Nook version done (finally)

The “formatting tweaks” took more tweaking than I thought (I won’t bore you with the messy details), but I fired off my EPUB version of Castle Falcon to Barnes and Noble this morning. I’m interested in how the book’s online web page will look.

As I said before, the hardest part of e-book publishing is coming up with a file that does what you want it to when it shows up on someone’s e-reader.

A quick summary of programs I found helpful:

Adobe InDesign is great for formatting real paper books but it’s expensive. If you’re a student, you can get it a lot cheaper. The Kindle Plugin turns out reliable Kindle files, but I found that InDesign’s EPUB save function had some bugs. Your mileage may vary.  Most people will get more use out of methods of converting Word files and the like, and unfortunately I didn’t do a lot of that so I don’t have much advice in that area.

Calibre is a great program for dealing with e-book files on multiple levels. I used it to create good EPUB files by simply converting my final Kindle files. It can do a lot more, but that one function was what saved my bacon.

Sigil is another editing program for working with e-books. Although I only used it for one minor formatting issue (losing my “coding virginity”) the program would be excellent for those familiar with HTML and working “under the hood” on e-books.

You can find book viewers (Kindle or EPUB) for any computer or almost anything that has a screen. If you don’t actually own an e-reader, this is critical for previewing your final files. All of the readers are free.

Kindle viewers can be found here.

Nook (EPUB) reading apps can be found here.

Now maybe I should get back to actually writing books…the one part of being an author that’s even harder than creating e-book files.

Footnote aggravations

Since the last entry, I found some serious problems with the footnotes in my EPUB version of Castle Falcon.

Unlike the Kindle conversion plugin for Adobe InDesign, InDesign’s built-in “save as EPUB” function has no mechanism for driving my Pratchett-style humorous footnotes to the very end of the book (essentially converting them to endnotes).  The only two choices I have are to have the footnotes right at the end of the paragraph they appear in (blech!) or have them show up at the end of each chapter (blech squared!)

What’s so bad about that?  Well, if you’re doing your job right as a writer (or at least trying to), the end of a good chapter should be a nice punch line that really makes your reader want to find out what happens next:

“Suddenly he turned around, and there was the creature he’d been hunting, right behind him.”

Now, imagine that snappy fadeout with a humorous footnote (from a completely different part of the chapter) tacked right after the last sentence on the page:

“Suddenly he turned around, and there was the creature he’d been hunting, right behind him.”
[12] Everyone else in the family believed that anchovies on pizza were a crime against nature.

On the smooth road of carefully-planned plot development, your reader has just tripped over a nice big cement block.

So if InDesign couldn’t get my notes back to the end of the book where I wanted them, what could?  (No doubt the EPUB wizards out there are smiling indulgently right now, going over the dozens of complex code modifications they’d use to fix this, but keep in mind I’m quite new at all of this.  Besides, I really don’t like working with code.)

The next thing I tried was starting from an original Word manuscript and importing that into the PubIt! converter online.  I spent a lot of time wandering around that particular dead end.  The footnote links in the resulting EPUB were at the end of the book all right, but they didn’t work properly.

In the converted Word file the footnote references in the text linked back to the notes at the end of the book, but they didn’t link in the other direction.  Only the last endnote, number 16, linked back to the original page when I previewed a download using Nook for PC.  In Adobe Digital Editions, it was even weirder.  All the endnotes linked backwards to the same obscure page in the book, and that page didn’t even have a note reference in the first place.

At this point, I was almost ready to chuck the whole thing.  I decided to pull up an EPUB file editor to see what was going on in the (gulp) code, and used a program called Calibre which I’d downloaded a while ago.

I noticed then that Calibre comes with a file converter function.  Well, whaddaya know. One of their recommended input formats is Mobi (Kindle), so just for kicks I used Calibre to convert my already-working Kindle file to create an EPUB file.

Wow!  The EPUB file came out with working endnotes at the end of the file, just like the Kindle version, and they linked back and forth properly.  As a bonus, Calibre had converted the Kindle file’s table of contents too (I never created one for the Word file).  The links on this also worked properly, linking each table of contents entry to the proper chapter beginning.

There are still one or two minor formatting tweaks I’d like to do before I’m ready to publish my Nook version at Barnes and Noble, but there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel.

And now, Nook. (updated)

On Thursday, my 90-day Kindle Direct Publishing Select agreement expires, and I can legitimately put my book, Castle Falcon, out in other electronic formats besides Kindle (this restriction is part of the KDP Select agreement).  I will, of course, keep my Kindle version on Amazon, but now I can spread out a bit.

Step one for me will be producing a Nook version (EPUB format).  Fortunately, as with Amazon and Kindle, Barnes and Noble (the Nook people) have a web page (PubIt!) to gently walk you through the process.

As with Kindle, you need to register online and provide a lot of detailed information. Some people may not be comfortable providing things like bank account information and Social Security numbers, but remember that if you sell books, they will want to pay you, and just like your employers they need that information to do it.

As with Kindle, the hardest part is producing the electronic file of your book. There are a number of methods of producing an EPUB file.  I have the advantage of using Adobe InDesign, which exports directly to EPUB format. There are some tricks to getting things like page breaks, but nothing too profound (I’m assuming a standard book without a lot of illustrations or fancy formatting).

But I expect it’s more likely that people will be sitting at their computer with their manuscript in something like Microsoft Word. Fortunately, the PubIt! upload system can convert such documents into EPUB format. They have a support page here. Their Word formatting guide tells you how to handle formats and other things in Word to make for the most successful EPUB conversion.

Again, I’m not familiar with HTML or other line coding, so I try like hell to avoid it in the publishing process. So far, I’ve managed it (knock on wood).

Once you have uploaded your manuscript and it’s been converted, you can preview it to see if everything is the way it’s supposed to be. There’s an online previewer on the upload page at the PubIt! site. This takes a lot of time, but it’s worth the effort.

If you’re generating your own EPUB files at home, you can also download Adobe Digital Editions to preview your file on your computer.

I’m still waiting for some kind of notification of the official end of the KDP Select term.  I’ll try to post later on with further progress.

UPDATE:

I’ve found out that the online previewer at the PubIt! web page doesn’t seem to work with links like the table of contents or footnotes.  I downloaded my “converted” EPUB file from the PubIt! page and looked at it using the Adobe Digital Editions program, and it worked fine.  Another alternative for viewing EPUB books on your computer is Barnes and Noble’s own Nook for PC program.

As with Kindle, you can get a free e-reading program for almost any device that has a screen. Within limits, of course. So far, I don’t think there’s a Nook reading app for the Kindle, or a Kindle reading app for the Nook.

My KDP has officially expired.  On with the publishing!