Creating an eBook Publication

I just finished creating a short eBook using Apple’s Pages ’09 and SnagIt. Patrick from MacSage has two blog postings that give a nice overview.

Here are some key points that I discovered along the way:

(1) Use this template to get started. Open this document up in Pages and then do a File/Save as template. You can view the list of styling options in Pages using View/Use Styles Drawer

Formatting is very basic with ePublications due to the wide range of devices that might be used to display the output. Bulleted lists work and so do links. But, there are very few other options. No fancy fonts, no fancy formatting.

I made a few minor size adjustments to the template (making the main heading smaller) and added in my logo, company contact information, and creative commons licensing. Then I did another “file/save as template” with a new name so I can have a custom template that contains elements that will be common to all my ePubs.

Pages inspector window showing the settings for ePublication images

(2) Make certain all your images are set to inline.  Although I would really like to design pages with wrap-around text and use multi-column layouts, ePubs limit this inorder to be fluid and adapt to horizontal and vertical viewing as well as all the different sizes and shapes of displays.


(3) ePublication “pages” are set by inserting a Section break.  From the menu select:   Insert/Section break

There is no page numbering because page break may differ depending on the device used to view the document. Instead I just set up bookmarks for each new chapter and made each item in the Table of Contents a link to the appropriate bookmark.

screen shot showing space, paragraph, and section break markers

(4) Pages ’09 automatically makes a Table of Contents when you export to ePub. I didn’t have to do anything. When I viewed the finished document in iBooks there was a Table Of Contents icon and all the chapter heads were listed. Nice.

(5) Display all editing marks so you can see what you are working with. From the menu select:  View/Show invisibles.  Section breaks will display as a blue line with a page icon at the far right.

(6) Embedded videos will make your document HUGE. As an alternative I uploaded a short demo video up to YouTube and then included a hyperlink to that video inside the document.

The ePublication standard does not recognize multimedia yet so trying to add it to your documents is walking the edge of the accessibility cliff.

(7) You aren’t able to put a link around a graphic in Pages ’09. My first inclination was to emulate having the video embedded by including a screenshot of the video so people could click on the image as if it was an embedded video. But I couldn’t make the screen shot into a link. I ended up having a still shot captured from the video and put a normal text hyperlink right above it.

If you create a .pdf document you can use Adobe Acrobat to add an embedded video.  (In Adobe Acrobat Pro Version 10 use View/Tools/Content  and then choose Multimedia/Video from the right sidebar menu

that pops up.) But, once again the PDF file size jumped from 4 meg up to 17 meg. So, I removed the video and just kept the link to YouTube. That made my ePub universal, fairly fast to load, and I knew that YouTube would automatically accommodate any type of display.

Checkbox in ePub export window

(8) Duplicate the first page and use it as the cover to your ePub.  In Pages right-mouse click on the thumbnail page on the left side of the page and select “duplicate”. When you export the ePub make sure the box “Use first page as the cover or your publication” is checked.

(9) Calibre is a free ePublication reader you can download to test your work. It runs on all platforms. Yea!

To view your publication on an iPhone or iPad email it to yourself as an attachment. When you read the email on the mobile device it will ask you if you want to open up the document using iBooks.

On an iPhone the images and screen shots are very tiny and iBooks doesn’t let the user zoom in. Too bad.

Working on the Windows platform? – Check out the SmashWords platform and the Smashwords Style Guide.

Have some other ePub and Pages ’09 tricks that you know about? Post them here for others to use.

Publishing on LuLu

LuLu LogoThe established way to publish a book, or calendar, or photo book was to beg a publisher to accept your manuscript. An editor would help refine your writing and get it prepared for printing. For economy hundreds or thousands of books would be printed and stored as inventory while the publisher and the author worked on marketing the book. The author normally gets 5-10% of the sale of the book.

If changes have to be made a new edition is set up and another printing run.

WIth all of that changes.

Here is a great opportunity if you have anything you are passionate about. From your business to a hobby, you can write about what you know and love and publish a book about it for minimal costs. And, you can make about 80% on the sale of each book.

This is a great way to promote a product or establish your expertise in your field. (What a great resume builder!).

Or, if you are into photography you can publish a calendar or photo book with your writing and images.

I recently published my first book, Secrets of a Web Developer using and discovered the following:

  1. I could use Word to write and layout the text and graphics.
  2. Word will build a table of contents and an index with just a few clicks of the mouse. Both of these can be quickly updated if any changes are made to the text.
  3. Using Word styles greatly simplified the editing and formatting process. With every element on the page marked with a specific style all I had to do was change the style and that element changed throughout the entire document. (Very much like CSS styles.)
  4. PDF format (printed from the Word file) is much more stable and easy to work with, especially when using fonts that are not common on Window machines.
  5. My start up costs were zero (not counting the weeks and weeks it took me to write, edit, and fine-tune the contents.
  6. Errors could be corrected immediately. The only challenge was the time it took to upload a 300 page file (80 meg).

90 percent of the work was preparing the manuscript. I had over thirty Word documents that were converted into web page tutorials using a program called Wimba Create. After updating and revising each of these doc files inserted them into a master document. In the master document I changed each of the styles that I had used for Wimba to the look and feel I wanted for the book. As I inserted each new document the Wimba styles automatically changed to the new look and feel of the master document.

To build the Table of Contents all I had to do was position the cursor near the beginning of the document and use Insert/Document elements/Table of Contents. Each of the major headlines was used to build the table of contents. If I changed the document all I had to do was right-mouse click on the table of contents and select “update field” from the list of options.

The index was a little more difficult. Going through the document I highlighted each keyword I wanted in the index and hit CTRL OPTION Shift x. This made a hidden field containing the index information. After the keywords were selected I went to the end of the document and used Insert/Index and Tables and selected the format for the index.

The only real problem I had was when the index word was bold in the document it showed up bold in the index as well. Even after going in to edit the index markers the bold would not go away. For my next book I will create the index marker in the main text so it won’t be bold.

webdevfullcoverOnce I had everything ready to go and had created a cover using PhotoShop I used the publishing wizard. It took about four hours one morning to complete the process. Along the way I discovered that it was easier to use a PDF file for the cover art instead of using the online cover creator. When I had first designed the cover I had only thought of the front and had to rebuild it to a specific dimension including a back cover as well.

I also used the FTP uploading service because of the larger file size I had. Once the FTP transfer is complete the file is automatically transferred into the My Lulu files where it can be selected as part of the content. That means that each time you connect to the FTP server it will be empty.

I first uploaded the Word document. However, Lulu gave an error because I had used a special font (Adobe Caslon) and Lulu didn’t have that available. They recommended that I make a PDF file from the Word document which effectively embeds the font as part of the document.

After I finished the wizard Lulu automatically built a web page with a preview window. I am able to customize which pages show up in the preview window as well as add a text describing the book. (I used the introduction section from the book itself.)

I also built a landing page on my website describing the book and added a brief summary on my home page.

My start up cost was zero.

And, here’s the best part: Instant Revisions. As a proud published author I sent an email out to members of my family. About ten minutes later I get an email from my son pointing out that I misspelled XHTML (XHTLM) three places (the magic of copy and paste!). I quickly made the fixes, reuploaded the files, and ran through the wizard again. The correction was made in less than an hour. Now that’s my kind of publishing.

The downside of (and other self-publishing venues)

  • You are in control of the entire process. You are your own editor and graphic designer and it is very hard catching all those errors, weak writing, and horrible design flaws.
  • The finished book will only look professional if you create a professionally design document. Headers, page numbers, typography, page layout, and graphics are all essential to making a book look and feel “right”.
  • Designing a cover is especially important and a step I found very difficult. I put off publishing for weeks as I agonized over the cover design.
  • Having a book from O’Reilly or Harcourt Brace is like having a degree from Harvard or MIT. It means you have gone through the wringer and survived and that most likely the text fairly high quality
  • No one will buy your book unless you get the word out and market it

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

The benefits of Self Publishing

  • The book is immediately available and easy to update
  • You are in control of the entire process
  • The books are printed as they are ordered. You don’t have to buy any expensive inventory that might sit in your basement for years.
  • You make about 80% on the sale of each book
  • You book is available to a global market
  • You can be any age, any body, any where, writing about any thing

Let me know when you are published. Leave a comment with a link to your newly published text!