Write E-books for Publicity and Even Profit: Part 3 — Producing Your E-book
Once you’ve written your e-book manuscript, you need to get it into shape for release. While there are e-book creation programs out there that will turn your e-book into a self-contained executable program, I advise against this. First of all, they rarely look all that good, and they force your reader to use a software interface they may not be familiar with. More importantly, executable files can contain viruses, and are often blocked by email programs, corporate networks, and even the operating system itself. No point in giving your readers a security scare when they’re about to read your book.
Instead, I suggest saving your file as a plain-jane pdf file. While you could use professional layout software like Adobe’s InDesign and Acrobat to produce your final text, these programs cost hundreds of dollars and are difficult to learn. Instead, I recommend using your word processor of choice and a free pdf creator(I recommend PDF Forge’s PDF Creator; some word processors, like Word 2007 (using the “Save as pdf” addon) and OpenOffice.org can save pdfs themselves.
You’ll need to set up your pages with the end result in mind. Wide text columns can be harder to read, especially on screen, so set your page sizes to something more book-like. I set my pages at 6″ wide by 9″ tall, with a 1-inch margin all around. This allows me to easily use the files with print-on-demand publishers like Lulu, and allows my readers who’d like to print the e-book to print 2 pages per side in landscape mode without hurting the layout — saving paper and retaining readability.
You’ll probably also want to put page numbers, chapter headings, the title, and your name into the headers and footers. Since this is a full book and not just a manuscript, you’ll need a title page, copyright announcement, and table of contents at the front. If you have any graphic design skills, you could also add a nice cover, though that’s not essential — your e-book will never be sitting on anyone’s shelf in need of a cover to attract attention. You can also sprinkle graphic elements throughout your text to give it a professional look and make it nicer to read.
When your text looks the way you want it, do yourself, me, and the world a favor and proofread it. Remember, you don’t have an editor — this is a one-person show you’re putting on. It’s a good idea to have a few people read it and give you their opinion, and take their feedback seriously.
Finally, save the file as a PDF. If you have the option, add thumbnails so your reader can easily select specific pages. Make sure you say “yes” if you’re asked to embed fonts, to be certain your e-book looks the same way on your reader’s screen as it does on yours. You can choose to password-protect your file, but I think that only adds complexity for the reader without adding any real security to protect your content. Accept that some copies will get copied and sent to people who didn’t pay you; learn to find satisfaction in the fact that people are reading your stuff.