Thursday, August 23, 2018

Behind-the-Scenes: Ebook Making for the Price of a Day of Self-Teaching

If you've been to one of our panels, you've heard Kara talk about how to make ebooks at home. If you want to take matters into your own hands, it's actually fairly simple -- which means you can put the work into testing the finished product and making it tidy.

We're not going to give away Every Little Thing here, because that'd take longer than a typical blog post, but here's a quick-start guide to formatting your own ebooks the way Kara does.

1. Get Calibre.

Okay, so heads up, computers don't seem to trust Calibre. They think it's evil. Considering Kara's just dealt with real malware recently? Trust us. It's fine.

So, get Calibre. It's free, and it has the bonus of being a place to store and organize any ebooks you already have.

Now, all love to the people who make it, but you'll notice it's a little... er... strappy looking. And that's fine. It gets the job done. Load a book in that you know and coast around in Calibre. The familiarity more than anything will help you acquaint yourself with what does what.

2. Start using actual formatting in Word.

Like. If you don't already. It's not necessarily good for sending things to printers unless you go really hard creating your own Word styles, but it is what Calibre will recognize.

There are good odds you'll end up with two versions of your manuscript if you're going both acoustic and digital. That's generally how I end up, and it's fine.

All things considered, using Styles for chapters is actually a huge help if you're a bit of a plantser like me. It won't seem so at first, but when you're looking for something pre-conversion in the editing/proofreading phase, it's gonna be a boon.

3. Prepare for your covers to be resized and greyscaled.

Story time. I was working on putting together the ebook for Seasons of War: Gallifrey, and we were having Issues. Not with the interiors, but with the cover. And not even with every ereader.

One thing that some free ereaders do is greyscale and re-color the cover. I don't know why. A style thing. A highlighting thing. This means you need to be careful of your cover format, because if some poor Joe has that, bad formatting could mean an empty void or just seeing one corner of the cover.

Go hi-res, not hi-scale. And test greyscaling your cover to make sure it looks okay.

4. Watch your page breaks.

As in. Like. Don't have any unless it's the end of a chapter or section. Since .epub and .mobi files automatically reformat font sizes and pages to fit the screen of the ereader, having page breaks means things are going to go all wrong. And sometimes something you did in your word processor may amount to awkward formatting in your ebook.

While Calibre is very good about catching things, I highly recommend you go through manually and check pages like copyrights, author info pages, signatures on forewords, etc. These are places where things can either get mis-formatted in Word, or misread as a Style by Calibre.

5. Epub, Mobi, and PDF.

If you're going to handle your own ebooks, those are the three formats to use. We operate like Rifftrax on this front: if you buy our stuff, we want to make sure you can access it, so we're going to load you down with multiple copies.

PDF isn't always necessary (it's mostly good for review/sample copies, though I know there are some people who read at their computer), but .epub and .mobi in one .zip file will be sufficient and accessible.

Is there more? Yeah, there's more. But that's, like, a class. Plus, it's something I taught myself, and it's something that's learnable. If you want to take back ebook production, it's a great way to do so. We look forward to seeing what you make!


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