I ran across some excellent documentation for self-publishers today. David Gaughran has a write-up of his own experiences formatting and selling his self published work earlier in 2011.
He has an ebook for sale that describes the publishing industry and explains why one might choose to self publish. It’s available for sale on Amazon, B&N and the other usual places, but he also offers a free copy on his website in pdf. It’s worth checking out in general, though for the most part it contains information I’ve read on other blogs in the last six months. That’s not a knock on him by any means. There’s a lot of information on the internet about self publishing and he’s done a fine job collecting a bunch of it into one nicely formatted place.
The really interesting thing I found in his book was the pointer to check out Guido Henkel’s articles on eBook formatting. Mr. Henkel walks through the steps needed to go from Word (or the word processor of your choice) to a cleanly formatted HTML document that’s ready to be converted to any other eReader format.
It’s amazing. I write code for a living, so I skimmed the introductory bits and jumped straight to the technical bits, but he does a solid job explaining WHY as well as HOW. If you’re trying to figure out how to get from your Word document to something you’d feel good about uploading to the world at large, this is an excellent read.
The answer is clean HTML. You use the word processor to do some formatting to make your document HTML friendly then you use a proper text editor (I use notepad++ on a daily basis for work) and regular expressions to automate the process. Calibre closes the loop and gets you from HTML to EPUB and MOBI with a cover and table of contents. Henkel says it takes him about 15 minutes to format a full novel now. I imagine it will take me an hour or two to convert Antigen this weekend since I haven’t followed the steps before, but much less to convert the short story I wrote last night once I have a little experience.