Digital Publishing (ebooks) for Independent Authors


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A short introductory session about producing ebooks for independent authors at the Faculty of Arts, Brighton University, Brighton, UK

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Digital Publishing (ebooks) for Independent Authors

  1. 1. Digital Publishing for Independent Authors Em Gibson @CorbasLtd © Corbas Consulting Ltd
  2. 2. This afternoon, let’s … • Get a feel for how ebooks work on different platforms • See what’s possible in an ebook • Look at ebook production pathways • Understand what an EPUB is and how it works
  3. 3. An ebook is • A distributable digital version of a book, e.g. – – – – – – PDF HTML file EPUB Proprietary format (Kindle) App (e.g. iPad/phone, Android) Text file (Project Gutenberg)
  4. 4. History of ebook technologies
  5. 5. History of ebook technologies
  6. 6. “Ecosystems” • Apple: “gorgeous” • Kobo: “social” • Amazon: “easy” • Others: “niche”
  7. 7. What you can do with an ebook • You are limited to what the hardware supports (e.g. an ebook for an e-ink reader can’t have video) • You need to check your ebook on multiple devices because they all support different elements of layout/design and multimedia (video, animation, etc.)
  8. 8. The production workflow
  9. 9. Types of publishing services • • • • Single service “Pick and mix” Complete package Other models
  10. 10. Single service providers • Delivers one or more of the various publishing services (formatting, design, editing, printing and promotion) • Efficient and cost effective • You retain control over the process • Examples: – – – – KDP Kobo Lightning Source Freelance designers, editors, formatters, etc.
  11. 11. “Pick and Mix” providers • An array of services offered, usually a basic publishing package with a menu of additional services (e.g. critique, editing, design, print, production, marketing, promotion, distribution) • Costs can add up • Examples: – Lulu – CreateSpace
  12. 12. Package providers • Complete package of self-publishing services • Like the "vanity publishers" of old, they will do everything for you • Can be extremely costly and some are very poor value • Examples: – Author Solutions, Inc. aka ASI (umbrella group for various providers such as Archway, Xlibris, AuthorHouse, etc.) – Lumina Press
  13. 13. Other models • Collaborative working – – – – crowd-funded (e.g. Kickstarter) crowd-edited (a.k.a. beta-readers) crowd-designed (e.g. crowd-written (e.g. WattPad) • Author co-operatives (e.g. Triskele, Book View Cafe) • Assisted publishing with an agent or trade publisher • Hybrid/partnership (risk-sharing) with publishers, with some author investment (e.g. BookCountry,
  14. 14. Conversion: complexity • • • • Plain text Plain text with links, incl. endnotes Plain text with images or tables Columns, images with wraparound text, boxed features, etc. • Fixed layout and enhanced
  15. 15. Plain text
  16. 16. … with images
  17. 17. … and tables can be challenging
  18. 18. Complex layout
  19. 19. This is not a page of text…
  20. 20. A word about PDF • Meant for printable documents • Preserves layout, fonts, graphics – fixed width • Easy to create a low-res version for distribution digitally • Cannot sell on most trade e-bookstores (Kobo, iBooks, etc.) or on Amazon
  21. 21. What is EPUB? • • • • A format for reflowable text Based on web technologies An industry standard for digital books Maintained by the International Digital Publishers Forum (IDPF) • Used by all ebook readers except Kindle • Kindle uses Mobi/KF8 format (use free Kindle Previewer software from Amazon to convert)
  22. 22. So what, technically, is EPUB? EPUB is based on existing technology: • HTML – format used to create web pages • CSS – technology used to style web pages • ZIP – file compression (incl multiple files) • XML – metadata, TOC and reading order
  23. 23. In a nutshell, what is HTML? • HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language) was developed in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee as presentational mark-up for text documents for the world wide web • Each piece of text is contained within opening and closing tags that describe that content • If you right-click on any webpage, you can “view source” to see the raw HTML
  24. 24. HTML looks like this: <html> <head> <title>Title of document</title> </head> <body> <h1>First level heading</h1> <p>Some text content here. You could maybe add some <strong>bold</strong> text or <em>italic</em>text.</p> <ul> <li>First list item</li> <li>Other list item.</li> </ul> </body> </html>
  25. 25. And what is CSS? • CSS is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation semantics (the look and formatting) of a document written in a mark-up language like HTML • It can describe layouts, colours and fonts
  26. 26. CSS looks like this: body { font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 75%; line-height: 2; color: black; margin: none; padding: 0; }
  27. 27. Another view An EPUB file is just a ZIP file that contains a simple website along with a list of the files in it and what order they should be read.
  28. 28. Fixed layout ebooks • • • • Looks like PDF but uses EPUB technology Usually designed for iPad or Kindle Fire Pixel-specific page size; text does not reflow Allows you to choose fonts, text sizes, position images, and design spreads
  29. 29. “Enhanced” ebooks • EPUB3/KF8 • Multimedia (video, audio) • Scripting (quizzes, location-based content, interactivity, 3D, etc.)
  30. 30. From Word to EPUB • Use Word Styles (not direct formatting) • Follow conversion requirements for your chosen system • Conversion options can include: – online (e.g. Smashwords’ “Meatgrinder”) – software (e.g. Calibre, InDesign) – DIY (guidance available e.g. Liz Castro’s EPUB Straight to the Point; online video tutorials)
  31. 31. Word Styles
  32. 32. Editing an EPUB (the techy stuff) • To crack open your EPUB and make changes, you will need: – An EPUB file – A text editor (e.g. TextEdit, Notepad, BBEdit, Notepad++ … but not Word), an HTML editor (e.g. Dreamweaver) or an XML editor (oXygen, Xmetal, XMLSpy) – Something to zip your EPUB back up (e.g. WinZip) – An ebook reader (e.g. Adobe Digital Editions)
  33. 33. A brief word about images • Check • For most basic ebooks, it’s the images that cause the most problems when converting • In EPUB2 and Kindle you are limited gif, jpg, png • Most readers are 800 pixels high x 600 wide • The dpi value is ignored by all reading devices • JPG is best for photographic art • PNG is recommended for line art
  34. 34. Image handling Screenshot from iBooks – landscape map, image size not optimised
  35. 35. Metadata
  36. 36. EPUBcheck • • • • • • Checks for validity Is the XHTML correct? Are the metadata files valid? Is the zip file structured correctly? Are all the files present? Are all the files in the zip file listed in the manifest? • Do all the internal links work?
  37. 37. Remember: You can’t depend on EPUBcheck to find all the errors!
  38. 38. Kindle Previewer
  39. 39. Ebook DRM and distribution • DRM is usually applied by the distributor • Most publishers distribute their ebooks via a distributor like OverDrive or Ingram (or both) • Many self-publishers start with online author communities • Both may also distribute via their own website, directly with Amazon, and on sites like
  40. 40. Some resources Networking and advice • Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) • Byte the Book Creation and distribution • DIY: Liz Castro (EPUB Straight to the Point, and others) • Author communities that release via multiple distributors (e.g. Smashwords, BookCountry) • Direct to distributor (e.g. Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo WritingLife) • Plus many others in the Wild West of Ebooks!
  41. 41. Recap • This afternoon we have – – – – Looked at ebooks on different platforms Seen what’s possible in an ebook Looked at ebook production pathways Thought about next steps (ms conversion, sales, distribution, etc.)