Good News for Your Ebook Conversions


The worst experience I ever had with ebook formatting was last year when I commissioned – my usual professional ebook builder was ill – a manuscript to let it format by a person in South Africa which I had “met” on social media. She promised to deliver within days.
I paid in advance for .mobi and epub, and received both versions after a wait of almost two months! and dozens of emails.  I immediately transferred it to our distributor. He refused the epub version as it contained 63 !!! technical errors – which they offered to fix for just $50. When I reported this to the “formatter”, she emailed me after a couple of days that she charged only for .mobi – and the epub version was only a complementary version… which was certainly not true, according to my order and her invoice. In the end, she wrote me an email and called my inquiries “nasty”.  Well, I should have been warier of her work, as in her first attempt she even did not know how to hyperlink the TOC’s.  My own fault – cannot blame anyone else!
Ebook formatting is a never-ending topic in writer circles, forums, and blogs since the dawn of self-publishing.  And many authors have their fair share of hit-and-miss, and of experiences with so-called “professional” formatters.

Popular DIY programs to format ebooks are:

  • Calibre
  • Sigil
  • Jutoh
  • Vellum (for Mac)

Read also Author Alex Hallatt shares tips on how to produce ebooks using the Mac-only Vellum software, including books with lots of illustrations.  Many authors need formatting for their new books only two or three times a year at the most.  However, the more they use the software, the more competent they will become.
The New Kindle Create:
Amazon Kindle recently launched a new free app, called Kindle Create, which provides a simplified conversion process for formatting Kindle e-books from Microsoft Word.  When you finish your manuscript and upload it, Kindle Create (Beta) automatically converts the file into a Kindle-compatible file. Then it will help you format it. A rich illustrated conversation instruction will help you.  For example, building a TOC manually can be time-consuming. Kindle Create automatically scans your file for chapter headings and builds a table of contents for you.
You can download the software for Mac or for PC. 

Beta Limitations
The program is still in Beta, which means it will take a while to perfect it.
Some features are not available yet warns Amazon early users:
Limited support for lists and tables: Kindle Create (Beta version) will allow you to import your document, but you may not be able to edit the lists and tables. Lists and tables are marked as ‘un-editable content’, however, you can still publish the eBook and the list or table will display as depicted in the previewer.
Limited support currently also for modifying images.  Kindle Create (beta) will import documents that include images and will place them as block images. Re-sizing, re-positioning, and deletion of images is not supported.
If your document includes hyperlinks (external to the World Wide Web, or internal to other locations in the document), those hyperlinks will be preserved, but can’t be edited in Kindle Create (Beta).
Editing Lists, Tables or Images is Difficult.
Under “Beta Limitations,” it states that you may not be able to edit lists or tables for example – you need to go back to Microsoft Word and start the whole Kindle formatting again.  Upload a Word .docx or .doc file. Open your file in the previewer on all devices to see if they format well enough for you in the previewer, before you go ahead with your file in Kindle Create.
Same with images: you can’t reposition, or delete them. Preview these right away or go back to Word and get them right before proceeding with Kindle Create.  Hyperlinks cannot be edited too.  Test them in the previewer after loading in Kindle Create to make sure that you’re happy with the links before you do anything else in Kindle Create. These are just a few, read more technical tips on Chris Mullen’s blog post.
Previewing is Important!
Kindle Create Has its Own Previewer. Or you can download the Kindle Previewer 3.0 that shows books with enhanced typesetting.
Please, give your input to help with beta testing and to improve the program, visit the Kindle Create page, use the Feedback link, complete the survey or email KDP.
If you’re looking for a simplified conversion process, and if your ebook formatting is not too complex, this tool may be worth exploring. If you visit the Kindle Create page, click the link called, “So how does it work?” You will find some important information.

BTW: Another, relatively new offer is KDP Paperbacks, that might retire CreateSpace soon. Check out this article by John Doppler.
Even Better: FREE Formatting
Another route for authors is to use the conversion services offered by certain distribution platforms, for example, the FREE service at Draft2Digital. They are one of the most author-centred and customer-friendly distributors I have ever encountered: they answer emails and calls promptly, manuscripts are formatted in hours, corrections are made immediately – and they deliver .mobi and epub.
They do not work with Amazon, even they deliver you a free .mobi version, so you can upload it yourself – which has its benefits: it makes it easier to create your Amazon author page and your sales page. Or if you decide to switch in and out of KDP Select and their associated perks, you don’t need to go through the distributor, which may be a pain or not work at all.

Draft2Digital distributes your book for free to Apple, Kobo, as well as to Barnes&Noble (good for non-US authors) and many other online retailers.  You receive immediately the direct link to your e-book’s sales page – something that is not common or even possible at other aggregators.


Formatting and Converting Your Manuscript



No matter how you publish, and if you upload your book to online retailers by yourself, or if you use a service provider: a perfectly formatted e-book is a must!

Most distribution services / aggregators and online retailers ask you to upload a completed book file that is appropriately formatted, and vary widely in the types of files they accept.

Fortunately, many e-publishing services accept a Word document and automatically convert it to the appropriate format, but you still must go through an “unformatting” process for best results.  All major services offer step-by-step guidelines for formatting your Word documents before you upload them for conversion.  Here an example:
Guidelines for formatting and converting preparation.

Do NOT include any of the following:

  • Page numbers (some devices will allocate page numbers to the eBook based on the preferences of the device owner, but eBook files do not have universal page numbers)
  • Headers and Footers
  • Borders, background colors or background images – not recommended, as these can look make the text faint or indistinct on grey scale e-reading devices
  • Fancy drop-caps at the start of each chapter
  • Different text colors– see above
  • Multi-column layouts – just use a single column
  • Text Boxes – These can be included but bear in mind that the box may break if the text within runs onto the next page.  This can happen if someone is viewing the book with a large font size, and therefore as less text on each ‘page’ or screen view
  • References to specific eBook retailers such as Amazon or Apple, as the retailers do not allow promotion of competitors in products listed on their websites.

What’s the Difference between Formatting and Converting of Your Book:
“Too many authors’ books are only converted – and not formatted.” Formatting and converting e-book files are two different things.  Formatting is when a designer polishes your manuscript to professional standards for both, print and e-book formats.
Conversion is an automated process of changing files from one format into another, without editing or styling.  It’s often easy to convert files with software, but the resulting file will most likely look unprofessional, or even appear unreadable, if not formatted appropriately before.

This is How the Formatting Process Works:
PublishGreen explains what goes into creating an e-book: “When we make an eBook, we take your manuscript, break it down to its most basic parts, then rebuild it from the ground up using eBook-specific code, similar to what is used to create a website.  Here is a look at the steps we take when creating your eBook:

  • First, create a copy of your manuscript text.
  • Strip out any headers, footers, endnotes, footnotes, page numbers, etc. that interrupt the flow of text.
  • Extract all the raw text from the manuscript.
  • Reformat the raw content using eBook-specific HTML (code) to recreate the style and design elements seen in print (ie. bold, italics, underlines, chapter headers, drop caps, etc.).
  • Create the structure of the eBook by inserting prefaces, parts, chapters, sections, etc. that will reflect appropriate page breaks and table of contents hierarchy when viewed on a device.
  • Re-create bulleted and numbered lists, using HTML.
  • Insert and hyperlink footnotes so readers can zip back and forth between the text and the corresponding note.
  • Code hyperlinks for any outside websites that appear within the text.
  • Insert images using specific code that tells the eReader how to display the image.
  • Create a metadata file that will provide the device or software with pertinent information about the book, such as title and author.
  • Create a hyperlinked table of contents that will be accessible in the navigation function of each eReader.
  • Create eReader-specific title and copyright pages.
  • Adjust the CSS (another type of code) of the file to reflect any universal styling that will apply to the entire eBook.
  • Convert the HTML (the eBook’s source code) to EPUB and MOBI formats (the actual file type recognized by eReaders).
  • Test the files on each major eReading device.
  • Make changes to the source code (now that we can actually see what all the code looks like on the eReader!), convert to MOBI and EPUB, and re-test as necessary.”

Apple iBooks:
You can create an e-book in the .ibooks format by using Apple’s free iBooks Author software.  The advantage of this software is that it allows you to easily create multimedia e-books optimized for tablets.  However, there are drawbacks.  Apple has restricted the sale of any e-book created through the iBooks Author tool to Apple’s iBookstore.  You may not sell your iBooks anywhere else.  iBooks can be read only on their iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac and iPad.  However there are ways to transfer them to your PC as well – as shown on YouTube .



Manuscript Finished? Tips for Pre-Book-Production




I saw a brilliant poster at a print shop / book designer, which said:  Pick Any Two, I Pick One
It was a triangle and on each tip had these words:  Money – Quality – Time/Speed

Always keep this in mind when you hire freelancer / employees or subcontractors, such as editors, book and cover designers. You get what you pay for… Don’t shop for the cheapest, rather the best partners.
We give you here just an overview whats involved in book production, there are many other tasks that are covered in a great blue print, compiled in Joel Friedlander’s really helpful blog articles
Start with his article: Why Self-Published Books look Self-Published

The Editing process:
Even though many authors are talented writers and even spectacular at grammar, they should never be the book editor of their own project. You might have logged long hours going through your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, read, write, delete, re-write, re-read, delete… Then, after carefully reviewing the spelling and grammar and fact-checking the document, you may have even handed the manuscript over to your your former English teacher and every member of your writing group, however none of this is equal to a professional edit.

Contact editors whose sites inspire confidence and ask about their work process, rates, time frames, and any other information you need to know. Request a sample edit from the respondents you like. Samples are often free, and around five 250-word pages.
The editing process is not meant to offend you or detract from all of the perfecting you have already done. Rather, an edit is meant to increase the quality and success of your book, regardless of subject or genre.
Choose an editor on the basis of compatibility and how well the results of his or her editing appeals to you. ask for references, but learning about the editor’s background shows you how long he or she has been in the business. It also gives an idea of how many and which types of clients have actually trusted him or her to edit.  There are several steps involved in editing and professional trade publishers often employ special editors for each of these steps:

  • Line editing
  • Content Editing
  • Copy Editing
  • Proof Reading

The Book Cover and Title

The correct title can really help to ensure the success of your project. Or not… A great cover will raise the attention of potential readers.  And yes, books are judged by their covers.

  • It must be easy to understand and speak.
  • It should ideally be less than 32 characters.
  • You must be able to purchase the exact URL for the title.
  • Buy your Author name domain also.
  • The title should clearly demonstrate to readers what they will discover in this eBook.


Cover Design

  • Keep the design clean.
  • Use a focal point to orient the user
  • Make sure people can read it without glasses.
  • Make the design match the content.

For Print:

  • Use the spine properly.
  • Include a photo of the author.
  • The largest font size is used on the information that is most important

Joel Friedlander has a great blog post series about book layout 
mistakes to avoidYou can learn almost everything about book design by following Joel Friedlander’s blogs and by reading his books, to be found at www.TheBookDesigner.com.  Technical information can be obtained at Basic Book Design http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Basic_Book_Design for answers to your basic book design questions.

Pre-Publishing Services:

Suzanne Nussay, M.A., 
Editing, Writing and Constulting Services

Lisa Costantino Editing Services

Susan Uttendorfsky Adirondack Editing

Daniel Kenyon Editing

Cover design inspiration:

http://faceoutbooks.com/ (print book covers)

Book cover designers I can personally recommend:

Anitra Jay http://www.anitrajay.com/page:designs
Laura Wright LaRoche http://www.llpix.com

e-Book Formatting

Another important step in creating an e-book that should be done by real professionals,
here are two proven e-book designers:



After going through the pre-production stages – the editorial and design part – your next step will be distribution of your new book, covered in the next blog post. However, while your book is at the pre-publishing service providers, don’t forget to actively market your upcoming book! Prepare your author pages on Goodreads and Amazon, starts Goodreads Giveaways, if you have an ISBN and planned a print book.  Get as many pre-orders and reviews as possible, plan and invite all your potential readers to your book launch – virtual and in person.




With 30 years experience in both, print and now e-publishing, we can provide you with many more tips, background information and support – additional to the huge amount of promotion you get in our online and off-line seminars.  http://www.111Publishing.com/seminars

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Tagged: blueprint for book production, book designers, book editing, Book Layout, book production, e-Book-Builders, pre-book-production, self-publishing tips, where to find an editor or book cover designer

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