Recently I had the pleasure to work on a project with author, biographer Garry M. Graves of Character Happens!
Our goal was to format and render his book, Bloody Omaha, to the Kindle eBook format. The major challenge was the rendering of 39 pictures and illustrations.I would like to share our trials and adventures. This outline should help authors that are thinking about converting their own books to a digital format.
Garry M. Graves, Character Happens!
This is a concept that should be embraced by all eBook authors. It’s simple. It’s easy to implement. It involves in-book links to important information, pictures or definitions. The ebook should be much more than just a copy of the paper book. The ereader device allows us to add value to the ebook and you should take the opportunity to set your work apart from a traditional book.
Author comment: “What’s nice about the [rendering] process…is the results. A writer can get an ‘enhanced’ or ‘rendered’ ebook. An ebook packed with features making their product more saleable, more desirable, and more pleasurable for the reader.”
First, Garry wrote a story about James Robert Copeland, an American hero, and his experience leading his men on D-Day in 1944 on Omaha Beach.
“It was a horrific day — but Ranger Copeland had a mission.” The inclusion of graphic pictures of that day speaks volumes more than the written words could ever do.
The ebook, Bloody Omaha, is a rendered ebook and can be found at the Amazon Kindle store.
The Bloody Project startup
We started the project on 1/11/2011. Garry lives in Michigan and I am in Illinois so all the communications was handed via email. The separate locations didn’t seem to present a problem.
The first decision we had to make was which conversion option we should use. We could:
- Scan the book to a PDF file. This was our first option because of the many pictures and illustrations included in the book.
- Scan the book using OCR technology. This option was never considered because text and graphics usually don’t scan successfully.
- Use the book source file and reformat it. We choice this option because we had the original Word document file.
The Bloody Omaha Source Document
Garry emailed me the source document and we started the project. The book is probable a typical package that most authors would be faced with after they had published the original book on paper. Here is a list of the properties of the Bloody Omaha source document:
- It was a two sided word document formatted for POD.
- The text was center justified.
- It included headers and page numbers throughout.
- There were 39 pictures, mostly black and white. Because of the way the book was created, Word had wrapped the pictures with text.
- No cover was attached. Not unexpected. This is usually handled separately in the printing process along with the back cover.
- There were no Internet links in the source document. Of course, inserted links are not needed in the paper version.
- The table of content was not linked to the chapters. Also, the TOC included page numbers as references which is not needed in an ebook.
- The picture index referenced page numbers.
The Bloody Conversation details
We controlled the conversion process by emailing drafts back and forth (four drafts in all).
- Convert to one page text. First task was to copy and paste the original document into a one-page Word document with the format already defined, eliminating the two page design.
- Omit headers, footers and page numbers. The next task was to delete the headers, footers and page numbers. Headers and footers are not used in ebooks. Ereaders establish their own page numbering scheme based upon the user’s selection of the font size.
- Redo TOC – no page numbers. The table of content had to be reworked, omitting the page number references.
- Adjust text to a simple format. The text in the book had to be adjusted to the simplest form using chapter headings and subtitles as a Header 1 format and the main text as a Normal setting. Later on in the blog I will list links to three formatting reference guides for the most popular formats to help you. Special fonts don’t work well in an ebook if at all. Most readers will change your font to a standard ereader font. To get the special affect, you must create a graphic with the your special stuff included.
- Left justify text with indent. The normal paragraph was set to .3 indent which gave us a good visual result on the Kindle.
- Omit tabs at the start of paragraph. Near the end of the review process we found several tabs at the start of paragraphs. These were omitted. The indent in the previous step replaces the need for tabs. This will insure a clean indent space in your content. A tab is ignored by the ereader and an indent of one space is the results. This is not very appealing to the reader.
- Linked table of content to chapters. Next the TOC was linked by adding bookmarks to chapters and linking back to the TOC. This allows the reader to jump directly to a chapter heading.
- Add Internet links in Bio page back to the author’s website and blog page. Books usually may include written links to the Internet but the actual links must but inserted manually in the ebook.
Most of these processing steps will be required if you don’t plan ahead when you’re writing your book. Although the process may seem overwhelming to the new author, a little planning will help when you’re ready for your digital book.
The Bloody pictures and illustrations
How the real fun began. We needed to render the ebook with links and pictures.
- 1. Save pictures as individual files
First the pictures were stripped from the source document to eliminate the wrapped text problem. The creation of the ebook will fail if there are pictures with wrapped text.
- 2. Reinsert pictures
Next step was to reinsert the pictures back into the document using the insert picture process. This process worked just fine. We were able to maintain the quality of the original pictures.
- 3. Redo picture index
Because the picture index was setup for a printed book, the index was modified to omit the page numbers references. Actually we wanted to establish a link between the picture titles and their references in the index so the page numbers were changed to reference numbers and bookmarks and links were added.
The index was a one page entry in the back of the paper book. This presented a problem for readers who wanted to find the specific reference for an individual picture.
Page breaks were placed between references and the statement ‘Depress the BACK button to return to the ebook’ was added after each reference. This solved the problem.
How the reader could click on title under a picture and page directly to the picture’s reference. Then they could click the Back button and return to the story.
- 4. Picture formats
We converted all the pictures to a jpg format. Some pictures were in a png format which produced some funny results when we got to the creation stage.
- 5. Adjust picture files to page properly on Kindle 2
Some of the pictures were too large for the Kindle screen, so the images were scaled back to a smaller size. If you include a large image sometimes it creates a blank screen before the picture. Not good.
- A picture with image overlay
One of the pictures, which worked fine in the paper version, had an arrow overlaid on top of the base picture. When the ebook was created, Kindle displayed the arrow as its own image directly above the base picture. We had two choices. Doctor the original photo by inserting the arrow or omit the arrow and use the description to point out the person. We chose the latter and deleted the arrow.
Now the Bloody Book Cover
With that all done we were ready to deal with the cover. We started with the cover image that was used in the paper version. When the image was inserted into the Word document it was too small for an ebook cover. (The standard kindle cover image is a 600 x 800 pixel image.) When the image was stretch to fit the screen it became unreadable. Solution: reconstruct the original cover in the right size. Although the Kindle is currently in black and white, color is on its way. Our cover was in full color and displayed properly on the Kindle.
One of the unexpected things was the cover rendered differently between the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3. The Kindle 3 presented a blank page before the actual cover. We reduced the size of the cover slightly and all was fine. We don’t want the reader to have to page through a blank screen.
We had four drafts in all. After the first two drafts, each new version was uploaded (USB) to a Kindle 2 for review. This is an important step. You must review your work on an actual device for the best results.
One of the things that helped the speed of the conversion process was the ability to make a change and be able to review it immediately in a Kindle format. With the combination of Kindle for PC, Kindlegen from Amazon and a home grown software program, an ebook change in a mobi format could be reviewed with two clicks of a mouse.
Authors comment: “Writers must have an appreciation for the process…and plan for revisions they weren’t planning for.”
This project took 7 days, part-time. I estimate I spent about 12 hours myself. Garry took about 6 hours, reviewing the changes and giving me guidance. The book was 106 pages printed and contained 39 pictures.
Links to format guidlines
Amazon Guidelines – Kindle
Barnes and Noble Publisher and Author Guidelines – Nook
Smashwords Style Guide- variety of formats
Topic reference blogs
The post discusses the problems that authors have with pictures and illustrations in ebooks.
from The Book Designer by Joel Friedlander
Also Joel is putting together a list of people and companies that do ebook conversions. That can be found at: http://www.ebookconversiondirectory.com/
To read more about rendering take a look at my blog: eBook Authors: Render you Ebooks
It also can be viewed at Self-Publishing Review.
I hope this will give you some idea of the tasks ahead of you if your choice to do the conversion yourself. Of course, all of this is after you have edited, proofread, corrected the grammar and fixed the typos.
Authors comment: “The writer needs to know how much time, with buffers and contingencies [and set] with an approximate schedule when he can expect a final product.”
Remember getting help is not a bad thing but the author should control the process. The author’s task during the conversion process is to listen to suggestions and make the decision.
I know I like to write the most but I like helping others also.
Feel free to email me with any questions you have? If I don’t know the answer or there is someone more qualified, I will supply you with a good source.