Discovering the Right e-Book Format

As I start to get more involved in planning my first self-published e-book, I’ve been looking into the requirements for putting such a document together. When you write for a living, you get used to having a whole plethora of skilled individuals to help you put a nicely rendered document together. There are a number of editors to help, along with the production staff that takes the document from ethereal bits to actual paper. So, the thought of doing everything myself is a bit daunting because I really want the final product to look great.

There are several considerations and reading about self-publishing online usually fails to break these elements into manageable pieces. The first piece is the document itself. I’ve read a number of sources that suggest using HTML or a direct output format, such as EPUB. However, I’m starting to believe that while they leads will work, they aren’t necessarily optimal if you want to publish your work through a number of online vendors. The advice offered in Clearing Up Confusion About Self-Publishing seems to ring true—using the .doc format will work best. Actually, the article mentions both .doc and .docx formats, but I have good reasons to use .doc:

  • The format is used more often by third party products.
  • It’s easy to scan a file in .doc format using a utility such as FindStr.
  • There seem to be fewer glitches with the .doc format.
  • I have more templates that work well with the .doc format.

Of course, you can just as easily use the .docx format if that format appeals to you. The choice is one of personal taste in this case, but choosing one of the two seems to be best because it’s accepted by three major online vendors.

Another consideration is the actual content and formatting of the document. I have years of experience with the content part of the question and have a good idea about formatting. However, self-publishing and going exclusively after the e-book market puts a few twists into the picture. After reading a lot of documentation online about the issue of formatting, I found a lot of good material in Creating an e-book: Tips on formatting and converting your document. Although all five pages of this article are good, the best formatting information begins on page 4. However, what a lot of these articles fail to mention are the obvious sorts of things that some people fail to do:

  • Create a comprehensive outline for your book.
  • Actually stick to the outline as you write.
  • Format the outline when you put it together so that you can use the same formatting in the book.
  • Ensure you collect the resources needed to make your outline work and note them in the outline.

If you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s that outlines are important. The better you define the outline, the better the book will come out. Part of formatting your e-book is creating a good outline and then sticking with it.

After you decide on a document format, the formatting of the book content, and the content itself, you need to consider one other element—presenting your book to others. Of course, the presentation starts with a great cover. Most of the material I find online for creating covers is negative. For example, avoiding the use of book services. I’m used to thinking about how to market my books because it’s part of what the publisher asks me to provide, but I’m also having to start to think about the cover in more ways than simply the content the cover provides. Actually, it’s a creative process that I plan to enjoy.

I’ll keep you updated as I work through these first several self-published book projects. However, for now, I’ve been putting some content together and thinking a lot about what I need to do to get the book out there and make it sell. Let me know your thoughts on self-publishing at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Learning About Online Publishing

Eventually, you’ll likely read absolutely everything in electronic format. As e-book readers like the Kindle and Nook (too many to list) become more popular and the cost of producing paper-based products continues to increase, people will naturally gravitate toward the less expensive medium. Yes, many older people, like me, will continue to enjoy at least their fictional reading in paper format, but even the most steadfast amongst us has gravitated toward e-book format for professional and technical reading.

Besides saving trees and reducing costs, e-books make it possible to bring many marginal topics to the market. An aspiring author can self publish books that a publisher might not be willing to touch because the perceived profit margins are too low. Once books are published, looking into how to get book reviews could be a step with considering, especially if an author is looking to make a name for themselves in this industry.

Articles such as Bestseller Success Stories that Started Out as Self-Published Books point out the times when publishers simply got it wrong. The book idea really produced a great book, but the publishing staff didn’t know it. Of course, self-publishing can also produce atrocities that can hardly be called literature. The book publisher has acted as a kind of testing ground for book material in the past, but that era has passed and now the consumer must filter out the good from the relatively large flow of bad material.

There are many sites online that tell you about online publishing and getting your work self-published. I personally started with Creating an e-book: Tips on formatting and converting your document. It’s a comprehensive article with a lot of great tips that just about anyone will find useful. A problem with many of the resources you find online is that they’re oriented toward a particular genre, device type, publication method, or content type so that the advice is less useful than it could be.

However, my favorite new source of information for everything to do with e-book publishing is The Electronic Author. The material on this blog is published by someone who actually does output a number of e-books each year and has a copious number of books to his credit, Wallace Wang. In fact, I recently reviewed on such offering, Math for the Zombie Apocalypse. So, unlike many other places you could go for information, this blog really is run by someone with a considerable amount of experience.

The point I’m trying to make is that if you do plan to self-publish the next great American novel, you need to research the required techniques before you make the attempt. Otherwise, you could find that your book doesn’t sell well (or possibly at all). There are a lot of resources out there for improving your product. Everyone who wants to read your book also wants to see it in a usable format. Let me know your thoughts about self-publishing at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.