Some of you may recall that last year I had written a post about how I’d like to write a post about how to format for easy upload to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Well, back then I was using Microsoft Word and uploading the file to KDP and letting them convert the file. The result was a usable, but not particularly fancy, MOBI file that Amazon readers could buy.
When I decided I wanted to sell my books on more than one website, that was when it became necessary for me to look at creating EPUB files, since MOBI files are only for Amazon’s Kindle and Kindle apps. EPUB is the most widely used file format, and is good on Nook and the Nook app, Kobo’s readers and apps, and Google Play.
Apple iBooks and (I learned this week much to my chagrin) Google Play, requires they be “validated” EPUB files. Which is precisely why I decided to use a distributor, Draft2Digital, to upload my books for me. Draft2Digital will accept that same Word file, which is very convenient… but the results aren’t what I’d like them to be.
To put it another way, I want to take these EPUB files to the next level, and while I’m at it, make the Amazon MOBI files better as well.
It may surprise some people to learn that an e-book is created a lot like a website is. HTML is not converted very well from Word files. In order to make the best EPUB possible, a little HTML knowledge is in order. For those who don’t really know or understand much about HTML, there is Sigil.
Sigil is a free software program that allows publishers to create cleaner EPUB files than those generated from conversion software like Calibre. To clarify, I was using Calibre to create EPUB files to upload to Google Play, since there are no converters there for Word documents that I know of. Calibre was pretty simple, yes, and if I wanted a really simple EPUB, converted from my Word document, that is what I thought I would keep using.
However, a “cleaned up” Word document isn’t really very clean, insofar as HTML is concerned. I had Sigil try and validate an EPUB I cleaned up using an online tool (recommended in the Sigil book I started reading) and there were “depreciated tags.” Even worse, I had uploaded those EPUBs to Google Play, and they did not validate either. These programs won’t validate my file if it doesn’t have some some good HTML5 and CSS3 in it. In other words, my Word document clean up produced a file containing tags that are old fashioned and are now discouraged from use (kinda like Flash, which has very spotty support on mobile devices). The cleaner my file, the smaller the file will be as well, and it will be easier for readers to load onto their preferred e-reader and enjoy without poor formatting and broken things in their book.
Therefore I came to the grim conclusion that I needed to brush up on CSS and get up to speed on HTML5, which I had never really worked with at all. Daunting tasks, and they cut into my writing time. But I think this endeavor is going to be worth it. I’ll have some really nice looking books to sell come the holidays, and there will be little difference between the e-book and the print versions as far as how they look visually, which is what I’ve been striving for.
Look for them to be appearing soon, and once I have the new covers finished, I will be having Amazon push a big update, so anyone who had purchased or downloaded any of my previous books will get a notice when they manage their Kindles in Amazon’s website that there is a big update. From what I understand, the other book sites don’t have issues with giving people who had previously purchased an b-book through them an update, but we shall see.