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Guest post: ‘Creating a Quality eBook’ by David Coles

19 Jan

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of eBooks, is brought to you by author David Coles.

Creating a Quality eBook.

That title is a little misleading, most of this article will be about making a Kindle – the Amazon version of an eBook – but we will see how it goes on to apply to an ePub format too. ePub format is used by Adobe Digital Editions, Nook (the Barnes & Noble system) and iTunes among others several others. The main thing is – you become your own publisher, it’s a great feeling.

So, an eBook. Save your manuscript as a Word .doc file from MS Word, Open Office or other word processors and upload it to Amazon (I list the various links at the end) and that’s it!

But – not a quality eBook!

No new page with a new chapter, no emboldened or centered chapter headings, no italic phrases. A pretty bland vanilla flavour.

But with just a little bit more effort, we can go the extra mile and produce an attractive eBook and something to be proud of. That little bit extra is called HTML or, Hypertext Mark-up Language. If you are at all familiar with this coding system, the rest is a doddle; if not, bear with me – it’s not rocket science.

By coincidence, there are two Kindle eBooks available at Amazon (see the link at the end): “Set your Book Alight with Kindle” is a more fully detailed discussion of this posting, “Kindle-Ize your Book” is for people who want to go a step further and explore more advanced methods of formatting an eBook.

The internal formatting codes of a word processor are not recognized by your browser or Kindle or eBook readers which are based on the HTML codes. Of the hundreds of HTML codes or tags, there are a minimum of 4 sets of tags we need to use, nothing more!

To help you, there is a template file which can be downloaded from my website or from my publishers (see the list of links) and you need only copy the title, dedication, acknowledgement and copyright declaration sections from your own manuscript into the appropriate spaces. These can now be removed from your manuscript. Or, if you don’t have these sections, enter your own wording or delete that section from the template.

The first line of your manuscript proper which should be headed CHAPTER ONE, FOREWORD or some such. Make sure all your chapters have the word “chapter” at the start, e.g. “CHAPTER TEN” or “CHAPTER SIX: The Dark Design”. Make sure all your section separators (i.e. between scenes or time shifts, etc) are the same, we’ll assume you use a centered ***.

There is a set of general HTML instructions which need to be at the start of your eBook script and again, these are already in the template file.

Looking at your manuscript, we need to put those 4 sets of tags into the text using the find and replace facility in your word processor:

1. Paragraph start and end:
Find ^p (Word paragraph code, in Open Office, it is $) & replace-all with </p>^p</p>

2. Chapter heading formatting:
Find <p>CHAPTER & replace-all with <mbp:pagebreak/><p>CHAPTER

3. Section separator formatting:
Find <p>*** & replace-all with <p>***

4. Italic, bold and underline formatting;
Use the find facility to find each instance of italics (leave the find box empty, press ‘CTRL’ and ‘I’ simultaneously, then click the find-next). Insert the tags <i> and </> at the start and end of the italicized phrase (i.e. <i>your text</i>). Use the same technique to find and insert bold (‘CTRL’ & ‘B’ with <o> & </o>) and underline (‘CTRL’ & ‘U’ with <u> & </u>).

Not too onerous? Possibly dealing with the italics is the most tedious bit; a long book with a couple of hundred instances can take an evening but the result is soooo good.

Save your manuscript as a word processor file with its HTML tagging. Now save it again as a plain text file selecting ‘UTF-8’ coding from near the bottom of the list on the right hand side of the dialog box. (This preserves some of the funny stuff like the copyright and registration characters and smart quotes if you want to go on and create an eBook in ePub format)

Close your word processor, find the text file you have just created and change the extension: yourfile.txt to yourfile.html. Your operating system will issue dire warnings, just ignore it. Now double click your .html file and it will open in your browser; drag the edge of your browser in towards the centre of your screen until the display looks more book size. You will find the new page / new chapter option doesn’t work in the browser because the tag is only recognized by eBook readers. But all the other stuff should have worked.

The main error is usually the italics where you’ve mistyped or missed the closing tag: </i> and the italics just go on and on. And on, I do it all the time. No problem. Right-click the .html file, click ‘open with’ and select ‘notebook’; search for the guilty phrase and correct that closing tag.

Deal with any other problems at this stage… you can also use the html tag <br> to end a line before the margin or to insert a blank line or lines. This can sometimes improve the formatting.

The Kindle file.

Download the free Mobipocket Creator and install it. (see the link at the end). Open it up and follow the instructions – select ‘html’ as your input format, browse to the .html file you created and import it. There are other options here too, select a cover picture, create a table of contents (use the option p, class, index in the wizard) and click ‘build’. If there is no cover picture, you will get a single warning.

The output is a file: yourfile.prc which, together with copies of your .html file and your cover file, will be stored in a new folder in your Documents folder: My Publications. “yourfile.prc” is the Kindle file which you can upload to Amazon KDP.

Want to see what it looks like as a Kindle?

Download and install the Kindle Reader App for PC or Laptop (see link at the end). Find your Kindle file at Documents / My Publications / yourfile / yourfile.prc, double-click it. Your Kindle reader will open up at the first text page of your new Kindle Book.

It will look great.

Your ePub Book.

Download the free Calibre eBook Management system (see the link at the end and note, it takes a while). Open it, click ‘add file’, browse to your html file. Highlight the new line in the manager, click ‘convert’ and choose ePub as output. Browse and load your cover file and start conversion. The ePub file will be in yet another new folder in your User folder named ‘Calibre library’. To test it download install the Adobe Digital Editions (yes, see the link at the end) and then double click the file yourfile.epub. That will open it as an ePub eBook.

Links:
Template file
Mobipocket Creator
Kindle reader App
Calibre eBook Manager
Amazon/Kindle Desktop Publishing
Adobe Digital Editions
Set your Book Alight with Kindle.

Thanks for staying with me.
David Coles

Thank you so much for this David, it’s fantastic! As someone who found Smashwords straightforward (once I waded through their 70+ style guide) I’m now looking forward to adding my eBooks to Amazon and will definitely have this to hand. 🙂

David and his co-author Jack both live in Yorkshire but 25+ miles apart, and have been writing together for too many years to remember but still meet weekly. David lives on the outskirts of a big city whereas Jack’s home is more rural. They still enjoy each other’s presence though – if the truth be known – they probably laugh more at the antics of their grandchildren. Their tastes in music differ, David prefers more instrumental works especially acoustic guitars whereas Jack likes good balladeers. David likes walking and exploring foreign climes. Jack also enjoys travelling but on four wheels in preference to Shanks’ pony. They both enjoy a good meal and glass of wine and still like to curl up with a real book despite having eBook readers. David’s websites are www.DavidBColes.co.uk and www.ArchimedesPress.co.uk. You can also go to http://acclaimedbooks.com/wordpress/abcauthors and find…“Everett Coles”. All their current books can be found by clicking the following links… Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. They run the gamut of thriller through historical to fantasy and SF.

      

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with action adventure author Gordon Gumpertz – the two hundred and fifty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

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1 Comment

Posted by on January 19, 2012 in ebooks, novels, tips, writing

 

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One response to “Guest post: ‘Creating a Quality eBook’ by David Coles

  1. Yvonne Hertzberger

    January 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Oh, man – so much to learn. Good info if I can take it all in. Thanks.

     

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