ePubs, straight to the point, but the most circuitous route

EPUB Straight to the Point - Creating ebooks for Apple's iPad and other ereaders

Ok, so we’re giving the ePub of Adobe one more stab. We’re going to try the book by Elizabeth Castro.  The ePubs come out, but they have some quirky issues and they won’t validate. Argh!

To be honest, making a file that will work on a reader or iPad or other device isn’t all that hard. It’s just a bit time consuming to  make sure it’s done right.

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Published in: on November 9, 2011 at 6:07 PM  Leave a Comment  
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PDFs as eBooks that won’t make eReaders weep

PDF Page set up    If you are going with PDF, you will need to reformat your book so that the pages are small.  The average eReader screen size is something you need to focus on.  If the display is 6″ wide, you cannot have your static PDF text running at a width of 6.5″ with additional white margins!

In the example we showed you Friday, the PDF was created on 8 x 11 pages, but the text box itself is only 4.75 inches wide and 8 inches long (including the header).  In other words, it was created to become a 6 x9 Trade paperback.

This is why, once you manipulate our PDF slightly in Adobe Digital Editions, it’s easy to read.  It’s just like reading the book version, because it is the book version.  And in fact, you and could read it, with friends at a book club, on readers or in hardcopy and be seeing the same thing with the same pages.

But to be honest, it could have been even better, ie easier for eReader users, if we’d simply made set the page set up for the PDF to custom, and set the text box on a page size that smaller to begin with, to match the size of the reader screen.

It’s something we’ll fix this time around simply because it’s easy to do, even in InDesign!

If you have your text set up on the custom paper size, and that size is smaller than a screen display (6″ wide), with it a tiny margin all around .25″ (it’s probably more like 50 pixels), then your resulting text boxes will fit into an eReader and display well without any manipulation once your text has been PDF’d.

In our case, we’d probably want to set the page size to w 5.25″ by h 7.75″  (A kindle DX display is 5 3/8 x 7 7/8). As it stands, our text box at 4.75″ w is fine, but it needs to be reduced to 7.25 in height.  This will create more pages in the final PDF, and a different numbering than the hardcopy edition, but a better eReader experience for anyone using a Kindle DX or iPad.

Remember, once it’s PDF’d there’s no going back, no one can manipulate it very much. So if the E-reader can’t present it in a readable fashion . . . your book won’t get read.

More on PDFs, tomorrow.

Text   This doesn’t mean you should change your text size (unless you’re using something like a 10pt).  Using a 12pt Times New Roman throughout is probably for the best (although some people prefer non-serif fonts).  Because it’s large enough that people of many visual abilities can read it.


If you love your font selections, that’s ok too. But you need to make sure they travel with the PDF (think embedded journalist, traveling with troops).  Most people don’t understand how to convert to a PDF with embedded fonts (that would be, PostScript the file first, then open the Acrobat Distiller then choose open and select the PS file, at which point it converts to a PDF with embedded fonts). If you do know this, great, do what you want.

With a PDF, it is what it is. Your readers get some of the experience of the physical book because you can duplicate the typography. Many eReaders change the font, or allow it to be changeable, but you can’t do that with a PDF on an eReader. It is, what it is.

You want to be sure that you have your PDF version set up to be either a) as useable as possible, or b) exactly as you want it in your book, but you’re ok with that because you’re using it more to send around as a “Galley” version / review copy of a print book that’s coming out soon.

Marketing   People with Nooks and Kindles  and iPads can read PDF version documents.  But, people have to hear about your book before they go to your website and download it.  Since you can’t market your PDF versions on B&N or Amazon or iBooks platforms without converting them to proprietary formats first,  . . . . .

Things your PDF eBook should have: TOC, bookmarked to chapters so people can navigate it quickly. A good cover which you can do yourself create cheaply with images from photostock places. Text boxes that will fit into the display window of  e-readers easily. Page numbers (because otherwise it’s hard to remember where you were or discuss the book with a friend).

Things you don’t really need: Headers. Headers, as you’d find in a traditional book, or even a PDF, with book/author name? Don’t need those.

Which button makes it work? Help me!

Ok, you have a book.  Let’s call it a text of a book, because that’s what you’ve really created, a text.

Now you have to decide in which format you want to distribute it: PDF, ePub, Nook, Kindle.

You can release your finished book in all these ways if you want, and you probably should.  Don’t limit your market!

In terms of easy to do, a PDF conversion is easiest. Format your book very simply, with page numbers and headers, in a standard readable font, and convert. It doesn’t have to be more complex than this, but you could bookmark the TOC to the chapters to make navigation easy, and you could slap a cover JPG on it. You can then check your creation using free Adobe Digital Editions software on your computer (PC or Mac)

Many people use this option because they have worked with Acrobat.  No access to Acrobat? Search around the Adobe site. It usually allows you to do some free conversions as a sample.  Mac users have a built in PDF creator, but the Mac PDF created isn’t always stable on all platforms. So be aware if you choose to go that route.

The PDF advantages are . . . you can read them on your computer and distribute them around to reviewers who can then see your book as it will look when printed.  The PDF creates a version that maintains your formatting. They can be read on devices such a iPads, which are slightly larger page size.

PDF disadvantages . . . if you do a straight book to ebook conversion and look at it on your ADE, you’ll see the problem immediately.  The white page margins are always there. Even when you shrink it down.  If you go up and select READING, and from the dropdown menu choose Custom Fit, then adjust it 174%, and fit the reader window directly over the text, you’ll see what it’s like trying to read your book on an iPad. It’ll look a lot like this

The problem with simply converting your book formatted text to a PDF (if you aren’t going to make a printed book, and these aren’t review copies), is that PDF formatting is static. You can make it smaller or bigger.  But it’s difficult.  It also becomes totally unreadable on any small eReader or iPhone.

So, when considering a PDF, which can be a great format for people who read on a laptop, or iPad, or when sending out review copies of a book that will be coming out in print (and so you want to show reviewers what it actually looks like), a text formatted into a book configuration and then PDF’d can be a good thing.

However, if you are shooting for an eReader market, you have to make it eReader friendly. So, our tip for when you absolutely positively are going to go PDF, but want the widest possible audience?  Check back Tuesday.

And on to ebooks, and how we make them — do not use as intended.

Before we go any further, we have to be honest, we don’t use things “as intended.” This upsets experts their field, but it always works out for us and it always turns out to be way, way, way, simpler.  Whatever we tell you this month about ebook conversions, don’t spread it around.

We do all our books in Adobe InDesign. It’s a professional type of software most publishers use.  Everyone told us not to buy it, to job the work out to a professional. But we said no. We can do this.  And we did.  But we did it our way.  So we do not use ID as intended.

We put everything for one entire book, in one entire InDesign file. From frontmatter to backmatter.  Just they way you wrote your book on your computer’s word-processing software. We use ID like a big, powerful word processor.

Hear that high-pitched sound? It’s professional designers screaming in the distance.

It’s totally NOT, what you’re supposed to do to make a book in InDesign. But doing it as we do means creating printer files and PDF ebook files that are consistent, free of conversion errors, and a total snap.

And, drum roll please . . . .the first thing to know about creating an ebook? Everything goes in one file.

We end up with a nice product we can sell worldwide, including through Apple, because LSI / Ingram Digital is an aggregator for Apple. (But not Amazon or B&N, which is why we have to go through this now.)

So, if you are currently staring at your not very formatted  potential ebook on your creaky word-processing program and thinking “Yes, but now what? I don’t have any professional software! And I don’t know what I’m doing!”

No worries, you’ve already done the hardest part! You wrote a book and it’s all in one file.

Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 7:07 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Loose Fantasies — just when you think it’s all over, it all starts all over again!

Today if all went well, our new book, the last of the Lennox series, Loose Fantasies  The Memoirs, comes out. If it didn’t  . . . oh wait, it kinda didn’t. We had a little text hiccup.  About 3 paragraphs went astray, so we have to herd them back in.

Notice our lack of upsetment?

People tend to think that printing this book is the end. As if!  It’s usually after you print it that you actually see problems. And so it is with this book. But we go with the Guy Kawasaki method, ie, go ahead and roll it out. It has to happen sometime. Even if it has flaws, you can fix them. If you wait for perfection, you’ll never get it out, or published, or done, or whatever.  So, at this point . . . .

The last book of this series is out, it does have some typos, but is it enjoyable anyway, you bet.  Still, we do care, so we are going to be doing a new round of editing on all 6 volumes in Sept, starting with book 1, and rolling the whole series out through B&N PubIt! (the ebook creation tool they use) for Nook.  We’ll also be taking a crack at turning them into Kindling (Kindle format?). If all goes well, the ebooks set will be up and out in time to take with on your Thanksgiving journey.

Nook and Kindle is something we’ve never done before, although all our books are in an ePub ebook format and available through Adobe Digital Editions. One of the downsides of the PDF format is its static. It doesn’t work well on readers.  And too, Amazon will only sell its Kindle format, ditto Nook, so we felt we needed to tackle this issue.  If you’re following along for the month of September, expect to read an endless stream on this topic and its related issues.  If you’ve been thinking of setting up with Nook/Kindle, it might do you well.

We’ll get around to upgrading the print/PDF versions to match the newer Kindle/Nook versions in a bit, but it’s not like it’s going to make a huge difference to the read. These won’t be major story edits. In other words, these remain the same leisurely, intimate family drama / romance / travel mysteries, you’ve all come to know and love.

In the meanwhile, we’ll also be going through a general round of “end of book” things . .  . the copyright process (all done online thank heaven!), and the mailing out of complimentary copies, and copies to the Library of Congress copyright office.

There’s also all the updating and adding on to do to the FAB website, and Bowker, and Google books. And even before we finish that,  we may have some other books by other authors will be in the pipeline. Probably. Hopefully. Maybe. (People doing marketing probably know this, but you may not, ARCs went out months ago.  An ARC is an Advanced Review Copy.)

The upshot is, if you do decide to become a publisher, you probably won’t get everything right the first go round, even if you do hire a great copy editor, proofreader, designer, media person.  But it’ll still all be ok. Hang in there. You’ll get another chance, and another, and another.  And if you went with LSI cover corrections and text block correction are only $40. Practically guilt free.  Sure some people may snicker, but so what.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus . . . whose got the last laugh now?

And, if you are thinking of starting a publishing house to have your revenge, keep control, or make money, you might as well start with the 12 step program

For anyone thinking to become a publisher (ie, start a legit publishing house) here is your 12-step to-do list:

  1. Pick a name (stop by a library, look at Writer’s Market, and use Goggle to make sure no other US publisher is using that name)
  2. Get a .com web address in your company’s chosen name.  (.com will make your life way easier, don’t purchase anything else or any other web addresses with the same name but a different extension, it’s a waste of money)
  3. Register the name to yourself. ($7.00)
  4. Put up a webpage (Use startlogic.com if you want a good, reliable easy to use, fully functional, loaded with extras, exceptionally priced host with great customer service — $50/year)
  5. Rent a PO box for deliveries/submission
  6. Apply for a business license. . . ($35-50)
  7. Run a DBA (Doing business as) advert ($25)
  8. Get a Board of Equalization reseller license (free)
  9. Get an EIN from the IRS  (Free, over the phone!)
  10. Establish your business account at a bank (free)
  11. Once you have your bank card . . . .
  12. Purchase a block of ISBN’s, probably 10 or 100  ($250-525), from Bowker.

Now you are set up to do business as a publisher in the eyes of your city/state/country and other publishers . . . .  But, there are additional steps to embark on — because you still don’t have a book to sell.

  1. Purchase Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat) to create your books, logo, etc.
  2. Design your logo and Vista Print some business cards. (optional)
  3. Apply to the Library of Congress to join the PCN program (free).
  4. Set up your BOE account and go to a class so you are sure you understand how it works (free)
  5. Set up with LSI, that’s Lightning Source International.  To handle your printing and distribution services worldwide, including digitally.
  6. You will need separate contracts to deal with Amazon and iBooks.( Barnes & Noble works with Ingram, LSI’s parent.)

Now you can work on the book.

  1. Format the book out with your software.
  2. Create a cover template using LSI’s cover generator (this will include barcode)
  3. Get a LoC Control number (through the PCN program) and be sure to include it in the book.
  4. Set up your title with LSI & Upload (total cost, $75, plus $12 a year for catalog)
  5. Do a short print run, say 5 copies ($40).
  6. Have people read them, and correct any errors. ($40 to re upload the entire corrected book, or cover, so worth it)
  7. Set up the book as an ebook. (separate ISBN)

Not really done yet . . . .

  1. Do a short print run, so you can mail 1 copy to LoC PCN program (required) and 2 copies to LoC Copyright office.
  2. Set up an account with the copyright office (free),
  3. Submit your copyright claim ($35) and mail them the books
  4. Update your website & BowkerLink showing your book is for sale.
  5. Decide if you are going to allow it to be on Google Books (Free)
  6. Create another version for Amazon Kindle (with another ISBN)
  7. Make sure your accounting (Quick books is good) is kept up to date because the IRS and the BOE will care.

If you’re thinking holy crap, yeah . . . that’s what it’s like. And we’re not even talking about marketing here or contracts you have with authors, editors, designers (because we’re going to presume you’re doing it all with the help of concerned family and slightly tech savvy friends.)  But we want to be honest with you  —  This is just the bare bones basics of getting a book to market.  If it sounds overwhelming, it can be.  But basically it’s just step by step, slow and steady.

If you want to put your book into an audio or pod format . . . that’s for another day.  We just want to talk books today.  And if you walk away with no other useful piece of information, remember the name Lightning Source.  There’s a lot of steps to publishing, but if you can’t make and deliver a product, you’re out of business. Basically LSI gets you into hardback, paperback, and ebooks, with a low overhead. If you have the guts and the passion, LSI lets you turn into a real publisher putting out real books on a small scale, or a very large one, all over the world.

We really recommend that if you are going to become a small publisher, you think about going with LSI for 3 main reasons:

  1.  You can start from the ground up, and learn to do it all over time.
  2. You never have to shell out for a book you won’t use.
  3. You have instant access to a host of services that make your life way easier.

We meet a lot of people who start up a company to publish a book (usually their own), only get stuck with a bunch of ISBNs they’ll never need, and worse, a bunch books they paid for but can’t shift that now take up storage space. Basically printing books you can’t sell is money you’ll never get back.  That won’t happen with LSI because you can go POD, until you hit some bigger orders. And sadly, many of these publishers don’t even recognize that if they do get themselves into this horrible situation . . .  it’s still not the end of the world.  There are book overstock and remainder resellers, who will take those unwanted books off your hands so you can then write them off as a loss.

Any here’s a brief list of what LSI does. . . .

Print to Order

  • With this service the publisher sets the retail price, wholesale discount and return policy.
  • We send the data out to our Distribution partners (including leading distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and others).
  • They capture the demand from booksellers, libraries and consumers and we print to fill the order.
  • We collect the wholesale price, deduct the print cost and pay the publisher the balance.
  • The price for this service is $12.00 a year per title. Just one dollar a month.
  • B&N purchases through Ingram Book Group.
  • As you know Lightning Source titles are listed in the Print-to-Order program – an exclusive service that allows Ingram to display 100 copies on hand at all times. As part of this arrangement, and to avoid book buyers from having to backorder, we at Lightning Source guarantee books ordered by Ingram will be printed and returned to their shipping dock within 8 – 12 hours, generally in time to be included in the book buyer’s regular order.

Print to Publisher

  • With this program we fill orders placed by the publisher and ship them in any quantity to any location. That can be one book to a reviewer or 5,000 to a warehouse.
  • As part of that service we offer Offset printing on paperback quantities of over 2,000 or hardback quantities of over 750.
  • Turn around time on digital printing is days, turn around time of offset is about 7-10 days depending on the books specifics.

Offset printing

  • Offset printing isn’t a component of Print to Order.
  • We also offer traditional printing services for titles that require large print orders.

Pretty amazing. At their site, you can read over various contracts, get a grip on what happens in production, what things cost, learn about print/distribution/marketing . . . . and we recommend you do all that if this is the route you want to go.

With none but the stars to guide . . . . do a little soul searching while you still have the time, the will, and a soul!

You may or may not have heard of Martha Beck, she’s a frequent columnist with O Magazine, but she’s also the author of several very helpful books, including Steering by Starlight. A lot of authors just want to be published, and become very obsessive about this.  If that’s you, you might want to take a step back and think about where you’re going, why, and how the way you’re getting there may or may not be the best.

Drop by O and read Martha’s latest article How to Tune In to Your Inner Voice. Every author has an inner voice, so do most publishers. Granted you may not want to hear what your voice is saying, but . . . take some time to find out anyway. It may just change your life completely, as it did for Ray Walker.

If you have the time, or want a life coach, stop by Martha’s site at least see what an excellent author site, of a NY Times best-selling and very well known author is like.  It’s not loaded with bells and whistles. It’s simple, powerful, personal. She tweets, she blogs, she has a store section . . . It might be more than you can do, or want  to do, but it’s an example.

If you think you want a professional website, look at sites you like and find out who did them. If you think you want to publish on your own, you’ll want to look at covers you like and who did them, or talk to printers, or . . .

You can learn a lot about what works (and doesn’t) just by seeing what other people tried. Don’t learn stuff the hard way if you don’t have to. On the other hand, if you have to learn something don’t be afraid to.

We at FAB didn’t know how to make a book cover 2 years ago, or how to use Adobe Creative Suite InDesign, or how to do a lot of things. We simply found out along the way, or found people who knew that we could work with (thanks Studio Vera!), or books that instructed in an understandable way (Thanks On Demand!). Sure, we made some mistakes. We still make mistakes now and then, but it’s never the end of the world.

The only thing that’s the end of the world, is the end of the world. Remember that. If you see Jesus coming in the clouds, then you can cheer (or wail) like it’s the end of the world. Otherwise, pull yourself together and get on with it.