This concept for us is still a work in progress. We are slowly working our way to how we want to be able to convert all of our manuscripts to digital format but aren’t completely happy with the results. I know that all of the big publishers use InDesign. However, since we are a small publisher working on a shoe string budget, we can’t afford this system yet. Working on it, but not there at this time. Therefore it has been a real learning experience with using different programs.
First we started out asking other authors and other small publishers what they use. Between that they told us and my research online in the very confusing world of the internet, we came up with several things that need to happen before you end up with a digital file in both e-pub and mobi (azw). E-pub is the standard that most e-readers use, these include Sony, Nook, Kobi and many others. Mobi (azw) is what the Kindle uses. If you are going to publish in digital format you have to be able to convert to both. Also you should produce a PDF for those that can’t use either of these two formats (not many).
For e-pub it is fairly easy to find a converter for free. I’ve haven’t been excessively happy with any of them so far. One of the drawbacks seems to be file size. I have one I really like but it won’t convert a full manuscript at one time. I have to do it in pieces. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Everything I read says, and what I’ve learned from experience, is that you have to have a clean html to make the best conversion. Apparently Word docs have a lot of extra formatting (I’m not a geek here, so sorry that I’m not using technical terms) that is unnecessary and hard to convert to digital. So first take your Word doc and clean it up. I found a really good html cleaner for free. http://word2cleanhtml.com/ Again, it does have a size limitation.
After you have a clean file, then you need to add back the paragraph indents and chapter breaks, scene breaks, etc. One site recommended Open Office. http://www.openoffice.org The program is pretty intuitive to use (I figured it out and I’m not a spring chicken who was raised with computers!). Several people and sites recommend using Sigil a WYSIWYG e-book editor to do the same. http://code.google.com/p/sigil/ I’m still learning about this program, so I’ll let you know how it does. Right now I’m using Open Office.
Next you have to convert it to the intended format you want. There are several programs that I’ve tried and the work to varying degrees. I usually use this PDF converter. http://www.freepdfconvert.com As for e-pub programs, there is any number of e-pub converts for free on the internet. I’ve used http://www.2epub.com
As for mobi (azw files) I’ve found two. The first is MobiPocketCreator. Just Google it. It’s a free download and again is easy to use. The mobi files work well on my Kindle. The other is Calibre. Again another free download. This is a whole e-book management system. One of its components is that it converts a Word doc to mobi and e-pub. I’ve not been as happy with the e-pub conversion but I don’t have a lot of experience in e-pub because I own a Kindle. The mobi files work fine on my Kindle. And again this program is fairly easy to use.
If you are transferring directly to any e-reader device, these programs all work great. However, the big stumbling block is that when you upload your manuscript to Amazon via Creatspace, it doesn’t like the mobi file. It likes a Word doc better. Go figure. So if you’re selling directly off your website, any of these will work. If you are going with Createspace or other middle man, Word doc seems to be the best so far.
One drawback to InDesign… Smashwords ( http://www.smashwords.com ) doesn’t take InDesign files well. Again, it prefers Word docs. Again, go figure. Well, as I learn more I’ll post it to the blog. Stay tuned.