How to publish an ebook the cheap way

kindle, formating kindle ebookSo, as I wrap up the last release for Robot Awareness, Part IV, and by this point I’ve gotten my publishing down to a science. (And by science, I mean a lot of “how did I do that again?”) I remember the first time I published — I spent half a day trying to figure out the formatting, trying to get it just right and work out the bugs. It’s really a pain.

But it’s really not that bad, once you know what you’re doing. You could hire a professional formatter, but for a lot of us newer authors are books aren’t making a ton, and any money invested is better spent on book covers or advertising. Unless you want something really fancy, or have illustrations (I’ve never tried it, but I might with the anthology), then maybe you want to hire a professional.

So, I thought I would lay out my process for anyone interested — I had a heck of a time finding this info when I started, so maybe someone else will save some headaches reading this.

Start with Open Office: I used to write in Bean, a defunct but still available editing program for Mac. I like it because it’s simple and stays out of my way. But you need either Open Office or Word for the formatting you need to do. I was copying and pasting but for future releases I started writing right in ODT. At some point I might buy Scrivener, which makes things even way easier, I understand, but this is what I use for now.

  • Formatting styles: When you’ve gotten your finished text, open up the styles and formatting tab (command T on mac in ODT). You’ll be saving as an ODT file by the way, which makes conversions easier. Select all of the text and choose either text body indent (in Open Office, you have to double click for the change to take effect). Next, go through and select each chapter heading and select Heading1. I actually think just about any heading will do, but that’s the one I prefer.
  • Tabbing: Now, last part, and this is really important. Select all the text. Go to the paragraph tab, and in the box next to first line indent, type in 0.15. (Or more or less, depending on your preference. This setting is a pretty minimal indent.) This is super important! If you don’t do this step, your text will all run together. Your tabbing won’t matter, because Kindle doesn’t recognize it. There will be no tabbing and all your text will look run together!
  • Conversion: Here’s where things get weird. I learned I have to convert from  the ODT file to epub (find a free converter online). For some reason KDP won’t recognize the file if I convert it to mobi, its format, but it will happily convert the epub file (which is iBooks format) to mobi. Definitely spent some frustrating time figuring that out!
  • Preview: Definitely use the online preview to make sure things work right. It pulls up an simulated kindle so you can see how it looks. How it looks on the virtual screen is how it will look on someone’s device.
  • Bonus: Hyperlinks work. I was pretty thrilled to discover I could add a hyperlink in ODT and it would translate. So you can hyperlink the title of the next book in the series, and send readers to further releases, not to mention a newsletter.

I hope that helps! I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has too. I’m planning to play around with scrivener some time soon, because I think it would streamline things. But for now, this takes a little work but not a ton, once you know what you’re doing.




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