In my other life, I teach. I have found the secret to remembering esoteric and complex techniques both for myself and my students is to write them down immediately upon mastery. Leave yourself a post-it note, because mastery is fleeting and a few months down the road, you won’t remember. I have just published my first ebook and while there may be other ways, greater ways, or lesser ways, allow me to record for posterity exactly how I did it. Besides the specific webpages I’ve hyperlinked in the instructions, I highly recommend any aspiring self-publisher, indie publisher, or author looking to epublish their old backlist to check out these awesome blogs: creativindie, thebookdesigner, thecreativepenn, and thefutureofink.
All the subsequent steps assume you have finished writing, proofreading, and editing your manuscript to sparkling publication quality. I also assume you have formatted different versions for your different publication distributors. They all have their fun little idiosyncrasies, their different facets, but spending a few extra hours to buff and polish your formatting until it gleams is worth the effort. Let’s make a 24-karat ring to mount your diamond and sell it! Double check your writing: is it rock solid? The prettiest ring in the world won’t sell a diamond in the rough.
1) Where to sell your ebook (or print-on-demand)? Make sure they earn money by taking a percentage off your book sales royalties (usually 15%-70%, depending on book price and distributor). Anyone asking for money up front is a scam, a vanity press, or both. There are many great distribution options these days for ebook publishing. I may have missed a few.
The prettiest ring in the world won’t sell a diamond in the rough.
3) Find a source of royalty free, public domain stock photographs. Some images may require attribution, which is acknowledging the photographer and/or website in your book. Some charge money or credits. These are free. As an addendum to the last two, any website or database of federal government photographs is public domain and free (although double check government sites which may archive non government images like the Library of Congress).
4) Create (or pay someone to create) a book cover using your public domain images in Word or Gimp. Make your cover 6 x 9 inches (just change the page size to width: 6.0″ and height: 9.0″ and set all the margins to 0.00″ under Format/Page). Save as a pdf file.
5) Open your cover pdf file in Gimp. Make sure your image width is at least 1400 pixels wide (the first thing Gimp does will be to ask you to adjust your image resolution.) Use Filters/Enhance/Blur and Filters/Enhance/Sharpen to make your image look less cut and paste. I’ve also found Filters/Artistic/Cartoon adds a nice foreground | background contrast. Play with it! Experiment! I used a lens flare in my last cover; it added a certain zing. Save as a jpg file (yes, png files are sharper, but really who is going to enlarge your cover to 400 x to count the leaves on the trees? Most sites still require jpgs. You may also use your Word processor program to create the jpg directly. I’ve had mixed results with this shortcut: it may look crisp and refined or hazy and butt ugly. In the end, every image is unique and will require different tweaks to transform into a cover.
6) Save your manuscript doc file as an html file. Open Calibre (which also accepts docx, pdf, rtf, and many others, but I’ve had the best luck preserving formatting with html). Edit your metadata. This includes title, author, publication date, publisher, tags, and isbn (or asin for Amazon), and importing your cover image. Convert books; this will allow you to save your book as an epub file. Under Table of Contents (TOC) tab, click Manually fine tine TOC after conversion is completed. Under the epub output tab, increase the split files larger than: to 1000000 KB (or some similar obscenely large number). The first allows you to manually create your TOC hyperlinks and the second won’t restrict your conversion file size. You may also create a mobi, lit, or zip file, etc. Epubs are the accepted standard for most distributors and will retain your formatting through the file conversion wringer your distributors will squeeze your book through better than a doc or docx file.
7) Upload your book. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy the alcoholic beverage of your choice.
8) Start (or complete) writing your next book.
Thanks for reading!
J. H. Bardwell