Electronic Publication is the one growing segment of the publishing market, with nearly half of all sales as Downloads, and is a blessing for the self pub author.
Preparing a manuscript for E-publication is an involved process, but one which, thankfully, builds on your early successes so that the overall effort is not that daunting. Some downloadable formats, like PDF, are easy since you already have PDF capability to make the print version of your work. The popular ePub and Kindle formats, however, will require a fair amount of software, (some of which you already have in producing your print versions) so going the E-publishing route can require some investment.
You can avoid this problem by releasing your files through one of the E-distributors such as Amazon or Smashwords. However, this will require compromises with distributor portability, formatting, and licensing which you may not like. If you prefer to keep tight control over your work, especially if you plan to market through your own web site and shopping cart, then you will have a project on your hands.
How E-publishing Works
All forms of E-publication (except the good ol' reliable PDF) rely on some variant of HTML web code. Your Nook or iPad are essentially small computer monitors displaying a simplified web page. To convert your MS for E-publication, you have to translate it into HTML, then translate that into the proprietary ePub or Kindle product. That first part is where the challenge lies. HTML being what it is, the multiple translations can result in muddled formatting, so you will have to edit the resulting files before the final conversion takes place. This gives you the opportunity to make the result professional looking and attractive through your editing.
There are any number of E-reader formats, but most of them are for obscure or outdated systems. The best coverage can be obtained by three formats:
PDF - a stable format for many E-readers and for use on a home computer. ePub - the most widely used format for most E-readers. Mobi - the proprietary format for Kindle.
In recent years, the bewildering array of systems has been simplified so that most E-readers will take these three formats. This trend will no doubt continue in the future, so these should meet all your needs.
If you set up your files on one of the server distributors, like Smashwords, they will require you to use a specific configuration proprietary to their system. Using page breaks to isolate chapters in one long file is a typical example. If you plan to go that route, you should download their style sheet and familiarize yourself with their process before going any further. One virtue of going this route is that you simply give them a suitably configured text file, and they do the rest.
Unlike a printed page, the E-publication files will flow to conform to the size of the viewer. (Drag the lower corner of this web page to see the effect.) Things we take for granted, like page numbers, footnotes, tabs and such simply won't work, so you will have to learn what can and cannot be done in this form. Some, like tabs, will require you to devise alternate methods to give a similar result; while many things, like page numbers, are handled automatically by the software, so you shouldn't bother with them. As a practical matter, you should work with a test file of a half-dozen pages or so to see what the software can do and what you will have to improvise.
The nice thing about E-publication, (and about some E-publishers) is that if the result doesn't come out right, you can simply do it over using the earlier result as a guide. No need to buy expensive proof copies; just tweak your files and load them again. When looking for an E-distributor, be sure their reload policy is as flexible as the software is.
Here is a list of known E-pub generator software with links to topic pages on their use:
Jutoh A British software. Legend Maker Adobe Acrobat 8 (or later) with Adobe Distiller
You will also want these auxillary software, which are free downloads:
KindleGen Kindle Previewer Adobe Digital Editions Reader
You can find links to all these software through the Links page.
To begin the process, set up a folder in your MS folder to receive all materials to be included in the finished download.
First up is prepping the cover illustration. The simplest method is to take a copy of your cover art and trim it down to the front cover only, without trim allowance. (6" x 9" being typical.) Then reduce it to a maximum of 560 pixels wide by 740 pixels tall (it won't come out exact, so work to fit the finished dimensions) and save it as a PNG file. (PNG is a special E-publishing image format which is easier to resize as needed.) If you use Photoshop for your covers, you don't need to flatten the layers first. You can also do this conversion with the File / Export function in Adobe Acrobat. Add this to the work file.
Aside from the cover, any further illustrations must be included in their own document page (as for a map), or imported into a chapter page (as for a title header illustration). Convert the image to a PNG file as above, size it as desired, and load it onto your word processing document. Once the page is ready, export to PDF as discussed below.
When doing setups for various E-publishing formats, remember to modify your Copyright page with the correct versions and ISBN numbers.
The PDF Conversions
PDF is the easiest, since most modern word processing software can export your MS directly to PDF. The only thing you need to do is add the front cover illustration to the first page. Be sure to include a page break to move the Title material down one. After that, simply do the Export, and there you are.
Once you have the PDF file, use your Adobe Acrobat to do a Preflight check: go to Advanced / Print Production / Preflight in the top pulldown menu. Use this to adjust the file to "Compatable With Acrobat 4". This slightly later version will insure that the PDF file will open reliably, but will still be readable by older browsers.
The ePub & Kindle Conversions
Here is where your greatest effort will be needed, and where the various specialty E-publication software comes into their own. Since each software has its own eccentricities, we will deal with each one in its own topic, below.
Jutoh For Macintosh Legend Maker For Macintosh
Prepping For Print
Basics Of E-publishing
Prepping To E-publish - Jutoh For Mac
Prepping To E-publish - Legend Maker For Mac
Roll Your Own - CD Books
Spread The Good Word - Audio Books
Fixing Those $%#*! Software Problems
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