From Idea to Finished File – My E-Book Adventures, Part 2

by Greg on April 29, 2012

Once I decided to go ahead and publish my e-book, The Late Bird, (after going through the process I describe in Part 1 of my Adventures), I had to actually, you know, get an e-book made and ready for sale. I broke the process down into what I called the Three C’s….

Content

I knew this would be a book of my children’s poetry, mostly drawn from GottaBook, but to me “content” was a broader category than just that.

Would I Need an Editor? A Copy Editor?

I am a firm believer that quality in e-books is as necessary as quality in traditionally published books. Still, most of my poems were already published (and I was happy with them). In the end, I decided “no” about both an editor and a copy editor.

These are, however, areas where I would likely have a different opinion if I were self-publishing a novel. A collection of individual poems carries with it very different issues than a piece with a narrative arc, characters, and more. Many writers spend money on good editors, and I can easily see doing the same under different circumstances.

Which Poems… and How Many?

a "general" collection

I have lots and lots of poems online and off, so I had to choose which poems would go in this collection and how many belonged. I looked at what was already out there in print and online, and came up with doing a collection of 54 poems, knowing that this leaves me enough to do more e-books, too.

a themed collection

Once I’d come up with a good number, I had to decide if I wanted a themed collection – all my school related poems, for example – or a general one. In the end, I decided on a general collection. This was not a strategic decision, but was simply what I decided would be easiest and most fun for me.

However, one thing I like about e-books is that it would be very easy for me to put together different collections, potentially repurposing the same poems in different books, if appropriate. The flexibility is appealing.

Cover

Although an e-book doesn’t have a “cover” in the traditional sense, it certainly needs one for wherever you’re displaying the book for sale. Also, in my mind, a book simply has a cover! I knew I wanted something eye-catching and… uh… well, look, there’s a reason I write instead of make book covers.

I had done plenty of research, however (one of my favorite sites for this is The Book Designer), and I’m lucky enough to know a lot of remarkably talented artists and designers. In my case, I turned to my #kidlitchat co-host, Bonnie Adamson.

I knew the cover needed to

  • look professional (at the very least)
  • be eye-catching
  • make folks want to look inside
  • look good at a reduced size

Bonnie and I chatted by email, then she sent me a design. THEN, of course, I had a better idea of what I wanted and didn’t, though that’s largely because her first cover try was so good. We quickly moved to a final design, she did her illustrator/designer magic, and I got a file.

The cover is another area that I view as incredibly important.  This is an area where, unless you have a real eye and talent for design, it makes sense to hire someone. I admit, I’m exceedingly pleased with Bonnie’s  Late Bird cover and never could’ve done anything like it on my own.

Conversion

I lumped two things under conversion: how to go from individual poems to something that laid out like a book AND how to get it into the proper format for Amazon, Nook, and other readers. This could easily be two sections, “design” and “conversion,” but I thought of them together so present them that way here.

Keeping It Simple!

My goals with The Late Bird were clear, as was the time frame in which I wanted to launch. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to work with someone to truly design the book, nor was I was not going to have illustrations or photos for each poem. It was, in effect, going to be a book with a poem a page.

I also wanted to learn as much as I could, so I wanted to experiment with design and layout myself. Truth is, I did very little beyond adding a small visual motif to separate each poem. This was a time issue as much as anything (or so I tell myself!).

Formatting for Different Formats

For Kindle books, you need a .mobi file format, but for other readers, you probably want an .ePub file. And me? I was working in Word so I had a .doc file. There are many guides online explaining how to convert from one format to another. It is not overly complex… at least in theory… though it can be a bit time consuming as you learn how to do it right.

There are also many people who will do this conversion for you along with designing your book. If I had a graphics intensive book, I would certainly have considered paying to make the inside look as good as I feel the content is. However, mine was a simple book and a simple conversion. And…

I turned fiverr.com where, at the time, a user named Untagged was offering to convert a Word document to both .mobi and ePub formats for $5. Keep in mind, this was NOT a design job – this was converting whatever I sent exactly as I sent it. Nonetheless, it was money extraordinarily well spent, and Untagged exceeded what she advertised.

Fixing What I’d Wrought

After the conversion, I dowloaded two free (donation-supported) tools – Calibre and Sigil – which allowed me to fix up things I should have fixed up before sending my file off. Again, because I chose not to use a designer, it was up to me to do this.

I was able to do everything I needed, from changing the order of the poems to fixing fonts that I’d somehow been inconsistent with to centering a few things that I wanted centered. I should have done all this earlier in the process, by the way, but this is exactly why I was doing what I was doing: I wanted to learn.

The Fourth C – Conclusions

The choices I made in this process were driven by my goals for this book. In other circumstances, I might have either hired people or ended up spending more time learning processes. As it stands, I am exceedingly happy with the results I ended up with and the time it took. And… I have an e-book!

I’ll be talking about preparing for the launch in Part 3 of this series. And as always, I’d love to hear from you. Did you design your own e-book? Did you hire someone brilliant? Did you go a totally different way? I look forward to hearing about your adventures, too.

 

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Adams April 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Greg

I’ve used Stanza (http://stanza.en.softonic.com/mac) to do the initial conversion. It is for Mac only, however, and isn’t as full featured as Sigil appears to be.

Cheers,
Joe

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Greg Pincus April 29, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Thanks, Joe. I haven’t yet used Sigil or Calibre or anything for that initial conversion… but as a Mac user, Stanza’s interesting. I hope to do the conversion myself the next time, so I’ll probably play with them both.

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Susan J Berger April 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm

That was well thought out and written.
I am vaguely thinking of self publishing my adult novel because of the implied deadline. If they are time traveling back to 1969 and I want them to be a certain age in the present, (the year the the book is published) I need to publish by 2013.
However I would have to have an editor, and that isn’t easy to find. I have seen too many self published books that cry out. “look! I did it all by myself.” No a message I want to send a reader. I have too much respect for the editorial process.

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Liz May 18, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Great food for thought here. It wouldn’t have dawned on me to use fiverr to get some of this done. Glad to hear that went well. *Love* your cover. How are you doing with Kindle sales? I have a poetry book up and it makes me chuckle – I sell significantly more in the UK than the US.

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