A short guide to eBook shenanigans

If you are looking for a step by step guide on how to build an eBook, this isn’t it. This is more of the pep talk which points out the massive potholes that you are about to fall into, but persevere and you can get through them.

If you have the money you can turn the manuscript over to a geek and have it professionally morphed into an eBook of whatever format you need. If you don’t then you are stuck, like me, doing it yourself. When an eBook is uploaded to whichever site you choose it will be verified as compliant, if it isn’t it will be rejected.

Before you even start go to the website onto which you wish to publish, Amazon or Smashwords for example, find their style guides and see exactly what they want from you. For example, a table of contents.

To prepare a file it needs to be in HTML, which allows for the script to adjust to page size. Word or LibreOffice allow you to save as HTML which you then open in an HTML editor. I use Bluefish in Linux, but there are plenty out there for other operating systems. Regardless of which editor you use you are now looking at thousands of lines of HTML code and have just realized that your learning curve suddenly resembles the north face of the Matterhorn.

A lot of that HTML code is left over from the word processor format and can be deleted to trim down the file. For the uninitiated, like me, it is a matter of trial and error. Do a bit in the HTML editor, save and open it in a web browser. You will soon see errors. Bad spacing or the words are in bold type face where they shouldn’t be. Go back and check the HTML, rinse and repeat. It sounds monotonous, and it is but it does get easier the more you do it.

I got great help from https://www.w3schools.com/ for figuring out the HTML.

Once complete the HTML file needs to be translated into an eBook. I use Calibre which is where you add a cover and any meta data you want. There are also a number of verifiers which will then check the final product before upload.

I did say short guide and this hasn’t even scratched the surface of the probably four or five days of amateur effort that went into getting an eBook ready to go. I tried to research a lot before I started but just confused myself, I found it easier to make a start then research around potholes as they came up. It is a step by step process and gets easier once you start.

Having travelled that particular rock strewn road I am still no expert but am happy to impart any help I can. Good luck.

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