Publishing Pains: Part Three, the Final Word

If you read the other two posts in this series, particularly this one, you’re aware of the many avenues and bits of software I explored in order to create my first ebook. After considerable trial and error since–I’ve put out a couple of shorter stories as standalones and my debut novel, Contract of Defiance–I can safely say that I’ve narrowed down the process to three specific tools. If you have these, you will be able to create your own ebook relatively easily (I’ll mention again, I’ve created all my ebooks on a Mac).

  1. Adobe InDesign ~ traditionally used to design printable materials such as books, newsletters, brochures, etc. InDesign works beautifully and mostly seamlessly with other Adobe products (such as Photoshop if you’re working with cover design or interior graphics). Adobe CS5 has an newly integrated .epub creation function that outputs the entire .epub file structure provided you correctly format your document within InDesign.
  2. TextWrangler ~ a supremely sweet text editor for Mac. Allows multiple file editing and loaded with features that assist in code development.
  3. KindleGen (with the Kindle Previewer) ~ Free program from Amazon that does a good job of converting your .epubs to .mobis.

The last post contained a bit of railing against Adobe InDesign as an over-robust tool for a ebook file generation, and that is true. You don’t really need it once you are familiar with the required files that an .epub is comprised of. However, since I have it, I find it a useful and quick option for generating my .epub folder structure.

The real gem here is KindleGen (er, maybe that’s what they should have called it?). There may be wide variance in public opinion about the megalith that is Amazon depending on who you ask, but one thing they can claim nearly all credit for is almost single-handedly laying the foundation of epublishing–at least in the sense of making it available and accessible to us wordophile masses. Their KindleGen .epub converter is easily the most user-friendly and explanatory tool I’ve seen.

I have only used KindleGen in connection with the Kindle Previewer, which I prefer over the Adobe Digital Editions viewer for two reasons: often, I’ll find that graphics do not display in ADE correctly, whereas I have not had that problem with the Kindle Previewer. The other reason is simply that the Kindle Previewer is a better, more intuitive user interface. The best news of all, is that once you have both the Kindle Viewer and KindleGen properly installed, when you open your .epub in the Kindle Previewer, it automatically creates a separate converted file as a .mobi. However, if there is anything wrong with the .epub, the application generates a lengthy and explicit detail of what exactly went wrong (down to the line number of whichever file threw your error). You can then fix that in your .epub, and re-convert. It really is an excellent tool for creating both versions of your ebook.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll just summarize the biggest takeaway for .epub creation, and that is, there are many ways to do it, but take it from someone who’s tried a proportionately large number of them, the three tools above are all you need to get you where you want to go the fastest, and hopefully with the least amount of headaches. If anyone has questions about tools, or conversion steps, I’m happy to help. Feel free to send me a tweet @TammySalyer or comment below.

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2008-2013 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided proper attribution is given.

8 Replies to “Publishing Pains: Part Three, the Final Word”

  1. Pingback: ePub Conversion Made Simple? Not So Much. « Digital eBook Building and Formatting

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  3. Bree

    I’m not sure about .mobi outputs on Calibre for kIndle 8 requirements. I know that Calibre upgrades the program regularly and notifies me of that (like once every few weeks a new version comes out!!) I’ve only tested a few of my novel’s .epubs for compatibility and there were a small number of errors in the code that can easily be fixed for a final version. I’ll let you know if I learn anything more on the Kindle 8 thing. I’m supposed to be editing, but I want to read your excerpt now! it’s on my list…

  4. Bree

    Thanks for sharing this Tammy. I use Windows, and Word to write in. For me, I export from word to .html, then import that to Calibre, and convert the file to epub. Fortunately, I know how to customize from there using Dreamweaver. If anyone wants to learn about the individual .epub files and how to manipulate them, it’s not overly complicated. I started making an .epub in Adobe InDesign, and came across the converter in Calibre and took the easy way out!!

    1. Tammy Salyer Post author

      Hi Bree, thanks for stopping by, and especially for sharing this great info! Do you happen to know if Calibre is outputting a .mobi that is supported by the new Kindle 8 requirements? I think so, but haven’t been using Calibre for awhile, so am just curious. There are a number of roads to get to .epub, that’s true. Best!

  5. Dale Ivan Smith

    Very helpful, Tammy! I have both a Windows 7 desktop computer and an older Macbook. I’m finally about to publish my first indie story in the next few days. I just need to finalize the artwork. Your approach looks elegant–and especially with Dropbox and/or my home server I can easily move files between my Win7 PC and Macbook.

    I’ll let you know how it goes–your information will certainly come in handy and couldn’t be better timed!

    1. Tammy Salyer Post author

      Good to hear, Dale. I hope this gets it done for you. One thing I failed to bring up in the post is that whatever Mac uses to convert from a .zip to an .epub does something odd to corrupt the .epub file and throws errors every time. I have a little Mac utility I use that fixes that. I’m sorry I can’t point you to the site I got it from b/c I can’t remember it, but let me know if you have problems and I’ll email it to you. Best!

  6. Pingback: Publishing Pains: Part Two | Tammy Salyer