Beren (beren_writes) wrote,

How to Make an eBook - My Way

I thought some people might be interested in the ins and outs of creating eBooks, and I had to document it for myself, so I decided to share.

First I would like to point out that other people use other techniques, this is how I do it and end up with something that looks good on Kindle and converts nicely to ePub without losing my mind. Please note that if you are doing something for Smashwords, they have their own formatting guide so this post is mostly irrelevant.

Also if HTML is not your thing you can just use the Word->Filtered HTML->Mobi technique that the Amazon's guide suggests. I just do it the way I have described below so I can get exactly what I want without all the additional crap Word puts in. The MobiCreator and Calibre sections are identical for both techniques, just ignore the html sections and use these instructions for saving the document.

Software you will need
  • Word or another text editor (anything with a decent spell check is good)
  • HTML editor if you are doing your own HTML(you can use anything from Notepad to Dreamweaver, but I use PSPad Editor which is free and quite friendly)
  • MobiPocket Creator (free from here)
  • Calibre eBook Management (free from here)
  • An image editing package (if you're doing your own cover)
  • ePubCheck – there are online alternatives if you are only making the odd book and don't want to have to set it up.

Example files
Sample_HTML.html (right click to download)
Sample ePub
Sample Mobi (.prc) file
(The cover used in these eBooks is just an random old image I picked out).


Creating the book:
  1. Seems obvious, but write the book. Don't get caught up in formatting etc until you've finished it because it's a great way to procrastinate.
  2. Create your copyright page (see sample document for what I mean)
  3. Create your dedication page (see sample document for what I mean)
  4. Create your title page (see sample document for what I mean)
  5. Create you extra info page for the end of the book (useful to give readers info on your other work (see sample document for what I mean)
  6. Create your cover blurb/description for the book. This can be harder than writing the damn thing.
  7. Design your cover or ask someone else nicely/pay them to do it for you. (I use 850x1280 as my res – Amazon suggests: Horizontally: minimum of 500 pixels, Vertically: maximum of 1280 pixels).
  8. Do a layout in your Word processor so you know what you are after as a layout on the eBook (put something common and unique in the beginning of every chapter heading (e.g. Chapter) and use something like *** as a scene break). I use Amazon's guide here

Formatting the Text for HTML (Leave this section out if saving straight from Word, I do the HTML formatting in my word processor because it's better at search and replace)
  1. Copy your whole book text, put it into Notepad or another basic text editor, then copy it again and paste it into a new document. This will remove all formatting and make sure you have nothing but text.
  2. Now the following is Word specific – you'll need to convert for your word processor
    1. Replace all tab (^t) characters with a space.
    2. Replace all paragraph marks (^p) with </p>^p<p>
    3. Add in a <p> on the first paragraph and a </p> on the last paragraph of the document if it is missing.
    4. Replace all multiple spaces or non-breaking spaces with a single normal space.
    5. Replace any blank paragraphs with white space. (Blank paragraphs look like this <p></p> or <p> </p>)
    6. Replace the
      <p>Chapter header identifier
      with whatever format you want for chapter headers
      I use
      <mbp:pagebreak />^p<p width="0" align="center" class="chapter"><b>Chapter
      (^p = word paragraph marker to make a new line) – the class is important for later.
    7. Go through each Chapter header and manually add in the </b> after the chapter title and before the ending </p>
    8. Manually add in the same format around the Dedication title on the Dedication page.
    9. Manually add in <mbp:pagebreak /> after the title page, the copyright page and at the end of the last chapter before the extra info page.
    10. Highlight the whole of the story text and replace <p> with your chosen paragraph style
      I use
      <p width="10%">
      this will give every paragraph an 10% indent and use the default paragraph spacing. Using the Amazon style guide you can change it to any format you wish.

    11. Highlight the copyright page info and replace <p> with your chosen copyright paragraph style – I use <p height="10" width="0"> which give a spacing of 10 between paragraphs and no indent.
    12. Highlight you extra info page at the end of the book and replace <p> with your chosen extra info paragraph style – I use <p height="10" width="0" align="center"> which gives a paragraph spacing of 10, no indent and aligns to the centre.
    13. Go to the title page and replace the <p></p></i></b> around the title with <h1></h1>
    14. Replace the <p> before "by [Your Name]" with <p width="0" align="center">
    15. Replace <p width="10%">*** </p> with <p width="0" align="center">***</p>
    16. Make sure if you have HTML links in your document that they are <a href="URL here">URL here</a> so they show up as real links in the eBook.
    17. You may also add in any simple formatting you wish, such as bold and italic with <b> and <i> tags, but do not add in blank lines or tables or complicated formatting because it will not show up.
    18. Save your document.

Creating the HTML document (Ignore if saving from Word to Filtered HTML)
  1. Create a new HTML document in your HTML document editor – it should create the basic page elements for you. Copy your whole Word document in between the <body></body> tags of your new HTML document.
  2. If you wish to add more style to your chapter headers and title put this into the head of your document (somewhere between <head></head>) and edit the CSS as you wish (good CSS guide).
    <style type="text/css">

  3. Save your HTML document.

Creating the First Version of the eBook Suitable for Kindle and anything that will take Mobi
  1. Open MobiPocket Creator
  2. Choose Import from Existing File - HTML document
  3. Browse to your file, choose it and then click "Import"
  4. Click Cover Image from the side menu an add in your cover image (remember to click "update" at the bottom of the window when you are done)
  5. Click Table of Contents from the side menu (if you did your own HTML)
    1. Under First Level – Attribute put "class"
    2. Under First Level – Value put "chapter"
    3. Click Preview in Browser to test your table of contents
    4. Click update

  6. Click Table of Contents from the side menu (if you saved from Word)
    1. Under First Level – Tag Name - whatever header you used - h1 for Word's header 1, h2 for header 2 etc.
    2. Click Preview in Browser to test your table of contents
    3. Click update

  7. Ignore Book Settings, they're fine unless you're publishing a dictionary or something in a foreign language.
  8. Click meta data and fill in the fields – the explanations are very good at to what each is (remember to click update).
  9. Click Build in the top menu
    1. I use standard compression and No encryption you can use what you like.
    2. Click the Build button

  10. Preview your book with Mobipocket Reader (second option once the book is built).
    If you have made a mistake, you can delete the HTML file in MobiPocket Creator, re-edit the one you have saved and then add that in again, without having to redo all the meta data or cover etc. Make sure you pick up the correct HTML file though – it will show you the default directory where it will have copied your original file.
  11. Your .prc file should now be available in your "My Publications" directory (by default it is in Documents\ but you can look it up or change it in the setting tab in MobiPocket Creator).
  12. If you also wish to preview it in Kindle for PC, copy the file to your "My Kindle Content" directory, before starting the Kindle for PC program – it will then pick it up automatically.

Convert to ePub Suitable for many eBook readers
  1. To convert it to ePub open Calibre (Calibre converts between many eBook formats, but it doesn't always do it well - .prc to .ePub seems to work well, however).
  2. Click the Add eBook button
  3. Browse to where your .prc file is and select it.
  4. Click convert books
  5. Choose ePub as the output format (is usually the default). Make sure that under ePub output (left menu) the "Preserve cover aspect ratio" is checked (took me ages to find that!).
  6. Click "Okay" and the conversion job will run.
  7. Choose save to disc and pick a place for your eBooks to save.
  8. Run ePubChecker
    1. Select your ePub file.
    2. Run Preflight
    3. Run Check
    4. You should only get one error : ERROR: J:\eBook Testing\Testing\Testing - Unknown.epub/content.opf(10): date value '2011-05-04T13:56:02+00:00' is not valid, YYYY[-MM[-DD]] expected – Don't worry about this.

You should now have a perfect Mobipocket eBook and ePub eBook which should allow you to view on most hand held devices.
Tags: info: ebooks

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