Five Essential Tools for Creating eBooks

Listen up, authors and publishers. eReaders aren’t going away. If your books aren’t in eBook format, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And as your readers have less and less disposable income, being able to pass on the savings of not printing, distributing and shipping your novel is HUGE. But, eBooks come fraught with their own perils, pitfalls and advantages – ones that self-published authors and small presses on small budgets need to deal with. Creating an eBook isn’t as simple as shipping off your manuscript and having it magically appear on iPads and Kindles everywhere. If your book isn’t designed, formatted and produced well – stores won’t even carry it. If your cover isn’t appealing, people won’t open it. And if the inside is messy and hard to read, people will trash it.

So where do you start? Luckily, there are a plethora of tools at your disposal to help you create a slick looking eBook. These are five of my favorites, and ones that I find myself turning to over and over again while I’m making eBooks for Midwestern Gothic.
Lynda is a massive website with literally thousands of training videos. If you’re serious about learning how to make a professional eBook, and are willing to set aside ten or more hours learning the ins and outs, it’s well worth the $25 monthly subscription. Whether you’re using Word, InDesign or some other tool to create your eBook, or if you need help deciding which tool to use, start here. I find myself referring back to this material often – it’s amazingly deep and covers everything you can think of.

If you’ve worked with HTML or CSS you’ll realize an eBook is a lot like a website once you start playing around with the guts of an ePub (that’s the universal eBook format). It’s made up of many files stitched together to form one cohesive user experience. There are a few tools out there that will unpack the ePub, and you could even do it by just unzipping the file itself and using an HTML editor. But I like Sigil, an ePub-focused tool that is a cinch to use and has all the deep, control intensive features you need.

Three Press
The online stores won’t take just any old ePub. It has to pass a series of quality checks that are universally accepted – think of it like emissions testing for autos. If your book doesn’t pass, it won’t even leave your garage. Instead of banging your head against the wall by getting your file rejected over and over by sellers, use Three Press’s validation tool. It’ll tell you if you pass or fail, and (more importantly) tell you why you failed.

ePub to .mobi
The kindle has created its own format (.mobi) for displaying eBooks on the Kindle, which makes the whole “ePub is the unversal format” argument a little problematic. Thankfully, this site will let you upload your ePub and convert it to a .mobi file, or vice versa.

EPUB Reader Firefox Extension
This is by far the simplest way I’ve found to test how my ePub looks and behaves. For more fine-tuning, you’ll definitely want to download the Kindle and iPad emulators out there to see how your ePub will look. But while you’re in the midst of working on it and you just want to see how a tiny change you just made looks, it’s as simple as dragging the file into your Firefox browser and seeing how it all shakes out.

Napkin Haiku Review – A Thirty-Something Girl, L.M. Stull

I usually don’t dip into the literary romance genre, but L.M. Stull’s book was a pleasant surprise and has inspired me to check out a few more titles like hers. It has lots of heart and just the right amount of sugar – the perfect book for burrowing into a warm corner of your house and reading it cover to cover. Even though the main character, Hope, has seen more than her fair share of hard times, the book focuses on the upswing and her struggles to get back to happy. I don’t recommend many books to my wife, but I’ll definitely give her A Thirty-Something Girl.

A Thirty-Something Girl

Broken, on her knees
Surges up, down, back up again
Settles bittersweet

Get A Thirty-Something Girl

Midwestern Gothic Turns Four

Around this time last year, Robert James Rusell and I started talking about starting a literary journal focused on the Midwest. Neither one of us were quite sure how it’d turn out, whether or not we’d even get people to submit, or if we’d even manage to convince someone to read an issue.

Fast-forward to a year later, and I think the journal has exceeded both our expectations. Every time we open submissions, I’m constantly surprised not just by the quantity of stories and poetry we get, but the quality. Every issue we have to make the tough decision of where to draw the line in the sand, and every time we leave excellent works on the cutting room floor.

The Winter 2012 (#4) Issue is our biggest, and I won’t risk the old cliché of trying to claim it’s our best. But now that we’ve got a full year under our belt, I think we have found something that only a handful of other literary journals have – an identity. Each story, character and setting feels uniquely Midwestern, yet still resonates outside the region.

Midwestern Gothic Stats:
4 Issues
121 Contributors
253,279 Words
84 Stories
42 Poems
413 Tweets

I can’t share all the details, but the next year has plenty to be excited about. I can’t say what exactly just yet – you’ll just have to take my word for it.

In the meantime, head over to the site, browse the photography, meet a few of our contributors and maybe pick up an issue or two.

Midwestern Gothic