the Styles in Word (because Kindle only accepts .doc and .pdf formats) and save yourself the headache. I have repeating text layouts for things like ingredients lists, equipment lists and directions. This also comes in handy when using titles that you don't want to include in the overall table of contents. Styles allow you to make a universal change to a chunk of text and come in handy when have to go back and forth between reviewing the imported file and the .doc file.
Lesson #2Don't use tables unless you actually want the borders to be the same across the board and show up. The spacing is consistent but no matter how hard you try, those borders will show up.
Lesson #3Give up on trying to view your book on every device you have that can view the book. Go with what the previewer shows you and realize that the reformatting on the fly can have a funky effect on the layout. Just paging back a page in the previewer will give you a different result than what you see moving forward in the previewer.
In case you didn't realize it, Kindle and Nook both have free apps that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and PC's (yes, the term PC includes the Mac line as they are also Personal Computers...don't get me started on computer history!). PCs/laptops/notebooks can have average screen sizes from 10" and up. Since the applications will size to the screen size in use, the paging can change drastically. You'll go crazy trying to make sure it works "perfect" on every screen. Changes are it won't anyway, so save yourself the headache.
Hard page breaks are you friend. The best lesson I learned was to use a hard page break between each recipe and chapter page. I removed the rest of the page breaks, so in that sense the layout is very similar to a traditional novel which would only have a hard page break at the chapter end.
Lesson #5Leave it alone for a day or two. When you think you have it "done", walk away for a few days. Come back and review it again. You'll be surprised at what you may have missed or find that you are ready to finalize the copy. Either way, give yourself a break.
Last, but not Least
Select the DRM (Digital Rights Management) opton when setting up your eBook the first time. You can't change you mind after you publish. Without DRM, your eBook will be pirated even faster. Make it a bit harder for them to pirate, select DRM
I hope this doesn't scare you off from creating your own cookbook for your friends and family. It's still worth it if they're scattered to the four corners of the world. That's exactly why I set mine up as an eBook. With friends across the globe, it's the easiest way to get the book distributed to everyone.