Welcome to the official website of Noble Storm Books and author S.F. Edwards

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Agony of Formatting and E-Book Conversion (A Tutorial)

Zero Cost E-Book Formatting and Conversion Tutorial

So you've written your book, edited it, and have decided to go indie on the publication, casting off the shackles of the "traditional" publishing houses.  But how do you ready your novel for publication without going to outside assistance?  You can always go out and pay someone to take your individual files, clean them up and convert them, or buy the software to do so, which can range from $40-$160 or more.  Well if you're willing to put in a little work and/or are on a tight budget, then consider this method.

I originally attempted this method as outlined on wikihow:


It's a good method, but somewhat incomplete and can result in some buggy output.

In my case the conversion of my book resulted in several thousand html based errors and convinced me to pay for the conversion, which I was never satisfied with.  Onto the actual tutorial.

Word Processor (MS Word, Open Office, Libre Office, etc...)
Google Docs 
Calibre E-Book Manager
An Epub Validator  (There are many of these out there, but this one is free and was recommended by my original distributor)
Your Novel.

Part 1:  Formatting and Cleanup.

Step 1:

Using your preferred Word Processor open up your novel, be it all one file or multiple.  At this point you may not have done any formatting to the story itself  so it will look like the default plain text.  If you have already added a chapter title, then you are already a step in the right direction.

Step 2:

Highlight your main title, select "Format > Styles and Formatting" or the equivalent option for changing a "style" in your word processor, then select from the list of style options: "Heading 1" as shown here:

Step 3:

Repeat this process for every chapter, this is how you will assemble your table of contents later.

Step 4:

This is the step that will take up the most of your time, so settle in for several operator hours, but first meet your new best friend, the Pilcrow ¶. Click the  Pilcrow ¶ symbol (1)in your word processor and you should be immediately be presented with a view like the one below.  A properly formatted document will have nothing on the page except for the actual text and Pilcrows at the end of a paragraph.  Any additional spaces at the end of a paragraph (2), additional tabs (3), or carriage returns (4), should be eliminated.  Take your time here, as cleaning up these little errors will have a big impact later after you convert your document, so best to do it now.

Part 2:  Compiling.

Step 5:

Most word processors, MS Word in particular, have a bad habit of sneaking formatting into a document that you cannot readily see.  This formatting will bite you hard when you convert to an e-book format.  It was suggested by fellow author Bill Frisbee that a way to clean this up would be to first copy and paste the manuscript into google docs.

To that end, pull up google docs on your favorite web browser and paste the text from your novel into it.  Note, it is important to actually cut and paste it in, do not import the document.  I further recommend that this where you composite the whole document together.  To do this, after you paste in a chapter, go to the bottom and insert page break.

Repeat for every chapter.

Step 6:

Now that you've compiled/assembled your novel in google docs you need to export it.  There are several formats you can download it as, .docx, .odt, .rtf, .pdf, .txt, and .html.  I recommend exporting for submissions into .docx as most publishers prefer this format.  For e-book conversion though download it as an .rtf.  Now don't be shocked to see that the rtf file will be several MB in size.

Part 3: Conversion.

Step 7:

Now open up calibre (this is free software).  You will be presented with a screen like this one.

Step 8:

Click on the "Add Books" Icon in the upper right hand corner and select the rtf version of your novel.

Step 9:

Now click on the "Edit Metadata" Icon and enter in the pertinent data about your novel.

Step 10:

Click "OK" to exit back to the main screen and then "Convert books" Icon.  The "Convert books" window will pop up.  In the upper right corner of this screen find the "Output format" menu, select MOBI or EPUB. You can't do both at once, but you can do one then come back and do the other.  I recommend EPUB first as it can be tested with ease.

Step 11:

The left side menu has several items, but you'll only need "Look and Feel" and "Table of Contents."

Step 12:

Under "Look and Feel" check the "Remove spacing between paragraphs" box.

Step 13:

Under "Table of Contents" select the wizard button to the right of "Level 1 TOC (XPath expression).  This is where your formatting comes in handy.

Step 14:

From the drop down menu labeled "Match HTML tags with tag name:" in the new window that pops up select "h1" and click "OK."

Step 15:

You should now see "//h:h1" listed in the Level 1 TOC field.

Step 16:

Click "OK" and Calibre will begin converting. Conversion can take a few minutes, so be patient. If you converted to MOBI the first time, then hit the "Convert books" button again and select EPUB to convert to that format. Then you'll want to hit the big "Save to disk" button.

What you're saving is actually a directory (author's name) with a set of files (all their works.) Because off this, you'll want to save all your Calibre conversions into a super-directory called "authors" or some such. If you enlarge the picture above you'll see the location is:

Documents > My Documents > My eBooks > Authors

This is where you want to be, with the "Folder" field at the bottom of the windowblank when you press the "Select Directory" button. What happens is that Calibre will search this directory for the author's name and either save to that author's directory if it's already been created, or create it if it's not yet there.

Part 4: Testing.

Step 17:

Now navigate over to your epub validator and upload your newly created epub.

If you've done everything right then the system will return zero errors.  Most errors will appear as html errors though.

Yes, I cribbed most of this tutorial from the wikihow article, but there are some changes and additional steps that had I known them at the time would have saved me quite a bit of time, money and embarrassment.  

No comments:

Post a Comment