Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creating eBooks

When I decided to publish myself, I knew I'd need an editor and a cover artist -- and I planned to do all the graphics myself. I put the money I'd spend on that into paying for a better editor and artist. I'd never created an ebook before, but how hard could it be...?

Attempt #1: InDesign CS5
I've been making a living as a graphic designer for something like 15 years now -- print-oriented, got into it by way of proofreading, and I've been a one-woman prepress department. Naturally, in generating the layout for the print version of Disciple, Part I, I took it to InDesign and threw it down. No fuss, no muss.

Online, I went looking for how to export InDesign files to EPUB (the format used by non-Kindle readers.) I quickly found that while Adobe did put together a pile of helpful PDFs and web pages at some point, very few of them are still available and you tend to get dumped onto the "You need to buy CS6!" page.

After six hours of tweaking options and slogging through the results, I had an EPUB that made my Nook reader sprain its brain every time it tried to open the file. I might have been able to fix the files, but my butt-cheeks were beginning to ache.

Attempt #2: HTML from scratch
I kept Guido Henkel's excellent guide to creating an EPUB from scratch open and used jEdit (which was probably overkill) to create an HTML file with a simple, embedded CSS.

Calibre kindly added all the metadata and the cover art, then output it as an EPUB that looks lovely in my Nook reader. Next up: MOBI conversion, which Calibre will do too.

Clear winner: build it from scratch.
Photo by Pablo Medina,
free at sxc.hu
Total time invested: 3 hours, and all it needs is the final cover art. Seriously. I'm the kind of person who never pays for free software, and I'm going to send Calibre $20.

If you're comfortable with basic HTML coding -- I didn't use anything more complicated than style and span commands -- you can do this. Guido's guide includes a sample CSS that you can copy/paste and then tweak to your liking. Calibre does all the heavy lifting. The whole thing was quite painless.

Needless to say, I'm rather disappointed in InDesign. But I'm over another hurdle and closer to publishing Disciple.


Bluestocking said...

I've heard horror stories about this... but I'm glad to hear it's doable so long as you have working knowledge of css and html.

Yay for being one step closer!

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

You have skills that I don't possess. Adobe CS5.5 and CS6 are scary. I've played around in photoshop elements and am getting comfy in doing things there. I'd love to have a class or something on using Adobe software.

Liz said...

All I know is basic HTML. Very basic. How to add italics basic (and put in links). But I scanned some of that link, and it looks like I might be able to handle that. Now I just need to finish a book...

Huntress said...

Can't wait to see it.

since my own endeavors in traditional pub are floundering like so much sewage, your journey is of great interest to me.

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