Coding for ebooks

Blog Post No. 418

giphy-2One thing to get out of the way right off the bat. I am not a coder and my meager accomplishment would likely insult the sensibilities of a real coder at a single glance. With that in mind and the overwhelming amount of help I’ve gotten from Arvin (my bad code is in no way representative of the help he provided but is an example of my own shortcomings) I am on the cusp of finally having the epub version of The Thinking Machine finished. There is still the Kindle version to do, but I hope that it’s as easy as the tutorials make it seem and I can just press a couple of extra buttons in the program I’m using and it will be spat out the other side.

I know, it’s not going to be that easy and something else is going to go wrong. I’ve tried really hard to not pester Arvin. He already spent several evenings helping me last year only for me to hit a wall and (for the third or fourth time) put the whole thing off while I write something new. One thing I have learned is to do as much as I can on my own, look things up online, try things out, and only ask for help once I’ve exhausted my other resources. I hope that goes a little way towards showing that I respect my friends’ time and their expertise and that I don’t expect them to just do all my work for me.

giphy-3But Ben, I hear you say. Why not just use one of the hundred methods to auto generate an ebook from your word document or layout? It’s so easy to use this website’s step by step process or that program’s export function. To that I have a simple but ultimately unsatisfying answer. Quality control. Again, I’m not a coder and my first attempt at using a program to brute force an ebook was horrible enough on the coding end to make Arvin weep. Having clean code isn’t a priority for me, but it really does make things easier and when I go to do the next book, future Ben will be thankful I took the time.

The main issue with using those auto-generators is that what they spit out is flawed and limited. Some of them can’t even get indents right. (I’ll say it again; the first line of the first paragraph of a chapter isn’t indented, the first line of every other paragraph is). Also, I spent a lot of time finding a title font that works with the book and is royalty free. I want to use it in my book. Also, also, most of the ones I tried don’t let you use your own copyright pages, etc, without finding a workaround that ends up having to be fixed in another program anyway.

giphy-4Having spent several weeks (over several years) working on the ebooks, I’ve discovered that coding isn’t that hard but there are complexities. There are multiple ways to do things and some ways are better than others and it gets confusing and it’s so easy to miss a bracket or have a tiny typo and nothing works and you pull your hair out trying to find your mistake.

It really is a whole other language. Hopefully I’ve done a decent enough job that I can use this book as a template for the next ones. (Like I’ve done with the layouts). Not only will that save me a lot of trouble and time, but it should allow me to get them out in a relatively short amount of time. They really are well overdue. For now, I got myself as close to the goal as I can. I just have some troubles with images that Arvin has agreed to help me with and I should be just about done (I say knowing more problems will arise).
I’ll keep working on it (and the other books) while Christian keeps editing the new novella for me. If I’m lucky, I should have the ebooks out before it’s released, but I don’t have any specific schedule. The best I can say is soon(ish).

2 thoughts on “Coding for ebooks

  1. Author Edmond Gagnon

    Hey Ben, I know nothing about coding, except for what it is, but after switching all my print and E titles from Booklocker to Ingram, even with my limited software skills, I managed to upload both formats of my latest book, Moon Mask.
    I stumbled during the uploading process when transferring all the data files, but for my latest I used their Book Builder software to upload the print and cover files without issue. From there, they automatically format the E Book.
    Addressing some of the issues you mention…I was able to get my copyright and colored brand logo printed inside the front cover. I’ve also checked inside the book using Amazon and the format seems fine. Although I’ve never read an E book, I’ve never had anyone complain about the format or layout.

    1. Thanks, Ed. I’ve tried a good dozen automated formatting programs and services and so far, none of them has been up to the task. I know I’m a stickler, but I want to make sure it’s done right.
      Congrats on the new book!

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