Avoid the meat-grinder! Creating a self-published book can be as easy as writing a blog

by Emily Craven

I always had it in my head that something like Smashwords would be my first e-book platform: the easiest, the largest distributor, the least work.

Then I looked at the style guide, and read the tax information and realised I needed to buckle on my superhero suit for that gauntlet.

I’d had enough trouble deciding how to format my YA novel to look like Facebook, now I had to figure out how to stop the meat-grinder from turning my work into something resembling a 52,000 word experimental poem. It was still in the cards, but I needed a new plan to keep the momentum rolling before I drowned in paperwork and coding.

I have always been a keen advocate for self-education. In industries like writing and in particular e-publishing and internet marketing, things change too quickly for your run of the mill university. It’s this drive for self-education that has seen me being asked to present on marketing and creative e-book advances, and got me into the coolest courses for free. It was at one of these courses I found a way you can create your own clean ePub or print-ready pdf file, for free, without any supernatural talent at html code, and have your books uploaded on Amazon and Kobo in the same hour.

PressBooks is God’s gift to writers.

PressBooks has taken the WordPress open source code and created a powerful tool to produce epub and print-ready PDF files. The epub file it produces is directly upload-able to Kobo Writing Life (which offers their own free epub conversion service as well) and KDP (which will convert the file cleanly to mobi) and it’s as easy as using the WordPress blogging platform.

There are several reasons why I would marry PressBooks over my partner of five years:

  • The platform is free. You can create a file for every one of your 100 haikus if you wish.
  • It is as idiot-proof as blogging with WordPress. Basically you set up each of your chapters as an individual ‘blog post’. This makes it incredibly easy to fix your own typos and add extra scenes or features you thought up while singing in the shower. You can upload and insert images in the same way you would a blog, easily compressing or enlarging your author photo depending on the size of your narcissistic streak.
  • It allows you to place your front matter (copyright message, dedication, foreword), novel (separated into chapters and, if necessary, parts) and back matter (about the author,  more books from the author and bonuses) on separate pages avoiding the run-on effect between sections that you get through other conversion tools. You can select which components you want to include in the export with just one click, allowing you to create different versions for different markets (print, Kobo , Kindle  whatever) or price points (e.g. I have a multimedia version of E-Book Revolution which includes links to ten instructional audios and a private Facebook group. This version of the e-book I sell for $47, where as the e-book without audio is only $5.99).
  • It provides three different template styles, all super professional. As well, it allows those of you who have painstakingly learnt html code (who I like to call the ‘obsessed’ or ‘book designers’), to upload your own CSS style sheet.
  • It allows multiple users to work on a novel at once. So if you are a small publishing house you can have the author upload work, then have a structural editor, a copy editor, a cover designer, and a copywriter all do their work on the same platform. PressBooks allows you to compare the changes between saved versions so the author/editor can approve changes. Each individual contributor can access the novel online from wherever they are. The efficient work flow should have all publishers salivating. Imagine the best of the best being able to work on the same project regardless of what office or country they are in.
  • Finally, but most importantly, PressBooks gives you the ability to integrate detailed metadata into your eBook. Metadata increases the find-ability of your books in the search engines tenfold. You can add keywords or tags, ISBNs, pricing, a synopsis, subtitles, covers and more into the metadata and it will be integrated into the backend of the ePub file, just waiting for Kobo, Google or Amazon to search it.

Creating print-ready files and ePubs was a mountain (or a giant hole in the wallet); now the only (mother of) a mountain is marketing and the reader-author connection. That’s where I come in… Sigh. Has anyone seen my superhero suit?

*******************************

Emily-Craven-200x300Emily Craven is an author of non-fiction, fantasy and YA fiction. She blogs and presents for If:Book Australia, Meanland and the Australian Society of Authors on the future of digital publishing, e-book marketing, author platforms and the reader/author connection. Emily’s non-fiction book ‘E-Book Revolution: The Ultimate Guide To E-Book Success’ is now available as an e-book through Kobo or a multimedia package at http://emilycraven.bkclb.co.

She also has her own blog at http://ebookrevolution.blogspot.com. In 2011-2012 she undertook a 12 month writing mentorship with fantasy author Isobelle Carmody, for her YA fantasy novel, Priori-The Power Within.

If you enjoy her tongue in cheek style you may also enjoy her comedy novels set in Facebook, ‘The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain: Photographer Extraordinaire’ and ‘Jake’s Page’ available from Kobo.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this great article! I had never heard of this before and it fits my writing style perfectly!

    • Thanks heaps! It’s such a fantastic tool, free and easy. Slowly they are bringing in print ready PDF’s so you can automatically load a well formatted PDF onto Lightning Source and CreateSpace. All you have to do is press one button and it produces the epub and PDF at once!

  2. This sounds good. As a web developer by day, I thought it my duty to create my nighttime ePubs the manual way—mostly because I didn’t much like the results of automated programs—but it is a chore. If this can do the job better, without adding extraneous code, then I’ll be a happy chappy. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I will report back once I’ve tried it.

    • You have to break the chapters up into sections, but other then that it does clean formatting automatically which is fantastic when you need to go back and change typos or add sections. If you use the text box feature (same as in WordPress) it strips all the nasty code Word likes to add to the back end which makes the formatting even easier :) Would love to hear your experience on it! I don’t work for PressBooks, I just use it as an author, so don’t forget to also send them an email telling them what you do and don’t like. They are really lovely and super receptive!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! However the link to PressBooks doesn’t work…

  4. seantheblogonaut says:

    Em i was looking for something to collate the poetry I have written this year. I am trying to some how break up the main body into chapters like Cinquains or Haiku with each poem within that chapter located on a separate page when you read it in ebook form. Do I create a part then make each poem a chapter within the part?

    • Hey Sean,

      Nope you don’t have to create parts, just add ‘chapters’ in the main body section. if you wanted to separate parts, like one dedicated to Cinquains and one dedicated to Haikus, then create two parts and just add chapters to each part :) Each new chapter will start on a new page in the e-book :) If you want to haikus to appear on their own pages then just have a new chapter for each haiku. Let me know if you need any more help!

      Warmly,

      Em

  5. Great article, I have tried this and it works well. Many thanks for drawing my attention to it.

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