Taking the eBook plunge…for free and in only 578 words!

I had a free day today so started the process of learning how to do the eBook thing.  I decided to start with Kindling; all the best fires start that way.  The launching point is a wonderful Irishman living in Sweden named David Gaughran, who will be at York (Festival of Writing) this year.  He has published a DIY book and he makes it available for free at http://davidgaughran.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/lets-get-digital-by-david-gaughran-free-pdf-edition.pdf.  This basically tells you what you need to know and it has a useful resource section with a lot of good links.   More than that, it makes the point that the internet has revolutionised everything it has touched and, despite what you hear, publishing will inevitably be no different.  Luddites beware; the world is changing.  Now, I have to confess that I really like books and don’t even have a Kindle but the second step is to download the Kindle software for free onto your PC from those nice Amazonians: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html/ref=amb_link_158732207_10?ie=UTF8&docId=1000423913&ie=UTF8&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=auto-sparkle&pf_rd_r=283E4DC14A784DF4807D&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_p=245331387&pf_rd_i=kindle%20for%20pc%20download.

OK, next you need to have a complete, edited, formatted, perfect, polished manuscript.  That’s the easy bit!  Put it into single line spacing and get rid of headers and footers; you don’t need page numbering.  Font size doesn’t matter much but font does; choose one with serifs.  I used TNR 12 point, but then I always do.

Get some cover artwork done.  David strongly recommends getting this done professionally (and I will as, apparently, people do judge a book by its cover).   Initially, I did one of my own on Photoshop, just to have something.

See the new note at the bottom of this blog before doing this next step! 

Next, download a programme that converts your masterpiece into Kindle format.  I used this one which works well:  http://calibre-ebook.com/download.  Then open your MS in Word and and save it as a ‘web page (unfiltered)’.  This is an HTML file, though you wouldn’t know it.  From Calibre, upload the MS and follow the instructions at http://www.ehow.com/how_7360365_convert-epub-kindle.html (really important; follow every word).  It’s straight-forward.  Remember to upload your cover artwork as well during the conversion stage.  You need to tell it the starting format (zip or HTML) and the intended final format (MOBI).  Then, after the conversion, save it to ‘My Kindle Content’ which Kindle has set up under ‘My Documents’.  That’s it.  You can then open your Kindle software, click on your masterpiece and be the first to read it as an eBook.

Easy, eh?  well, not entirely straight-forward.  I found a number of formatting errors when I first tried it, but the solution was saving the Word document as a ‘web page (unfiltered)’ as Word has lots of secret features that mess things up for you if you use the simple ‘web page’ option.  My problem was that it put extraneous carriage returns before and after speech marks.  Not everywhere, just here and there.  No reason. Maybe Bill Gates knows.

This all took me about 10 hours but I am a complete newbie and you don’t need to take as long.  The difference between saving the Word document as a web page (unfiltered) took me about three hours to discover.

Next steps will be some professional cover artwork, then final publication on Kindle (and the others, in different formats), then the work really starts.  Marketing.  I need set up a separate website for that.  Not sure how to do that just yet.  It might take another day or so, but you will the first to know.

Important Post-blog note (18 Aug 2012):

Unless you want a copy of your book as an eBook for the Kindle prior to publication, you don’t need to put it into Kindle format at this stage.  When you upolad to Amazon for the Kindle, they do it for you from a DOC, DOCX or HTML file.  All you have to do is to format it appropriately, they do the rest then let you have a look at it, edit or revise before it goes live.  Far easier.

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6 Responses to Taking the eBook plunge…for free and in only 578 words!

  1. Brian Berry says:

    Wtg.
    Brian.

  2. rogerjhardy says:

    ….and what exactly do you mean by that? It’s a swearword in Swahili!

    • Brian Berry says:

      It’ text speak Roger. I am trying to keep up with the way our beautiful English language is evolving, perhaps that is not the correct word. So, you are at a crossroads and have to decide which way to go. You make a decision and I concur that is the “way to go.” Innit.

      Brian.

  3. rogerjhardy says:

    ytot = you trendy old thing!

  4. Alanboy says:

    Roger,
    I’m a fair bit behind you. I have only one novel, and that’s still to be re-read by WW.
    I’ve read lots of views about this publishing lark, and your experiences are typical, and not encouraging. You write ‘damn fine books’, (quote Debi Alper) and still haven’t made headway, well not yet. So, what hope for the rest of us?
    My book is be too quirky to be accepted, so I may well forego even attempting to interest an agent.
    But, I will NOT self-publish a MS that isn’t of the required quality. Only when an expert says it is good enough, will I go ahead.

    I resent that crappists damage the reputation of self-publishers, and just for a bit of ego-stroking.
    So there.
    Lisbon was the first foreign city I ever visited. I’ve never forgotten it.

  5. rogerjhardy says:

    Hi Alanboy,

    Traditional publishing is actually still healthy but it is really difficult for a new writer to get published and the business is risk-averse. You’re right that the quality needs to be appropriate but maybe quirky is good. Something that stands out from the crowd might just work. The point about traditional publishing is that you’re pretty well guaranteed a good product at the end of it. Agents are committed to excellence. The trouble is that they are over-worked and conservative (see JK Rowling’s experience…). From my POV, I simply got frustrated by it all because I have a lot of positive feedback and have confidence in my product, even if no one else has. And that’s the problem with self-publication; there’s a lot of crap out there. So how do the punters tell the gold from the crap? Word of mouth, I think. At least I’m taking that gamble and we’ll see what happens. Watch this space.

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