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Friday, September 30, 2011

Interview at Precarious Yates

Another person has undertaken the grueling task of interviewing me. This interview was specifically concerning my self-publishing work, and my recent self-published novel, Mind Game.

To check out this interview, visit her blog. You may find some other info there of interest as well!

Thanks!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So You Want to be a Writer?

There are not too many careers that most everyone thinks they can do just as well as the "professionals." Theology is one. How many self-proclaimed theologians are out there who have never studied theologians of the past to know what mistakes to avoid, what downsides there are to any one position, etc.? And yet, someone who has read their Bible a couple of times will decide they know as much as someone who has studied it all their life.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when the professionals get it dead wrong. They can end up relying upon their creative thinking ability more than the facts, and come up with some really harebrained ideas. But I can guarantee you that the number of harebrained ideas among amateur theologians is much, much bigger.

Being an author tends to be one of those career choices. We see someone rise to stardom among authors and what is the general consensus? They got lucky. Fate smiled upon them. And it seems even more that way when you look at some bestsellers who are generally lambasted for their poor writing skills. People read it and think, "I could do better."

Lester Del Ray also said that, many times. And his girlfriend at the time grew tired of him saying that, and challenged him to write a story and send it in. If it got published, he could keep saying that, if it didn't, then he had to shut up. So he took the challenge and wrote his first short story, and sent it to a magazine. Even he didn't really expect it to get published, but one day a check arrived in the mail for $40.00 (my first sale was for $10.00 over 50 years later...where's that inflation everyone talks about?) Thus launched his career. But it wasn't a straight shot upwards. He struggled to get another one published for some time, and at one point quit writing, coming back to it after a period of time. But at some point, he began selling his work and it grew from there.

While you may get lucky and sell the first time out, or you may have a voice that is compelling on the first novel, the odds of that happening to any one writer is worse than most state lotteries. People tend to think they can one day say to themselves, "Hey, I know enough grammar that I can sit down and write out a story people will be begging me to read, and I'll be rich." Why they think this about writing and not about playing the piano is beyond me. Even after a year of learning to play that instrument, or any instrument, unless there is an artistic prodigy hidden in you, you don't expect to go out on a concert stage and expect people to pay their hard earned money to hear you play. It is the same for being a writer.

So, if you are thinking of being a writer, here are some reality checks for you to consider as you dream of your name on the best seller's list.

1. Expect it to take around a million words of writing before you are writing to a professional level and getting regularly published. And no, rewriting/editing a novel doesn't count. A total rewrite from scratch would. The idea is that for the creative side of your brain to be trained for good story-telling, it has to practice the art of telling a good story. Some get the hang of it earlier, some later. But there are many elements to a good story that a new writer has to master. Elements of a plot, story pacing, characterization, scene setting, weaving in sub-plots, poetic language vs. cliches, and more could be added into the finer points. And we're not even looking at the business end of things, which way too often writers will neglect, thinking their agent will handle everything.

What this means is your first novel is not likely to be good. My first novel is still sitting on my hard drive. I started a total rewrite from scratch because I think the concept is good, but the execution on that first novel, despite the praise from my wife and kids, was very lacking. So it is a waste? No, not at all. It started me on my career path and put in my first 94,000 words of practice. I discovered I could tell a story decently well, but my dialog sucked, and my character motivations and reactions weren't realistic. And I had a lot to learn about point of view. But at the time, my wife had me becoming rich the next year. I was a little more realistic. I figured it would take an additional year at the earliest. But the truth was I had put in the first practice session toward learning how to be a professional writer.

2. It will take for most of us, anywhere from 3 to 7 years to start making any significant money from writing. If you do it right. And that is no guarantee. Many don't ever make much at all. There are many reasons for this. For most, you aren't going to get a lot published until you've practiced enough to write well enough to be published. And once you get published, the amount of money isn't likely to be anything you can live off of, at least at first. It may take a while to build a following, to stand out from the crowd enough to reach the point you can pay some bills from the money that comes in.

3. Be prepared to endure a lot of rejection, criticism, and failure. The only way to learn is to have someone more experienced tell you what you did right and what needs improvement. If you've convinced yourself, like many of the contestants on American Idol, that just because you can put down words on a page they must be genius, and everyone will surely recognize that, you'll feel hurt and defeated or angry that they criticize the pure literary brilliance displayed right before their eyes. They must be jealous of you! Yeah...that's it!

The truth is, for every acceptance you work for, you're likely to have many more rejections. For every novel you self-publish, be prepared for lackluster sales and reviews, if you get any, to lay out your flaws (real or perceived) for the world to see. If you're in this gig for praise, pats on the back, and glory, be aware to get that requires running the gauntlet of scorn and snarkiness first whether from publishers, agents, or readers.

4. On a positive note, you can make a living at this job. Too often, people pain a picture that makes it sound like only a handful of lucky authors can live on writing fiction. By far, the majority of people will not. That's true for anything when it comes to entertainment. The majority of football players don't earn the big dollars or become famous. The majority of actors never make it to the big time. For everyone who has made it, there are multiple people who have tried and given up, often for many of the reasons listed above. They didn't realize what they'd have to do to make a living at this job. It's a competitive field, vying for the attention of readers that your book is worth their time and money.

But, that doesn't mean only a handful of people are able to make a living at this. There are many midlist writers who only write speculative fiction and do quite nicely, up in the realm of 100K a year or more. And I can tell you, they don't do it by putting out one book a year unless they are on the level of J. K. Rowling or Stephen King.

The idea that very few could make a living at this had a little more truth to it in the older days. Days when publishers and agents said you should only put out one book a year, and offered you two to three thousand advance on it. Then you get that sent to you over a three year period, which means you get one thousand a year. If you get another book published the next year, you'll get two thousand. The next, three, and from there, assuming everything stayed the same, you'd be getting a whopping three thousand dollars a year salary! Divide that by the number of hours it took to write and edit three books and you're likely to go get a job at McDonalds, because at least you'll be making minimum wage.

But what if each book wasn't taken out of print but stayed up online forever? What if that book earned around one thousand in royalties a year, and what if you had thirty such books built up over time, by putting out four books a year instead of one? In six year's you'd be earning $24,000. Another six years and you'd have 48,000. And it grows from there. I know not all books are going to sell the same, and all books are not going to earn the same over the life of the book, but you get the point. Traditional publishing sells a book for three to four months, then it goes out of print after several months, means a book doesn't stay on the list making money year after year. Without that buildup of backlist selling regularly, it is very hard to make a living unless you hit it big.

Persistence and producing good stories people will want to read can eventually create a good income one can live on. But it takes a few years of publishing novels. But with persistence, it can be done, and if readers really like what you read and a book catches on, it will speed up the process. But don't expect to be rich overnight. It takes years of hard work, persistence, and love of the craft to reach that point. But it can be reached. Don't let anyone let you think it is pure luck for a select few.

But you may be happy doing it as a side job, earning a little spending cash here and there. That's great. You'll still need to go through the hard work if you want to rise to professional standards, even if you don't expect to live on the money.

But again, the love of telling a story is what carries professional writers onward, despite the obstacles, rejections, delayed gratifications, and hardships. If you jump into the profession aware of these things, there will be less chance for discouragement and giving up down the road.

So, still want to be a writer? Good! May the muse be with you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 2 - Creating the Cover, Part 2

This series will eventually become an ebook I'll make available for sale once we complete the chapters and I can make time to edit them. Visit the chapter list if you want to read the prior steps. If you appreciate my efforts and find them useful, please consider a donation (top, right) to aid the continued work on this book. Thank you.

Placing the Text on the Page


Now that we have our cover art in place, and we know what we're going to do with the text and title, we can start putting the cover together and experimenting. If you only have the front ebook cover with no plans to create a print cover in the future, you can skip the next set of instructions. If you have a full-sized print book cover art, you'll need to designate the part you want to work on for an ebook.

First, if your cover art isn't exactly 3900 x 3000 pixels, you can use Faststone to resize it to that size. Open the cover art in Faststone. Move your cursor to the left edge of the screen. A pop up menu will appear. Select "Resize/Resample." Make sure the "Preserve Aspect Ratio" is not checked in the bottom left corner of the window. Then replace the number in the width field with 3900, and the number in the height field with 3000. Click OK, and it will resize the picture. If the artwork was already close to that size, there shouldn't be any distortions of the image. Move the cursor to the left side of the screen, and select "Save as" in the menu. I recommend naming the file something different so you don't overwrite the original in case you need to return to the original artwork file to start over.

If the size of the print book is something other than 6" x 9", then you'll need to calculate the correct width as discussed previously. Whatever the pixel count is for that size, including the spine width, ensure your artwork is the same size, using Faststone to resize if necessary.

Open the artwork that will be your cover in Inkscape. It will ask you if you want to embed or link the graphic. Choose embed. A window should appear displaying the full cover. Adjust the window size, graphic position and zoom until you can see the whole graphic.

Next we need to measure out the width on the right side of the graphic. If you have a cover for a 6" x 9" book we mentioned about, at around 3900 pixels by 3000 pixels, you'd want 1875 pixels from the right edge. For any other size of book, take the width and add a quarter inch to it, then multiple by 300. For a 5" x 7" book, as an example, you'd take 5" and add 0.25" to get 5.25", then multiply by 300 to arrive at a cover width of 1575 pixels.

To mark that area in Inkscape, do the following. Go to the "File" menu and select "Document Properties." A window will pop up. Select the "Page" tab. On that tab, make sure the "Border on top of drawing" box is checked in the bottom-left corner of the window. Then enter the front cover width we've calculated, in our case 1875, in the "width" field under the "Custom Sizes" section. Once entered, close the window by clicking the X in the upper-right corner of the window.

If you're not sure exactly how wide to make it, give it your best estimate. Once you know how many pages your print book will be, and can get an exact template from CreateSpace's calculator, you can readjust the text to fit. As long as you have a rectangular area that resembles the front of a traditional book cover, it will be close enough for an ebook.

You should now see an outline of the canvas overlaying your artwork. It defaults to the left side of the graphic, but you want it on the right side. So click Ctrl-A to select everything and use your mouse to drag the picture so that the right edge of it matches the right edge of the canvas and the top lines up with the top edge of the canvas. If all is done right, you should see just off center-right a line going down the graphic that indicates the left edge of the canvas. That line represents the approximate edge of the spine. Keep all text from getting too close to that edge.

Now we're ready to put the text on. First, create another layer. The picture resides by default in the "Root" layer. Click "Layer" in the menu, then select "Add layer." A window will pop up allowing you to give it a name. An obvious name for it is "Text" since this is the layer we'll use to place the text. You should see in the bottom-center drop down box where it did say "Root" will now say "Text."

Click on the big, black A in the left graphic column. This changes your cursor to a cross-hair. Click in an open spot on outside the picture, and drag it down and right to create a text box. Once created, your cursor will blink inside the box, waiting for you to type something. Let's say we want to use our title "My Last Breath" as a title. So type that into the box. Most likely, it will look tiny. This is because we have zoomed out so much. When you are finished typing it, use Ctrl-Shift-Home to mark the text.

In the top-left corner of the program's window, right under the menu is a drop-down box for selecting the font. To the right of that, is the font size. Mark the font size listed and type in a bigger number, then press enter. The font in the text box will change size accordingly. Use the drop down menu to try out different font styles. Keep in mind you don't want anything to fancy or hard to read, especially when reduced to a small size. But feel free to experiment until you come up with the right font and font size that will fit nicely in width available width. Then try out different colors by clicking the of the colors along the lower bottom to both fit the feel of the book and be readable against the other colors. If you need to outline because no color will contrast well enough, while the text is marked, you can click "Filters" in the menu, then move your cursor over "ABCs" in the pop-down menu, and then select "Black outline" from the next pop-out menu.

Once you are satisfied with your text, click on the arrow graphic on the left-top column of functions. Then click on the text and move it onto the cover, positioning it where you envisioned it fitting. If you need to adjust, you can resize the text box by dragging the corners, but be careful not to distort the text unless you intend to for a specific purpose. And you can always double-click on the text and edit it again to change the words, font, or font size.

Do the same with your author by-line. Usually you want the title as big as you can get it width wise, allowing for some space on either side. You don't want it almost to the edge of either side, as trimming will happen on the cover edge and the spine bend is an estimate at this point if you are using a full cover. But even for an ebook only cover, you want some 'white space." Too close to the edge will make the cover look busy and too full. White space makes it more readable. Simpler tends to be better.

But the author by-line usually is a smaller font size from the title, but not always. A popular author may have their name larger as they are the draw. Considering all the specifics we discussed at the beginning of this chapter, structure and organize the text elements to compliment the focus of the book and its cover.

You can add lines if needed by using the odd-looking pen between the pencil and pen graphics on the left column. Click on an open spot, then move the cursor in a straight line. When you have it long enough, double-click to end the line. Then click on the arrow graphic to exit line drawing. Experiment using different thicknesses by entering a new height in the toolbar where it shows an "H" before a box with a number, and "px" in the drop-down box after that while the lines is selected. The color can be changed by clicking on the colors at the bottom.

Once you have the cover as you want it, you are ready to export it to a file. First, save the whole work in Inkscape's svg format. This makes it easy to come back and edit it later on, either to fix the cover you just created, make a change, or to create the print-book's cover when you are ready for that. Click on "File" in the menu and select "Save." Put it where you'll know where to find it, preferably a folder used for collecting all the files you'll need for this ebook, and give it a name.

To export, click on "File" in the menu and select "Export bitmap." A window will pop open defaulting to the "Selection." If this is already formatted for an ebook only cover (around 600 pixels wide), the "Selection" setting should be fine. If, however, you have adjusted the canvas size to show the front cover out of a larger wrap-around print cover, you'll want to click on "Page." This will export only the section outlined by the canvas instead of the whole graphic.

Then click in the "Filename" field and go to the end of that text. Change the location and/or name, by using the "Browse" button if necessary to point to your ebook's folder. Once set, click on the "Export" button. The progress bar will let you know when it is done. Once finished, click the X in the upper-right of the window.

Next, open the new file which will end in png into Faststone. Check to make sure it appears as you expected. You can use Faststone to do some minor cropping or resizing if needed. If you have exported from a full print-book graphic, in most cases this pixel size will be too big for ebook use. So move the cursor to the left side of the screen and select "Resize/Resample" from the menu that pops up. Make sure this time that the box next to "Preserve Aspect Ratio" toward the bottom-left corner is checked. Enter 600 in the width field, and tab. The height will adjust automatically to stay in sync with the width. Click OK to resize.

Then move your cursor to the left side of the screen and select "Save as" from the menu that pops up. Change the file name; I usually add a "_600" to the end of the file name to indicate it is a 600 pixel-wide graphic. Then from the drop down menu labeled "Save as type:" Select "JPEG Format" from that list. Once saved, you will have a cover you can use for creating all your ebooks.

For sure, this requires a learning curve if you've never messed with graphic editing programs. But once you've done it a few times, and as you get comfortable with the two programs, you can create whatever cover you can image. Provided your artwork and design are of professional quality, you will have ended up with a professional cover. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more creative you can be as you learn what all you can and can't do.
__________

Order the whole updated book with complete instructions for all formats!

Friday, September 9, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 2 - Creating the Cover, Part 1

This series will eventually become an ebook I'll make available for sale once we complete the chapters and I can make time to edit them. If you appreciate my efforts and find them useful, please consider a donation (top, right) to aid the continued work on this book. Thank you.

This next step is one which can strike fear into the average author. Unless you've already delved into art, know the digital terms, and messed with graphic editing programs, the process can feel daunting. Of the parts of publishing a book, this is the one most often farmed out to an artist and/or designer.

And there is no way we're going to teach you to become an expert artists or cover designer in one chapter. That said, we can certainly give you enough information to produce a decent quality cover for your ebook. Remember, it is what is inside that eventually sells the book, not the cover. What you want a cover to do is not turn people away. Ideally, capture their attention is the goal, but the last thing you want a potential reader to think is, "That's a shoddy cover. Story's probably not much better. Next book."

So we hope to give you enough information here to put up a cover that while probably not going to win any awards, will not turn people away by and large. And as you get better at them, can even attract readers to check out what your book is about.

What you Will Need


There are two free programs you will need to create your covers. One is a graphic editing program called Inkscape, http://inkscape.org/ and a graphic viewer and minor editing program called Faststone Image Viewer. http://www.faststone.org/FSViewerDetail.htm Why two? Inkscape uses vector-based graphics as opposed to pixels. What this means practically speaking is the fonts and letters you use on the cover will look sharp at most any size. On a pixel canvas, like the program Paint, if you expand the cover the letters can start to look jagged or fuzzy on the edges. In Inkscape, once you have the cover like you want it, you'll be creating a pixel-based image called "png." Faststone can take that, easily crop it, resize it, and save it in the more popular jpeg format that all the sites and programs will use without a fuss. And both of these programs will come in handy if you desire to eventually create a cover for your print book. That process can be found in the appendix.

Another item you will need is the artwork. I know, that's obvious enough. There will be two major ways you'll get your artwork, assuming you nor anyone in your immediate family is so gifted. Either you will pay someone to create it, you'll take one of your own photos and create it if you are so talented, or if going the totally free route, you'll find some public domain art that will work for your book.

If you are willing to pay for your art, a good source of artist is the popular Deviant Art site. http://www.deviantart.com/ Search or browse the artwork to either find art that will work for your book, or potentially contact an artist whose work you like to custom create something for you. Some artist are also willing to do the lettering and design of the whole cover for a price. Usually you can have them do as much or as little as you need. And some of them will work for little, deeming the cover being on a book as advertising for their skills. Often you will have to search through a lot of junk, but there are certainly gems to be found there as well as talented artist.

Another route to finding an artist is to ask authors who have covers you like, who they used. Often the author is at least aware of who even if they didn't work directly with the artist. But from big publishing companies, the author will likely have no idea who created it.

On the issue of taking photos and manipulating them to create artwork for covers, that's another skill, but one you can learn without too much help. Import a photo into Inkscape and start playing around with the various features in it. Take two photos and see how you can combine them. Experimenting is the best way to learn the skills you may need on getting your next cover in place. Reading the help files, tutorials, or searches on the web about how to do specific task will often teach you more than if you sat in a class on the subject. Doing and experimenting is the best way to learn.

In getting public domain artwork, there are two ways to go about this. One is to browse sites designed to provide such artwork. Using links I culled from Jason Matthews' book, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All For Free, here are sites you can visit:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

http://www.photos8.com/

http://www.public-domain-photos.com/

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

http://www.public-domain-image.com/

http://www.pdphoto.org/

A search could pull up more such sites. But I would encourage any readers of this book to check out Jason's book too. He focuses more on the marketing end of things than I will here, whereas I'm focusing on how to create the books more than he does. So it makes a good companion book to help you sell the book once you've created it.

The other route I've used with some success is Google's image search function. Go to http://www.google.com and click on the "Images" link at the top left. Then enter the following into the search box: public domain <insert search terms>

For example, if I had a space opera novel, I might put into the search box "public domain space". Usually you'll have to wade through a bunch of stuff you can't use, or try other search terms. Once you find something of the right size (you'll need any artwork to be as big or bigger than 1000 pixels tall and around 600 or more wide) and that might work with your story, you'll need to investigate the site the image comes from to make sure it is public domain. If a site has the phrase, "This is not public domain," it will show up in your search. So don't assume because the image comes up in your search that it is public domain. Verify before use.

And in all these sites, it is good to check the sites for their usage rights. Some will have limited rights while others will let you do whatever you want with it. But if it is true public domain and not just someone giving it away for free, it means no one holds the rights to the image and it is free to use however you wish. Certain places may say it is public domain, but what they really mean is they are granting permission from the copyright owner for limited use, and that would be spelled out somewhere.

Before You Start


One key question to ask yourself before you start is whether or not you will ever want to make a print version of this book? An ebook only needs the front cover artwork. That is all that shows on any retail webstore or in the ebook itself. However, a print version will usually have artwork that wraps around the spine and onto the back cover. So if you are going to potentially create a paperback version of the book at some point, you'll want to start with creating a full cover. That means having the artist, if you hire one, to create a full-sized cover, or find some public domain art that is big enough.

How big? That depends on the type of paperback you'll eventually create. To get an idea of the factors involved, you can play around with CreateSpace's cover template creator: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do Using that calculator, you'll get a template you can import into Inkscape to match the size of the book. By adding the pixels listed in the template, you can get the pixel size for the size of book you are going to create. But if you want a size that will be in the ballpark for a standard 6" x 9" paperback, go for around 3900 pixels wide by 3000 pixels high. Once you know the exact number of pages and the exact size when you are ready to work on the print version, you can resize the image to match, as these numbers shouldn't be far off.

But if the story is a short story, or novella you don't expect to go to print with, or even a novel you are only wanting to publish as an ebook, you'll only need around a 600 pixels wide by 1000 pixels high image. And if for some reason you do later wish to go to print with it, you can always create a new cover.

Also, before you start searching for the artist or image that you will use, you need to have a good idea what you want your cover to accomplish. Remember, I can't in this short of space fully treat how to design covers. That is a full book all to itself, and preferably at the hands of a mentor. But if you keep the following considerations in mind, you can do enough right to create a decent cover.

What's the focus? Art, as a rule, has a focus. The elements of the image draw the eyes to certain features that highlight the meaning. So in figuring out what type of art would convey the meaning behind a book, think about what the focus should be. Then you can convey that to the artist, or look for that element in the artwork you browse through. As you scan the images, ask yourself, "What is the focus of this art, and does it match the themes and feel of my story?"

For example, if the dominate image in a picture is an elf, that will immediately communicate to the reader that this is a fantasy story about elves. Maybe other similar fantasy races as well, like dwarfs. If your book only briefly mentions an elf, and it is historical fiction, that artwork wouldn't communicate what the book is about. That is a fairly obvious example, but the objective is the same for other types.

Keep it simple. The biggest flaw of many covers is too much detail that distracts from the focus. This doesn't mean you can't have detail, even small detail, in the cover. However, what you don't want is it to be busy. The goal of any detail should be to draw the eyes toward the focus of the image. If it doesn't do that, best to leave it out as it will be a distraction rather than an aid. So you only need the level of detail in an image that is necessary to point to the focus.

There is one rule about this in ebook covers, that less is more. Some suggest that detail isn't needed because it will not be seen in the thumbprint size reductions that a person will see in a standard retail outlet search. And for sure what you don't want to do is have so much detail in the image that the picture becomes muddied when reduced to a postage stamp size. Once you create your cover, make a small 100 pixel tall version of it and see how it looks.

However, it is not true that small details will not be seen. First, in most online retail outlets, the image once you get to the item screen is bigger. Then usually you can click on it and get a full-sized version of the image, where you should be able to see the finer detail. Additionally, the ebook itself can show the image in large enough detail to see the finer points.

So it isn't the detail itself that has to go, but detail that doesn't draw the reader toward the focus of the art, and instead makes the image busy, distracting from the focus. If the detail in a cover does the points to the focus, then generally when reduced to a smaller size, you'll still be able to get the gist of the images focus.

Let's return to our elf cover. Let's say we have his face in the center of the page. That alone provides focus and tells the reader that he/she is the main character. Then we want to circle the elf with supporting cast images. That could give the reader further info on what types of characters will be part of the story, and provide ambiance that can reflect the story. But what if all the head shots of the secondary characters are the same size as the main character? That could be more of a distraction, rather than the main character demanding the primary attention. What if we have a dwarf on the elf's left, staring off to the character's right, away from the elf? That pulls the reader's eyes away from the elf, not toward him. What if the ax the dwarf is holding is pointing toward the spine of the book? That can draw the eyes away from the elf. Even the border you use for each secondary character can cause problems. On the side opposite the elf, a stronger boarder would be good to use. On the side facing the elf, it would be a narrower boarder, or no boarder at all, but blending in with the background behind the elf. Each element should point toward the center focal point.

Communicate the feel of the story. Another aspect that is harder to quantify, but you as the author are probably the best to determine this, is whether the ambiance and feel of the cover matches the feel of the story. If it is a comedy, does the cover convey a comedic feel? If it is space opera, does the cover feel like a space story? If it is fantasy, does looking at the cover convey that element? If it is a story of devastation, does the cover convey end-of-the-world gloom? If it is a mystery, does the artwork give off mysterious vibes?

How does one do this? Partly in the subject of the artwork itself, partly in the color scheme used, partly in the fonts, where they are placed, how they are sized, and what the title, sub-title say. The feel of a piece is the combined elements of the cover that give off a certain ambiance that conveys the ethos of the story.

Returning to our elf, let's suggest that the story is about an elf living through the last days of his dying race. Maybe he is even one of the few left. But he does something heroic toward the end of the book that enables the world to live on through the destructive bad guy's attempts to end it all, even as his race's last gasp is felt. What might communicate the feel of that story on the cover?

First, might be the title, which we'll deal with in a moment. But a good one for this could be, "To My Last Breath." That conveys the ethos of the story without really revealing what that really means fully, allowing the story to flesh that part out. Just those words convey a seriousness, a finality about it that would say to the reader, "This isn't going to be a happy book, but emotionally powerful."

Another way we could convey this is in the color scheme. Maybe to reflect the theme, at the top of the book is a vibrant green leaves, but as they fall toward the bottom of the page, they shift to a tan and gray color (no bright maple orange fall colors here) until finally a moldy green color dominates the bottom of the page. That scheme communicates the sense of going from life to death, yet the underlying green on the bottom would give a sense that life will be born again from the death. That could be highlighted even further by one small, green blade of grass poking from under the molding leaves, directly under the elf. Then to bring out that focus and keep the background from drawing the focus from the elf, blur the leaves enough that they don't appear to have the focus. In a small image, it will just appear as background coloring. In the larger image, it won't pull the focus away from the elf.

And then there is the facial expressions of the elf. You don't want a happy elf here, but one that appears forlorn, tired, and the color should be pale, not vibrant. To keep him central, however, ensure that the lines of his artwork are much thicker on the whole than the other characters. Yet, give him a resolute look, not like one about to give up, but jaw set, ready to take on the world despite the gravity of the situation. When you have facial shots of your characters on the cover, their expressions can make a big influence on the feel of the cover. You want that to match the book's feel. An elf with a slight smile would go counter to what our book is about. But, if it were a comedy, it would be perfect.

Give thought to the title and text placement. As demonstrated above, the title can not only convey the idea of the story, but should convey the feel or emotion of the book. When you hear the title Lord of the Rings, that conveys one feel. When you hear Lord of the Flies, however, you get a totally different sense of the story. Both those titles convey not only an element of the story, but the central dynamic that makes that story memorable. That's what you are shooting for in coming up with a title.

How to convey that emotion and dynamic? The best titles are those that do two things well. One, they personalize the story. Two, they form a picture in the reader's mind. An impartial picture, for sure, but a picture nonetheless. See how the two titles we already mentioned do that? Both talk of a lord, so you immediate have a person, a lord who will be ruling over something, and a struggle no doubt to rule over others. And both rings and flies paint different pictures in one's mind. One of authority, and one of degradation. Or consider the recent best selling novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We're talking one girl with a distinct mark upon her. The title forms an immediate image in the mind.

The placement of the title in relation to the rest of the artwork is important as well. Most often, the title will go toward the top, and be the largest letters on the page. And usually you pick or create cover art with some space at the top where the title will go. But sometimes that can change. If the author is a very popular author, often his or her name will be the biggest letters on the page. Sometimes, to keep from distracting from the focus of the image, the text will be put in different locations. Maybe it will be at the bottom. Allow the artwork itself and the feel of the story to dictate where text will go on the cover.

Also consider the font and color used. Some people obsess over this. But it isn't that critical. As with other elements of the cover, you want it to not distract from the focus of the cover, and you want it to convey along with the rest of it, the emotion of the story. Pick a font that doesn't conflict with that, maybe even reinforces it, and it will work. Other than that, don't use anything crazy or distracting. Make the title font as big as the space will allow. Naturally, the shorter the title, the bigger the title can be on the cover. But you don't want the text to overpower the artwork either, especially the focus. Balance the elements so they work together, not struggle against each other.

And the font color needs to be considered carefully. You want the colors to match the feel of the cover, but you want there to be enough contrast that it is readable. Frequently if you have a darker background, a lighter version of the color works well. Or a contrasting color can sometimes work as well if the feel is conveyed. A mostly blue background, for instance, could use an orange text. A horror title, though overdone, could be in blood red against a gray sky. What you don't want, however, is for the reader to squint in trying to read the words on the cover, because they blend in with the background too much.

So what happens when you have a multicolored background where the some part of the title tends to blend in? That can be a problem from time to time. The only solution I've found to that is either get different cover art, or use outlining of the words. Some people don't like to use outlining because it appears "unprofessional." Yet you will see professional publishers use outlining when it serves a purpose. I have a book from Baen Books, titled Miles Errant by Lois McMaster Bujold, that his heavily outlined. Double outlined in black, white, and red. So if it isn't feasible to get different cover art, I would err on the side of making the text readable than worrying that someone knee-deep in cover rules thinks it is unprofessional.

Next up in Part 2, the technical creation of the cover.

__________


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Monday, September 5, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 1 – Creating the Source File

This series will eventually become an ebook I'll make available for sale once we complete the chapters and I can make time to edit them. If you appreciate my efforts and find them useful, please consider a donation (top, right) to aid the continued work on this book. Thank you.

The most time intensive task in creating ebooks is modifying the source file so that it will process correctly when creating ebooks. Your source file is generally the file you use to initially write your document in, and/or the text containing the print version of the book if you have one. However, there are a few things you can do when you first begin writing your work that can save you lots of time later. So pay close attention here, because this is the foundation that allows you to easy format a file for each type of publication, whether it be print, PDF, EPUB, or MOBI.

What You Will Need


Among free word processors, I'm recommending Open Office Writer. You can download it at http://www.openoffice.org. This is the word processor I am using to create this book. But even if you don't plan on using Open Office Writer to create your book, still download it if you don't have it, because we will be using it to create the PDF format. Additionally, if and when you want to create the print book cover for CreateSpace, you will need it then.

There are several other decent free word processors out there. Feel free to use them, but the instructions I'll be providing are for Open Office Writer. You'll need to discover for yourself how to accomplish the same things in those programs, assuming you can.

Also, if you have a copy of Microsoft Word, I'll be giving instructions for that word processor too. Even though it isn't free, so many people have and use it, I felt it necessary to include those instructions.

Styles


Styles are essential in making a file easy to change the formatting. It defines how your text will look when associated with a particular style. Want to change every chapter heading in your document from Arial font to Times New Roman? Easy to do with a style, if all your chapter headings are using that style. If they are not, or they are using the same style as the text in the body of the work, then you have to go through the document and manually edit each instance to make such a change.

There are primarily three to four styles you need to concern yourself with:

Normal or Default: These are the default styles for MS Word and Open Office respectively. These styles will contain the bulk of your story's text. You want to make sure all the text in your body uses these. This will especially save you time in setting up the Smashword's document to upload, because they don't like any special formatting. When you decide to change the story's font to Garamon in preparation to create a print book, if it is all in the Normal or Default style, you only have to change the style to modify the whole story. The most styles you use, the more you have to change.

Heading 1: This is the style you will use for your book's title. Also, if your book is divided into parts, you'll want to use this style for "Part 1," "Part 2," etc. Some people also use this for the chapter headings. That is fine, but I like the chapters as sub-headings under the name of the book or the parts. So...

Heading 2: This is the style you will use for all chapter headings, including any prologues, epilogues, introductions, about the author, glossaries, etc. One of the cool things of using this is you can set the style to automatically insert a page break when you use it, which means each chapter heading will automatically start on a new page. Then when you are ready to create the ebook file, you simply turn that off and all the page breaks are gone.

Heading 3: Another possible style to use is Heading 3, which would mostly be used if you have scene or logical third-level breakdowns within chapters, as I do in this document. You can have these who up in the Table of Contents as well, but not recommended as it would make them very long. But I'm doing it in this document to make it easy for readers to get to specific areas for reference. Not something one would worry about in a work of fiction, but with a "How to," it becomes more important.

You don't want any more styles than that. Sometimes a document may need additional styles. For instance, maybe you have a specific way you want scene breaks to appear which differs from the text, because they are centered and you don't want the indent in them, forcing them to be slightly off-centered. So you might create a style based on Normal or Default that makes those adjustments. Then anytime you insert a scene break, you would apply that style to them. But generally you can stick to the above three or four styles. Too many styles starts to complicate the task of adjusting the text later on when we want to create an ebook file.

Creating the Styles


Normal or Default: The good news for the basic story text style, is it is already created for you and is the default style that comes up in each program. However, you will likely want to modify it.

In Open Office Writer, when you open a new document, you'll see a drop-down box in the upper-left corner that says, "Default." To the right of that will be a font style, usually "Times New Roman." And to the left of that is a third drop-down box with a number in it, the font size. The box that says, "Default" is the style box. That is the name of the style you would change to modify all text associated with that style. In this case, you could start writing away and your text would automatically be that style.

However, you will probably want to modify the style. Perhaps for editing purposes, you want to use an easier-to-read font, like a Courier font. And you will want to have the style automatically insert the first line indents. You do not want to use manual tabs as those don't get picked up so easily by some ebook conversion software.

To accomplish this, push the F11 button or click on "Format" in the menu, and select "Styles and Formatting." A window will open displaying a list of styles. Ensure that the left-top button with a paragraph symbol (a backwards P) is pressed in. If not, click on it to ensure it is.

In the window, select the "Default" style and right-click on it. Select "Modify" from the drop-down menu. It will open up a window with a series of tabs that provide various options for setting the formatting of the text. Click on the tab labeled "Indents and Spacing." You will then see a field labeled "First line." To the right of that label is a box with a number in it. I recommend entering a 0.25" (quarter inch) indent. Some prefer 0.5" (half inch), but I find on small ebook screens like a cell phone, that can look too big.

If you wish to change the font, click on the "Font" tab. You will see on the left a list of fonts you can choose. Click on each to see an example of what it will look like in the example box at the bottom of the window. The middle box allows you to select the style of the font. I would keep it at "Regular" for this style unless you really want your whole story to be in italics, bold, or both.

Another tab of particular interest is the "Alignment" tab. Click on it, and you will be able to select whether the text is left aligned, right aligned, centered, or justified. When first writing your story, you don't need to change it from left aligned, but when you go to create the ebook and print book file, this is where you would change it to justified. Once finished setting the style, click "Okay" button at the bottom-left, and if you have text already typed, it should change to reflect your modifications. Otherwise, when you start typing, it will automatically create the indents and use the font, its style and size, selected.

In MS Word, the process is a little different. First, the default paragraph style is called, "Normal." You will probably see a drop-down box labeled "Normal" if you just opened the program, similar to the "Default" label in Open Office Writer, but positioned in a different place. To modify it, click on "Format" in the menu, and select "Styles and Formatting." A window will open on the right, displaying a list of paragraph styles. Each label will be displayed with the settings of that style. To see the settings of any particular style, you hold your cursor over it until a small window pops out listing its settings.

One big difference with MS Word's style list as opposed to Open Office Writer's, is they show a style for every variation of the root style. For instance, if you italicize a few words of text associated with the Normal style, the style list would include a style called "Italics" As these exceptions get more frequent, it can become confusing. However, it does have some advantages over the way Open Office does it. If you want to change all sub-styles of Normal along with the regular text, modifying "Normal" will change them all. But if you only want to change the font size of all italicized Normal text, however, you can modify that one sub-style and the changes there wouldn't affect the rest of the text associated with the style "Normal." Likewise, it makes it easy to select all text associated with it, or clear out unwanted formats, as deleted sub-formats will revert back to their root style's format.

To modify the "Normal" style, put your cursor in some text using the Normal style. It should be highlighted in the Style and Formatting window. If you don't see it, scroll down until you do. Or use the drop-box at the bottom to change the list selection to a group that will show it ("Available formatting" usually will have it). Move your cursor over the "Normal" style but don't click anything. It migth take a second or two, but you should see a narrow box with an arrow pointing down appear on the right side of the "Normal" style. Click on that arrow, then select "Modify" from the list that pops down.

In the window that appears, you will see several formatting selections immediately available. You can change the font, style, size, alignment, among other possible selections. But let's say you wish to change the indent, which by default in Word is zero. Click on the "Format" button at the bottom-left of the window. Select "Paragraphs" from the list that pops up. A window displaying options for paragraph formatting appears. In the "Indention" section of the "Indents and Spacing" tab, you will see one drop-down box labeled "Special." Click that and select "First line" from the list. If you don't like the default indent given in the box to the immediate right of that box, you can change it, as I would, to your desired indent space. Of which, mine would be 0.25". All the other indents and spacing can be left at zero. If there are numbers in them, manually set them to zero.

Now you can click the "Okay" button to save those changes. To make them effective through the document, click on the "Okay" button on the remaining window. You should see the changes you made to the Normal text reflected in any text you've typed to that point, or will show up automatically as you start typing.

Heading 1, 2, or 3: In both programs, the way to access and modify the styles is the same as for the Default and Normal styles. But there are some additional settings of interest in these styles to mention.

Centered text is best centered across the whole page. When you modify these styles, check in the "Indent and Spacing" tabs of both programs to remove any first line indents or other indents. Set those amounts to zero. However, you will generally notice numbers in the spacing sections, giving a number of pixels usually above and below the paragraph. Use this to give some space between the headings and text above and below rather than manually inserting lines. Removing the first line indent will center the text across the whole page instead of set off to the right of center because it is centering from the indent instead of the page's margin. Usually you will want to set Heading 1 to centered. If you use Heading 2 for chapter headings, people go both ways on centering or left setting. But I would remove the indent even on left setting, but that is just my preference.

Another handy feature we mentioned before is the ability to automatically insert page breaks before chapter headings. In Open Office Writer, modify the Header 2 style (or which ever style you are using for the chapter headings) and select the "Text Flow" tab. Under the "Breaks" section, click the check-box labeled "Insert." That will make the "Type" and "Position" drop-down boxes become active. They will probably already be set correctly, but you want to have the "Type" box select "Page" and the position box select "Before." After you select "Okay," it will automatically insert a page break before each paragraph labeled "Header 2"

To accomplish the same thing in Word, modify the Header 2 style. Click the "Format" button and select "Paragraphs." Then click on the "Line and Page Breaks" tab. Click the "Page break before" check box so it is checked. Click "Okay" and "Okay," and the chapter headings you've associated with this style will insert a page break at each chapter.

When you are ready to prepare the file for the ebooks, you reverse the steps above to remove the page breaks. Now when you need to set the formatting for different versions of your book, you simply edit these styles to make whatever changes you wish. Wanting to send this out to an agent or publisher? Edit to standard format (setting Default or Normal styles to Courier text, 12 pt., double-spaced) and the page settings to 1" margins on 8.5" x 11" paper (we'll get into setting the page size later). Print and ship. Ready to create the print file for the book? Edit the styles to use the font, size, and indents you need. Make the headings look anyway you wish. That's the advantage of using styles. Easy to change the look and formatting for different versions.

Applying the Styles


So, now that they are created, how do you use them? For the Default or Normal text, you simply type. You don't need to do anything special. If you've created a style with a different name, then before you started to type you would want to either select it in the drop-down boxes in the tool bar, or open the style list and click (in MS Word) or double-click (in Writer) and then start typing.

To use the other styles, after typing some text, select it and either select the style from the drop-down list in the toolbar or click on it from the style window list. You should see the selected text change to match the new format.

Let's say I'm starting chapter 2. I would type out, "Chapter 2" and hit return. Then select the text and select "Heading 2" from the drop-down list. The text would change fonts, size, and insert a page break, or whatever I've told the program Heading 2 should look like. Then you click back into the line below the heading, and start writing chapter 2.

Formatting After the Fact

Sometimes you get a book file formatted by someone else, and you want to create an ebook for it. Or you have a book written before you read and understood anything about styles and so it is not formatted to make it easy to change or for ebook conversion programs to pick up chapter headings. What do you do?

First, expect to do some tedious, manual work. For instance, if the chapter headings use the Default or Normal styles like the rest of the story, just changed in size and style to look different (which is the most common situation in formatting a file after the fact), that usually means you are going to have to select each chapter heading and apply the Heading 2 style to it. In MS Word, it is possible under limited circumstances to speed this up. Unfortunately, Open Office Writer can't search on text and apply formatting to it. All it can do is replace one style with another.

But in MS Word, they give you more flexibility. So if you have that program, and the chapter headings are labeled with some type of consistent wording, it is possible to do a search that will catch all of these and apply the Heading 2 style to them.

Let's say each chapter is labeled as "Chapter 1," "Chapter 2," and so on. In MS Word, either push the Ctrl-H button combination, or click on "Edit' in the menu and select "Replace." A window pops open with two fields to fill in. On top is the "Find what" field, and below that is the "Replace with" field. Below that you will see a button labeled "More." Click on that and it will drop the window down and show more options.

Place the cursor in the "Find what" field, then click on the "Use wildcards" Right below the "Find what" field, you'll see text that says "Options: Use wildcards." Now in the "Find what" field, type the following text without the quotation marks, "Chapter ??" and then place your cursor in the "Replace with" field. In that field, type the following text without the quotation marks, "^&". Click on the "Format" button at the bottom. Select "Styles" from the list. A window with a list of styles will appear. Scroll down that list until you see "Heading 2" Select it. Under the "Replace with" field, you should now see the text saying "Style: Heading 2."

Now click the "Replace All" button. It will go through the document and find any text that begins with "Chapter " and is followed by one or two characters, then apply the Heading 2 style. Quick and easy. But unfortunately, many books will have either just numbers, or a full title that is different each time. So this is limited to when something consistent and be searched on that will find all instances of a chapter heading.

To remove tabs: in MS Word, using the "Replace" window, clear any formatting (button on bottom-right of expanded Find-Replace window which says "No Formatting") then enter the following into the "Find what" box without the quotes, "^t" and leave the "Replace with" box empty. Click on "Replace all" and all tabs in the document will be removed. You can then set the indents in the style, or alternately, set the "below" spacing to 3 pixels to create a double-spaced paragraph look.

In Open Office Writer, you use the "Find and Replace" function in the Edit menu, or by pressing Ctrl-F. Click the "More Options" button and click the check box for "Regular expressions." In the "Search for" field, enter without quotes, "\t" and leave the "Replace with" field empty. Click on the "Replace All" button. All tabs go bye-bye.

To remove manual page breaks: In MS Word, enter into the "Find what" field without quotes, "^m" and leave the "Replace with" field empty. Click the "Replace All" button and it is done. In Writer, you do not use the Find-Replace function. Instead, put your cursor in the text. Press "Ctrl-A to select all text in the document. Then click on "Format" in the menu, then select "Paragraph." Click the "Text Flow" tab in the resulting window, then unclick the "Insert" check box in the "Break" section. All page breaks will be removed. Apply automatic page breaks in the Header style used for chapters if needed.

The worst case scenario is when multiple styles are used in the body of the text. You can see what is being used in a document by opening the styles list. In Writer, press F11 in Writer, Then select "Applied Styles" in the bottom drop-down box. It will display all styles being used in the document. If you find multiple body text styles other than Default, you can merge them doing the following. Press Ctrl-F, and then click on the "More Options" button. Click on the "Search for Styles" check box. In the "Search for" field, you will be able to drop down a list of the styles. Select the one you wish to merge with Default. In the "Replace with" field, drop down that box and select the style you wish to merge it with, in most cases, "Default." Click the "Replace All" button and the alternate body style should disappear from Applied Styles, and that text should now conform to the Default style.

In MS Word, open the styles list by clicking "Edit" in the menu and then selecting "Styles and Formatting." Drop down the box at the bottom of the window and select "Available Formatting." A list will show the styles in use in the document. When figuring out how many styles are in use, keep in mind that each style may be listed several times, once for the standard, once with italics, once perhaps with some other settings. Usually you will see the style and a "+" sign with the modifications after that. So if you have one heading 2 in your document that is italicized while the rest are not, you'll see one entry for the root style, "Heading 2," and another entry that would look something like, "Heading 2+italics." However, the only exception is that the Normal style isn't listed before each sub-style. So instead of seeing "Normal+italics," you'll simply see "italics." Any style that doesn't have a name before it is a sub-style of the Normal style.

To get rid of a sub-style and allow the text it goes with to revert back to the main style, you'd hover your cursor over the style in question until the down arrow appeared on the right of the name. Click the down arrow and select "Delete." In our example above, we would want all the chapter headings to look the same, not some italicized and some not. So to rectify that situation, we would delete that sub-style.

But if we have multiple styles that need to be merged, hover your cursor of the style to get rid of until the down arrow appears. Click the arrow and select "Select all xxxx instances." The xxxx will show the actual number of paragraphs using that style. With all of that style selected, click on the "Normal" style. The Normal style will be applied to the selected text. The unwanted style would disappear from the "Available formatting" list.

Sometimes, however, the formatting is so messed up, you literally need to start over. To do this, we use what is called the "nuclear option." This is accomplished by saving the document as plain text with no formatting, then importing it back in. All text will become the default of the document, or easily changed if needed. The downside is you lose all italics, bold, heading, etc. formatting. So you either need to reapply that manually, or use my system of retaining certain formatting through the process. Two downsides to this: one, you have to use Word. So if you don't have that, good luck. Writer will not handle this. And the process is a bit tedious, though not nearly as tedious as going back and reapplying hundreds of italics and hope you don't miss any. For those brave souls, I've included the instructions for that process in the appendix. However, I also have a Word macro that can handle the same thing, link with the article in the appendix.

As you can see, it is best to start out writing the document with these thing in mind. You can save a lot of time doing manual formatting to ebooks and even print from the original file. If all chapters have a heading style applied to it from the get go, and all body text uses the default style of the program, the formatting needed to get files prepared for the next steps is minimal. The following steps will assume that you have a source file correctly formatted, and you are ready to start working on creating the other formats.

Friday, September 2, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Introduction

This series will eventually become an ebook I'll make available for sale once we complete the chapters and I can make time to edit them. If you appreciate my efforts and find them useful, please consider a donation (top, right) to aid the continued work on this book. Thank you.

As of this writing, it is obvious that ebooks will, at some point in the near future, overtake the sale of physical books. The trend accelerated during 2010, and all indications are that the movement has sped up to a road-runner pace during 2011. Publishers have been scrambling to lock down ebook rights on old contracts, while authors who retain those rights, have realized their old backlist is a new gold mine of potential income. More and more readers are buying ereaders like Amazon's Kindle, and Barnes and Noble's Nook, and the expectations for the future look bright for anyone who has hopped onto the ebook train.

In short, any author who doesn't factor in ebook sales as significant for years to come has their head in the sand. Whether you are a new author preparing your first book, or an established author who wants to get their backlist into circulation, ebooks provide an excellent mode to publish your work.

The new author might ask, "I can see the advantage of an established author getting their backlist out, but how can this help a new author?"

As a new author, you can put your work out for the public to evaluate before you sink any money into creating a physical book to sell. No money? Correct, because I'm going to show you how to create an ebook in several formats without spending any money. Not only that, but also how to do it so you end up with a professional product. In many cases, your ebook will look better formatted than many traditional publishers, simply because they often take their print file and create an ebook from it without any modifications.

But once you get your story out as an ebook, you will tend to get feedback on it. Maybe someone finds a typo on page 25, or notices that you didn't have your police acting like real police. Unlike a physical book, an ebook is easily fixed and the new copy uploaded. In traditional print runs, you're stuck with several thousand books containing those errors. No redo on those. And even with "Print on Demand" (POD) books, there is usually a fee associated with changing the text once you've said it was ready. But you can fix an ebook easily, and upload the new version within a day or two at no additional cost.

Once your content is published in an ebook, you can gauge how well it is selling to justify creating the print book, and earn the money to do it. If there are problems with the ebook selling, you can either fix it before going to print, or decide the content won't sell well and save yourself the expense of putting out a book that might lay dormant forever.

"What if I want to be published by one of the big publishers? Will putting out an ebook prevent that?"

Only if your story isn't ready. Sales will show whether what you have is enticing to a publisher. But publishers are willing to publish a published ebook that is selling. What a big publisher offers that isn't easy for an indie publisher in today's market is getting onto bookstore shelves. But the chances of even a good book getting traditionally published are slim unless you already have a following. Having an ebook out that is selling well indicates you have that appeal and a following that a bigger publisher can leverage.

But if your ebook tanks, then it gives you opportunity to learn so you can write the next book better. Why did it tank? Did you skimp on the editing and/or proofreading? Was the story full of typos and grammar mistakes? Did the story meander in the backwoods before getting going and need trimming? Did the characters come across as stereotypes and unnatural?

An author is rarely the best person to spot these types of problems. An editor or good friend who knows how to edit can assist you with getting the story into shape. A good proofreader can help spot typos and grammar mistakes that need fixing. The last thing you want is someone to download your sample and find three or five typos in the first chapter.

But these are the types of things you can discover, and work on each time you write. Then when your book starts selling better, you'll know you're improving. An ebook can be a no-cost way of finding out if what you've got is something a publisher would be interested in. Because what a publisher is most interested in is whether your book will sell or not. If they see decent ebook sales, they very well could conclude that they can market that book.

And no, a publisher of a novel is not always interested in first print rights like a magazine would be for a short story. Two different things. First, print rights for short stories in magazines are important because the magazine wants to publish original work, generally. That's because a short story can be resold several times to different magazines. Some magazines will accept reprints, but usually they'd much rather be the first to print a short story.

Why? Because that is what sells magazines. If I see a story I've read before in another magazine, I'm not as likely to buy a copy of that magazine. Those who follow an author are the most likely to buy a magazine containing his or her story. So the first time it comes out, most of their followers will read it there. All those readers are not likely to buy the next magazine that carries the same story, so a magazine knows if they want to sell the most copies, they need to have a story from an author that the author's fan base has never seen before.

But the opposite happens with novels and publishers. The audience a big publisher can reach isn't one that a self-publishing author will likely reach. An indie author can take years to hit the same audience that a big publisher can potentially create in months. So a publisher knows that there are a lot of people out there who are not fans of the author, but would become so if they read the book. So they conclude they can make money with a book with a proven track record. But it will never get that track record sitting on your hard drive, waiting for an agent or publisher to say, "Okay, we'll take a chance on a new, unproven, writer." It happens, but not frequently. The publishing slots in the big publishers are so few and the competition is so high, even a good manuscript will struggle to catch a publishing slot.

So there are advantages to authors, both established and as-of-yet unpublished, to consider putting some of their work out on ebook. "But what about having someone create the ebook for you?" I can hear you asking.

There are plenty of people willing to do that. Some for a fee, some agents are getting into the publishing business via that route as well, taking a percentage of the profits, or there are publishers that primarily or only publish ebooks, giving the author a royalty, maybe even a small advance. So there are routes you can go to do this other than self-publish, and leave the ebook creation and distribution in the hands of others. For some authors, that may be the route to go.

So why self-publish your ebooks? One, it isn't that hard. I'm going to take you step-by-step through the process of creating the source files and the final product for the EPUB, MOBI/PRC, and PDF formats. If you don't know what those are, don't worry. We will be going through them one at a time. We will also go over creating the covers. This includes a learning curve, but time well spent. Once you have the steps down, you'll wonder why you ever feared doing it yourself.

But the big reason you should learn to create your own ebooks is you get to keep 100% of the royalties, and you get to keep 100% of the rights. Any cost you incur, or percentage cuts you hand over, and contracts you sign, will net you less money and can restrict what you can do with your ebook, even if you're not careful, what you can do with your other titles you create and your career.

Since it's not rocket science to learn how to do this, and the benefit is you keep all your rights and money, the time to learn the steps is more than worth the benefits you'll receive. But if this still doesn't sound appealing, chances are you picked up this book by mistake. I'm assuming if you are reading a book titled, "How to Make an Ebook," that you have already decided to be open to the idea, if not ready to dive right in.

Before we dig into the nitty-gritty, here are a few things you will want to keep in mind about ebooks. First, a PDF differs significantly from the EPUB and MOBI formats. PDF stands for Portable Document Format and was created by Adobe. It has the benefit of looking most like a book in its display, and can handle graphics in books easier than the other two formats. It can have page numbers and retain the print format of the paper version. But because of these benefits, it is best for viewing on a computer screen, or at least a tablet like the IPad. When displayed on a smaller screen, like a cell phone, the text becomes too small to read comfortably. Zooming in means the reader has to scan the page back and forth to read it. However, I have a method of creating PDF documents that not only makes them easier to read on a computer screen, but makes it possible to view on a small screen as well.

But the other two formats, EPUB (a universal format which can be read on most computers, Apple and Android tablets, including the Nook, and cell phones as well as Blackberry) and MOBI/PRC (the format associated primarily with Kindle ereaders, but readable on a few other devices). These three formats account for the bulk of ebook sales.

Another format that is used is PDB, which refers to the old Palm format. It is used, but not nearly as widely as it used to be. That said, it has one of the best reading applications for the PC computer out there. If I'm going to read on my computer, that format is my preferred method. The program can be found at the ereader.com site. This format can create a very good ebook, but unless you are willing to spend some money to buy software that will create it for you, the free route gets pretty complicated. Plus, it requires the use of MS Word, which if you don't have it, cost money. I will include the instructions for that format in my appendix for those brave souls who wish to indulge themselves. But since it only accounts for around 20% of online sales, and Smashwords can create a version of it for download if someone wants it, I'm not going to go into the details in the main part of the book.

Note, there are some conversions to PDB on a couple of the programs I'll be using (Open Office Writer and Calibre). However, neither has produced a correctly formatted PDB file. Experiment with them if you wish, but they don't tend to retain chapter heading formatting or create a table of contents. If you're fine with that, then have at it.

The advantages of the EPUB and MOBI over the PDF involves what the PDF can't do: flow text. In these formats, the words will flow into whatever the reading device's screen allows. The user has the option to make the words bigger or smaller, as well as other formatting options. What this means is page numbers become meaningless. What might be page 50 on an IPad, becomes page 225 on a cell phone, and page 95 on a Kindle. What page text falls on all depends on how much screen space the ereader has and how big the font size is. Consequently, for these formats, we'll be getting rid of the page numbers that are traditionally used in a print book, and can be in a PDF format ebook.

The downside is a book with graphics doesn't usually display well on many devices. A graphic that is 300 pixels wide might look fine on a computer screen or a tablet, but only show the left third of the picture on a cell phone. I had one such ebook, published by a traditional publisher, that had this problem. The original book had graphics for some charts and certain lists. I'm sure it looked fine in the paperback, but on my cell phone, we couldn't see most of it. So if you're using graphics, you want to make sure they are no bigger than around 100 pixels wide. If you don't know what a pixel is, hold that question. We'll get to that when we go over preparing your source file.

But the upside to these formats is it makes reading a book on most any device doable. While one will have to flip the page more frequently on a cell phone screen, the book is just as readable on that screen as it will be on a Kindle or one's PC computer.

One other note before we start off. In many cases, there are multiple routes to accomplish a given task. You may have a favorite program you like to use or a method that you feel works better than the one I'm showing you. Cool. If it works for you, no skin off my back. But in order to keep things as uncomplicated as possible, I'm going to focus on one set of programs and methods that have worked best for me. I think most people will be able to obtain the programs and use them. When I say to use one program to convert to an EPUB, that doesn't mean there aren't other free sites out there which can do the same thing. In all these cases, I don't have anything to do with the owners of these programs I'm recommending, don't know them, have no financial interest in their success. I'm only mentioning them because I've used them and they work for me. I don't want to take up pages describing how to accomplish one result with multiple programs. If you use other programs, you're on your own applying the basic concepts presented here as it would work in that program.

There is one exception to this, however. As we go, you will see I recommend using Open Office Writer. That is in large part because Open Office Writer is free, and MS Word is not. And I did sub-title this book that we would be using only free software. So I will be focusing on how to do this in Open Office Writer. But because so many people have MS Word, and there are points where MS Word makes the process simpler, I will also be giving instructions about how to accomplish these task in Word. If you don't have Word and don't want to go buy it, I will be showing how to accomplish everything in Open Office. But if you have Word or want to buy it, I'll include steps for that program as well.

Ready? Set? Alright, let's go!
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