Posts Tagged ‘kindle’

Ebook Formatting for Self-Publishing

Ebooks!  Wave of the future!  Whether or not you prefer your novels cheap and virtual or paper, if you’re self-publishing these days you need to have your book on as many platforms as possible to reach the widest readership.  Ebooks are an excellent way for an unknown author to get their name out there, because it allows readers to try you out without investing a huge amount of money on you.

I spend a lot of my time formatting ebooks, as it’s one of the freelance services I offer.  (As you can see if you click the lovely ‘editing and formatting services’ tab above.)  Admittedly, formatting is a bit frustrating because the oddest little things will throw your book into chaos, but!  It is doable if you are patient and willing to spend time trolling internet message boards.  Or you can hire someone (like me) to do it for you if you are short on time/patience and don’t mind spending some money.

There are three ebook publishing venues you should be using (all are free, so if you’re not doing this you’re only cheating yourself):

1. Smashwords
Smashwords takes your Word document, converts it to a gazillion different formats and, as long as your book meets their standards, they’ll allow you not only to sell your book on their website, but will distribute it to pretty much every other ebook retailer out there, including the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, etc, etc, et al.  They’ll even create a version that will run on Amazon’s Kindle, though last I checked, it will not list your book on Amazon for you.  (Note: Smashwords is one of only a few ways to get into the iBookStore.  Lulu.com is another, and something you should look at if you are publishing a print version through them.)

However, Smashwords requires you to strip your book down, getting rid of almost all your formatting, to ease the conversion between platforms.  If you have something formatting-intensive, you might have issues meeting their standards, or you might find you cannot get your book to look like you want.

Smashwords offers a comprehensive formatting stylebook to help you meet their standards.

2. Amazon
The Kindle still owns a good majority of the ebook-reading public.  Plus it’s something to see your book listed for sale on Amazon.  Amazon offers authors a 70% royalty rate within a certain price range, which you really can’t go wrong with.

The Kindle is kind of a pain in the butt to format for, however.  Each Kindle book is, at its base, an HTML file.  (Not unlike a website.)  If you know how to program in HTML, good for you.  You are good to go.  There are some programs that you can use to convert your book to HTML (or .mobi or .prc, the other two file formats Amazon will accept) though they are a bit buggy and I recommend fixing the HTML after you’ve done so.  There’s Mobipocket Creator (which I prefer to use, because although it’s buggy, it’s easy to get into its guts to fix things) and Calibre (I honestly think it’s easier to program your entire document from scratch than use Calibre, but your mileage may vary).

If you want NCX files or a lot of pictures and you are not HTML proficient, I recommend hiring someone.  You will spend a lot of time trolling the internet and it will be full of sad, confused people.  (Luckily, if you have a novel, both are usually unnecessary.)

3. Barnes and Noble
The Nook is the easiest of the three basic platforms to use.  You can pretty much just upload your Word document, no changes needed, and it will look pretty and be readable. Barnes and Noble holds about a fourth of the ebook market these days, so even though Smashwords will eventually get your book listed on B&N.com, I’d recommend going ahead and uploading directly to PubIt!  You won’t have to eat all your formatting and it will go live faster.

So there you have it, a very basic overview of ebook formatting for your self-publishing needs.  Have at it, Squiders.

Ebooks vs Paper Books

First of all, I want to announce that next week shall be ALPACA vs. LANDSQUID guest blogger week.  You’re going to want to stop by.  My guest bloggers are brilliant and extremely funny, and I shall be drawing accompanying pictures.  You have not lived until you have seen a landsquid wearing aviator goggles.

So.  I have a Kindle.  It’s first generation, a group birthday present from my family for my birthday a few years back.  I do like it quite a bit, but I don’t use it a huge amount – mostly when I’m traveling or working out on the cardio machines at the gym.

This drives my husband absolutely batty.  “I don’t think you like it,” he’ll say, sounding personally offended (because he led the charge to buy it for me).

“I do like it,” I reply, “I just like paper books better.”

“Why?” he’ll ask.

Why indeed?  For all intents and purposes, my Kindle should be the greatest thing ever, right?  It can hold hundreds books and fits in my purse.  And it is nice in a lot of cases – I don’t have to worry about space for books when I’m on a long trip (and I can go through a lot of books), I don’t have to worry about keeping the right page open when I’m on the elliptical machine.  I can get new books immediately instead of hunting them down at a bookstore or waiting for them to show up in the mail.  And finally, finally, people can buy me ebooks as presents.

But there’s something about a real book, the feel of the paper, the smell, the sound of turning pages, and I find that despite the convenience of ebooks, I still prefer the real thing.  (Also, your Kindle cannot be on during landing or take-off and I can only read the SkyMall catalog so many times.)

As an author, I actually sell more paper books than ebooks.  Go figure on that – especially as an unestablished writer, it should in theory go the other way, shouldn’t it?  It’s priced competitively – $2.99.  I’ve seen some discussion on the interwebs about ebook price points.  Some people think that new authors should price their books at $.99 to encourage people to try them out.  (Or free, especially if there are other books in the series that people can also purchase.)  On the other hand, I’ve heard people say that they won’t buy an ebook below ~$5 because obviously that author doesn’t value their work and it sets a dangerous precedent.  I have no strong opinion either way and so I sit somewhere in the middle.

Where do you stand on the ebook vs. paper book discussion?  When you purchase ebooks, especially from authors that are new to you, what is the price range you will consider?  How much of a driving point is price?

The Ease of Self-Publishing, Part II

To continue from this entry in October, where I was commenting on the useability of CreateSpace and Lulu to self-publish.  (On a side note, every time I link to one of my own entries, WordPress gets all excited and tells me a new website is linking to me.  No, just no, WordPress.)

When we left the story, I had successfully updated my listing on Lulu with the new edition and was awaiting my proof from CreateSpace.  This is where the trouble starts.

I was in the process of moving at the time, so I sent my CS proof to my mother’s house, as I didn’t know where I was living, had no address, and figured my mother’s house wasn’t going to go anywhere.  It never showed.  Eventually, some weeks later I called CS (really, had them call me – they have no customer service number.  You give them your number and then they call you after a specified amount of time) and asked what had happened to it.

Apparently it had been returned as undeliverable. 

I’m not sure why they wouldn’t deliver to my mother’s house – I send things there all the time – but I was more annoyed that they had not sent me an email or something to tell me that this was the case.  Apparently we were hoping I would just psychically be aware of the situation.

So we got that hammered out.  Eventually the proof shows up.  It looks brilliant, except for the fact that the back cover is not ideal for reasons covered in the above post.  Really, I am very pleased with the quality.  Everything looks ready to go.

My husband and I go back into one of the CS menus to doublecheck something.  We change nothing, but CS decides that we must have and demands that I order another proof copy.  Oh, hell no.  I am sick of the entire proof copy process.  It will not let me approve the book for sale until I buy another copy.

After several phone calls that generally went “I did not change anything, I like the book as it is, can’t we just reset something for the love of Landsquid?” things finally got straightened out.  The book went live.  It is EXCELLENT to see yourself on Amazon.

Overall opinion of CS: Nice quality product, INFURIATING processes.  I would/will use them again, because it has proven to be a very good thing to be listed on Amazon, but they really need to work on their interface.  You should have to save something before it tries to force you to approve a new copy at the very least.  But in their defense, everyone I spoke to on the phone was very helpful and honestly did the best they could to fix my issues.  And I got a free proof out of the madness.

We also went ahead and did both the Kindle and the Nook.  There’s really no reason not to.  It is SUPER EASY to use both.  Kindle wants you to upload an html file, which is a bit odd, while PubIt! will take a Word doc.  Both sites let you preview how it will look on the physical ebook reader.  The website interfaces are user-friendly and easy.  If you want to include your cover/pictures in your Kindle file, you do need to do some funky html thing in the file and then include the graphics as a zip file, but overall, I have no complaints with either service.

I decided not to use SmashWords based on some advice I found across the interwebs based on an unreliable royalty issue.  For the time being, I am not planning to expand to any other platforms, though that could change with time.  I will keep you apprised of any relevant updates.