An experiment in e-books

I got a Kindle last year, and I’ve been really enjoying using it. I’m thinking about the possibilities of self-publishing, but wondered about the technical barriers. I thought I’d experiment with some of my longer fanfictions, to see how easy the process was and whether I could get a look like that I liked.

A Game of Chess is my first novel, written and published online across two crazy months in the spring of 2002. It’s a romance about Faramir and Éowyn, after the fairy-tale wedding. There’s lots of riding to and fro and being intense in gardens. [75k words]

Withered Tree is an ‘alternate universe’ story (an AU), in which events turn in a different direction at a critical moment. In this case, Denethor does not die on the pyre, with ramifications for Aragorn’s claim to the throne of Gondor. [16k words]

1. First step was to download caliber, free e-book management software.

2. After some trial and error, I found it was best to rid my .doc file of smart quotes, and to add the word ‘Chapter’ to the start of each chapter. I also used the styles function in Word so that these chapter headings were clearly demarcated from the main body of text: caliber will recognize ‘heading 1′ styles, etc.

3. I saved out the file as ‘web page, filtered’.

4. I imported this file into caliber. I was then easily able to alter the metadata of the file so that the author (‘Altariel’) and publisher (‘Best Loved Press’) were correct. I’d also made some very simple covers for each book: caliber has some default covers that it will create automatically, but it’s very easy to change them to your own design via the ‘edit metadata’ button.

5. The fiddliest part of the process was creating a table of contents that was full and which gave me proper chapter breaks. I’d already made sure that each chapter in my .doc file was titled ‘Chapter’ and to style these as ‘heading 1′. The software recognizes this by default. You can also instruct it to recognize other letter strings: both my stories contained extra sections –foreword, prologue, epilogue. After selecting ‘convert books’, caliber offers the option ‘Structure Detection’, where I was able to add these other sections manually. Remember that it’s recognizing letter strings: it was deeply annoying to discover that ‘Epilogue:’ (note that colon!) hadn’t worked!

6. Then it was a simple matter of saving out these files as .mobi format (for Kindle) and .epub (for Nook). I think these are the two main formats. I then emailed the .mobi version to my Kindle. Friends who can read .epub files tell me that they came out well.

It was very satisfying to see both stories on my Kindle. The only issue that I didn’t resolve was the large image that appears at the end of Withered Tree, which came out rather scruffy and unreadable. I’ll have to experiment more.

The results of all this can be downloaded from Megaupload.

A Game of Chess     MOBIEPUB

Withered Tree         MOBIEPUB

And if you don’t have an e-reader, you can still read in good old-fashioned online form.

A Game of Chess

Withered Tree

2 Responses to “An experiment in e-books”

  1. Thanks for this nice, straight-forward guide – I’ve been meaning to epub our catalog for a while but could never get things looking quite right.

    Time for another go, I think.

  2. Una McCormack says:

    Glad it’s helpful. Caliber is a good piece of software, but there was a fair amount of trial and error involved in getting the files how I wanted them. Do let me know if you hit any other problems, or if I was too opaque at any point.

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