Tag Archives: ebooks

4 Ways to Create an Ebook

This is the second in my series of blog posts about ebook creation. It was originally posted on Joel Friedlander’s wonder resource site, TheBookDesigner.com.

Last time I talked about just what an ebook is — a website in a box. Ebooks come in a number of flavors, but for the purposes of this discussion I’m going to stick with the most common and most malleable format of ebook, the ePub file that is the basis of all of the major retailers’ ebook offerings.

There are four basic ways to create an ebook (that is, an ePub file):

  1. From scratch
  2. Saving from a word-processing or page-layout application into ePub format
  3. Using a conversion app or online service
  4. Hiring a designer

The trade-off among these methods involve quality, time, and price. As the old saying goes, you can generally pick two. In order to get all three, you’re going to need to become an ebook maven yourself, which will take a fair amount of time, but which will allow you to control all of the variables yourself. Let’s look at the options, and you can see whether that’s the road you want to take. Continue reading 4 Ways to Create an Ebook

What IS an Ebook?

bigstock-Woman-Holding-Traditional-Book-91915880Recently, I was honored to have been invited to post on Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer on the subject of ebooks — a subject I love talking about, having been designing ebooks since 2010. (In this industry that makes me practically an old-timer.) This is the first of a monthly series of posts on the subject. It was originally released here.


There are lots of very complex questions when it comes to ebooks:

  • text and image formatting,
  • different file formats,
  • various workflows for creating ebooks,
  • and much more.

Defining “eBook”

For this post, before we get into the more esoteric issues of ebook design and publishing, I’d like to start by defining the subject: just what is an ebook?

This may sound like a very simple question to answer, but it isn’t as straightforward as you might think, and being able to answer it correctly will make many of the thornier issues of creating ebooks just a bit easier.

Continue reading What IS an Ebook?

How Long Can Video in Ebooks Be?

Video PixelsEnhanced ebooks have been a cause of much excitement over the past few years — and with good reason. One of the things that an ebook can do that a paper-and-ink book can’t is to add embedded video and sound. (There are many other ways to enhance an ebook— but those are the most common enhancements.) Here’s a chance to make the book something truly new!

At Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, we have a group that is meeting regularly, discussing enhanced ebooks, led by a long-time digital publisher, Joe Sinclaire. One of the members of that group recently shot me an email recently asking about how long a video she could reasonably add to an ebook — two minutes? Five minutes?

Here’s my answer: Continue reading How Long Can Video in Ebooks Be?

New Joseph Campbell ebook: Oriental Mythology

Oriental Mythology
Just wanted to pass along an announcement from Joseph Campbell Foundation about the formal release of Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, the newest ebook in the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell! It’s a project that we’ve been working on for more than a year, and are pleased to see come to fruition.

The ebook, the first release in a digital edition of the Masks of God series, explores the evolution of the myths of the Middle East and Asia from the dawn of history up until modern times, looking at how they have changed from country to country and millennium to millennium, and how they’ve remained the same.

The ebook is currently available only on the foundation’s website, JCF.org, as a thank you gift for donations of $9.99 and greater. Continue reading New Joseph Campbell ebook: Oriental Mythology

1 Thing That SHOULDN'T Go at the Front of Your Ebook

InterrobangSo I’ve written about what you should put at the back of your ebook. Over on LinkedIn, Denise Wakeman raised the issue, sparking an excellent discussion. (She suggested a great possibility that I hadn’t thought of: an opt-in link for your newsletter/mailing list.)

The discussion then turned to what should go at the front of an ebook.

You know those pages at the front of a print book that get lowercase roman numerals instead of regular arabic page numbers — the boring stuff that you usually flip through so you can start reading? That’s called the book’s front matter.

Now, tradition has set the front matter of print books fairly rigidly for a while now. According to my trusty Chicago Manual of Style, it runs something like this, with each item given a separate page or section: half-title page, series title or frontispiece, title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents (TOC), list of illustrations, list of tables, foreword, preface, acknowledgements, introduction (unless it’s part of the body of the book). Then you get, you know, the book. (Except for the title page and copyright page, these are all optional, by the way.)

In an ebook, where navigation can be non-linear, we often move some of the less essential, bulkier bits (i.e., TOC, lists of illustrations and tables) to the back, trusting that the reader will be able to find them easily using the Contents button. (I often link to the appropriate entry in the list of illustrations from the image’s caption.) The half-title page (the one often signed by authors and gift-givers) has been jettisoned. Not too many ebook signings.

You’ll notice, however, that there’s a commonly used section that’s missing from that list, and it became a major topic of debate in the LinkedIn discussion: blurbs. Continue reading 1 Thing That SHOULDN'T Go at the Front of Your Ebook

1 Thing That SHOULDN’T Go at the Front of Your Ebook

InterrobangSo I’ve written about what you should put at the back of your ebook. Over on LinkedIn, Denise Wakeman raised the issue, sparking an excellent discussion. (She suggested a great possibility that I hadn’t thought of: an opt-in link for your newsletter/mailing list.)

The discussion then turned to what should go at the front of an ebook.

You know those pages at the front of a print book that get lowercase roman numerals instead of regular arabic page numbers — the boring stuff that you usually flip through so you can start reading? That’s called the book’s front matter.

Now, tradition has set the front matter of print books fairly rigidly for a while now. According to my trusty Chicago Manual of Style, it runs something like this, with each item given a separate page or section: half-title page, series title or frontispiece, title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents (TOC), list of illustrations, list of tables, foreword, preface, acknowledgements, introduction (unless it’s part of the body of the book). Then you get, you know, the book. (Except for the title page and copyright page, these are all optional, by the way.)

In an ebook, where navigation can be non-linear, we often move some of the less essential, bulkier bits (i.e., TOC, lists of illustrations and tables) to the back, trusting that the reader will be able to find them easily using the Contents button. (I often link to the appropriate entry in the list of illustrations from the image’s caption.) The half-title page (the one often signed by authors and gift-givers) has been jettisoned. Not too many ebook signings.

You’ll notice, however, that there’s a commonly used section that’s missing from that list, and it became a major topic of debate in the LinkedIn discussion: blurbs. Continue reading 1 Thing That SHOULDN’T Go at the Front of Your Ebook

6 great file formats to send to ebook designers (and 2 awful ones)

Express Delivery by Kamyar Adi/flickr.com. Used through a Creative Commons license.So you’ve decided to have an ebook designer convert your book into ePub (iBooks/Nook/Kobo) and mobi (Kindle) formats. Great! What formats are best to send?

I mentioned in a rant a couple of weeks ago how not to do it. However, what should you do?

The designer/conversion house will hopefully tell you how they want the book delivered. Well, an ebook is essentially web pages in a box, so if you hand the designer clean HTML, she or he will want to kiss you; it’s very simple to turn that into an ebook. Beyond that, a good ebook designer should be able to work with whatever format you give them, whether it’s an InDesign or Quark file, a Word or Pages or OpenOffice doc, a PDF (see more below, however) — heck, I’ve managed to work from a copies of the print book, and typed or handwritten manuscripts. Still, it’s good to be prepared.

What are the best formats to send, in terms of keeping your cost low and your quality high? Continue reading 6 great file formats to send to ebook designers (and 2 awful ones)

Laura English by Lynn Arias Bornstein — Now at a Bookstore Near You!

Laura English by Lynn Arias BornsteinStillpoint Digital Press has released Laura English, the debut novel of glamour, intrigue, and heartbreak by author Lynn Arias Bornstein.

A fairy tale of Hollywood glamour that shows that even the most blessed lives may not have the happily-ever-after that we would expect, Laura English follows the life and loves of a young British actress who rises to fame and yet struggles to find what she actually needs. By turns heart-warming and heart-wrenching, funny and tragic, this novel takes you on a journey around the world and into the deepest recesses of the human heart.

This is a book of joy, loss, rejection, as well as fear and happiness. The author weaves a complicated web of intrigue, passion, and profound loss, which I found captivating. Definitely a must-read— Patricia Day for Readers’ Favorite

Laura English  is available in trade soft-cover and ebook formats through Stillpoint Digital Press, through IndieBound and independent bookstores, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Apple’s iBooks Store, and wherever else you buy books.

Continue reading Laura English by Lynn Arias Bornstein — Now at a Bookstore Near You!

Smidget for Smashwords (and MS Word)

My post on how to add social media and review links to your ebook has remained one of my most popular — no surprise, when every author and publisher (and author/publisher) is trying to make it as easy as possible for readers to share what they think about the book!

Someone asked recently if it were possible to use the same technique in a Microsoft Word document that was going to be uploaded to Smashwords and put through the dreaded Meatgrinder. The answer, of course, is yes!

Here’s how you do it:

The first thing you need to do is find images for the buttons. In most cases, the stores/social media companies have such icons available for the purpose on their sites. In my case, my own site (like just about every site out there) has a line of such icons across the bottom of every article; I right-clicked on each icon (that’s control-click on a Mac) and selected Save Image as…, downloading each of the icons to my computer as an image file — in each case either a JPEG file or a PNG file, either of which will work in an ebook.

The larger Amazon and Goodreads images I found on their websites. You could just do a web search for “Amazon icon” or “Goodreads icon” and find the ones that you want. (If you’re uploading to Smashwords, however, don’t include the Amazon icon and link — they’ll kick the book back to you. The only links they’ll allow are back to your own page or to Smashwords.)

To get them into your Word document, go to the Insert menu, and select Photo and then Picture from File…. (I’m using Word for Mac 2011 — I believe it’s the same in most versions of Word created in the last decade.) Find the image files wherever you downloaded them to, and hit the Insert button. The images will now be loaded into your Word doc.

You can play around with formatting them however you like — in a single row, in a tower, in a pyramid, whatever.

Now select each image one by one. The easiest way to do that is to place the cursor down right next to the image, then hold down the Shift key and the left or right arrow key. The icon will now be highlighted (on my computer, it turns bright yellow). Now go up to Insert menu again and select Hyperlink… (or hit Command-k on a Mac or control-k on a Windows computer). Take the hyperlink for that site that you’ve created using the directions I gave above, and then paste them into the field provided in the dialog box and (once again) hit the Insert button. Voilà! You should have a working link.

Now try clicking on the link you’ve just created. Does it behave the way that it should, creating a dialog to post a Tweet, update or review? If not, double-check the code and make sure that everything is as it should be. (The sites all occasionally change their code, and so some of these links may not be workable in a year or five — but they all work now.)

Repeat that for each of the icons, and you should have a working widget. Upload to Smashwords, and watch the book start to sell itself.

What's an Independent Publisher?

So, I was astonished earlier this month to find myself elected president of BAIPA — the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.

You may call me Mr. President.

Born in the early, heady days of the desktop publishing revolution, BAIPA is a wonderful collection of folks involved in various parts of the non-corporate end of the publishing industry who get together to swap knowledge and offer services and listen to expert speakers give information about the esoterica of the publishing craft. We’ve got authors, editors, designers, publicists — if it’s got to do with the creation of books (in whatever form) and their sale, there’s someone there who can help. The collective is capable of creating books that are every bit as polished and attractive as those put out by the Big Five publishers. (Is it still five, by the way?)

I’ve learned a lot at BAIPA meetings. I’d like to think I’ve also managed to share some helpful information.

Meetings always start off with a free-form Q&A session. It gives people the chance to ask whatever burning question they may have up front; the BAIPA hivemind then sets about answering the question.

A few weeks ago, at the first meeting that I ran as president, no one had any questions to ask up front. This sometimes happens, so I threw out a question that I hoped would spark some interesting conversation: What exactly is an independent publisher? Continue reading What's an Independent Publisher?