Thursday, April 25, 2013

The e-Book Chronicles, Part V

Well, creating my Epub file using the converter at proved to be a bit of an adventure ... of the trial-and-error type. Fortunately, they provide a fairly thorough guide (click on the "download the guide" button) that does a decent job of walking you through the process.

The first thing you have to know about is using Microsoft Word styles, because that's how Lulu's conversion software knows where your book title, chapter titles, and any subheadings are. It uses them to build the .ncx file, which is the digital table of contents for your Epub file. Your book won't be accepted by any of the online retailers if it doesn't have a properly working .ncx file, so this is important information to have. Here again, the Lulu guide explains this pretty well, and even includes screen shots from your desktop--well, if you're using  a Windows machine, that is--to ease you through the process.

So far, so good. The next thing you've got to do is to take out all the extra hard returns that you probably put into your document in order to get the various title elements to show up on the page looking cute. Unfortunately, these elements are going to display differently to readers, depending on which device they're using to read your book. So, in the name of functionality, you may very well lose some of the "pretty" you worked so hard to put into your document. In the case of my novel, it wasn't too big an issue, since it's all text with very few overt design elements. I had to tinker with this a bit, taking Lulu's suggestion of using
line breaks (shift + enter) instead of hard returns to situate title elements on the page. Once I got the hang of that, I was able to mostly get things to show up where I intended.

Then, the cover art ... Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of the previous publisher's cool cover art and adapt it for my new e-book. I downloaded a nifty free graphic design program called Gimp and, after ascending partway on the learning curve, was able to pull elements from the original cover, add some new touches, and come up with something that is both functional and attractive, I think. It worked well enough that I was inspired to make a small donation to Gimp.

I do have to say that I found certain aspects of Lulu's conversion and publishing wizard to be non-intuitive. The hardest thing for me, for example, was convincing the wizard that I really and truly didn't want to use any of Lulu's prefab cover art, and that I really and truly did want to upload the cover image that I'd created myself, thankyouverymuch. But after some tinkering and a few imprecations muttered under my breath,
I was able to get the image uploaded successfully. Important note: If you generate your own cover art for an ebook, it needs to be at a 72 ppi (pixels per inch) resolution in order to display optimally on digital devices.

So ... there you have it! I've taken you through the process, pretty much start to finish. Except ...

... Oh yeah ... selling the thing. In other words, we're just now getting to the whole reason I did this in the first place. One of the things I like about Lulu is that they submit properly formatted titles to major online retailers. At this moment, they're in the process of submitting Jeremiah: He Who Wept to the iBookstore (Apple) and Nook (Barnes & Noble). Also, since I assigned my own ISBN to the book (see "The e-Book Chronicles, Part IV"), I'm planning to download my fully functional Epub file and submit it to the Kindle Store and Google Play Books.

But that is slightly in the future. For now, I'm pleased to have gotten this far and to actually have a working product for sale. Now, all I've got to do is persuade a few people to drop $2.99 for the download... Say ... could I interest you in a really cool new e-book?

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