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Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 5 – Creating the EPUB Ebook and Uploading toB&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: 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 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 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.

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