Create an eBook with an embedded cover

Many published authors are choosing to independently publish their works as eBooks these days. Many authors have regained their rights from their print publishers and are electronically publishing their previously print-published works, and a number are also choosing to indie publish their new works, leaving their traditional publishers.

Recently I was asked to explain how to create an eBook from a manuscript and also embed custom cover art image in the ebook. I thought it would be useful to post the answer here for anyone who is interested.

This is a brief summary of the three most common scenarios, with links to step-by-step instructions that I have found useful myself. If you are planning to sell your eBook, I recommend that you have your own custom cover art created. When I first started ePublishing my previously print-published books in the 1990s, I created my own covers using Photoshop. However, when eBooks became widely popular a couple of years ago, I realized I needed a more professional look for my covers. (My new covers are now done by Angela Oltmann at Angie-O Creations.)

Option 1: Calibre eBook management (open source software)

If your manuscript was created in Word, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, you can use the Calibre eBook management software. Calibre is available free for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems at calibre-ebook.com. If you find Calibre useful, I suggest donating to calibre to support its continued development. I use Calibre to manage my library of ebooks, and to do conversions from one format to another when I change ebook readers (I’ve used a number of eReaders since the 1990s, so I frequently need to convert.) I notice on discussion boards that many indie authors are using Calibre to generate their MOBI and EPUB ebook files for publication. (Because I write using Scrivener – see below – that’s the program I use to create my own eBook format files from new manuscripts for publication.)

Instructions for conversion using Calibre

Nat Weinham has posted useful instructions for how to use Calibre to convert your word processing manuscript to eBook formats at pdxNat’s How to make an epub / mobi file. Note that when you follow these instructions, the book will be imported into Calibre as a ZIP file. Calibre will then convert this to EPUB and MOBI when you follow the remainder of the instructions.

I suggest that when you view the Calibre Edit Metadata screen, you also add your own custom cover art, and a brief description of the book on the Metadata screen. Fill in the other metadata fields as appropriate, and be sure that your author name is typed in full in the “Author” section, and “sorted” properly in the “Author sort” field – for example, my author name shows as Vanessa Grant, while in the author sort field it’s Grant, Vanessa.

If you have your own custom cover art (highly recommended), click Browse in the “Change Cover” window of Calibre’s Edit Metadata screen, and locate and upload four cover art image into Calibre. That way, when you do the conversion in Calibre, your cover art will be embedded in the EPUB and MOBI eBook files. If  you don’t add your own cover art, Calibre will generate a generic image for the cover.

With those recommended changes, follow the instructions at pdxNat’s How to make an epub / mobi file and you’ll have your compiled ebook files.

Option 2: Scrivener (multi-purpose software for writers, currently $45)

Literature and Latte’s Scrivener is created for writers who want a single program to outline, edit, storyboard, and write. In addition, Scrivener can compile a manuscript into an book for the the most common ebook formats (EPUB and MOBI). Instructions for the various Scrivener compile settings for eBook export are available in a Scrivener video at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/Exporting_eBook.mov. The video includes a screen shot showing how to link your cover image so that it is included in the compiled ebook.

Scrivener is available for Mac and Windows at Literature and Latte’s website (also available on the Mac App store). Reading the extensive list of author testimonials for Scrivener will give you a good picture of Scrivener’s extensive capabilities. I’ve been using Scrivener as a writing tool for about 18 months and I love it! I bought it after reading the many author testimonials. The eBook conversion features are a bonus!

Scrivener can also compile a manuscript for paperback POD/print-on-demand, Roger Colby gives a detailed expiation of the compile settings in his blog How to Use Scrivener to Format a Createspace PDF Interior for Publication

If you don’t want to do it yourself: Using an eBook conversion service

If you don’t want to do your own conversion, there are many book conversion services available. If you go this route, I’d suggest that choose someone recommended by an author you trust (check the websites of indie authors who ePublish their books – many mention the services they use on their blogs). Prices and the services offered vary. I recommend you select someone who is recommended and be sure you understand what services they offer and what the cost is. I’ve used eBookPrep for conversions from several of my previously print-published books, and I’ve been very happy with their services.

May the muse be with you, and good luck with your independent publishing venture!

Vanessa

To DRM or not to DRM – with apologies to Hamlet!

To DRM or not to DRM… that is the question …  

Hopefully Shakespeare’s ghost will forgive me for mangling that line from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy!

(Note: This article has previously been posted on the PenWarriors blog)

A couple of weeks ago when I sent out a tweet announcing that all my eBooks are available in DRM-free editions from Amazon and Smashwords, someone asked for clarification. The subsequent conversation sent me on a hunt for clear descriptions of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) issue as it applies to eBooks. My aim in today’s blog is to give a brief, plain English explanation of Digital Rights Mangement (DRM), with links to more technical information for those who want to learn more.

What is Digital Rights Management?

  • “DRM technologies attempt to control use of digital media [ebooks, digital music files, computer software] by preventing access, copying or conversion to other formats by end users.” Calibre eBook management
  • When you buy an e-book with DRM you don’t really own it but have purchased the permission to use it in a manner dictated to you by the seller. DRM limits what you can do with e-books you have ‘bought’.” Calibre eBook management
  • For those who want the comprehensive, technical definition and history, see Wikipedia

Information About Digital Rights Management

  • Background – software and CDs: In the 1980s and 1990s digital rights technology was used on some computer software and music CDs in an attempt to stop piracy. This technology frequently caused legitimate users to experience computer problems because of the temperamental nature of the DRM control software, and also violated privacy in some instances. The problems experienced by blameless users of select Sony BMG CDs  resulted in the music industry giving up on DRM. The computer software industry also moved away from DRM to a “serial number” and “registration key” model because DRM not only made legitimate users furious, but it was found to be ineffective in stopping piracy.
  • DRM does not stop piracy: As early as 2003, HP Laboratories Cambridge reported “We conclude that given the current and foreseeable state of technology the content protection features of DRM are not effective at combating piracy.”
  • DRM and digital books: Despite the negative experience of the music and computer software industries, many traditional publishers use DRM on eBooks, although there is an increasing body of mainstream information indicating that although costly, it is not effective:

What DRM means to eBook readers

I first began reading eBooks in the 1990s when I purchased a Rocket eBook reader, and have owned a number of electronic reading devices since then. I quickly learned that when I buy a book with DRM technology, I might not be able to read that book on future devices I purchase.

That’s a problem for me. I love to reread favorite books, and I don’t want to have to pay over and over again for the same book. So whenever possible I choose to purchase DRM-Free versions of eBooks.

For more information on digital rights for readers, see

How can you tell if the book you want has DRM technology?

In The Real Cost of Free, Cory Doctorow reports that, “Apple, Audible, Sony and others have stitched up several digital distribution channels with mandatory DRM requirements, so copyright holders don’t get to choose to make their works available on equitable terms.”

However, many eBook sellers do allow copyright holders to choose whether books will be sold with, or without DRM, and a growing number sell only DRM-Free books. I’ve given a list below, and if you know of other sources for DRM-Free books, please comment and I’ll update the list.

Sources for DRM-free books

  • Project Gutenberg –free books in the public domain for multiple formats.
  • Smashwords – over 30,000 books, available in multiple formats – EPUB, Kindle, and others
  • Calibre Open Books – listings for DRM-Free eBooks. Follow links under titles to see formats available. If you are an author or publisher of DRM-Free eBooks and your books are not listed on Calibre’s site, you can add your books to their listings
  • BeWrite Books – all DRM-Free books in multiple formats
  • Baen – speculative fiction DRM-Free eBooks for multiple formats

Sources selling DRM and DRM-Free eBooks. Check to be sure which you’re getting.

  • Fictionwise.com – books labeled “multiformat” are DRM-Free and are available in multiple formats.
  • KoboBooks – see “Download options” in the book description, and look for the words DRM-Free
  • Amazon Kindle books – the method described on this Calibre page for checking if books are DRM-Free no longer works. If anyone knows how to tell if an Amazon book has DRM, please comment and I’ll update this post.

Converting eBooks from one format to another

Calibre’s free eBook library management application is the tool I use to convert DRM-Free books so that I can read them on my iPad AND my Kindle – and any other device I buy in future. It’s also a great program, the price is right (I do donate periodically because Calibre does a great job of updating its library of reading devices and it’s a great free service.) Information on converting is available at Calibre‘s website

A short post … NOT! LOL!

I intended to write a short post, less than 500 words, but I couldn’t manage it! Sorry for the length, but I hope this is useful to eBook readers and authors.

Vanessa

Vanessa Grant books available on Amazon
MultiFormat Vanessa Grant Books on Smashwords