Formatting Documents for e-Publishing
I have a collection of short stories I would like to publish online. I’ve been working on cleaning them up for the past six months or so, and I’m now at the point where I need to confront a variety of technical questions. I know that a lot of people have already wrestled with these issues before me, so I’m asking for links/comments that will shorten my learning curve and prevent me from having to reinvent the wheel.
- I write in Word, and that’s not going to change any time soon. My goal here is trying to develop a clean, clear work flow that makes the transition to any/all online publishing options as simple and painless as possible. (Including print-on-demand.) The first thing that (I think) I need to know is whether I should convert my original Word docs into another file format first (say, e-Pub, but that’s only an example), then change that internet-friendly file to meet the requirements of any particular publishing site/service, or whether I should only do so on a case-by case basis. What’s the right first step here?
- I need all the how-to links and advice I can get. I’m willing to read until my eyes bleed, but again, the goal is short-circuiting the learning curve. Who’s been down this road recently and written about it? Site-specific feedback is fine: I’d like to read about Smashwords author experiences, Amazon, etc.
- I know there are passionate views on both sides of the e-Pub file format issue. I’m not even sure what all the fuss is about, but I’m willing to learn. Who should I be reading? I like the idea of non-proprietary file formats. I know I’ll have to deal with Amazon’s proprietary format at some point, but I’m not eager to abet its dominance. Opinions? Links? Is this even worth wading into, or should I just stick with the practical issues related to getting my text ready?
Any and all feedback/links/comments appreciated.
Update: Brad J. Murray’s comment (see below) jump started the learning process for me today, and to further the conversation I wanted to pass along some of the places I’ve been as a result of his advice.
- A link to Calibre — a very interesting program with a user-friendly and painless demo that explains the utility of the app. Take a few minutes to check it out, even if you don’t use an e-reader or plan to get one in the near future. It will fill in a lot of blanks for you about where the whole digital publishing revolution is headed.
- Dear Author posts about using Calibre: Part I; Part II.
- A link to Adobe’s InDesign page. Powerful software that would be overkill for most people, but which also allows for the kind of control you can’t find in many other apps.
- Articles and info about InDesign and e-publishing from Joel Friedlander (TheBookDesigner.com). I particularly think the piece titled The Trouble With Word Processors is worth a read. Reading the post and comments — which Joel responds to in detail — will help anyone understand the context and parameters of current e-publishing design issues.
- Months ago I read a blog post by an author (I think) who talked about dealing with the Kindle’s proprietary format and DRM issues. The author’s solution was simply to convert everything to the Mobi (or Mobipocket) format, which the Kindle could read. After two hours of searching I have not been able to find that post. What I did manage to revisit, however, was Steve Jordan’s site, which contains useful info on e-books, compatibility issues, and file formats. [Links were broken when checked on 1/23/2011.]
- Wikipedia comparison of e-book formats.
- Year-old Smashwords post about all those formats. Brand-new, perfectly-timed, up-to-date post about all those formats.
- Self-Publishing Review post declaring that Ebooks are a Disaster. Includes notes from Moriah Jovan about the hoops she has to jump through in order to publish to various file formats and sites.
- Another two-part series here, this time from Nathan (Wayzgoose in the comments below) at The Secret Life of eBooks. Good info on the output you’ll be getting from various readers and file formats. Part I; Part II.
More links will be added as warranted.
– Mark Barrett