The Print-on-Demand Cover vs the Ebook Cover

Publishing Print-on-Demand and Ebook Simultaneously

Lessons Learned for Book Cover Design

Cool in Tucson First Edition

The cover of the original Severn House edition (2008).

Mystery writer Elizabeth Gunn’s Cool in Tucson has been out of print for a few years, and we are in the galley proof stage of reissuing this first Sarah Burke mystery in both print and ebook formats.

We’ve been working with ebooks for several years now, but this marks the second time we’ve utilized print-on-demand services concurrently with producing an ebook. (The first was the similar relaunch of Elizabeth’s Jake Hines series with Triple Play.) Below are some lessons learned from the process regarding the print-on-demand cover and its relationship to the ebook cover. Continue Reading →

Testing and Tweaking Your Ebook Using Calibre Conversion

In the previous post, we talked about choosing the right Calibre conversion settings for a general-purpose, reasonably-formatted ebook. In this continuation, I present a time-saving tip for using Calibre to reconvert your ebook during testing and tweaking. In programmer lingo, you might call it iterative testing. The publisher’s translation could be galley proofing, I guess.

Chapter Three: Reconverting Using Merge Book Records 

In which the protagonist saves time and frustration while device testing and tweaking his ebook, including how to use the Calibre merge function without screwing @*#( up. 

In my experience, when you first bring a book into Calibre to convert it, you should consider yourself squarely in the testing/tweaking phase and not in the publishing phase. You know that the moment you open your converted book you will find that typo that’s been there staring at you the whole time but which has somehow eluded your editorial eye until now. Or you will try the ebook on various devices and find it’s not working like you want. Whatever the case is, odds are you will have to change a few things and put it through Calibre conversion again–probably more than once.

You will quickly note that if you delete a book from your library and then re-import your source HTML/CSS, you will need to enter all of the metadata and settings over again. This can grow very aggravating if you have to re-convert your book more than a few times. By the fifteenth attempt, you may find yourself staring at the metadata fields glassy-eyed and wondering just what you named that book again. Continue Reading →

HTML to EPUB: Calibre Conversion Settings and How to Preserve Indents

Chapter One: HTML

In which the protagonist prepares an HTML document for Calibre conversion to EPUB format. Our story begins as the hero has completed the treacherous journey from InDesign, which is not designed to design ebooks at all, to clean, ebook-worthy HTML and CSS. And what a journey it has been, with action and romance and stylesheet declarations and dragons.

The first step to any good ebook is a clean, well-formatted source document. In my previous post, which was specifically about creating an EPUB from InDesign, I make the argument that the best way to generate an ebook is from HTML. This is because EPUB files are, at the core, HTML, and Kindle MOBI markup is supposedly not far removed from HTML either. This facilitates good, clean conversions, and when you do find formatting problems, they are easy to troubleshoot–if you know just a little HTML/CSS.

Here we will use Calibre to create an ebook from an HTML document and its resources. Calibre is a free tool and you can get it from http://calibre-ebook.com. Though Calibre was designed primarily for personal use, I think it is very handy for professional ebook creation when it is not being done in-bulk. (However, Calibre does offer command-line tools for automated conversions–but we’re not getting into that today.) Continue Reading →

InDesign EPUB Export Sucks (and How to Get Around It)

The Mystery of Ebooks

VertigoEbooks are still frequently a quandary to the small-to-mid-sized publisher. But with rising sales of ebooks and the popularity of mobile devices, there comes a time when you must look the ebook in the eye and face the future–or face the fad, at least. (I don’t know if ebooks as we know them will be around in ten years. I just know they’re around now so we better deal with them.) Anyway, realizing this, maybe you give in and poke the InDesign EPUB export button, just to see. InDesign chugs and spurts and gurtles a little bit and then spits out an ebook. You think, “Oh! How easy was that?” But then…the book is opened and the nightmare begins.

The nightmare is the slow-learned revelation that ebooks are not necessarily easy, despite the existence of tools that claim to be able to produce them from other file types at the push of a button. Only if your page layout is like that of a straightforward novel with no illustrations or special formatting is there a blessed chance in heck that any automated ebook export will produce a book that looks halfway good with no additional labor. This is especially true of many InDesign layouts, because you will have layers and graphic frames and fonts and style overrides up the wazoo. All this fancy formatting that is great for print will not translate. Here is why in a nutshell: Ebooks are basically HTML, and not advanced web2.0/webapp/skynet HTML, but stripped-down, carved in a stone slab as Cuneiform kind of HTML–no layers, limited positioning, tricky-to-non-existent font embedding…It’s barbarian by web design standards.

However, there is a solution to this, and that is to make it TAO. EPUB books don’t allow a full array of styling control, and so you must relinquish control. The solution to the issue is “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Thoroughly simplify–or Thoreau-ly simplify, as in Henry David Thoreau-ly, since I believe that is his quote. In simplicity, your document will find the elegance of ebook beauty. Embrace white space, embrace the inability to layer or position, and embrace the fact that ereaders may or may not substitute their plain defaults for your special fonts. Most of all, you must embrace the concept of flowing text. You have almost no control over how any given page will look. Continue Reading →

Word docx to ebook — Calibre conversion

(Third post in a series that begins here.)

So, let’s move on to the actual ebook conversion of our little novella using Calibre.

First, a word about Calibre itself. The website says that Calibre “is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. It has a cornucopia of features . . .”

It’s exactly the range of features — ebook library manager, news feed reader, ebook converter, etc — that can make Calibre a bit bewildering to those of us who just want to use its GREAT ebook conversion tool. It will really help you, as you use Calibre for ebook conversion, to remember that, from the software’s and the developers’ perspective, conversion is just one feature among equals. The developers who contribute to this open source product have clearly invested an enormous amount of time and attention in this feature. But it doesn’t get top billing in the user interface (UI).

Frankly, the whole UI is a bit unconventional. Literally unconventional. It doesn’t follow the conventions of the Windows interface — no File/Open menu item to be found. It doesn’t follow the conventions of the Mac OsX interface — the menu bar has none of the standard File, Edit, View, etc entries.  On the other hand, the product is absolutely consistent in look-and-feel across platforms — the Mac and Windows versions are identical.

Continue Reading →

Word docx to ebook — generating a clean docx file

RunawayCoverAmazon(Second post in a series that begins here.)

I’ve got two files that Mom mailed me when we first agreed to publish these two short works in the Kindle and Nook marketplaces.  Both are .doc files, probably from Microsoft Word 2003, definitely from before MS Word 2007 when Microsoft switched to the .docx format.

There are two options for converting the files to .docx. If I thought the formatting in the files was super clean, my guess is they’d be equivalent.

  • Import the .doc to my Google Docs account, letting Google convert it to the native doc format, then export it as a .docx.  (But note that this will only work for relatively small files; there’s currently a 2mb size limit.)
  • Open the .doc in a current version of Word and resave it as .docx.

I’m going to do the latter.  Since I think the internal formatting for these two documents needs to be cleaned up to make Calibre’s conversion go more smoothly, I want to work with them in Word anyway. However the process I’m going to describe should work equally well via Google Docs for a short manuscript.  In other words, if you have an old .doc file (or even an old WordPerfect or Ami Pro file) and don’t have a current copy of Word, don’t despair.  Free and open software can come to your rescue.

Please do try this at home.  Please do NOT try this on the only copy of a file that you have.  BEFORE you start this process, make sure you have made a safe copy, other than the one you are about to work on. Pretty please? Continue Reading →

Word docx to ebook — overview

Simpler than ever but still not quite ‘just a click away’

RunawayIbookSnippet

Runaway — on sale in iTunes!

In June 2013, with no fanfare, Calibre, the wildly popular, free ebook management and conversion tool, added support for direct conversion from Microsoft Word docx to ebook formats. This is Big News for self-published ebook authors and for small, specialty publishers alike. It is not getting the attention it deserves.

If you’ve never tried converting a Word document into an ebook, it would be hard to convey how complex and frustrating the process has always been.

On the one hand, you have the absolutely dominant word processing package’s standard file format, docx. On the other hand, you have the two dominant ebook formats, epub and mobi, that, between them, let you publish your book in all the major marketplaces (Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks, and Google Play).

How could there NOT be a solid, simple way to go from docx to epub and mobi?  But there has not been.

You generally had to choose from a variety of bad conversion options that fell between two extremes:

  • Submit your Word file directly to the Amazon Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP) dervish and be appalled by the resulting ebook full of apparently random formatting variations. Even if you could ultimately placate the dervish with small, iterative tweaks to your doc, you ended up with a manuscript good only for Kindle, not Nook or iBooks or Play.
  • Export your text from Word (or InDesign) to HTML, thoroughly scrub the output to remove extraneous styles and classes and other cruft, add a bit of restrained CSS, then use a tool such as Calibre to convert to your ebook format(s) of choice. While this process could result in a great product, working with raw HTML files and CSS is not necessarily attractive to Every Writer or even every small publisher.

But now, with Calibre’s new feature, you can take a well-formatted Word doc, hand it straight off to the “industry standard” conversion tool, and generate well-formatted files suitable for submission to the Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Play marketplaces. Continue Reading →