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!