Adventures in e-publishing: creating my first e-book


Now that I actually have an e-book to show for the efforts of the last many months, I thought – for my own future reference as much as anything – I should record a few of the things I’ve learnt in the process of bringing the project to completion.

For the moment the ebook is only available from amazon; this was just a way of getting it out there, primarily for any fellow NaNo peeps to get hold of on the cheap, before giving it a proper launch in the new year. At some point other ebook formats will be available, and the online shop here will stock them too.

For that reason, and having read of various woes getting Smashwords not to butcher the layout, I basically started afresh. This wasn’t a major problem, as I needed to do a word-by-word edit of the file in order to weed out the typos that crept into the paperback and make a few minor alterations to things that I since decided I didn’t really like. It wouldn’t be a massive amount of extra work to blitz the formatting and check that out at the same time, would it?

Actually, it wasn’t. And it seemed to work – not that I have tried to send the file to Smashwords yet, so I could be jumping the gun somewhat. Anyway, here’s the step-by-step of how I put my first kindle book together, for better or worse:

1. Save the original .doc out as a plain text document in NotePad.
2. Paste it into a fresh Word document, with all auto-formatting and auto-correcting disabled.
3. Set up a new Style specifically for ebook prep; I called it ‘ebook’, and it is a straight-forward 12 point Times New Roman affair. There’s a separate style for chapter headings and so on.

(All of this just takes Microsoft’s interpretation out of the equation – any layout errors remaining are therefore entirely my fault.)

4. Get the final edit done. I did this with paragraph returns etc displayed, so any errant spaces could be taken out along with the typos. I didn’t use a lot of italics, but some had to be reinstated on this pass.
5. Put page breaks in at the end of each chapter, and bookmark the beginning of the next (making sure to insert links so the contents page works).
6. Update the front matter to be ebook relevant.
7. Add a bookmark to the contents page. I missed this on my first pass and couldn’t work out why the default navigation on my kindle draft had no Contents option like all the professional ebooks. Google was my friend here, and revealed the missing link – a ‘toc’ bookmark at the top of the contents page.
8. Add the end matter. Such as the first chapter of the sequel, assuming your remaining copy of the file hasn’t been eaten by the hard drive goblins in the 6 years since you threw it together one November. Now I just have the obligatory ‘about the author’ page and a link to the spotify playlist for the soundtrack.
9. Check it over on amazon’s previewer and download a draft to review offline. This turned out to be vital, as it turned out an errant tab, somehow missed thoughout the earlier steps, had thrown my centred text off centre. Easily, if somewhat tediously, remedied.
10. Get a cover. I found mine on – cost me more than a fiver, but didn’t break the bank and ended up being less than some ‘pre-made’ covers that are available. I found an artist rather than a cover designer, but if you have a photo or two and just want them put together professionally there are squillions of people offering such things.

And that, in a nutshell, is how I went from word document to ebook. Next time, the hard slog of publicising and getting people to actually read the thing… but we’ve got NaNoWriMo to live through before that.


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