Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 6 – Creating the MOBI Ebook and Uploading to Amazon

If it wasn't for Amazon adopting this format for the Kindle, we wouldn't bother creating this file format. It is used on some other minor ereaders that have been used in the past, but when a modified version of it was adopted to use on the Kindle back in 2007, it suddenly became an important ebook format to have in one's list. Not necessarily because the "Kindle Direct Publishing" requires this format to upload a book into their service, but because if you sell directly, people can "side-load" this file onto their Kindle and read it. Between the EPUB and the MOBI formats, you are covering the main two ereaders people use most, and the bulk of non-dedicated ereader devices.

As of this writing, Amazon has recently announced their new line of Kindles, including the Kindle Fire, which is planned to be updated to use HTML5 instead of the MOBI format. It will be able to handle graphics for children's books and the like better than the MOBI format. As that develops and gets implemented, I plan on updating this book to include creating ebooks in that format. However, according to Amazon, the updated ereaders will be backwards compatible. Which means the files you create now will still be readable on the newer devices, and they will still be able to read files loaded on them in the MOBI format. For text-only books, there will be little loss to worry about updating then into the HTML5 format when it comes out.

The format that Amazon likes best is an HTML file, which can easily be exported from either Writer or Word. So the following is not necessary to do if you want to just upload to Amazon. Amazon can also take a Word file, and most report decent results from that, but it is not the preferred format and at times may create unexpected results. They list several formats they accept, which we will not go through here.

So why am I suggesting to create and use the MOBI format to upload to Amazon? Simple. You are killing two birds with one stone. One, it is very easy to create, as you will see. Two, if you are selling books from your own site, you'll want to have this one in the list a reader can download. Three, this is the native Kindle format, so there is minimal conversion for the Digital Service to do, and more assurance that how it looks as a Kindle book on your computer is how it will look on someone's Kindle when downloaded from the Kindle store. It allows you to test the file before you upload. Four, even if you don't plan on selling this ebook from your own store, it is handy to have on hand for reviewers who prefer reading books on their Kindle.

So if you do not want to create the MOBI format, and use one of the others, use "File" in the menu and "Save as" to save the file in the HTML or DOC format, and skip to the "Uploading to Amazon" section.

What You Will Need


We will be using the Calibre software to create the MOBI format. I am using the most recent version as of the date I'm writing this, which is ver. 0.8.23. If you haven't downloaded it yet, go to http://calibre-ebook.com/download then download and install the version for your operating system.

To test your file, the best route is to download the Kindle app for your computer at Amazon's download page. When installed, it should associate any file ending with "mobi" or "prc" to open in the Kindle application when double-clicked.

If you haven't done so yet, you'll need to open an account with the Kindle Direct Publishing at https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin and click the second button which says, "Sign up." Follow their instructions, and set up your bio and any other data they need.

Once that is done, you are ready to create the MOBI file.

Creating the MOBI Ebook


Open the Calibre program. Once it is up, in the top-left corner is a book icon with a plus in it labeled as "Add books." Click on that icon. It will open up a window allowing you to browse and select the file to add. Navigate to where the EPUB file was created in the last step, and select that file. When you click on "Open," Calibre will add the EPUB file to the list of books.

If you click on the second icon from the top-left, a blue circle with an "i" in the middle, it will show the metadata for the book. It should be the same information as you added when you created the EPUB file from Writer. But Calibe does have one glitch. If the description is too long, it tends to cut it off. You may need to replace the description with the full version. Click OK to save once it all looks as expected.

You are ready to create the MOBI format. With the book selected in the list, click on the third icon from the top-left, a brown book with curved up and down arrows labeled "Convert books." A window will open displaying the metadata that you saw moments before, but you will notice several tabs on the left side.

First, in the top-left corner of the window, you will see a drop-down box labeled "Input format." Make sure that says "EPUB." If it doesn't, click it and select the EPUB format. On the opposite side of the window, in the top-right, you'll see another drop down box labeled "Output format." Click that drop-down box and select "MOBI."

The default screen upon opening is the metadata and cover screen. You can also change the metadata from here as well, or check to make sure all the entries look as expected. If not, edit. If you need to change the cover, click the little computer icon on the long field labeled "Change cover" right under the cover preview area. It will open a window that allows you to find the cover file you want, and select it. But it should show up the from the added EPUB file automatically.

Click on the "Page Setup" link in the left icon bar. In the first box labeled "Output profile," change it to the "Default Output Profile." Feel free to experiment with the other profiles, but this one will create the most usable copy on any device, whether on a computer or a Kindle. And it will still be e-ink on the Kindle. The rest of the settings on this page can be left at their default settings.

The rest of the settings can stay at their defaults. One note, however. The MOBI file it creates may appear to have some missing blank lines when viewed with the PC Kindle application. However, when viewed with the Kindle device, they will appear normal, just as they do in the EPUB format. I have no idea why, or if all versions of the Kindle PC application do this (I'm using the Windows version). But I put the MOBI files on my Kindle and they appeared as expected there, even though some blank lines were missing on the PC version. But when you see that in the PC version you are using, don't worry about it or try different settings.

When you are ready to start the conversion, click the OK button at the bottom right. The window will disappear, and you'll see the circle of lines with the rotating dark area in the bottom-right corner of the window indicating it is processing the conversion. When that stops, it is done.

Now right-click on the book in the list and select "Open containing folder" from the drop down list. It should open up the directory where your book is located in your file manager. Double-click on the book, and Kindle should open up and display the book in a window. Click on the first icon on the left column that shows a pop-up label when you hover your cursor over it that says, "Table of contents." If all worked as expected, you should see a full list of the chapters in your book. Examine that to make sure it looks as expected.

Then start scrolling through your book, checking to make sure what you expect to be centered is centered, and the font and text look as you want them to, keeping in mind some blank lines may show missing here, but that is okay. It shows up correctly on the Kindle reader. Make sure page breaks happen with each chapter heading, italics is italicized where it should and not where it shouldn't, and so on.

If you have a Kindle, it is a good idea to load the file into its documents directory using the cable that came with it and take a look at the book there. You'll be able to experience how one of your readers will see and experience it on the device.

If you find you need to recreate the book, delete the book from the Kindle library first. If you don't, when you double-click the modified title, it will use the old one and you'll think you are not making any progress. Click on the "Library" button in the top-left corner. It will show a window with all your books listed. The first one should be the new book you just clicked on. Right-click on the book you wish to delete and select "Delete this book." Note: it only deletes the book from the Kindle Library. It does not delete the file created by Calibre.

If you need to make changes beyond what can be done in Calibre, like you realized you didn't italicize something you intended to do, that will mean deleting all the books formats out of Calibre, returning to the source file, making the corrections, and recreating the EPUB file, reloading into Calibre and creating the MOBI from it again. Also, unless they are massive changes, you'll want to change your "-SW" Smashwords version of the file and re-upload to Smashwords.

Once you've verified that the file is in good shape, you are ready to upload to Amazon.

Uploading to Amazon


Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin in your browser, and click the top button labeled "Sign in." Then enter your email address you used to sign up with the Kindle Direct Publishing, and your password in the second choice labeled "I am a returning customer, and my password is:" Once you click the "Sign in using our secure server" button, you'll be taken to a screen showing all your book titles with them, if any.

Under the "Kindle Direct Publishing" logo is a button labeled "Add a new title." Click that and it will take you to the screen to enter in your book. The fields here are very similar to Barnes and Noble's screens, but organized differently, except there is no place to put reviews or a bio. The main difference is you'll be uploading the MOBI formatted ebook to Kindle, or if you went another route, the DOC, HTML, or other acceptable format.

The other consideration, which we've discussed before, is if the price of your story is below their minimum, you'll have to opt for the 35% discount instead of 70%. If your book is priced at $0.99, the lowest you can go, then you'll get $0.35 for each book sold, not $0.70.

Also, Amazon has their screens divided into two pages. You'll click "Save and Continue" after uploading your book, and it will take you to the final page where you'll select the rights, price, and final related information. When you click the box stating you have the rights to publish this file (you own the copyright or have been given it by contract), then click "Publish"

It will take you back to the book list once finished. You'll see your book listed with a "processing" status. It usually, like B&N, takes around 24 to 48 hours before you'll see it on Amazon's on-sale pages. Once it is up, it is a good idea if you have friends or professional reviewers to ask them if they would put their reviews on the page.

Congratulations! Your book is now on sale at all the big online stores. At a minimum, promote your book on your website, blog, Facebook, Google+, or any other networking sites you use regularly. Then get to working on that next book.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way, shape, or form with any of the products or companies I've mentioned here, other than I've used their products and I know it works for the purposes I've used them for.  Beyond what I've said here, I am not inferring any quality or lack of quality about the  company itself or any of their other products. I am also not responsible for any loss of data or messed up files due to the reader's use of these products or attempts to follow my advice. Use at your own risk.
__________

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 5 – Creating the EPUB Ebook and Uploading to B&N

The EPUB format has become the widely accepted standard for ebooks. Every non-dedicated e-reading device out there (cell phones and tablets) have apps that can read this format, whether we are talking Stanza for the IPhone or Aldiko for Android. Additionally, Barnes and Noble's Nook uses a modified version of the EPUB format, which is why I suggest using an EPUB file to upload your book to their PubIt service. It can take other formats, but if you're going to create an EPUB, it makes sense to upload using their native format.

To manually create an EPUB file, however, is not an easy task. The EPUB file is actually a zipped file containing several files. There are some control files that "direct traffic" so to speak, artwork files for any graphics used, and the text in an html format divided up by any needed page breaks. But luckily there are some programs that will automate this process, even free ones, that will make quick work of the conversion process.

What You Will Need


You'll be using Open Office Writer to convert your file to the EPUB format. "What?" you ask? "What about Calibre?"

Calibre has a very good converter to the EPUB format on it as well. And we will be using it to create the MOBI ebook. However, the simplest method for using Calibre is to add the Writer ODT file to it, and use it to create the EPUB. Which generally works decently well, except when it comes to graphics. Sometimes the graphics are fine, other times they are oversized (I think if you insert a big graphic in Writer and resize it down, it loses that resize in the conversion process) or due to some hidden code, creates multiples of the graphics or it loses it centering. In other words, using the ODT file to create an EPUB in Calibre is not yet consistent.

The other method that is more consistent involves saving as an html file and using that to add into Calibre. While this works fine in Word, Writer has some editing you have to do on the resulting html file and it requires you to manually move your graphics over to the necessary folder in the Calibre library and re-create the EPUB again.

Rather than have you jump through several hoops to ensure a good result or require you to use Word, which is not a free program and I would be breaking my promise to show you how to do it with only free software, there is a nifty add-on to Writer that accomplishes this task quite nicely.

If you've not already done it, you'll need to install the "writer2epub" extension into Writer. After opening up Writer, click on "Tools" in the menu, then select "Extension Manager" in the drop-down menu. In the window that pops up, click on the text-link in the bottom-left corner that says, "Get more extensions online..." Once the website comes up, enter "writer2epub" in the search field on the left if you don't already see it on top (as of writing this, it is the first one listed on their page when you open it). Click on its name and click on the "Get it" button when it opens up. You can elect to open it with Open Office or save it to hard disk and then run it from there. Once you run it and it says it is installed, close Writer.

The other program you will need is a good reader that you can test your file for errors. For this purpose, I recommend using Adobe Digital Editions. The main reason is that Barnes and Noble uses a version of this ebook reader, and it has some particular quirks. I've created ebooks before in Calibre using the html method that looked centered in some epub readers, but when uploaded to Barnes and Noble, the centering was lost. This only appeared to be true of html created by Writer, not Word. But if you end up with that problem, it will show up in Adobe Digital Reader and you can fix it before you upload to B&N to find it it doesn't work as expected. If it looks good in ADR, it will look good in any other EPUB reader. So using it ensures everyone will see the same results. So go to the link: http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/ and scan down the page until you see the "Install" button, and go from there to install it on your computer. As of this writing, it is a free download.

Also, if you haven't yet, you need to create an account in PubIt if you wish to sell the books yourself through their site. Go to http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=pi_reg_home and click the "Create account" link under the log in button. Follow the steps to create the account.

Creating the EPUB Ebook


Open the print version of your ebook in Writer, even if you have created it in Word. If you created it in Word, you have the option to save it as an html document and load it into Calibre and do the conversion there. But I'll not be giving instructions for that. This will work just as well, but that is an option and it isn't hard to do.

Once the document is open, there isn't anything you should have to do to prepare the document for conversion. You don't need to worry about page sizes or add in a table of contents or cover art.

Somewhere on your toolbars you should see the Writer2ePub icons, three of them with the slanted, green "e" against a white background. On the third icon that appears to have a red circle in the left-bottom corner with a "P" in it, click on that icon. This opens up a "Preferences" window.

The main options you want to look is the section labeled "File Split" at the top. Where you want to split the file, which equates to a page break in the EPUB file, is on your chapter headings. Usually you do not want to do a page break on the book title unless perhaps you are using the same style to have major divisions in the book (Part 1, Part 2, etc.). Nor do you want to have page breaks on sub-titles within a chapter. So clear any check boxes that are styles not used for chapter headings.

The other section to check is labeled "Fonts" below the "File Split" section. Select the font you want to use in the drop down menu. For consistency sake, use the same font used in the print file. The rest of the settings can stay at their defaults. Click the OK button to close the window.

To prepare for the conversion, first save the file if you've made any changes since opening it. Then click the first icon. It should open up a window with several fields for the metadata of the file. Enter the title of the book, the author's name, select the proper language of the book if not the default English, the publisher's name, an ISBN if you have one (avoid using the free ISBN Smashwords gave you as that is primarily for distribution through their name, will show Smashwords as the publisher, and you don't need it generally), the publication date if you know it, you can skip the original title unless you changed it and want to keep the original title on record, the tags for your book, and the long description you wrote out in the previous step.

On the bottom-right is the cover section. Above the cover preview are three buttons. Since we didn't manually add the cover into this file, select the button labeled "From file..." under the section labeled "Cover." When you click on that, a window will open allowing you to select the cover file we created in Step 2. Once selected and the OK button clicked on, it should show the cover in the preview area. If you messed up, click the "No cover" option to get rid of the one you uploaded, and then click "From file" again to give it another go.

The file is now ready to convert. Click on the "OK" button when ready, and it will process the file and create the EPUB file in the same directory as your original file. I'm unsure if it is due to a glitch in the macro programming itself, or something peculiar to my system, but at the end of the processing, I get a macro error message. If you get that, close the macro programming window and move on. I think it is trying to reopen Writer after it is done, but for some reason cannot. However, the EPUB file has been created, so you can safely ignore it.

Now go to the directory where the new EPUB file is at and open it in Adobe Digital Editions reader. Check to make sure the chapter headings and any subheadings look as expected in the table of contents on the right, and page breaks have been placed at the appropriate locations as selected. Scan through the file to make sure nothing odd happened in the conversion process.

If all looks good, your EPUB file is ready to sell on your own site, and upload to PubIt. If not, edit the file or the settings in Writer2epub and redo the conversion.

Uploading to Barnes and Noble's PubIt


Open the webpage http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=pi_reg_home and log into your account. Once logged in, it will open on the "my titles" page which shows all the titles you have published with them. Naturally if this is your first one, it will be empty. Below the "My Titles" title on the top-left, you'll see a button that says, "Add a Title." Click that button to get started.

You'll notice that this page opens, it contains many of the same types of fields as you saw in the Smashwords upload process, only arranged in a different order. There are a few differences to notice here.

First, when you upload your book file, you'll enter in the EPUB file we just created. Click the "Browse" button to locate and enter the file name to upload. Then click the "Upload and Preview" button to upload and convert the book file. When it is done, it will pop up a preview window where you can browse your book to make sure it looks as expected. If everything is correct, close the preview and move to the next field.

Second, the first field under section 4 asks whether your book has an ISBN or not. Unless you have a publisher ISBN for the ebook, click "No." You don't have to have one. B&N will assign their own ID number to the book. But if you are a publisher with a stash of ISBN's to assign to ebooks, you can click yes and enter that in here.

Third, under that same section it also asks if this book is "public domain" or not. Generally, it should not be public domain. If it is, B&N probably won't let you publish it. What are Public Domain books? They are books in which the copyright has expired. Usually around 70 years after the author's death, and usually can be found for free on the Internet. So except for those who don't know any better, you're not likely to get much sales off them anyway. But you should only be uploading work in which you own the copyright to. That means it is either your own creation, or the author has by contract authorized you the right to make copies, usually known as a publisher.

Fourth, toward the end you'll notice a place for the author's bio. Instead of a central one like Smashwords and Amazon, B&N has a spot to place this with each book's record. Which if you ever want to change it, means a lot of editing if you have several books up for sale at B&N. But it is what it is. Copy and paste your author bio into this section.

Fifth, right after that is something else unique to the B&N upload. You'll see fields for putting in reviews by other people. This is handy if you've sent out ARCS (early review copies used mainly for proofing and sending to reviewers and stores before it is officially published) to reviewers and have received some back. If you have copies of those reviews, you can enter them in here.

Once you have filled out all the fields, you'll either save your work if you are not ready to put it on sale yet, due to needing more information you don't have, or click the "I confirm..." box indicating you have the rights to sell this book, and click the "Put On Sale" button. PubIt will churn away for a moment, and then return you to the "My Title" screen. In the list you'll see your book with a status of processing. Once they are finished with processing it, usually 24 to 48 hours, it will say "On Sale" and you'll be able to see the book's page in the B&N online store.

If all looks good, you are done! If you see any errors, you can go back to the "My Titles" page and edit the book's info through the "Actions" button. It will take a day or two for any changes to show up on the book's page.

Now we are ready for the final step, to create the mobi file and upload to Amazon.
__________

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 4 - Creating the Smashwords Edition

If you've followed the formatting instructions in Step 1 as you created the book file, or you have formatted a file to fit those specifications, and you have followed the formatting for a print book at the beginning of Step 3, you are almost ready to put your book up for sale. The first place we will focus on is Smashwords.

Smashwords has what is called the "meatgrinder." It is a program which takes a Word document, and produces several types of ebooks. Then, they are put on sale at the Smashwords site. But that isn't the main reason I suggest putting your ebook there. The real benefit is the third party channels they deliver your ebook to in the format they need. Currently as of this writing, that includes Amazon (yet to be activated), Barnes and Noble, Apple, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, and Scrollmotion, with new ones signing on all the time. That being the case, I suggest you put up your book at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles yourself because you'll get a higher amount of the profit, and you can format your book more effectively than the meatgrinder might, though they are improving that all the time. And you'll get reports and payments much quicker.

But so far my sales on Smashword's partners amount to almost as much as I make on Amazon. By putting it here, along with putting it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which I'll show you how to do in succeeding chapters, you're ebook will get wide availability with minimal efforts on your part.

What You Will Need


You'll need your word processing program, Writer or Word. If you are using Writer, you will need to add an extension. In Writer, click on "Tools" in the menu and select "Extension Manager." In the window that pops open, there will be a text link in the bottom left-hand corner that says, "Get more extensions online" right above the "Help" button. Once the website opens, do a search (on the left-hand side bar) for "Alt Search". After running that search, you should see a selection toward the top of the page which says, "Alternative dialog Find & Replace for Writer." Click on that link, and then click on the "Get Download" button. You can either save it your hard drive and run it from there, or have Open Office open it up in Writer. It will install in Writer. You may need to close Writer and open it back up. You should see an additional entry in "Tools" and "Add Ons..." which has the Alt. and a non-English language (don't worry, the tool itself is in English) as well as an entry in the "Edit" menu under the normal "Find & Replace" that says "Alt. Find & Replace."

You will also need to set up an account at Smashwords if you don't already have one. To do so, go to https://www.smashwords.com/ and on the top row of links that starts with "Home," on the far right of that you will see a link for "Join," assuming no one is currently logged into it.

Follow the instructions for setting up your account, being sure to record your user name and password. It is a good idea to go ahead and create a folder in your browser's bookmarks/favorites for "Book Publishing" and save this link to that folder for easy access.

Before You Start


Before you put anything up for sale, you'll first need to create two blurbs for your book. A blurb should accomplish two basic tasks. One, it should give the reader who is considering the book a decent idea what it is about, what type of genre they are to expect, what the basic driving force behind the story is. Or in the case of non-fiction, what benefits they can expect to get from reading your book and what qualifies you to deliver those benefits. Two, it should provide a good hook, that is, statements or questions that cause the reader to becoming interested in what the book is about. And to do that effectively means knowing your target audience. Keep them in mind when writing the blurbs. Ask yourself the question, "What would they want to know or be of interest to them?" No blurb is going to hook everyone, but you want to make sure it has the best chance of hooking the readers most likely to enjoy or need what your book offers.

It is important that you spend a good amount of time writing the blurb, testing it on a few people if necessary, and above all, make sure it doesn't have any spelling mistakes, typos, or bad grammar. If a reader sees a mistake in a blurb, they are likely to assume the whole book is full of the same and move onto the next consideration. Your blurb will either hook a reader into wanting to know more about the story, or it will turn them away. So spend time doing the best job here as possible.

Smashwords has two size of blurbs, as different sites that they upload to require different character counts. The short one needs to be no longer than 400 characters including spaces, and the long one no more than 4000 characters including spaces. You can type these in a new document, and use the word count function to see the number of characters they contain. If you have both in there, mark the one you are wanting to test and to to "Tools" and "Word Count" in either program. Note how many characters the marked section contains including spaces.

Also, a few tips. Don't include any hyperlinks, all caps, or crazy formatting. You want the reader to focus on what you are saying, not that they are being "yelled" at (all caps generally equate to yelling for most people) or distracted by the text. Likewise, most sites will eradicate any links, leaving you with a gaping hole in your blurb causing it to not make sense and/or disturb the flow of thought.

An example of a fiction book is my published book, Mind Game. Here is the short blurb:

Mind Game, the Real Virtual Game. So promises the mysterious company when Jeremy receives his wish for Christmas. The game delivers a reality so real, Jeremy and his friend Mickey are sucked into a fight to the death in a distant galaxy. Jeremy and Mickey fight to escape a dictator's trap and save thousands from the same fate.

And here is the long blurb:

Mind Game, the Real Virtual Game

So promises the mysterious company when Jeremy receives his wish for Christmas. The game delivers a reality so real, Jeremy and his friend Mickey are sucked into a fight to the death in a distant galaxy. Along with the mysterious Natalie and his troubled kid sister Bridget, Jeremy and Mickey fight to escape a dictator's trap and save thousands from the same fate.

Where does virtual reality end and reality begin? It's all in the mind.

What do you get from these blurbs? One, that it is a space opera style story, and involves virtual reality. Two, that it is a trap and involves defeating a dictator in another galaxy. So there is your basic driving conflict. And the opening sentence is designed to cause the reader to think this may have a bit more of a twist than many stories about virtual reality by throwing in that it is the "Real Virtual Game." What does that mean? And the last sentence in the longer blurb plays upon that more, but indicating that reality and virtual reality are going to be difficult to distinguish. For anyone who likes space opera and virtual reality stories, these blurbs should generate enough interest to look into the book further.

Another consideration before you head off to upload your book is price, what you will charge for the book. This is a hot topic among indie publishers. Some opt for the $0.99 price point because people are more willing to take a chance at that price than they are higher up. If it is a bad book, they've only wasted a dollar and some time. The more they had to pay for the book, the angrier they'll be if they don't like it. And the thought is they will sell enough to make plenty of money, whereas a higher price point may not sell as many and make less.

Others will argue for the higher price, around $9.99 or higher. In part because more traditional publishers sell that high, and so it is assumed readers will be willing to pay that much for your ebook. You'll definitely make a pretty penny at those prices when you do sell one, but not only will you not sell as many, you're likely to have reviewers on sites like Amazon complain about the high ebook price. Go visit some other similarly priced ebooks on the site to see the reactions. If that bothers you, you might want to take that into consideration.

The key fact to be aware of is that Amazon's pricing structure doesn't allow you to get the 70% profit on your ebook below $2.99. So you have to price it at least that high. Otherwise, you'll get 35%. On a $0.99 sale, that amounts to $0.35. The profit you'll get at $2.99 will around $2.09. That means for every book you sell at $2.99, you'd have to sell 6 books at $0.99 to make the same amount of money. And if you sell for a higher amount, that goes up exponentially. For instance, a lot of indies sell at $4.99. That results in a $3.49 profit. To make that much selling at $0.99, you'd need to crank out 10 sales of the book.

It is for those reasons I would recommend setting the price at a minimum of $2.99, but not much higher than $5.99. In that range appears to be what most indie authors find is the sweet spot. Much higher than that, and you may not sell enough, losing sales. Lower than that, you are "leaving money on the table" because you're book isn't earning enough. But you will find a lot of opinions on this, and in the end this is your decision.

That said, here are a couple of other considerations when setting price. One, keep in mind that you will need to "earn out" any expenses you've incurred before you are making a profit. If you paid a cover artist $100.00, and each sale will earn you $2.00, that means you'll have to sell 50 books before you are making a profit. If you increase that to the $3.49 above, then you have to sell 29 books to earn it back. At $0.35 profit per book, that will take 286 books before you'll see a profit. So you'll want to keep total expenses incurred in mind in setting your profit margin which can also include factors such as hiring an editor, cover designer, formatting help, etc. Obviously, the more you spend, the more books you'll have to sell to earn that back. How much profit you make on each book will determine how many books you need to sell to earn that back.

Two, new authors make the mistake of treating pricing of books like they are selling widgets. If Company A makes a widget that goes into an engine, and Company B makes an identical part, price and quality are about the only factors that play into a buyer's decision. If they perceive the quality to be nearly equal, or hard to determine, they will naturally go for the lower priced item.

However, for an author, there is no other book like yours. No one can sell a book that reads like yours, that would be considered a copyright violation and you could sue them for all they're worth. What makes people buy your book isn't as much price as it is perception of quality. A quality story, quality writing, quality characters, quality formatting and craftsmanship. If they like what you're writing, guess what? You're the only source for them to get your story. They'll be willing to pay a much higher price to get your story rather than $0.99 for someone else who they don't know.

So early on, yes, you may need to keep prices lower (within reason as mentioned above) to make it more likely that someone will try out a new author. As you gain a following however, and people are raving about your books and wanting more, waiting for the next book to arrive, you'll be able to charge more and people will be glad to pay it. The fact that the traditional publishing houses can list ebooks as much as their paperbacks, and still get them on the bestseller's list is a testament to this. If people want it, they will pay for it. The trick is to get them to want it. As an author, you are not competing with another author as much as you are competing for the reader's attention. Get his or her attention and interest, and you'll have a sale and price will only factor into it if there is a perception of low quality. In which case, they are more likely to not buy at all than to lose the dollar.

The next consideration to nail down before you upload your book is the category listing. This may seem an easy decision at first. But it can pay to do a little investigation, because if your book will fit into more than one sub-category, it can be more visible in categories that don't have as many listings. Therefore, I recommend going to http://www.amazon.com and when the site opens on your browser, click on the drop down box in the search bar to show a search on "Books." Don't enter anything into the search field, but click on the search button.

When the page comes up, you'll notice on the left side a section for "Categories" with each of the main categories Amazon uses listed, including how many books are listed in that category. Click on one like "Science Fiction and Fantasy" and you'll see a breakdown of its sub-categories with the number of books in each one. Keep drilling down, researching your possible options in the categories most likely to fit your book and have the lowest number of books in them. Amazon will let you pick two of these for each book when you upload your Kindle book. Once you've figured out the categories you'll use, write them down and save them for later. A good place to put them is in your blurb file, so they will be together when you are ready to upload a book to one of the sites.

Another factor to think about is DRM. It stands for Digital Rights Management. Smashwords doesn't use it, but Amazon, and Barnes and Nobel do. So while we're thinking of such issues, now is a good time to bring it up.

DRM is a method of preventing piracy of ebooks. It accomplishes this by making it much harder to make a copy of an ebook so it can't be so easily shared. While this has a positive effect on preventing piracy of ebooks, a concern among many authors, it also makes it harder for a user to make a backup copy of the file or move it to a new device than the one they downloaded it onto. From the reader's perspective, applying DRM to your book lessens its value since when they change ereaders they won't be able to move your book to their new device.

When given the choice, I elect not to have DRM applied to my books. First, the problem with piracy is restricted to a small section of your readership, and if anything, those free books out there can end up exposing others to your writing and cause them to buy more of your work. And the majority of readers are going to want to buy the book, because they know if everyone found pirated books, authors would have to stop writing and find other work to make a living with.

I should also note that this is not to minimize or justify piracy of ebooks. Despite the rationalizations used by some, it is stealing. Copyright means who has the right legally to make copies, and copying an ebook is making a copy of a book. If you don't hold the copyright to a book, or have the permission of the copyright holder to do so, you are breaking the law by making a copy of an ebook, and are subject to prosecution if caught. A library, for instance, buys a book and lets others check them out to read, but it doesn't make copies of the book to hand out for people to keep or even loan out. If someone sells a used book, they are not making a copy of it, keeping the original and selling the copy. There is only one copy and they no longer have it once sold. Legally, price or how many people are allowed to read a book has no bearing on whether one is breaking a law or not. Only if you make a copy of a book are you breaking copyright law, and examples of people selling and not giving the author money, or libraries lending book, or a used book seller selling a book have no bearing on or release someone from criminal prosecution.

That said, the number of people you'll offend if you use DRM, those who do pay money to buy your book, are not worth losing sales to to prevent piracy. You'll lose more money having DRM on your book than what might get pirated. Consequently, I recommend not applying DRM to your books. But again, that is your call. It is your book. Maybe piracy is a bigger problem for you if you are popular enough to warrant the ebook pirate's attention. But it is a decision you'll need to make as you start uploading your books to Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Preparing the Smashwords Document


Most of the work for preparing the document has been done in the print-book file you created earlier. There is only a few things you need to do in order to upload to Smashwords. Not only so the upload will get processed by Smashwords in good shape, but also so your book will qualify for the "Premium Status." Once your book gets processed, it automatically goes up for sale on Smashword's site and several other minor sites they have control over. However, to get it to the bigger publishers like Apple and Sony, it has to pass the stricter Premium Status restrictions, which can take a few days to a month depending on their workload. The following items will ensure that approval goes smoothly.

You'll want to add the Smashword specific information to the title page. Open the print version of your file in the word processor you are using. Directly under the copyright notice for the author, add one of the following three versions:

Smashwords Edition

Published at Smashwords

Published by <insert publishing company> at Smashwords

Now let's save the file with a new name. Click on "File" in the menu, then select "Save as." In the window, change the "-Print" part of the name to something along the lines of "-Smashwords" or if you like it shorter, "-SW". So our example title we've been using would have been "With My Last Breath-Print.odt" would now be saved as "With My Last Breath-SW.odt".

Next, add the cover at the very front of the book. Press "Ctrl-Home" to go to the top of the file. Note, the first page in your book should be your title page with the Smashwords notice on it. The only thing they allow to be before that is the cover. Any other intros, table of contents, author bios, will likely result in being rejected from Premium Status. As discussed previously, put as much of that toward the end of your story instead of the beginning.

Now that you are at the top of the file, press "Ctrl-Enter" and then "Ctrl-Home" again. This will create a new page before the title page and put you at the top of it. Click "Insert" in the menu, then hover over "Picture" and select "From File" in the sub-menu that pops out on either Writer or Word. Select the 600 pixel jpeg cover image you created in step 2 and click the OK button. Click on the picture and hit the center button on the tool bar to center it on the page. Click "File" and "Save" to save what you just did.

The last change you need to make is to take out any page breaks and insure there is no more than three blank lines in the document. Anything more than four blank lines will cause the file to fail the Professional Status requirements. If you've previously formatted your book as we have instructed in step 1, this will be relatively simple. At worst, it means visually scanning through your book and manually deleting blank lines. But if you've used our methods in step 1, you should have no more than one blank line between the end of a chapter and the heading for the next one.

First, we'll remove the page breaks. In Writer, press F11, and ensure the first icon is pressed that has a paragraph symbol in it. Select "Heading 2." or whichever heading you used for your chapter headings, and right-click it, and select "Modify." Click on the "Text Flow" tab and uncheck the box labeled "Insert" under the "Breaks" section. Click the OK button and close the window. All page breaks before each chapter heading will be removed.

In Word, you'll click on "Format" in the menu, and then "Styles and Formatting" in the drop-down menu. Right-click on "Heading 2," or whatever heading style you are using for the chapter headings, and select "Modify." When the window pops open, click on the "Format" button, and choose "Paragraph" from the options. When that window opens, click on the "Line and Page Breaks" tab and uncheck "Page break before." Click OK, and OK again. The page breaks before each chapter heading will be removed.

Now save your work before proceeding to the next step.

Next, we'll insert blank lines before each chapter heading. In Writer, this is where the extension "Alt. Search" comes into play. Writer's natural search function is limited in that when it comes to searches on styles, it only allows you to replace one style with another. What we want to accomplish here is to insert three blank lines before each chapter heading, which can't be done with Writer's native search and replace function. But can be done with the extension.

In Writer, click on "Edit" in the menu and select "Alt. Find & Replace." A search/replace window will pop open. In the bottom-left corner is a section labeled "Options," and the last choice there is "Regular Expressions." Check that box. Then with the cursor in the "Search for" field, you'll see three drop-down menus above that field. Click the arrow for the "Properties" drop-down box and select "Paragraph Styles" from the list it presents. From the list it brings up, select the "Heading 2" style. When you double-click that selection, you should see the following in the "Search for" box:

[:::ParaStyleName=Heading 2::]

If you do not see that exact text (first time I did it, "Heading 2" was not in there), you can manually type in any corrections. Now click in the "Replace" box and type in the following:

\n\n\n&

Once done, click the "Replace all" button, and it will run, inserting three blank lines before each chapter heading. Note, the larger the document, the longer this takes to run. Let it finish before moving on.

In Word, the function is built in. Press Ctrl-H, or alternately click "Edit" in the menu and select "Replace." In the window that opens, place your cursor in the "Find what" field. Click the "More" button on the bottom-left. Then click the "Format" button. Select "Style" from that list and a window will pop open listing the various styles. Scan down until you see "Heading 2." Select it and click the "OK" button. Under the "Find what" field, you'll now see text saying "Format: Style: Heading 2."

Then place your cursor in the "Replace with" field. Enter the following text into that field:

^p^p^p^&

Click the "Replace All" button, and Word will insert three blank lines before each chapter heading.

Now that we have insured there are at least three lines between the end of each chapter and the chapter heading of the next, we need to standardize the whole file to insure there are only three lines. How many all depends on what you did as you were typing the document. Did you put in one blank line at the end of each chapter? Then we now have four blank lines. Did you mix and match the number of blank lines? Or forget to put in a line one time, or put in more than one at another? To pass Smashword's Professional Status requirements, we can have no more than four blank lines in the whole document. We're going to keep on the safe side and insure there are no more than three.

In Writer, click "Edit" in the menu and select "Alt. Find and Replace." In the window that opens, make sure the "Regular Expressions" box is checked in the bottom-left corner, and the cursor is in the "Search for" field. Enter the following text to search for eight blank lines:

^$\p{7}

Place your cursor in the "Replace with" field and enter the following to replace that with three blank lines:

\p\p\p

Click on the "Replace All" button and Writer will replace any series of eight blank lines with three. Eight? Don't you mean seven since that is the number in the brackets? No, it is an oddity of Writer's regular expressions and the Alt. Search & Replace function. It finds one more than what you enter in the brackets. Now repeat that process, except change the 7 in the brackets to 6, so that you are searching for seven blank lines in a row. Make sure you descend on the line count to get consistent results. Don't jump from searching on five lines to search on seven, for instance.

Continue that process until the last search you do is on four blank lines by entering a 3 in the brackets. Once this process is done, you should have replaced any series of blank lines from eight to four with three blank lines. Scan through the document to double check the formatting, ensuring your desired results is actually what happened.

And if you are aware of areas in your document that may have more than eight blank lines, either increase your line search starting out or manually adjust those few spots. Also, if you ever entered a series of hard line breaks by pressing on Shift-Enter at any time, this procedure may not catch them all. You'll have to scan through your document and manually change them. But you would have to intentionally press Shift-Enter, and there is rarely a reason you'll need to do so in most documents.

In Word, the procedure is similar, but a little more straightforward. Press "Ctrl-H" or alternately click "Edit" in the menu and select "Replace." In the window that pops up, enter the following text in the "Find what" box:

^p^p^p^p^p^p^p^p

That's eight "^p" entries in a row. Place your cursor in the "Replace with" box and type the following:

^p^p^p

Then click the "Replace All" button and Word will replace all instances of eight blank lines in a row with three. Then remove one of the "^p" entries in the "Find what" box to search on seven blank lines, and click the "Replace All" button again. Do this until the last search on four blank lines. Then scan through your document and test some places to make sure it did what you expected it to do or find areas where you'll need to manually adjust the number.

Now save your work to update your file once satisfied it looks good. If you've used Word to create your book, you are ready to move onto uploading your book to Smashwords. If you've been using Writer, there is one last step. You need to save a copy of your document into the Word DOC format, as that is the only one that Smashwords accepts.

Click on "File" in the menu and select "Save as." In the window that pops open, click on the drop-down box labeled "Save as type" and select "Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP (.doc) (*.doc)." Then click the "Save" button after ensuring it will go in the same directory as your original file.

Uploading To Smashwords


The process for uploading to Smashwords is pretty straightforward. If you've done all the work listed at the beginning of this chapter, it will mostly be filling in the fields with the desired information, and uploading your document and cover file to them.

Go to the Smashwords site: http://www.smashwords.com. Log in to your account. We are assuming you've already set up your profile to have a professional-looking, third-person author biography entered. Once logged in, you'll see across the top, directly under the Smashwords logo, a series of links. Click on the link labeled "Publish." This will bring you to the page where you will enter your information and upload your files.

Enter your title. Copy and paste your short and long descriptions of your book we created earlier into the appropriate fields. If the language of your book is something other than English, use the drop-down box to change that. If your book contains contents inappropriate for children under 18, make sure to select the option that your book contains adult content. The next section allows you to set your price, let the readers determine how much they want to pay for it, or you can make it free. Select the appropriate choice and enter a price if you are setting one.

The next field ask you for sampling, This determines how much of your book will be available for sampling by customers. It defaults to 20%, but Smashwords recommends up to 50%. You'll have to decide how much, keeping in mind front matter, so they can read at least three chapters would be my suggestion. If you're not sure how much that is, open your document and find the page count at the end of three chapters, and divide that by the total page count. So if chapter 3 ends on page 35, and the book has 225 pages, you'd divide 35 by 225 and come up with 0.16 if rounded to two digits after the decimal, which equates to 16%. So leaving it at 20% in that case would give them at least the three chapters.

Next, enter the categories that you selected. Then enter the tags which relate to your book that people might do searches on. So if you enter a tag "space opera" on a space story, anyone searching for space opera would pull up your book. Enter as many of them as you think apply to your book. You will want to give it some thought.

The next section allows you to specify what types of ebooks you want to make available. I usually leave them all selected, but if your book simply wouldn't work as a text file, like if you have several graphics, you might want to uncheck that to avoid unhappy customers.

The next two areas allow you to upload your cover and document file. Follow the instructions. Once you've done that successfully, and all is in good order, click the "Publish" button, and Smashwords will put it into the queue to be processed, and tell you how many other documents are in front of it. Once it is done, it will send you an email telling you it is up and for sale on Smashword's site. Or if you have nothing better to do, you can watch it progress through the queue until the meatgrinder starts processing it.

Once it is done, you'll want to do two more task in Smashwords. First, go to your dashboard if you are not already there by clicking on "Dashboard" in the top links mentioned earlier. If you don't plan on putting up the book on your own Amazon, and Barnes and Noble accounts, you can skip this step. But I would highly recommend doing the Amazon account yourself. In part because of the writing of this book, Smashwords and Amazon haven't yet set up the process and methods. But more to the point, you'll get a bigger part of the money for each sale and you'll get sales information immediately and paid monthly compared to quarterly through Smashwords. But if you are not too concerned about the small fee Smashwords will take and would rather have the convenience of having only one central sales place, then skip this step.

Click the "Distribution Channel Manager" link on the left pane of the web page. Scroll down the page that appears until you find the book you just processed. Click the "Opt Out" choices for both Amazon, and Barnes and Noble unless you don't intend to set up an account at one of them. Make sure all the other options have "Opt In" selected. Once done, click the "Submit Changes" button at the very bottom of the page. Return to your dashboard.

Second, click the "ISBN Manager" link on the left. Toward the bottom of that page is a list of your books and whether they have any ISBNs assigned to them or not. If not, you'll see a link on the far right of the book where you can assign one. Click on that link and it will take you to a page to select what you want to do. You can either elect to take Smashword's free ISBN, buy your own from Smashwords, or if you already have ISBNs you've bought elsewhere, enter yours there. The only real advantage to having your own is that you as a publishing company will show up on retail websites that Smashwords distributes to as the publisher, whereas the free one will show Smashwords as the publisher. Note, this does not make Smashwords the publisher. You are. And you can put your own publishing company name in the book, per the info on the title page earlier in this chapter. All an ISBN does is identify your book as unique. You are not losing your rights by having Smashwords show up on sites like Apple as the publisher.

For those reasons, I would recommend using Smashwords' free one, unless you are actually running a publishing company with several authors, and your account is set up as a publisher instead of an author. In that case, "branding" across all sites and authors might be more of a concern. Otherwise, don't worry about it. Just select the free one unless you just want the prestige of having a "publisher" show up on sites it distributes to instead of Smashwords.

Once that is done, you wait for the Smashwords staff to get to your book and authorize it as being put on the Professional Status. You should get an email when this happens. When it happens will depend on their workload. It has been known to take as long as a month. I think my first one took even longer due to some initial issues. But usually it happens as quick as within a week or two. If you've used the methods and procedures I've set up here in this book, it should pass the Professional requirements with no problems. But if it does, follow their instructions to fix whatever problems it found. Also, the meatgrinder will let you know if it noticed any problems that might prevent it from meeting the Professional Status requirements. Once it is marked as having Professional Status, the book will be shipped to the various distribution channels you saw in the Distribution Channel Manager per their schedule.

You can monitor the sales of books through the distribution channels with the link on the left side of the dashboard labeled "Sales and Payment History." If you see a change in the amount listed on the "Account Balance" right above that link, it would indicate that some new activity has occurred that would show up under that link. Keep in mind, most of the retailers report and pay on a quarterly basis. So it may take several months before you find out what sales you actually made in a particular month. If that worries you, don't fret it. It is much faster than traditional publishers pay their authors, which happens on a six-month cycle at a minimum, if the publisher and/or agents remain on schedule.

Congratulations! You've put a book up for sale. Now it's time to create the files you'll use to not only sell at your own e-store, if you've set that up, but also to upload to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which we'll explore in the next two steps.
__________

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review: The Worker Prince by Brian Schmidt


Worker Prince


ISBN-13: 978-0984020904




This review is part of a blog tour for the introduction of Brian Schmidt's debut novel, The Worker Prince.




If Moses had led his people out of bondage in the future rather than the past, it might look something like this story. While at several points the story touches upon elements of the classic Biblical story of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, it doesn't stick to that story, nor is that the only plot line running through this science fiction, space opera style tale. One of the problems when people depict, either literally or by analogy, a Bible story is the predictable ending. That's not a worry here. The second half of the book bares little resemblance to the story of Moses. More like Joshua going to war.



Three elements of this book make it worth reading. One is the world Mr. Schmidt has created. In this world, a group of planets is ruled by a limited king and legislative councils of the main races. Except one race is not represented because they are called "Workers." They mostly live on one planet which appears to be the only planet in the system with agricultural products of any significance, and the rulers treat them as slaves, exporting food to the rest of the system.



Mr. Schmidt doesn't succumb to the tendency to dump a lot of back-story about this world on the reader, but it is worked through the story naturally. The only glitch for me is the rationale for why the Workers existed left me with more questions than answers and was hard to envision its evolution based on how things are now. Some could even take offense, to what could come across as an artificially generated political division, as making a statement beyond the story about our current religious situation. I took it as simply the way history worked out in this world, but did leave me with more questions as to how that could have happened. I'd say more, but I don't want to give away too much.



The second reason I enjoyed this story was the plot itself. The king fears a prophecy that a worker will rise up to release his people from bondage. Like Moses, to avoid the king's decree that all worker's children under a certain age be killed, his parents arrange to ship him off to another world where he ends up being raised by the king's sister as the prince destined to rule the kingdom. The story proper picks up when Prince Davies takes his first assignment away from home, discovers his real birth, and the story unfolds from there.



Like I said, while it touches at points on the story of Moses, it was different enough to keep my interest and avoided being a pure repeat of that story. I enjoyed the way Davies grows and develops into the leader, and his loyalty to the truth. And if a reader likes sci-fi battle action, there is plenty here especially through the second part of the book. Mr. Schmidt does a decent job of describing the action, though there was a time or two I didn't follow him too well.



The third is the characters are for the most part well drawn. One becomes attached to the main character, Davies, early on. Each character has a unique feel about them. And they are introduced slowly enough that the reader doesn't end up getting too lost on who is who, though that danger gets a little stronger toward the second half of the book. Still, I never struggled with that despite a rather large cast, and the characters came across as believable on the whole.



The only two instances his characterizations stretched it for me was Davies' secondary antagonist felt a bit too much of the stereotypical bully to me and the source of his antagonism to Davies was never clearly defined, though hinted at, but seemed stronger to me than merely family jealousy. And the girl Davies ends up in a relationship with seems to lose her initial antagonism toward him too easily. On rare occasion, the dialog felt unnatural. Despite that, I found the characters interesting and believable.



There are three things that could detract from the story, depending on the reader. One, the writing style, while good, does get a little telly at points. While not bad, there is room for improvement. However, this is much better than many I've read in that regard, and I doubt the lack here will throw too many out of the story.



Two, also related to writing skills, Mr. Schmidt has yet to get a solid grip on executing point of view flawlessly. There is a little head jumping in places. Occasionally he would mix one person's dialog with another person's actions, keeping you on your toes as to who is actually speaking. One scene break in particular, the shift in point of view wasn't established until I read about four or five paragraphs into it, so I had to backtrack to discover if I'd missed something. Most of the time I didn't have too much trouble tracking who talked and what point of view I was in, but occasionally it did become distracting.



Third, if a reader isn't a Christian, they may not realize until halfway into the book that this story contains some Christian themes. A non-Christian, getting to that point, may feel "tricked" if they are not aware of that up front. The Christian elements were natural to the story, and didn't feel forced. That said, it offered more of a complimentary plot line than anything essential to the main plot. Other than the stated reason for their existence, religion could be extracted from the story and the plot would still work. But truth be told, much science fiction is artificial in not portraying religion to be active and valid part of society into the future. While not getting too preachy about it, Mr. Schmidt does a decent job of integrating it into the storyline. That said, a non-Christian could feel tricked into reading a Christian novel if they aren't aware of that before they put down the money to buy the book. This review is written prior to seeing any official blurbs that will introduce the story to potential readers, which may make it clear it is a Christian story. Still, it seems many buyers miss that information, even when clearly stated.



I didn't feel those shortcomings reduced my enjoyment of the story or prevented me from finding Davies and the other characters interesting. Mr. Schmidt provides an engrossing story, believable characters, an interesting world, and decent writing. Because of that, I'm giving this a recommended read, holding onto a four out of five star score.



To continue following this blog tour, the next posting will be: October 12, Mary Pax - Guest Post: Coming Of Age & The Quest To Belong/Book Blurb



Note: R. L. Copple received a electronic copy of The Worker Prince from the author in order to review it for this blog tour.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mind Game Vblog

I decided to experiment a bit. I've shied away from doing the standard book trailer, only because there are so many of them out there that it really has to stand out to get much attention. So I decided to try something a bit more low-tech (since I am limited on tech resources) and though I don't think I'm as entertaining as some other vbloggers on the net, I felt this would be at least more personable and allow me to read a section. Who knows, people might like it.


So, check out my new video about Mind Game and tell me what you think. Should I do more with my other books? I figured this one was safe since I self-published it, so I'm not putting a publisher's name at stake if it stinks.  Watch it if you can and tell me what you think. Appreciate your feedback!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqp2yHLIkag

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Interview and Chance to Win a Book

Yet another interview is up on Zoe Mack's blog. Want to learn the three things you're not likely to know about me? I divulge that information in this interview! An exclusive!

And not only that, if you leave a comment, you'll get a chance to win a free copy of the book that started it all, Infinite Realities. It is a good sampler of the kinds of stories you'll find in the full novel, Reality's Dawn. So if you've not had a chance to read either book, get yourself over to the blog, read it and laugh at me, and then comment to get your name in the running.

Do it.

How to Make an Ebook: Step 3 - Creating the PDF Ebook

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.

Now that we have the text of the file properly formatted, and the cover ready to go, we are ready to start creating ebooks. The first one we want to work with is the standard ebook format, the PDF. The acronym stands for "Portable Document Format," and has become the most common way to share documents on the Internet. The cool thing about PDFs is they most closely resemble a printed book. That means they can usually display graphics and other elements that are generally harder for other ebook formats to handle. But that is also their downside as well. Because they are more "static" in format, they are harder to read on smaller devices like cell phones, and even on tablets are not ideal. Computer screens make the easiest reading device for these files.

But of all the formats, it is the one most anyone can open and read as the Adobe Reader software is free to download and the format is universally used across all platforms: Windows, Linux, and MacOS. It is hard to find someone who can't open a PDF file. Because of that, it is a good format to have on hand and sell from your website.

And even if you don't plan on creating a PDF ebook, you'll need to do some of the items in this step to prep your ebook for the rest. I'll let you know when to skip onto the next step.

What You Will Need


All you will need for this step is a program that we've already downloaded, Open Office. If you are using Word and didn't download Open Office, you'll want to go ahead and get that unless you already have the full Adobe Acrobat program on your computer. But the instructions for this step will be for creating the PDF in Open Office, as it is free, and it does an outstanding job creating it. And it never hurts to have a backup program in case your version of Word gets corrupted, as Open Office Writer can open all Word documents.

Also, if you are one of the very few who don't already have it, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer so you can check the final product and ensure it is formatted correctly and the table of contents looks right. This is also a free program. If you can open PDF files, then you've probably got it. Otherwise, go to that link and get it.

Format for the Print File


"But I'm not going to create a paperback! Why do I need to do this?"

As mentioned above, the PDF is very similar to a print book in presentation. So the first step is to go ahead and prepare the print version of the book first, but not all the way. Just far enough that we can proceed with the PDF ebook. If and when you are ready to come back and create a paperback, you'll already be most of the way there.

So open up your book in Open Office Writer, or Word as the case may be. Once open, preform the following functions.

First, save the print version of your file. Click on "File" in the menu and then "Save as...." Save under a unique file name for the print file. What I generally do is take whatever the name of the file is and add "-Print" onto the end of it. So we might have a file labeled "With My Last Breath.odt" on the hard drive which has the raw book that we've written and edited. I would then save this as "With My Last Breath-Print.odt".

Second, add the front matter to the book. On the first page, add in the title page with copyright info, publisher info, ISBN if you have one for the print (you can leave it blank for now), any disclaimers, edition numbers, etc. If you're not sure what should go here, pull out a few books and look the information they give. Modify anything you find useful for your book.

While you are on the first page, in Writer, press F11 to open the style window. Click on the fourth icon from the upper-left corner that shows an page with the corner turned down. These are the page settings. Double-click the "First Page" style to set the current page to that format. What this will do is prevent a page number from showing up on these title pages. Do this to each page until before the page you want the page numbers to start appearing.

Then add in any other front matter before the story proper begins, which can be acknowledgments, introductions, dedications, etc. One note: in the print version of the book, such things as acknowledgments are usually at the front, but for ebooks you will want them at the end of the book. Why? Because some programs like Kindle will automatically select the first few pages of your book as the sample that the reader will see. The more front matter you have, the less of the story they will be able to sample. So you really want as little as possible at the beginning of the book. If you want it at the front in the print and PDF version of the book, you'll want to move those sections to the end of the book when we get to creating the EPUB and MOBI formats.

Do you need a table of contents? That is really up to you, but I wouldn't worry about adding that at this point. Many fiction print books don't include a table of contents, though an anthology tends to be the exception. It all depends on whether it will be helpful to the reader or not. But since we are not creating the full print version right now, you can leave that decision for another day. The table of contents for the PDF and other versions will be created automatically and be much more useful to the user than a manual table of contents you might create now. Plus, a manual table of contents would duplicate the automatically created one, and reduce the amount of story one would get in a sample by being up front. So don't worry about adding one at this point.

Now set up the default page footer. In Writer, move to the first "Default" page in your document. Press F11 again, and click on the fourth icon from the top-left, which is the page settings. Right-click on "Default" and click on "Modify." In the window that opens, click on the "Footer" tab. At the very top, click on the check-box labeled "Footer On." Then click on "OK" and close out the Style and Formatting window.

Then go to the bottom of the page, and you'll see a separate box across the bottom. Click in it. Hit tab to go to the center of the page. Click "Insert" in the menu, then move the cursor over "Fields" and select "Page number" from the sub-menu that pops out. This will insert a page number for all default page styles. The "First Page" styles will still be blank.

In Word, move your cursor to the first page where you want page numbers to begin. Make sure it is at the very beginning of the page. Press "Backspace" to delete any manual page break, or bring the text to the end of the previous page's text. Click "Insert" in the menu, then click "Break." A window will open. Select "Next Page" under "Section break types" and press OK. It will start a new page with a new section number, which you can see in the bottom-left of the window, right after the page number.

This creates a division that allows you to number the pages that follow while not affecting the pages before it. However, to keep it straight, you have to do the next steps in the exact order I've giving you, or the pages before it will also be numbered, and the only way is to delete the section break and start over to fix it. Word gets a little picky about how this is done.

While still on the first page that numbering begins in the new section you just created, click "View" and then "Header and Footer" in the drop-down menu. This will open up a Header/Footer toolbar, and place your cursor at the beginning of the Header text box. Click on the third icon from the "close" button on the far right of the toolbar, that shows a pop-out label of "Switch between Header and Footer." This will move your cursor to the footer text box at the bottom of the page.

It should say on the left side, over that text box, "Footer – Section #" and on the right side over the box, it will say "Same as Previous." Press the icon to the left of the one you just clicked on that is labeled "Link to previous," to disconnect the new section's footer from the first section. The text "Same as Previous" will disappear. It is important that you disable this before you enter any text in the footer text-box, or the previous pages will show the same footer, and you'll have to start over.

Tab to the center mark, and click the first icon in the Header/Footer toolbar with the pop-out label "Insert page number." It will put a page number in the center of the page. Click the "Close" button on the toolbar to end editing the footer and return to editing the main text of the page. Check to make sure the page number does not appear on previous pages.

We don't need to worry about page margins and size just yet. In this file, we'll save those settings for when you are ready to create the full print version, if you get that far.

Set the paragraph formats for print. Press F11 to open up the Format and Style window in Writer. Click the first icon in the top-left with the paragraph symbol in it. First, set the default style for the body of the book. Right-click on it and select "Modify" from the pop-down menu. Click on the "Alignment" tab and click on "Justified" in the Options section if not already set that way.

Click on the "Font" tab and select the font you wish to use. Don't go with anything weird or abnormal. Best to stick with the classics. You can't go wrong with Times New Roman, but many also use Garamond as well. You want to avoid the sans fonts, like Arial, which takes out the points on the ends of the letters. It may look cleaner in some regards, but the line endings make for easier for most people to read. Also, select the font size. Best to stick with 12 points, but you can go as low as 10 points if need be. Anything lower than that will get harder to read. Once set, click OK.

Now set the Header styles. Right-click on Header 1 first. On the alignment tab, you can tell it to center the header. This is the one I generally use for the Book title and major divisions in the book, like Part 1, Part 2, etc. An Arial font works fine here, but you can more freely select whatever style you feel matches the feel of the book. Since these are just headings, ease of readability isn't so critical, as long as it is readable. Style and feel is more important on the headers. On the size, I wouldn't go any higher than 16 points. Primarily because this is the max size that Smashwords will take. So setting it that size here means you won't have to remember to change it later. In the "Indents and Spacing" tab, make sure all the boxes in the "Indent" section are zero. In the "Spacing" section, set the inches before and after the header to create space between the top of the page and the header, and the text that comes below.

Then do the same for Header 2, which I usually use for the chapter headings. You can use a different font from Header 1, but you don't have to. I recommend setting it to a 14 point size, and bold-italics, but you can use your own judgment. Like the Header 1 style, don't go higher than 16 points. In the "Indents and Spacing" tab, make sure all the boxes in the "Indent" section are zero. In the "Spacing" section, set the inches before and after the header to create space between the top of the page and the header, and the text that comes below. Set the alignment to however you want the heading to display. You'll see chapter headings centered, left set, or right set, or even on the edge of the page, which is different between right and left pages.

Here is where the use of styles makes setting the formatting for various versions easy. While editing the Heading 2 style, click the "Text Flow" tab. In the section labeled "Breaks," click the "Insert" box. Now chose from the drop-down menu labeled "Type," "Page." In the "Position" drop-down menu, chose "Before." When you click OK, you'll notice it automatically inserts page breaks before each chapter heading.

Modify the Header 3 style if you are using it as well, creating the same types of settings and how you want it to look on the page. These are usually used for section headings within a chapter.

In Word, the process is nearly the same. The difference is that with the document open, click "Format" in the menu, and select "Styles and Formatting" in the drop down menu. Instead of "Default" paragraph style, Word's standard style is "Normal." When you edit that style, you'll be able to select the font, font size, alignment, and other standard settings right on the first window. However, for more advanced changes, click on the "Format" button at the bottom-left of the window and select "Font" or "Paragraph" to make changes as needed.

When you need to have the Heading 2 style insert page breaks, go to the "Format" button and select 'Paragraph." In the window that opens, click the "Line and Page Break" tab. Click the box next to "Page break before." Once you click OK twice, the page break will be inserted before each chapter heading.

We have now established the settings for the print format that we will need for the PDF format. Click "File" and "Save" to save the changes you have made in your file. You are ready to start preparing more fully for the creation of the PDF file.

If you don't plan on creating a PDF ebook, you can skip the next two sections and proceed to Step 4.

Format for the PDF Ebook


You may be thinking, "Didn't we just do all the formatting?" Ah, not quite. That was for the print edition. Since the PDF shares many of the qualities of a print book, it saves time if and when you want to create a paperback through CreateSpace or another similar service, to create a file that contains the formatting shared by both types. Also, the print file you've just created will serve as the beginning template for the other ebook versions. But now we need to create a separate file specific to the PDF version.

One of my pet peeves revolves around what most people tend to do when they create a PDF version of a print book. What they usually do is take the file they used to create the paperback, and export a PDF version of that same file. Problem is, the place most people will read these is on a computer screen or maybe a smaller tablet screen. This totally destroys the feel that you are reading a book because the standard page size when taken to "full screen" in Adobe Reader is rarely easily readable. Go to a tablet and it creates a hefty dose of eye strain. Move to a cell phone and you're talking impossible.

And if you zoom in so you can easily read the text, it means you have to scroll down the page, making it hard to keep your place at times, and losing the feel of reading a book. And on some occasions, I've even seen a double-column page printed to PDF exactly the like the print book, which is maddening, because it requires moving to the bottom of the page to read the first column, then scrolling back up to the top of the page to read the second column. Few will want to wade through a full book if they have to do that.

The way to fix this is to create a smaller page size and bigger font size. The goal is to make it readable on most devices, and give it as close to the feel of reading a book as possible. After some testing, I've settled on the following settings to accomplish that.

Before you move on, click on "File" in the menu and select "Save as..." Change the file name ending to "-PDF" instead of "-Print". So now what read as "With My Last Breath-Print.odt" will read, "With My Last Breath-PDF.odt". That will save the settings for the print version of the book should you need them later, and create a new file that will contain the settings specific to the PDF version.

First, set the page size to 4" x 5". In Writer, press F11 and make sure the fourth icon from the top-left is pressed, displaying the page formatting options. Right-click on "Default" and select "Modify" from the pop-down menu. In the window that pops up, select the "Page" tab. Under the "Paper format" section, in the "Width" box replace what is in there with 4", and in the height box replace what is in there with 5".

In the next section, "Margins," set all the margins to 0.25". The smaller the page, the smaller smaller the margin should be, both to give as much room for the text as well as to balance the proportion of the white space to the page. On the "Footer" tab, in the "Spacing" box, enter 0.05". Press OK and the page size should change, along with the margins and footer placement. You may need to readjust the page number tab by clicking in the footer text box and dragging the tab marker in the ruler bar to the center of the page.

Proceed to make the same setting changes to the "First Page" page style, though you won't have to worry about the footer settings here. If you've created and/or used any other page styles, don't forget to change them as well. If you are unsure whether other styles have been used, in the "Styles and Formatting" window (F11), click on the drop-down box at the bottom and select "Applied styles." Only the styles used in the document will show in the window.

In Word, you'll click on "File" in the menu and select "Page Setup." On the "Margin" tab, enter 0.25" for the top, left, and right margins, and enter 0.5" for the bottom margin. Ignore the gutter margin settings. Click on the "Paper" tab, and enter 4" in the width box, and 5" in the height box. Next, click on the "Layout" tab, and enter 0.25" in the "Footer" box under the "Headers and Footers" section. Upon pressing OK. You will likely get a warning message that says, "One or more margins are set outside the printable area of the page." Click the "Ignore" button to avoid Word changing the margins. Your page size and margins will be adjusted.

Second, set the font size. In Writer, press F11 if the "Styles and Formatting" window isn't open, and make sure the first icon for paragraph styles is selected. Also, to make it easier, select "Applied Styles" in the drop-down box at the bottom of the window to make sure you catch all styles used. Right-click on "Default" and select "Modify" from the pop-down menu. Click on the "Font" tab. Change the font size to 14 points. Yes, that is big. Trust me, it works. If you use any other paragraph formats for the body of the text, like a centered style, make sure you change those as well.

For the heading styles, you can keep them at 16 or 14 points. But, make sure they are at least bolded so they stand out. You may want to have the Heading 2 style using 16 point as well if you use it for the chapter headings. If, however, you have any long chapter titles, you might want to keep them at 14, but bolded.

In Word, click on "Format" in the menu and then select "Styles and Formatting." In the window that pops open at the right, click the drop-down box at the bottom of that window labeled "Show" and select "Formatting in use." The window will show the formatting that is used in the document. But you will notice it is more cluttered than Writer's list. This is because Word shows you all the variations of each base style. So if you've italicized some text in Normal, you'll not only see a style called "Normal" but also one called "Italics". But the thing to know is if you change the Normal style, it will automatically change the sub-styles connected to it without erasing their uniqueness.

Right-click the "Normal" style and select "Modify" from the drop-down menu. Under the "Formatting" section of the window that pops up, you will see a drop-down box for the font type, and a second box next to it for the font size. Change the font size to 14 and click OK. The font size across the whole document will change. Do the same for any additional styles that were created new apart from Normal. Then go and adjust the Header style font sizes as we discussed earlier with Writer.

Once these settings have been set, you should end up with a document containing the full text of your book, formatted to a 4" x 5" page size, and 14 point body text size. Save the changes you have made thus far to the PDF version of the file. Now for the last preparatory step.

Now it is time to insert the cover artwork. While in the open document, in both Writer and Word, press the Ctrl-Home key combination. This will take you to the very top of your document. Now press "Ctrl-Enter." This will create a new page right before the first page, usually your title page. Then press "Ctrl-Home" again to move to the very top of this page.

In Writer and Word, click on the "Insert" menu item, and then hover over "Picture" in the drop-down menu, and select "From File" in the sub-menu. Find and select the JPG 600 pixel-wide cover we created in the last chapter and click OK. The cover file will fill the page within the page margins. If the width of the picture doesn't fill the width of the page, click the picture so it is selected, and then click the center icon in the menu tool bar to center the picture on the page.

Save the PDF version of the file. You are now ready to export to a PDF.

Create the PDF Ebook


If you created your ebook in Word, once you've saved your work, exit Word and open up the DOC file in Writer. In the Navigation window, if the ebook was formatted correctly, you should see links to all your chapter headings, and any sub-headings you listed in the Heading 3 format. If not, go back to Word and make sure those are formatted correctly before proceeding.

But whether you created the ebook in Word or Writer, you will need the document open in Writer, which has an excellent PDF export tool. Once you are satisfied that the book is formatted correctly and ready for export, proceed with the following steps.

Click on "File" in the menu, then select "Export as PDF." A window will open. In the "Range" section, you'll want "All" selected. In the "Images" section, select JPEG if not already selected. Leave the compression at 95%. Make sure the "Reduce image resolution" is checked, and select "75 DPI" from the drop-down box. PDFs are usually read on a screen which can't get any higher resolution than around 75 DPI, so there is no need to produce print-quality images.

In the "General" section, make sure "Tagged PDF" and "Export bookmarks" are both checked. The tagged PDF will make screen readers for the blind work better, and exporting bookmarks will create the PDF's table of contents from your headings as you see it in the Navigator.

Now click on the "Initial View" tab. In the "Panes" section, click on "Bookmarks and page." This will make your table of contents available when they first open the PDF.

In the "Magnification" section, select "Fit in window." This will ensure one full page fits in the window, causing the use of the page-down button to move from full page to full page, which will give it more of a book-like reading experience and less searching to find their place.

Then in the "Page Layout" section, select "Continuous Facing." This will cause the PDF to show two full, facing pages on the screen at a time. Using our reduced page size and increased font size, when they first open it up on a computer screen, it should produce a readable two-page view like a book. And the user will only need to hit page-down or scroll with their mouse to go to the next full page.

If this document is opened in a smaller device, like a small tablet, the user can change the view to one page at a time, and still get the benefit of an easier to read PDF on their device. Cell phones are likely to still be hard to read, but possible using this format more so than others. Still, most cell phone users know reading a PDF on their device is a pain and generally avoid it, opting for using other ebook formats instead.

If you have some strange fonts like foreign characters, which I would advise to avoid if possible, on the "General" tab under the "General" section, you can also click "Embed standard fonts" to avoid the reader seeing odd-looking characters or question marks replacing those.

Once all the settings are there, click the "Export" button at the bottom of the window, give the file a name (standard format is "<name of book> - <name of author>"), and click "OK." The PDF file will now be created. Once it is done, open it in Adobe Reader to make sure everything appears as it should, the bookmarks section has the full list of your chapter headings, and the formatting appears to have exported out correctly. Or you may find an error at this point you want to correct.

If you need to, go back to the original document in the program you used to create it, make your changes, then re-open with Writer if need be, and re-export the PDF again. One handy feature is that Writer remembers your export settings from the previous time, so you shouldn't have to reset those again until you make new changes. This is handy if you have several PDF books you need to format or you have to keep making changes and exporting the PDF file again.

Once you are satisfied with the results, you have an ebook that most anyone can read on their computer or tablet, formatted in a way that makes it easy for them to use it. These are especially handy for sending out for reviews or to sell from your own website. And there are very few people who don't already have Adobe Reader on their computer, so without any other ereader software installed, anyone can use this file to enjoy your book.
__________

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