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Sunday 26 January 2020

Lessons from my first Direct-to-Print experience

The direct-to-print paperback edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets Exposed: Volume 1 is now up for review, after I finally ironed out the formatting kinks last night and finished fiddling with the cover around 2am. So now that I've had a chance to sleep on it, and re-re-re-review everything before submitting it, I have a few notes for anyone who wants to self-publish a book on Kindle.

1. Apple's Pages is a fantastic tool for a number of reasons, but what it produces by default really isn't great for reflowable epubs or paperback formats, which are both important if you want your work to be accessible, readable and attractive to your readers. It's a good place to start, though, just as Microsoft Word is, because it exports to Word and once you have a Word doc you can then import your work into Amazon's Kindle Creator.

2. I wish I'd begun with Kindle Creator, even though my intention is to publish on other platforms as well. Kindle is not only the easiest platform to get started on - and is probably the most accessible for your audience - but from a formatting perspective is effectively the lowest common denominator: it's tough to use custom fonts for Kindle publications, and I suspect they've made it so intentionally in order to standardize the reading experience.

My advice is to sort out the formatting for the ebook, publish it (see step 5), convert it to EPUB for other platforms, then tweak the formatting (and possibly content) for print publishing.

3. Don't bother adding your ISBN barcodes to the books yourself. Even if you have one issued for your paperback, it's best to use the KDP generated one for the Kindle direct-to-paperback offering and reserve any others for paperbacks where you have to add the code to the cover manually.

4. You can download cover templates here. I didn't realize that and I made my own, which in retrospect was silly.

5. After you've "published" your book, you'll have a KPF file that you can upload to KDP. From Converting KPF to EPUB format:

I recently managed to successfully convert kpf to epub format using jhowell's KFX conversion plugin for Calibre. Just install the plugin and use drag-and-drop to load your kpf file into Calibre. Then convert the kpf file to epub in the normal way using Calibre. Save your new epub to your desktop and then run Epubcheck on it to ensure that it is a valid epub(it always passes).

If you run into any issues with these suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

Monday 20 January 2020

ISBN codes for Dummies

Step 1

Acquire ISBN codes. For South African residents this is a free service (thank you, NLSA!), and all you have to do is request them and assign them (there's really no need to pay anyone any money, simply look up contact details on their website and call or email until you reach someone).

It's important to note that not only does each format (paperback, hardcover, etc) need its own ISBN, but each e-book format (eg. epub, mobi, PDF) does as well!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I've recently been informed that has, in addition to a really cool concept, an excellent free online barcode generator that I've now tried out. It's far less effort than what I originally published, and takes care of both steps 2 and 3 below.
(NOTE: use the full ISBN including the check digit, see below for a detailed explanation).

Step 2

Generate the actual barcode using the ISBN 13 section of this free online generator. As explained here:
Before making an ISBN barcode, the user must first apply for an ISBN number. This number should be 10 or 13 digits, for example 0-9767736-6-X or 978-0-9767736-6-5. Once the ISBN number is obtained, it should be displayed above the barcode on the book. All books published after January 1, 2007 must display the number in the new 13-digit format, which is referred to as ISBN-13. Older 10 digit numbers may be converted to 13 digits with the free ISBN conversion tool.

The last digit of the ISBN number is always a MOD 11 checksum character, represented as numbers 0 through 10. When the check character is equal to 10, the Roman numeral X is used to keep the same amount of digits in the number. Therefore, the ISBN of 0-9767736-6-X is actually 0-9767736-6 with a check digit of 10. The ISBN check digit is never encoded in the barcode.
Simply remove the hyphens (dashes) and the check digit from your ISBN, paste it into the text box and hit "refresh". I recommend changing the image settings to PNG format with 300 DPI. You can also change the colors if you wish.

Step 3

You now have ISBNs and their barcodes, but for a professional look you'll want to right barcode title in the right font. That's as simple as adding ISBN 0-9767736-6-X above the barcode image. The free generator uses the Arial font, but the more traditional font is monospace.