Flow chart for making an e-book

by Janice Nigro

Before I started writing my blog, I thought writing and authors were limited to newspapers, magazines, or books. The reality is that writers are writing everywhere.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before now. I have had experience writing and publishing before I ever thought to blog or to put a book together. As a scientist, writing is part of the job. We hope to write a lot of research stories, but we also write grants, reference letters, and maybe some basic technical literature on how to do things. We don’t think of it as struggling author creative writing, but it is.

Self-publishing opened my eyes. Writers no longer have to wait for that magic moment to be discovered by an editor somewhere to get their book in print and distributed. That opens the door for a whole new industry to be driven by anyone who has anything they want to write about.

The idea of self-publishing is not new. It used to be called vanity press. Authors would pay on their own to print their work and then distribute it rather than struggle to find a publisher or never publish at all.

But self-publishing in the age of computers and the Internet like anything gives us a chance to take control. Or to make complete fools of ourselves.

I couldn’t resist the idea of putting a book together after writing diving stories for the last four years. I think it’s a good concept that is of interest to more than just divers – anyone who wants to be creative but thinks they can’t be. You don’t know when or where you will be inspired to do something you thought you weren’t previously capable of.

So far I have learned you just need to want to do it.

But just because we have the Internet and computers does not mean self-publishing is easy.

There is the writing. I took the approach of collecting my already written stories, but it still took me four years to live those stories and then to write them. And to edit them. That might have been the easy part.

After that the rest of the task is still up to you. Namely actually creating the book.

Your file has to be formatted appropriately so that when you go to convert it into a book, it works. You want the pages, for example, to be in your book where you put them.

I never realized all the things that could be done in the program Word until I became a member of an online writers’ group. Among them was to make a functioning table of contents. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but now I am ready to do it when the next book/project comes along. Or if someone just happens to ask about it.

I discovered that I actually liked doing this.

There are many other formatting issues that require adjustment just because of the book converting software. I highly recommend that you find some “how to” resource if you plan to put out a book, even a small one for just friends to look at. Once it’s converted into an e-book, anyone can read it, like the books we are accustomed to looking at. Even though an e-book isn’t something you can hold in your hands, it will look amazing on the screen regardless of the content.

That’s reason enough to try it, even if it just is a book of images. But that’s not necessarily so easy either.

Your book needs a cover page. Most information out there strongly suggests leaving that job to a professional (especially if you are going to sell your book). I thought, “My book is about my images.” I should be able to pick one out that will attract readers immediately to it. Although I considered using several different images on the cover, I chose just one.

I made the cover image in Photoshop. It includes the title and the byline. The only trick for the cover page was getting this image to fill the entire first page. I searched the web for an answer. The more sophisticated way to do it is to use a function in Word called “wrap text” (and then behind text) under formatting a picture. If you use this function, you can resize your inserted image to cover the entire first page of your Word file (yes no margins!).

You could probably stop there and easily convert your file into a PDF in Word which can be read on just about any computer. The problem with PDFs is that they are harder to look at on your computer and worse on your mobile device. Word is also not perfect in converting your links (or even your fonts) so that they function after the conversion.

You need software to perform the conversion. I downloaded the free online software called Calibre. Calibre converts your book into several file types that are read by different e-readers or software. I am not crazy about how the book looks in the file converted for Kindle (strictly for Amazon), but the epub files which can be read by most apps out there including iBooks look fabulous. Calibre also converts your book into a PDF.

Another option you have with Calibre is to add your cover image as a separate file. This negates the problem of the wrap text function in Word if you can’t make it work. The only issue then is if you still want to provide your book in a PDF format. Your cover image has to get there somehow. Your compromise could be simply inserting the image, but it will not fill the cover page.

You will have to promote your book. This part of the process seems especially harrowing. I can write the words, but it’s harder to brag about them. This post constitutes a step in that direction, but I will only have more to write about it once I start to do more of it.

There are a lot of places I haven’t been yet, but when I saw the images and words in the format of a book, I had the proof in front of me that I have so far spent over a month of my life underwater.

But it was no simple flow chart getting there.

©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com

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