E-Book Publishing Tips

Here are some tips for you if you’d ever like to publish your ebook to Amazon or another ebook publishing site.

  1. Make sure you have a clean copy of the text of your manuscript. Length is irrelevant, but you must have a nice, clean copy free of extraneous mark-up added by most word processing programs. A good text editor is invaluable for this. Just copy and paste the text of the manuscript to a plain text editor and you’ll remove anything weird or proprietary.
  2. Be sure you have all the tools you need to convert a document to an ebook available when you start. If you don’t, you’re tempting fate. If a program crashes because you’re trying to download or install another program you need, you run the risk of losing all your efforts. Which brings me to…
  3. BACK-UP YOUR WORK. I can’t emphasize this enough. Make a back-up of your work, and it wouldn’t be overkill to make a back-up of every stage of your work as you go through the process. You cannot, and I repeat CANNOT, be too careful with something you’ve poured so much effort into.
  4. It’s often easier and cleaner to upload an HTML document than a proprietary word processor’s file format. For instance, you might get better results from the conversion to ebook if you don’t upload a Microsoft Word document directly to the Kindle Direct Publishing platform or Smashwords’s “Meat Grinder” (which may just butcher your document). I certainly had better luck with HTML on the KDP platform. What’s this, you say – you don’t know HTML mark-up? There are LOADS of FREE tutorials on the web you can use to learn. Heck, I’ve even written a book or two about it. You can do it, and it IS worth your while.I also have a little tutorial on this blog here, here and here, which will walk you through all you need, including the tools to get it done.
  5. Many writer-specific and novel-oriented software packages, such as Scrivener, are able to compile documents as ebooks. Scrivener, in fact, can compile as either a Kindle-native format (.mobi) or as the more “open” .epub format. You must, however, install Amazon’s KindleGen program and tell Scrivener where to find it if you choose to convert to Kindle-native format. I got mixed results and wasn’t sure how to incorporate a cover image. But that’s my ignorance, not a short fall of the program.

In all, getting an ebook up to the ‘Net’s not that hard, and while some effort is required to get it done, it’s worth the time. Building an audience is a valuable endeavor, and while it might take a long time to make it happen, it will be a nice payoff in the end.


3 thoughts on “E-Book Publishing Tips

  1. 1. This is why I love using plain text files using markdown for italics, bold, and headings. It’s a pain if I have to export from a .doc or .odt, because I have to run some pretty funky “find & replace” commands to get the text ready, but I think it’s worth it. And now my text editor of choice (for fiction) (writemonkey) is starting to do some clever things with visual formatting on the fly using markdown without changing the text.

    I’m tellin’ you, if you use something like Scrivener (I don’t know if there’s a Linux version yet, but you should hope so — or get a Mac or PC like normal people 😉 ), you’d NEVER go back.

    I like WriteMonkey, but when text files are converted over to ebook, they look TERRIBLE. The difference in professionalism between Smart Quotes and straight quotes and apostrophes is astronomical. Even a well written book looks amateurish without the professional formatting a word processor provides. Once the text programs can accommodate those, I’ll pimp ’em.

    2. Doing things in markdown makes it easy. For publishing ebooks, I just need the command-line tools pandoc and kindlegen. Pandoc converts to epub. Kindlegen takes the epub and makes it .mobi.

    I thought you wrote this program already? Did I miss something? Beside, learning markdown is a whole other chunk I don’t want to bite off right now. If they turn out well (see above), I’d pimp it for you.

    3. For backups, I use dropbox to backup to the cloud and syncless to make a local backup. But you mention another concept here as well, revision control. Programmers have built a zillion different tools to do this(for programming), and many could easily be used to keep track of your fiction. You use the software to start a “repository”, then “check in” your .txt, .doc, or whatever format you use to write. Every time you write, you “check in” your latest version. If you ever accidentally remove a scene or something, you can “check out” an old version. That’s it, now I’m thinking of writing a post about this.

    Great ideas, but aren’t those things for programmers sort of expensive? I can’t afford DropBox and their freebie space is too limiting. I’m using Microsoft Mesh to auto-sync the fiction folder of the My Documents directory to SkyDrive, which allowed 25GB of space (!!) until recently; they allowed existing Live users to “claim” their 25GB space, which I did, and I have 7GB otherwise. I’ve got plenty of safety now. But revision control DOES get tricky, so I love your idea. Get that post written!

    4. Is the meat grinder now taking html? I haven’t uploaded anything there in a while.

    I haven’t either, but I don’t think it took anything but a Word document when I last did so. I thought they even wanted you to convert OpenOffice docs to Word format before uploading. I’d have to check and be sure.

  2. 1. Hey, I dual-boot windows and linux. I’m like, almost half normal. Actually, I only pretend to be an ubernerd online and I mostly use Windows.

    Resistance is futile…

    Pandoc can automatically convert plain straight quotes and apostrophes and such to pretty smartquotes, so at production time it comes out right. And it automatically generates a table of contents, something most professional ebooks (as in from the bix 6) usually don’t bother with.

    After I responded to you I found this out. I check out Pandoc and it seems pretty sweet. Maybe a nice, online tutorial with screen shots would help. Know anyone who could write that? (*coughYOUcough*)

    And writemonkey now has simple project management (granted it took a second to get used to) so you can write scenes in individual text files and shuffle them around, and keep a repository file (or files).

    I have no idea how this would work. I checked WriteMonkey out again, but honestly, I don’t know if I’m wild about the text files and I like being able to handle all my stuff in the sidebar while I’m writing and such. I don’t know about other software, but Scrivener does all this, and eBook conversion, brilliantly.

    Every time I start a new project, I look again at Scrivener and yWriter. I always decide that there’s just too much built in to those. One day I’ll break down and try them for real. My next long project will probably need all the character, location, scene tracking stuff and other features, though. Or I’ll need a personal wiki or something to use as a story bible.

    Scrivener is much simpler than yWriter, and there are online video tutes. In the 10 minute intro video, one of the developers goes over all the stuff you need as a writer to be effective and productive. It’s a 30-day FREE trial — c’mon. Why NOT try it? You’ll love it.

    2. My software is just a simple gui front-end for pandoc, kindlegen, and openoffice (for print pdfs and smashwords-ready .doc)

    Still, doesn’t it package the three together so there’s only one interface? That’s the stuff right there.

    And you should have no fear in learning markdown if it ever comes to that. Especially for fiction, it’s super simple. There’s only like six things we usually use: headings, italics, paragraph breaks, bold, extended quotations, and line breaks (for poetry and such.)

    I guess having one more thing I have to know to produce a professional-looking eBook is the problem. With Scrivener, I know how to make it do what I want (now; had to find out, but it’s simple), it’s easy, and the end-product looks GREAT. There are no additional hoops to jump through and it seamlessly integrates KindleGen right into its functionality. Tell it where to find KindleGen and sit back and let it do it’s thing. Now, B, I love ya, man, but c’mon — how can that be any easier? I’ve converted on of my longer stories and it’s a snap to do. I’m doing the second now (just need a cover image), and that one’s going up next month. Or sooner. Try it! You’ll love it!

    My Dropbox hasn’t butted up against the 2gb yet. I did sign up for a skydrive account a while ago, though. The problem for me in switching is that I have so many other apps that have integrated support for dropbox.

    It seems pretty cool, but SkyDrive’s working awesome and…well, 25GB?

    3. The two easiest tools I can think of offhand are free and you don’t need to set up a separate server or anything crazy like that.

    Names? Links? Help?

    1. Well, pandoc is command line only, so the screenshots all look like this:

      pandoc -f markdown -t epub –epub-cover-image=cover.jpg -o final.epub –smart –toc –epub-stylesheet=custom.css inputfile.txt

      I’ll get to writing those posts.

      Good! I can’t wait for them. We need more people making it easy!

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