Free eBook Publishing GuideâCompiling An eBook

By: David Viney

Choosing your File Format

I would recommend you use just two different file formats – one for mobile devices and one for PCs. Remember that most people will only read really large eBooks (i.e. 80-100k words) on their desktop PC. For PCs, I would chose the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) as (a) Adobe reader is already installed on millions of PCs worldwide, (b) all the major eBook distributors support it and (c) Microsoft are planning to incorporate export-to-pdf functionality in all their next generation MS-Office products.

For mobile, my personal recommendation is the Mobipocket .prc format as (a) it supports more complex e-books that require oversized images and horizontally scrolling tables, (b) the Mobipocket Reader can be used on the widest range of PDAs & Smart Phones and (c) Amazon have recently purchased Mobipocket and are sure to give it greater prominence in the future.

Converting your master to PDF Format

To begin with, optimize the meta-data in your MS-Word document. Access File – Properties from the menu and begin with the “Summary" tab. Enter your title in the “Title" box, exactly as it would appear on Nielsen BookData and Amazon. Put your sub-title in the “Subject" field. Enter your author name as second name, first name (e.g. Viney, David) in the “Author" field. In the “Category" field, I would use Amazon’s taxonomy, so for my eBook Guide, I would enter: Books > E-Books & E-Docs > Non-fiction > General. Use the “Keywords" field to add individual words which summarise the content of your book. Separate them with a comma and a single space. For my eBook I would enter: eBook, self, publishing, Amazon, Mobipocket, PDF, Lightning, Source, eBooks.com, writing.

Once you have optimised the Word master, it is time to begin conversion to the PDF format. With OEM or second-hand software available so cheaply these days from eBay (see panel right) I would recommend you purchase and use Adobe Professional software to do the conversion. Once you have installed the software, you will find that you can simply click on a “Convert to Adobe PDF" icon, which should be the left-most one of the three Adobe icons in your Word toolbar. The macro that follows will first prompt you to chose a filename to save your PDF document under. Use the ISBN (so for my ebook, I used 0955077427.pdf).

The macro will then scan for bookmarks, create pages and process tags before firing up the pre-final PDF file. Check the Bookmarks panel to make sure the macro has converted your Word table of contents properly. Then tweak some of the PDF settings for best results. Firstly, set the “Initial View" document options to “Show Bookmark Panel and Pages". Under “Page Layout" select “Continuous Facing" and in the “Security" tab decide whether you want to apply any DRM-style restrictions (I leave at “No Security"). Secondly, check the metadata has been translated properly from the Word master and add any “Additional Metadata" (e.g. copyright status). Finally, optimize the file size of your PDF file, using both the the Advanced | PDF Optimizer menu option and the File | Reduce File Size option (which limits the reverse-compatibility of the file).

Converting your master to PRC Format

I recommend you purchase Mobipocket Creator Professional to handle the conversion. Whilst relatively expensive, it is by far the better functioned of all options. Open the installed software, select the import from MS Word document option and browse for your Word master. From the “publication files" screen, the first step is to add your cover art. Ensure your cover art has a file width of less than 200 pixels, a file height of less than 300 pixels and an overall file size of less than 50kb. This should generally be the case when you have set a medium (6/10) file quality to your .jpg file.

Whilst I would avoid the Mobipocket Table of Contents option (too complex) you should certainly focus on the metadata section (as the Mobipocket site has a Google Page Rank of 7/10 and your finished page will rank high up on Google).

I advise preparing metadata entries first in a (backed-up) text file (using Notepad). If you iterate the file conversion and build process a number of times, you will find yourself re-entering data over and over again; being able to copy-and-paste from a text file will save you lots of time!Once you have finished this section, it is time to build your eBook file and test it on various readers / emulators. Select the default build options, run the the build process, then “preview results in Mobipocket reader" on your PC. After you are happy, do a final test on the Mobipocket PDA Emulator. Having tested what you file will look like on a sample of PDAs and Smartphones, do one final iteration of the build process, this time with the “content encryption with DRM" checkbox selected. Your eBook is now ready to be uploaded.

Uploading your PDF to Lightning Source

To distribute your PDF via Amazon, I recommend signing up for Lightning Source International (LSI) as a minimum. In my full eBook (purchase from panel right) I also cover how to distribute via other sites, including Lulu and Content Reserve). To sign up with LSI, click on the “new customer?" link on their homepage, then the “new account" link.

Choose a log-in name and password (both between 6 and 16 characters in length), then enter your contact information. In the “form of business" drop-down, select sole proprietor. Choose your “primary book category" from the drop-down within the “miscellaneous information" section (e.g. professional/technical). Under “total number of titles in print" and “number of new titles published annually" I would suggest entering 2-5 titles. For “number of years company in business" put <1. For number of full-time employees put one.

Select “Digital Content (eBook) Distribution" as your service, download the Operating Manual and sign the contracts. If you decide not to accept the contracts online, LSI requires you to fax or mail the signed agreements in addition to the customer application form. Once you have finished the application process, you will receive copies of each agreement via email along with the rest of the application materials. Over the remaining pages of the process, you enter a contact & shipping address, an email address for proofs and an address to send cheques to. You will also need to provide a credit card number to settle any LSI service charges (e.g. for title setup or catalogue fees). These charges are currently being waived. Once you have completed this (long) series of application steps, an email is sent to you with an attached set of materials and you complete a list of further tasks to complete the process.

Once all the agreements are signed, settled and faxed, you can submit your title information and pre-converted ebook files directly on the LSI website. Sign in using the login and password details emailed to you earlier. You should then select the “upload title" link from the left-hand-side of the screen.

Firstly, you will be required to select your “eBook Set Up Options" (select “Adobe eBook"), then you need to enter “General Information", including you publisher name, imprint number, parent ISBN and title. You will note three option boxes relating to “subject". Do make full use of these fields to categorise your book content. Click on the “find subjects" links and use the search box to identify suitable selections. Good metadata here will save you time later (once your title is up on the different sites served by LSI).

On subsequent screens, you set (a) the language of the book, (b) author names, (c) DRM attributes, (d) publication date, (e) price in USD and discount (suggest 25%), (f) a book description which is used by Amazon and others, (g) distribution territories (select worldwide rights) and (h) what content types you want to upload (select both).

When you are ready to upload your files, you simply log-on again and proceed to complete your outstanding tasks. I would suggest making your cover art bigger than you need it (e.g. length 1080 pixels x width 720 pixels). Once you have uploaded your eBook, you will receive a link by email to a proof of your upload. You will need to check that proof and approve it for final distribution. Listing your ebook in the LSI system gets your ebook listed on Amazon.com, Powells.com, eBookmall.com and Diesel-Ebooks.com.

Uploading your PRC to MobipocketFirstly, visit http://www.ebookbase.com to register with Mobipocket. Now review the eBookBase Agreement. Either sign it and fax the form or (for speed) copy-and-paste the content into a Word file, add your signature as a scanned picture and email the signed electronic contract to nting@mobipocket.comYou will note from the contract that the wholesaler price is 50% of the suggested retail Price. As such, you may wish to set the retail price of the .prc version of your eBook slightly higher than you did for the .pdf version (so as to recoup a similar return). Mobipocket will come back pretty quickly to confirm your application and will point you to a URL from where you can logon to your account online. You should find that you are given the same user-id and password that you originally registered with on the main site.

First select the “Add an eBook" option from the eBook catalogue. Browse to find your .prc file and click on the “upload new eBook" link. Note the default directory for the Mobipocket .prc file you created s is the “My Publications" folder within “My Documents". The file you are looking for should have been saved there (using “build" within the Mobipocket software) with a DRM security level of 4.

In the Meta-Data input screen, you should address (a) Affiliation URL (leave alone), (b) Title (enter title, than a colon, then a space, then the sub-title), (c) Activate for Retailers (leave checked), (d) Author (put the LastName, then a comma, then FirstName), (e) ISBN (leave pre-populated), (f) Print Book ISBN (put parent ISBN), (g) Language (select English), (h) Main Subject (select most appropriate from the drop-down), (i) Abstract (Max 4000 chars; copy-and-paste from your Amazon “short description" meta-data), (j) Review (Max 4000 chars; this will appear on the site as if it is from Mobipocket themselves), (k) Keywords (Max 100 chars; enter same as you did for the MS-Word metadata, only with each word separated by a semi-colon rather than a comma), (l) Adult only (leave unchecked) and (m) Publishing Date (leave autofilled)In the file information section, click on browse to find your cover art image in the “CoverPage" section. Note that you are restricted to a maximum size of 50KB and dimensions of 200 pixels width x 300 pixels height. Ignore the “Demo PRC File" dialogue and leave the “Force No Demo file" checkbox unchecked. This will cause Mobipocket to default to an automatically generated PRC demo file containing the first 5% of the text of the ebook.

Finally, enter your pricing information (remember to uplift slightly to compensate for higher Mobpiocket commission of 50%) and leave the “Territory Restriction" blank. Click “submit" to finish and activate your title.

Conclusions Choose only the PDF and PRC file formats for your eBook and distribute them using LSI and Mobipocket respectively. Pay close attention to the use of high quality metadata, as it will help with the subsequent marketing of your bookArticle Search, which (together with taking payment) if the theme of my final chapter: “selling your eBook".

Publishing
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