The Making of an EBook

Like many other authors, I am turning to independent publishing, hence my imprint Night to Dawn Magazine & Books. That means hiring artists to do my covers, getting the book edited, shopping ISBN’s, and converting my word file to an eBook. In the case of people whose books I’ve published, it also includes sending out 1099 forms as appropriate.

A lot of people ask me about eBooks. How do I go from Word to eBook? The first time out, my eBooks were a disaster. So I started reading articles and found at least fifty ways to make an eBook, as the Paul Simon lyric goes. The Smashwords Style Guide has been a great help. At this time I distribute through Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, All Romance EBooks, and through my website. Because each distributor has different requirements, I try to work with a file that I can use with all of them.

Before tackling the eBook or any other project I head to the market and buy myself a Mylar balloon. The eBook isn’t difficult, but it is tedious.

A writer/publisher needs fortification before embarking on a big project.

Let’s start with ISBN’s. You don’t need one for Nook or Kindle. Amazon will provide you an ASIN number and Barnes & Noble will provide a BIN ID number. But you’ll need one to take advantage of Smashwords’ distribution to Apple and other eBook companies. You can’t use the one assigned to your print book. If you use two different distributors for your print book, such as Lulu and CreateSpace, you need separate ISBN’s. Smashwords will provide you an ISBN for free, but then your book will be billed as “published by Smashwords.” If that works for you, fine. I want my books to be billed as “published by NTD Magazine & Books,” so I use a NTD ISBN. You can get your ISBN’s through Bowker Identifier Services. Buying in lots of ten or a hundred will bring down the price. I could assign an ISBN to my Kindle and Nook eBooks, but then I’d need a separate ISBN for each distributor. Once you purchase an ISBN, they’re yours, and you can’t give them away to your friends. And once you’ve put your eBook together, you’ll need to register it with Bowker.

First thing you do is, ditch the formatting in the Word file. No page numbers, no page headers, no large spaces between chapters. You could type in your table of contents, listing each story or title of the chapter, but you can’t assign a page number. Why? Because every reader gives you the option of making the print larger or smaller, so a page number would be meaningless. And if you have any wide spaces between the chapters, they will become three times as large and look gross in your eBook, and piss off your readers.

Smashwords Style Guide recommends a nuclear method of ditching the formatting. If you changed formats and styles on your document, it may cause such problems as uneven print size in your eBook. So I copy everything on my Word file by hitting “select all,” and “copy.” Then I open up a Notepad, and hit “paste.” This will erase all the formatting. I then copy everything on my notepad file onto a new Word file (I try to label it with the book title. Now I’m ready to format carefully.

On the title page, I recommend Times New Roman or Garamond, and no font larger than 16. So I make my title and author size 16 and bold it. The rest of the masthead might be size 14. Each chapter number might be size 14 or 12, bold. The text will be size 12.

As far as paragraph formatting, you can indent, but the indents should be smaller than they would be in a print book. Maybe about 0.3. But they should be consistent, that is, indent every paragraph. If you don’t indent, then you should have a 6 point leading between paragraphs, and maybe 18 point between scene breaks, and extra leading between chapters. I chose not to indent and have the extra leading. I use a left alignment for the file, except on the title page, where I use center alignment. Why left alignment and not justified? Because when the reader adjusts the print size, justified will give him gaping spaces between the words.

Kindle and Nook require HTML files, and these get converted to eBooks compatible with their readers. So I keep my document open and hit “save as.” Word gives you many options for types when you save your file. Save it as “Web page, filtered.” Not “web page.” It has to say “web page, filtered.” Your eBook will look much better for it.

For your Nook go to www.pubit.com. For the Kindle, you want https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin. The instructions for both companies are pretty user-friendly.

As for the Word file that I formatted for the eBook, I paste in the front cover up top above the title page. I then save it as a PDF. Word 2007 and 2010 give you the option of saving your file as a PDF. You’ll need your PDF to convert it into the nice eBook formats. Epub and MOBI are popular eBook formats. http://www.epub2go.com does a decent job of converting your PDF to Epub. For MOBI, PDB, and LIT, I use  http://ebook.online-convert.com.

I heard that http://calibre-ebook.com is another good site to format eBooks. That left me darned curious about how this process works, so I’ve just downloaded Calibre. Whether it’s user-friendly remains to be seen. I will share my experiences with it in a future blog.

After all of that is done, I make a few changes in the Word file, referring to the Style Guide, to ready it for Smashwords.

There’s no more formatting involved to upload my books to All Romance EBooks. Basically, the challenge is to get my covers two different sizes (two more files) to meet ARE’s requirements and upload all the mediums of my eBook.

The one thing I haven’t mastered is getting art into the books. Most of my NTD books don’t have interior art, but the magazine does. I’ve got Walter Mitty dreams of getting NTD Magazine on Kindle.

Have you used Calibre? Have you worked with Smashwords? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

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