What's the best way to release a new title as an ebook?
March 31, 2011 9:29 AM   Subscribe

What are the best practices and strategies for publishing ebooks?

I'm venturing into the world of self-publishing and I'm trying to figure out what the best strategy for ebook publishing is for me. My biggest problem stems from the layout of the book. It's not a novel but a fictional guide with lots of color illustrations. I would lose a lot of the formatting through the epub format, which I can deal with but I'm not sure if it's worth the trouble to make an epub version when I can just export a full color PDF with the full layout.

So, I need to know what the best strategy for my book would be. Do I create a PDF or an epub and PDF or something else? What are the best practices for exporting PDFs and formatting epubs?

I know about Joe Konrath's blog and the broad trends of ebook publishing. I just can't find specific release strategies and techniques for making ebooks.
posted by clockworkjoe to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
It's totally worth it to have both a pdf and an epub. The key thing to do is to prep your InDesign files before you make the transfer to epub so that things will convert the way you want them to. Cari Jensen has some guidance for dealing with InDesign to epub issues on her website.

Were I you, I'd focus on getting the pdf out there as soon as you can, and follow up with the epub when it's ready. The audience for the two is likely to be somewhat different, so you can go ahead and get the pdf market while you're getting the epub up to snuff. Once you've got both ready, you might think about adding an option to buy them as a bundle for slightly less than it would cost to buy them both individually, so that those who buy the epub but might be interested in the fully designed pdf have an enticing option.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:41 AM on March 31, 2011

(Won't you basically need an epub anyway, if you ever plan on selling for Kindle?)

Personally I know I greatly prefer epub or other HTML-style formats when available. Reading PDF on even an iOS retina display comes with some major annoyances.

IMO formatting can take a hike, as long as all the imagery is generally where it should be, and the text can be highlighted, etc.
posted by circular at 9:44 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a significant number of people out there who are in demand for their skills formatting to ebook format. A couple weekends ago, I heard Lori DeVoti, who is a fairly popular romance author, talk about her successes with her own e-publishing -- so much so that she's now in that category of helping others. She's very friendly, so although she's probably too busy to help you do it herself, she might know some other people and resources.

Working with someone who has experience doing this kind of work will be huge, especially if you don't already have an established name in the publishing world.
posted by Madamina at 2:15 PM on March 31, 2011

You can spend hours trying to convert files and learn plenty in the process.

There's also companies like Smashwords, which handle the conversion into many different formats. They warn against lots of formatting, however.

For my last e-book (search for Chris Backe on Amazon if you're inclined), I started with a Word, which eventually became a PDF. The Word file also allowed me to go back (with a copy) and make the formatting a bit more bare-bones.

On most electronic devices, content is king - design gets broken or badly shown too easily on the many devices.
posted by chrisinseoul at 7:12 PM on March 31, 2011

Depending on your target device - you might not loose alot of formatting - Apple now supports "fixed-layout" ePUBs.

However I am not an author - let me talk to you as a reader/consumer:

- I want ePUB format - ePUB will work across multiple devices, ePUB will let me, the reader generally override the size of font I need - until we get devices with DPI's of 3600 or higher, sometimes when my eyes are tired, I need bigger fonts... (I treat ePUB the same as MP3 mentally - if I keep my music library in MP3, it will be available to me everywhere)

- I want your diagrams/images - if technical, I want them in a vector format (SVG) so they can be resized.

- I DO NOT WANT - PDF - fixed-layout PDF files are only good if your screen matches the same size as a peice of paper. The first thing I do when I get a PDF, is dump it into Calibre, convert it to ePUB and then manually tweak it, until it becomes useful.

- I DO NOT WANT DRM, unless it is transparent like the Apple store and my purchases will flow across my various Apple devices (at home, the entire family has iPhones, two of us have iPads and they are all sync'd to one master library/account - so our purchases are available across everyones' device)

I *love* ebooks so much, that I recently got rid of most of my physical technical library.

You're best bet might be to work in a "master format" (i.e. DocBook), and then target specific outputs.

You know about the free "Sigil" editor for ePUB?
posted by jkaczor at 9:38 AM on April 9, 2011

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