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

Necessary Lies, Steven Covey, and this writer…

This blog first appeared at PenWarriors.com

The novel I’m now working on – Truth to Tell (TTT) – has surpassed all my other books by having the longest gestation period on record. I conceived of the idea over two years ago when I wrote a couple of scenes, then stalled and put it aside to work on other priorities. Months later I picked the project up again and realized that I had a good character, but the story needed work.

I brainstormed TTT at a Red Door retreat with with the PenWarriors, and came up with a story that seemed fine–but I didn’t touch it again for months. When I did finally return to TTT, I realized my heroine needed a completely different story – and finally the story caught fire for me.

OK, now we’re cooking!

Part of the problem has been that in my other life as a university faculty member, I’d become involved in a long-term project that took most of my writing energy. A continuing stream of time-sensitive tasks had exhausted my creative energy.

On August 1st I started a 1-year research and program development sabbatical, which should mean that I have time for both R&D AND writing. My husband and I decided to take this chance to tour some parts of North America we’ve wanted to see, complete with my books and computer but away from my telephone so that I can focus on both the R&D and my writing.

It worked pretty well during August. I finished and published a new short story, The Broken Gate, and formulated a plan for the last few chapters of TTT. September I devoted to R&D tasks and getting started on our trip. October–

Hmm. October wasn’t looking so good last Friday when I tried to set some goals for the next week. They looked something like this:

  1. Read and critique a story for a writer friend
  2. Write four modules for the course under development
  3. Write this blog
  4. Get back to TTT

Once again, I realized, my writing had fallen to the back of the queue. When would I get time to finish TTT?

The horrifying thing was that back in mid-August when I was working on the book, I came up with a new title that was a much better fit – and I’d forgotten what it was!

I feared TTT would never get the attention it needed, but items 1, 2, and 3 were time-sensitive commitments that mattered. There was ALWAYS something urgent to get in the way.

Staring at the list I’d written, I could see that I’d fallen into the time management mess Steven Covey talked about in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where long-term projects of importance get pushed to the back of the queue because they are not as urgent as more short term and often less important tasks.

The trouble was, back when I read 7 Habits, I didn’t have a time management problem, but I certainly do now! I get a lot done, but things that are very important to me get neglected – like TTT, the book whose new name I can’t remember

First things first, says Covey’s 3rd Habit. If I don’t put long-term-core-value things that reflect my purpose and values first, they’ll never get done.

The solution: turn the task upside down. So, last Friday I rewrote the list of this week’s goals:

  1. Every day, first spend half an hour on TTT. Use a timer.
  2. Read and critique the story
  3. Complete one module for the university program each day
  4. Write the blog for Monday

Almost magically, my task list became manageable.

When would I get TTT written? First thing every day.

I’m on day 4 now and I’m amazed – it’s working! I get up early and walk the dogs with my husband, then happily settle in to work on TTT (this is my time!) – which, my Scrivener file tells me, is now tentatively retitled Necessary Lies. I give myself an hour, because 30 minutes felt too rushed. Then I make a cup of coffee and start working on R&D – I’ve completed two modules in four days, slower than my goal, but I should be able to get the targeted 4 done this week.

I read and critiqued the story Friday evening – great story. I enjoyed it. Now here I am Monday doing the blog. I just realized I’m one day late on that, because this is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and I got Sunday and Monday mixed up.

I’m in touch with my book, I’m getting other tasks done, and afternoons and evenings I still have time for some sightseeing and other odds and ends – like posting character name searches from my 60,000 name database to my Twitter feed. A habit doesn’t get formed in only four days, but I’m committed – and not to a mental institution!

First things first. This week the system works for me.

I’ve got my A-I-C (a-ah-butt in chair) and it’s fun. Necessary Lies is alive for me and I don’t feel guilty about the other stuff. I realize that my time management has been suffering from “first things last” for a long time. This feels like a miracle!

Vanessa

Check out the free sample of my short story, The Broken Gate
 from Amazon.com
This story will also be appearing in the upcoming PenWarriors anthology of short stories, It Happens at Midnight