Book Publishing – Part 2 of 2

August 28, 2017 at 11:35 pm | Posted in Books, Online services, Software, Writing | 8 Comments
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< see Part 1

File Conversion

You’ve now designed your book in a set of files. Your next step is customizing for print and ebook versions. Make a copy of your chapter files in a sub-folder each for print and ebook, without the Book file. For the ebook version, you can drop the Index and pre-title page as they’re irrelevant here. Then create a new Book file for each version. Now you can customize for the final output.

See the Guides links in the Distribution section below to compare requirements with what you’re doing. Distributors require a Contents file and a Cover file for each format that meets specifications.

Print Version
Review your files and adjust paragraph breaks to avoid subtitles at the bottom of pages and so forth. Ideally, you want page tops to be even. (you don’t want these customizations in the ebook version)

The files for your cover and your content will be exported into separate PDF’s with fonts.

The print version should ideally be CMYK images to avoid unexpected issues later. If you’ve been working in RGB, update your images to CMYK, copy them into the Print sub-folder and re-link them in the Links panel.

To export the cover, File/ PDF Presets/ Press quality. On Bleed page, select “use Doc bleeds” or it crops them off. On Output, check its set to CMYK (it should be).

To export the book, select all chapters in the Book panel, then Export as PDF, uncheck Spreads.

Check everything thoroughly. Fix and re-export as required.

For both, edit the PDF document properties after to add the title and author. Don’t apply any security. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat (full version) to do this, you can use the free version of Tracker PDF-XChange Editor. (It’s PDF Reader is much faster than Acrobat Reader)

EBook Versions
Many of the dozen or so early ebook formats have faded out now. The most important are:
.ePub – the open standard format, for Nooks and generic readers but not Kindle.
.mobi – for Amazon Kindle (and the similar .azw)
.pdf – designed for fixed-format printing but almost every computer has a PDF reader.
(comics have their own .cbr and .cbz formats. Other formats.)

The first is what you need for digital book stores. The second for Amazon. The last is best for manually printing a copy, like for your test readers. You can also add security to a PDF but because the pages don’t flow to the device, it’s less flexible for screen reading.

The first two formats are actually a packaged website. The chapters are html files, just like web pages. This is why the text can reflow so easily on any device. Your styles are converted to style-sheets. It uses web tags for formatting and design. There’s a table of contents file, much like a navigation bar. And a file much like a site-map. All of this is wrapped inside the file container, be it on Kindle, Nook, iPad or tablet.

(You can take your Word files and ‘save as a web page’ and upload that. But Word is full of useless code and you’ve lost control over your layout. Better to get it right first and upload that.)

Images for ebooks should be RGB colour. This means a different version from Print.

From InDesign, in the Book panel you can select the chapters and Export the book to EPUB format directly. (PDF too) That file can then be converted to MOBI.

I’d recommend polishing and testing the EPUB before MOBI conversion as you can’t edit a MOBI file very easily. (Amazon gives instructions, but it’s not as straightforward)

Editing, tweaking, and converting your ebooks can be done with free software. If you have a little familiarity with web design, you’ll find the required fixes straightforward.

Calibre is the most popular editor for ebooks and includes a library & converter, a good reader and an edit program. The Manual. Converting requires adding the book to its library first (it makes a copy). When you convert, it will overwrite the previous converted version without warning. It also adds the cover once one is assigned, even if you don’t want it to.

(Alpha Ebooks Manager library software doesn’t copy, reorganize, or change your library, by comparison. But the free version is less useful.)

Sigil is similar to Calibre but has a single interface. I preferred it for editing and got the best results. But Calibre does have the good reader for checking, so I kept it installed.

The EPUB output from InDesign removed the second paragraph break from each paragraph, butting them together. As I didn’t use paragraph indentation, it made it harder to read, so I added them back in.

Ebooks do have their own TOC system but it’s normal to keep the table of contents pages anyway. As the page numbers are gone, you may need to remove the contents page links but you can relink to chapter files instead. You have to add page anchors to link to subsections.

Once you have the file polished, check it meets the EPUB standard. You can use the on-line epubcheck Validator. They also have a downloadable version but it requires Java. (I didn’t find the Sigil FlightCrew validator plugin as useful.)

There will be issues. This often requires tweaking the HTML code. For example, the conversion naturally broke the table of contents links, mentioned above. I also edited the Chapter names in the ebook TOC so they looked better. This is editing the label content, not the file names.

I also needed to add some meta information in the contents file. Use the Metadata Editor to add useful tags and enter your title, author, and so forth. For the ISBN, remember you must do a different version for the MOBI conversion as it has a different ISBN.

I also had to reposition many of the images.

Once it checks out and is polished, it’s time for the MOBI conversion. Amazon has a strong preference for their KindleGen software for converting EPUB to MOBI. This also adds “Enhanced Typesetting.” However, KindleGen is a command line tool. This gets annoying when you have to do a bunch of tests to fix issues. You can get software that adds a GUI, but I got the best results by using the KindleGen plugin in Sigil.

There is also an EPUB3 plugin that upconverts the EPUB2 you’ve been working with from InDesign. IngramSpark wants EPUB3.

Sigil has numerous other plugins too.

Testing
You’ll want to install a few software ereaders to test your files. And try them on any electronic readers you have (called side-loading). Some of the independent software doesn’t translate the formatting well, which is one reason I like the Calibre reader. It also handles a wide range of formats. Avoid software that takes over and reorganizes your library. It may even convert your ebooks to a proprietary format.

Amazon offers a Kindle Previewer which is your best bet for testing the MOBI files. It will let you know how it’s responding to the file and if it has Enhanced Typesetting. (Their Kindle app is distinct)

Finally, you’ll want a cropped image for the front cover, trimming off the bleed. JPG in RGB is the typical format. You’d also use this on your web site and promotional materials.

For detailed specs to check your files against the supplier requirements, see the Guides links in Publishing below.

Web Design

Your book also needs a web presence on-line so you can be contacted by readers, the press, etc. If you have a website, it’s simply a matter of adding a page for the book. If the website is unrelated, you can get a domain that points just to the book page inside your site.

If you don’t have a site, you can use a free WordPress.com site (like this one) but can’t use it for commercial purposes. Just information and links, like an on-line brochure. Get a domain for the book too, like mybook.com.

If you want to use the site commercially to promote your book and use it as an information hub, then you’d want a hosted WordPress.org site. For that you need a domain and a WordPress hosting service. WordPress is modular so it massively simplifies designing and adding features to your site.

As an author, it can be very useful to take up blogging to build an audience for your work and a web presence. A blog is an included option in WordPress sites. You can post articles, announcements, events, gather subscribers, and so forth. Blogs have a higher profile in search engines than static sites.

Publishing

You are the publisher as discussed in ISBN above. What you’re doing is uploading to a distributor.

You’re looking for a Print on Demand (POD) distributor so you don’t have to carry inventory to fulfill sales. Otherwise self-publishing is massively more expensive. And a lot more work. Imagine buying an inventory and shipping each book sold. Not to mention returns, delivery problems, and so forth.

Distribution

Ingram, a large, established book distributor, bought Lightning Source (POD). They now offer both print and ebook distribution to a huge market via IngramSpark. You’re included in their catalog used by bookstores and libraries.

Amazon owns CreateSpace for POD and offers the KDP program for Kindle ebooks. Amazon is a bit less expensive but Ingram handles wider distribution better. Ingram is preferable to Amazon’s “Expanded Distribution.” Ingram can handle distribution to Amazon too, but because Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore, it’s better to handle them directly.

Ingram, as with most printers, does charge a setup fee for checking and posting your uploaded files. (which is refunded if you order 50 books after) Amazon is free. After uploading the files to each supplier, you’ll be able to view results on-line or in downloadable “proofs.” You’ll want to order a print “proof” and have it shipped quickly so you can address any issues prior to your release date.

Guides
IngramSpark: Guide to Independent Publishing     File Creation Guide (pdf)

Amazon CreateSpace (print POD)
Particularly, you want the PDF submission spec

Amazon Kindle Direct (KDP) (ebooks)

You’ll notice the many more rules Amazon has due to people trying to game their system. KDP offers tools for doing work on their site but it’s better to use professional tools and test first before uploading. They give you an option of fixing your MOBI ebooks though.

You can order prints through KDP but you get fewer options. You can’t order physical proofs or your own copies or drop ship batches to others. Here’s a comparison with CreateSpace.

KDP does however allow you to set a release date and get the book out in advance for pre-sale. This gets everything in place for the release date. CreateSpace simply launches the book when you activate the sales channels. It is then distributed over the next few days, leading to a somewhat sloppier launch. Clearly, this has been an issue for customers as they essentially apologized when I asked about it.

Smashwords is a popular ebook only distributor, but I found IngramSpark covers more bases.

Because of the cost of shipping books, you may also find it valuable to upload to a more local POD printer, depending on where you’re based. This is not for distribution but simply for your own print orders. You’ll need hard copies to sell at your book launch and locally, to send review copies, to those who have helped you, and so forth. Even with setup costs, the savings in shipping and speed can be substantial. It’s worth getting a quote.

Marketing

Marketing is often anathema for writers. Partly because many authors are introverts but also because it’s a very different skill set. Here’s a site on Marketing for Introverts. And Change The World Marketing, oriented to ethical approaches.

If you know any experts or well-known authors, it’s helpful to have reviews or testimonials for marketing. Maybe they’ll even write your foreword. Asking if they’ll read a pre-published version (after primary editing) helps you get them in advance, perhaps for your books back cover.

Also, be sure to set up an Author page on Amazon. This is a separate step from the above. Head to Author Central to register. Five of the Amazon sites have their own Author Page setup but just US and UK are in English. They’ll send you links.

On Reviews
Do not respond to on-line customer reviews. These are not like blog or social comments. You can get attacked for this and get swarmed with low reviews. There are also some on-line reader communities you have to be very careful about entering as an author.

Don’t pay for reviews. They’ll get deleted along with anyone Amazon discovers you have a social media connection with.

There are certain exceptions like Midwest Book Review. Here, you send them 2 books which they review and resell to support the business. They’re long-established. If you want such reviews on Amazon, they go in the Product Description section, not added as a customer review. They’re not a customer.

Social Media
Having a social media presence is a good idea. Pick a couple of popular platforms. But don’t use them for direct marketing. Social media is just that, for social sharing. If you’re blogging, an update about your book is fine, but spamming subscribers can cause a backlash.

Remember that some social media, like Facebook or Pinterest, is a partially closed system. Posting there is for that community, not the web as a whole. Non-users will have limited to no access. This is why your open-access website should be the center of your marketing efforts. It should contain direct links to purchase your book, typically through other sites like Amazon. By all means, post updates on Facebook and the like. But you’ll gain the most eyes by posting to your website (blogging) and setting that up to feed other social media automatically. This will tend to attract more people to your website mailing list too.

You can set up an estore on your website to sell directly via PayPal or an ecommerce platform. But it’s usually not worth the effort for a book or two. Remember, having a store means a whole other business, as mentioned in Publishing.

Your writers group should be able to help you with local book launch and promotion events.

Congratulations! Publishing a book is still a remarkable accomplishment.

Do you have any other suggestions that worked for you?
David

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