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How to create a GOOD ebook?

 
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I'm interested in how to create a good ebook.

There are almost as many resources out there telling us how to create an ebook as there are ebooks.  It's getting pretty cluttered out there.  Many ebooks are just terrible.  Someone threw some words and clipart together in two hours and slapped a price tag on the package in hopes of making a few dollars.  I don't want to be one of those writers.

I didn't expect to become an ebook author at all, but just before The Holidays, someone asked if I would like to write an ebook.  It's a topic I've been learning about for nearly 20 years, so I thought 'why not? This sounds like fun.'  (note to self, find out what I'm volunteering for before I open my mouth)

Here's a general account of what I've been doing so far.

step 1: research
20 years experience wasn't enough, so I went to my local library and borrowed the 40 books on the topic.  40 books.  That's a lot of books that already exist not to mention all the other ebooks on the topic.  Is there room for another?  Is what I'm thinking of writing distinctly different?  So I spent several slow hours going through the books and discovered that what many of these authors say disagrees with what I've learned from my 20-ish years of experience using these techniques in my daily life.  Over half of them disagree with basic chemistry principles that anyone who graduates from high school (and most of those who finish elementary school) understand.  

Yes, there is room for another book on this topic, especially one with my style of writing.

Step 2: research

What don't I know?  The answer is always A Lot!  

While I was going through step one, I took notes of the things I liked.  I tried any new recipes I came across (that made sense) and altered them to make them work.  Even the bad books had good bits worth jotting down.

While I was going through step one, I also found many, many, MANY, things that I disagreed with.  So I wrote those down too and wrote what I thought would be a better solution to the problem.  

Then I took the five best books and read them cover to cover while taking more notes.

This took a few hours as I'm a slow reader.  I would say about 60 for step one and two.

Step 3: writing the text
I took my notes and some coloured pencils and wrote pictures next to the different points to show how these random ideas connected together.  I made some headings based on those notes and started a document for what would become each chapter.  I used WordPad because it has no spelling checker and I wanted the experience to be as much like a typewriter as possible; without the shame of the spellchecker's evil red lines.

It took a couple of hours to type the book, but it was pretty easy because I knew what I wanted to say, I just needed to say it in a way that wasn't boring to me and was in my own words.  

Step 4: editing

It took a couple of days with many sanity breaks (both my sanity and that of my spell check program) to spellcheck my documents.  As I did, I copied the proofed text into a single file and in the right order.  I printed this out and went over it with some coloured pens.  Typed in the changes, ran it through the spell check, printed it out again in a different font, repeat.  

This is what my future looks like:

Step 5: editing

Step 6: formatting

Step 7: editing

Step 8: editing

Step 9: editing

step 10: publishing

I expect these last six stages to take the same amount of time the first four did.  Each of these editings is a different approach to editing.  Some involve getting feedback from other humans.  Other techniques involve printing it with different fonts.  One involves reading it page by page - backwards.  If there's one thing I learned from the last book I wrote, the more styles of editing I do, the better the book becomes.  

The easiest part is done.



But did you notice?  

The time spent researching was HUGE!  Even though I know the topic inside and out, I still did the research.  So many ebook writers don't.  From what I can tell, the expected amount of time researching an ebook is 2 hours bouncing around google and 10 hours writing it.


I don't know if this is a successful recipe for making a good ebook.  But maybe.




 
r ranson
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r ranson
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I forgot to add to my list the two most difficult things

1. find a title that works

2. create a summary to sell the book (like would go on the back of a physical book)
 
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The video you posted recommended publishing an ebook in pdf format. If your book contains a lot of images and formatting styles then I totally agree. The problem with pdf is that it is basically impossible to read comfortably on a phone because the font size becomes too small.

I wish ebook publishers provided a phone-friendly format. It will probably never happen though.

I think it depends on your audience. I think Permies people would find a lot of benefit on a pdf ebook that can be read comfortably on a phone.
 
r ranson
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I've got the text done bar some editing.

I'm still confused how to format that text.  Any ideas?
 
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My favorite aspect of ebooks is hyperlinked contents page and footnotes - a hyperlinked index or bibliography is also useful.
 
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Probably you would do same amount of work for an ebook as for a print book.

But using technology, you can include links, videos and extra material from the web site of the book like calculation sheets, charts, dynamic graphs,

I don't like linking a website directly from my ebook though; those links may end up dead-end in time. Instead, I am forwarding the link to a page on my blog and list the relevant material there. This dynamic linking (as long as my website is alive) is better as it gets updated incase of a dead link. You could also generate income with some google ads from your blog.

Linked table of contents is a must and also PDF bookmarks functionality is a good option to move inside the book.

I think an index has no use in ebooks because there is CTRL+F where you can find what ever you are looking for.
bookmarks.jpg
[Thumbnail for bookmarks.jpg]
PDF Bookmarks created from the headings
 
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So with "eBooks" there are three kinds:
1. PDF (PostScript, SVG)
2. fixed eBook (page breaks are defined by the author)
3. reflowing eBook (no page break defined) (basically a website without scripts)

With PDF the author has full control over layout and appearance, but as Raven said, it does not work well on small phone screens (or small laptop screens).
As far as reflowing content is concerned, one gains the ability to display the text content on most screens in a readable way. The downside is (almost complete) loss of control over the layout (text, images).
The fixed layout eBook has no advantages as far as I am concerned. The page size is still fixed so it will not work on smaller screens, but you don't have accurate control over images and text layout either.

I once tried to come up with a program that could produce aesthetically pleasing layouts for any screen size, if fed with enough information about the relations between text and figures.
(Figures have to be placed where they fit best, but not before they are relevant (distracting) and not too much behind either. Try explaining that to a computer…)
I am not aware of any existing solution to this, so to me, reflowing eBooks are not an option if they contain important images or figures.
 
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If you are writing an ebook and you want it to be easy to use and look good on ebook readers (kobo, kindle, etc.) I would not recommend a pdf. A pdf just does not adjust very well for these types of devices and can be fairly clunky on a mobile device.

From everything I have read about formatting an ebook the best software out there is called Vellum. Apparently, it just makes formatting a book super easy and people seem to love it. But it is not cheap ($249.99 for a version that does ebooks and print books and $199.99 for ebooks only) and it only works on Mac computers.

Formatting ebooks these days uses the same "code" as websites - html and css. You can do it yourself but the software makes it much easier.

While Vellum is supposed to be the best there is for this work there are some free options.

It looks like Draft2Digital has a free ebook formatting tool on their website. The page that talks about it can be found here:

https://www.draft2digital.com/steps/

Draft2Digital can also be a good way to distribute your ebook to the big vendors though there are other options.

Another free option for formatting an ebook is called Reedsy which looks interesting though I have not explored it much.

https://reedsy.com/write-a-book

One big issue people are having these days with publishing ebooks is trying to help their customers get the ebook onto their specific device. What is easy for a kindle might be a pain for a kobo reader. A lot of authors that are publishing multiple ebooks are using a service called Bookfunnel which handles all the issues with getting an ebook to the customer in the format the customer needs. Bookfunnel also provides customer support so you don't have to deal with that issue.

Here is the link: https://bookfunnel.com/

My brother has over 20 published books and uses Bookfunnel and loves it. I got a few books from him and went through Bookfunnel and it was easy to get the books onto the kindle app on my phone.

I highly recommend looking into the Alliance for Independent Authors (Alli): https://selfpublishingadvice.org/

They are a fantastic non-profit that really focuses on helping authors who want to self-publish get through all the steps. They are a membership based organization but they give out a ton of free content. I'm not a member but I have been reading their articles and listening to their podcasts and learning a ton. I plan on joining Alli once I'm ready to start writing my first book later this year or next year.

You might also want to check out The CreativePenn. I don't always agree with Joanna Penn (the owner of the site) but she has a lot of great information and is a very successful author of fiction and non-fiction books. Her website has a lot of good information for free and she has a weekly podcast that I have been following. She is also an adviser for Alli. Here is a link to a page on her site about formatting books:

https://www.thecreativepenn.com/formatting/

Hope this all helps and good luck!
 
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You can create E-books in the EPUB format with Calibre, which is free downloadable software for Windows as well as for Linux.  The website: https://calibre-ebook.com/

If you are not afraid of Linux and the Linux command line you can use AsciiDoc. This is also free software and can create both PDF and EPUB E-book formats.

 
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