From word processor to HTML— Creating your own ebook file

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In a previous blog, I briefly discussed taking your book from a word processor file to an html file and then to a format suitable for upload,  publication, and distribution as an e-book.

Now that I have ten books in print and also releases of them in ebook formats, including the Kindle version and the .epub versions, I have some comments about the process for my readers which may give more insight into doing the work yourself. You should know that I am not a professional programmer or web developer, and likely just like you, a struggling writer trying to get my books out to be read. In my case, I also created the covers and this web site you are now visiting.

I currently use Apple products after many years of using MS Windows.  Although I am a fan of Apple, I have issues with their primary word processor, Pages, which is easy to use but has created endless problems for me when I try to use my finished copy and produce a .pdf file for submission to Ingram Spark for printing and distribution.  Pages simply isn’t up to the task.  I have resorted to using a Mac version of MS Word for the final product, and yes, there are problems with that also,  but Word is capable of producing a fine finished product, given some caveats.

First all, NEVER use tabs when creating your book. Always use Styles for formatting and the reason will be shortly clear. Same with spaces.  Both extra spaces and all tabs will have to be eliminated before you can create proper html code.  Speaking of HTML, you should know that a typical  book uses very little sophisticated html programming code, and once you get the hang of it, you might find that you like it better than using  word processors with all their complex settings.

About an ellipsis in your work: That’s the little row of three dots … These are not simply three periods, though that’s how you create the ellipsis when typing.  An ellipsis is a unique character in the world of computer character sets, not three periods.  Your word processor (hopefully) will take your three periods and convert them to a single ellipsis character. The reason I’m discussing this is to outline a problem with Word and other processors such as Pages.  Copying your text from Pages and inserting it into Word does not convert your three periods to a proper ellipsis.  Only typing the three  periods in Word produces the ellipsis. Searching in Word won’t find what you thought was a proper ellipsis.  Be warned.  The reason I bring this up is because of how your sentences are handled during formatting and your particular wishes of how to display your ellipsis.  Correct form of using the ellipsis is controversial and you may choose to use a leading or following space, both or even none. All more difficult to  do if your word processor isn’t seeing an ellipsis  as a single character.

Assuming you took my advice and used Word to produce your final version of your book, you now want to convert your document to an .html file. I will give you some examples of how I do it. There are more steps after conversion but more on that later. A word of advice regarding Word. There is a feature that ‘automatically’ coverts your document to an .html file. Save yourself the agony because it won’t work and will be large and overly complex.  There are also sites on the web which offer to convert your finished pdf file to a .html or even a .epub or Kindle format.  Perhaps. But they won’t do as good a job as you can and their output will never be as beautiful as your hand finished work where you have control over the smallest detail.


 

Below is a small sample from my book Elapid.  I can’t display the fonts and style I actually used in the book on this web page, so you can either go look at the original or try to have some imagination.  My book was created using styles for the chapter numbers, the chapter titles and the location, as well as formatting for the first and following paragraphs. While still in Word, you should prepare your work as follows:

Eliminate your fancy dropped cap or graphic for the first letter in the chapter.

Remove any graphics, and as mentioned, all tabs and extra spaces.

Change your style settings to remove any use of italics, but don’t remove the italics used in the body of the text of your book.

Don’t forget to save your file using another name unless you want to lose your valuable original!


Original Example

Prologue

Western Iranian Desert

The rising sun sent a shaft of piercing yellow light across the arid world of the desert, impacting the pale sand, instantly raising its temperature, unofficially marking the start of another hot day in western Iran. The snake understood, by experience and by genetics, that a sheltered place, hidden in shadow, would be necessary to survive another day, and


Using the Advanced Search tool (Find and Replace) in Word, select the Format button and search for Font…Italics.

Then use the following expression in the Replace With area:

<i>^&</i>

This will outline your italicized text for proper display using HTML.


 

Now we are going to do the same with all our style settings so that our style sheets in HTML can do the same thing your word processor was doing.

My Word style for my chapter titles was named  chapter_title and I search for all occurrences by selecting that style in the Find and Replace tool.  Then replace with the following:

<p class = “chapter_title”>^&</p>


 

Do the same for your chapter number style and your location style (if any).  Your document will start to look like this:


 

Second Example:

<p class = “chapter_number”>Chapter 1
</p><p class = “chapter_title”>
Target
<p class = “location”></p>Sunrise Beach County Park…Tacoma
1900 Hours
</p>
The last remaining rays of the sun were being consumed by the trees on Vashon Island, across the narrow channel of fast moving water, and evening was extending its big hand across the little park, the light fading by the minute. The deep sound of a motorcycle moving slowly wafted in little bites,


Not very pretty, is it?  And you may have noticed that the  formatting extends across lines.  We’ll fix that using the text editor, not to worry.

You are done with the word processor.  Select the entire document and copy it into memory.  Using a text editor (I use TextMate), paste your book into a new document.  Now the fun starts.

 

Look for another blog on what to do next!

 

Alexander Francis

 

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