So first a description how we are doing it at the moment, but remember as technology and software changes, so will our method. Of course the first thing we looked for were ways of automatically feeding in, let’s say a Word file, at one end and getting an eBook out of the other end. We looked at various software that would do this, but we were never really satisfied with what they produced so we build them by hand basically. I know we could be accused of being a bit obsessive, but it seemed a shame not have the best available book at the end of the process.
Now our first aim is to produce a good Epub version of the book. This is the format used by the likes Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble. Once we have that it’s easy to produce the Mobi file that is used by Amazon. The Epub format is an open source specification and internally the Epub file text looks like the HTML which is used to build websites. For the more technically inclined it’s a subset of HTML and CSS in a package listed in an XML file. It’s like looking inside a zip file containing multiple other files.
So first we take the manuscript file* and turn the text with its formatting, like italics and so on, into an HTML file. We then import that HTML file into Sigal which is an Epub editor and set up the chapter breaks, table of contents, cover and so on. This is where we hand-build the file. We can check the output with an Epub validator. Once we are happy with the Epub we feed it into the Calibre eBook management software to fine tune the Epub file and then make a Mobi edition of the book. Of course our method is slower and more work intensive than some other methods, but we can be proud of what we produce.
So why would we do this for free? Well we get to sell the finished book. All we ask is to sell the book on our site and the major retail sites for one year taking a 30% commission on sales. After that period the author is free to remove the eBook from us, although so far most have decided to continue allowing us to handle book sales. At no time does the author lose the copyright of the book.
The free formatting is for books that are either all text apart from the cover, or have very few pictures in them. For books that are graphic heavy we will quote for any cost associated with the layout and formatting of the eBook.
* Note: if you do not have a digital version of your manuscript and need to generate one from a typed or printed version we can organize a reasonably priced scan along with OCR (optical character recognition.) We will quote for this service based on the number of words and the physical quality of manuscript.