Writing. Culture. Politics. Wandering.
Writing is one thing, publishing something else. Particularly self-publishing. A lot can be said about either, but since picking up that old box of manuscripts I’ve been exploring the latter. After finishing part one of Thin Blue Line I found myself looking at what I’d learned. Further below you’ll find a zipped epub template to pick apart.
I’ll be the first to admit that it is not something easily done. It’s work. It can be fun, particularly the learning curve of it. But don’t underestimate it. Of course, there are options to find in what’s out there that can help you. There are people and agencies who will build your books for you, there are cover artists and editors, and so forth. Everything comes at a price, one which may very well be too high when you begin.
And I’ll be the first to admit it’s always a work in progress. One key tip: backups. Here’s another; ask people.
In my case, that was certainly true. On top of it, I wanted to figure it out. Not something I am fully done with, learning is always something that continues, and rightly so. Some things I am still struggling with, particularly the use of social media like Twitter. Other things I was fortunate to already know a little bit of, at least enough to make my way towards a beginning. And there is a lot of information out there, on just about everything. A lot of great people who can help.
I’ll say one thing, social media is a must. It requires plan, one made and started well before the actual book. I’m still terrible at it. I can’t explain it, somehow I don’t *get* it – at least not yet. On top of that, each time I put myself in front of Twitter, my Muse walks in. And she’s quite the boss.
Another thing, cook for your muse. And cook well. If you have all nine visiting, it might be an idea to take them to a really nice restaurant though.
This however is a bit of a focus on the part of building the actual epub file, or at least a look at what I work from as a template. And sharing it. I started my template with the excellent work of Jiminy Panoz, storyteller and designer par excellence. You can find his template, the design philosophy behind them and more information here. Mine is based on his, customised and updated in a few parts. You can find it here. Feel free to get in touch with comments here, and if it really helps – feel free to buy one of his books, maybe one of mine.
All jokes aside, it’s a puzzle. It doesn’t really matter how much you do yourself really. Playing with a puzzle always helps at some point, whether you end up making it, or you preparing the pieces for someone else.
A few things to keep in mind:
1. If you replace the cover, remember to add the semantic of cover to it in Sigil. This is very important, Amazon’s publishing tools will give errors, other publishers can have issues with this as well. Particularly Lulu. More importantly though, depending on how publishers process the epub file it can occur that the shop will show a nice cover, but the book itself in your eReader will just show a question mark.
2. When you use Sigil to automatically create the TOC and the HTML of it, be advised that it will overwrite the existing one. Remember that where it comes to the CSS Styles for your epub file. I simply replace the link in that HTML code from the generated link (sgc-toc.css) to my main CSS file (styles.css). And remember, when done, use Sigil to clean house.
3. There’s a lot of optional material in the CSS that can be commented in and out. Element styles, but be careful with those. Smashwords can think that lines around a note or quote are textareas from Word.
4. You *can* keep all your actual writing on a single page. But cutting it into chapter sized pieces does provide a higher degree of control over how text flows across pages once in someone’s eReader. There are also some methods which can be used to trick eReaders into forcing it to not break a piece of text when it threatens to flow over the page end. Problem is, it is never a guarantee. An individual choice.
5. Do not forget to generate your own unique UUID (GUID). And to use it, in both the toc.nx and content.opf files. Make sure to open those, and learn how they work. If you do not have an ISBN for your book, either get one at Smashwords for free, or remove that entry from the content.opf file.
6. I often use a custom font, for headers. It’s not needed, individual choice. These days eReaders do provide options for their readers in terms of fonts, a pleasant evolution. If you want, just remove the file and the CSS entry. Kindle Publishing Tools will show an error when converting, but it is one which *can* be ignored. At least these days.
7. You don’t really need to know how to code, but it does come in handy. Ebooks are still relatively simple in terms of construction. At least the current formats. What’s in the code is pretty much what it is.
8. Making your own covers, very possible. Even without a budget you can find help though, most notable place is deviantart.
It’s not a holy grail. It’s never perfect for each and every book. Learn, experiment. Ask people, share experiments. If you’re doing this yourself, this is one project where the road and the horizon are complete equals in importance. One place I can definitely recommend, the World Literary Cafe. Join us!
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