Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making an ebook is fun!

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the main things I decided I needed to do when I finished work was to finally pull my finger out and get my book (yes, that one I've been harping on about ad nauseam) on sale, or just shut the hell up and forget about the whole thing. My original idea years ago was to have 100 copies printed up and then try to find some way of flogging them to people because as I've said countless times, I do love a good ol' dead tree book. But then ebook sales exploded and while I can't say I'm a massive fan of ebooks personally, it would be arrogant and quite frankly just plain stupid of me to ignore their success.

As a result I began to look into it and discovered that Amazon just make the whole thing so damn easy for self-publishing authors, so I thought what the hell, I'll go Kindle. And before anyone says "but you're an Apple whore, what about iBooks?" yes, I am an Apple whore, but kindle is just easier, doesn't have any set-up costs, and to be honest Amazon have got the market completely collared at the moment; seriously, I read some interesting testimonials about author experiences and they all sold way more on the Kindle than on iBooks. And it's not like my book won't be available for iPads and iPhones because Amazon handily have an app for that. You can get it for free HERE. (They also do apps for Android, Mac, and PC, so you have no excuse not to get reading)

Now, when it comes to ebooks everyone always harps on about ePub, which is a file format that both Amazon and Apple will accept. Great! I thought, I can generate one file for both bookstores so if I do ever decide to go the iBooks route it's ready to go. I was even recommended a piece of free software that promised to convert a word file or PDF into an ePub file without any fuss. Yay for me, I thought; this will be piss-easy.

At this point I was feeling pretty smug.

Turns out, though, that by 'piss-easy' I actually mean 'a really rather frustrating experience.'

Basically this piece of software did generate an ePub file (it even had that cool page curling effect when I popped it on my iPad), but it also had some … Let's say ANOMALIES. Such as turning drop caps into little smiley tiger faces. Yes, TIGER FACES.

Isn't that just adorable?

As cute as that is, however, I thought it might just knock readers out of the drama of the story.

So I fiddled and farted around and tried different variations and different formats, each of which had their own peculiarities; one, for example, only put one sentence on each page, instantly transforming my breezy little novella into an 800-page epic to rival War and Peace. Eventually I just got massively frustrated, released a barrage of swears, and went for a run.

I decided to have another bash at it on Sunday afternoon, on the understanding that if I couldn't work it out I'd just pay someone to do it for me. And that's when I discovered that Amazon let's you upload your book as a word document and then preview it in a mock kindle screen. So I did that and … well, it looked quite good.

This is what the cover would look like as shown by the 16 shades of grey used by the Kindle's e-ink screen. This actually reads like a VERY SERIOUS CAPTION.

OK, so it had lost all the italics and some page breaks at the beginning, but a quick look on the Kindle community pages helped me work out how to rectify that - you just download the converted HTML file, fiddle around in the code a bit, then upload the amended version.


You can now purchase a little piece of me just for yourself. Look - it's cheap. Like me.

And just like that I was the proud father of an ebook, which went on sale Monday morning for the princely sum of 86p (I'm pricing low as it's short and I figure people will be more willing to take the risk of trying a new author if it costs mere pennies). It's a slightly surreal moment when you search Amazon for your own book and BOOM! there it is (also, if you look over there in the right-hand column, just under the 'about me' bit, there's an ad box. I think if you click it I get paid, so go on - give it a click, eh?). It's the culmination of years of work, and while I'd like to think I will at some point return to it for a limited physical print-run, my work on Waiting on a Friend, those characters I created and dropped into a storyline, is effectively done. How exciting is that?

Now, do be so kind as to go buy it while I get cracking on the next one, eh?


Tara said...

Congratulations on the eBook!!

The tiger faces would've infuriated me as well, and in my frustrated mood would've smashed my computer into the wall.

I see from your Tweets that you finished the 2nd season of "Justified"! Wasn't Mags Bennett the greatest, evil mama?

CyberPete said...

Yay! Will buy it!

Ps. Cute tiger smileys! If you ever do a kids book you'll know what program to use.