Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Bloody eBook Conversion Project

Recently I had the pleasure to work on a project with biographer Garry M. Graves of Character Happens!

Our goal was to format and render his book, Bloody Omaha, to the Kindle eBook format. The major challenge was the book had 39 pictures and illustrations.

I would like to share our trials and adventures. This outline should help authors that are thinking about converting their own books to a digital format.

Bloody Omaha

Garry writes a story of James Robert Copeland, an American hero, and his experience leading his men on D-Day in 1944 on Omaha Beach.

“It was a horrific day — but Ranger Copeland had a mission.” The inclusion of graphic pictures of that day speaks volumes more than the written words could ever do.

The ebook, Bloody Omaha, is a rendered ebook and can be found at Amazon Kindle store.

The Bloody Project startup
We started the project on 1/11/2011. Garry lives in Michigan and I am in Illinois so all the communications was handed via email. The separate locations didn’t seem to present a problem.

The first decision we had to make was which conversation option we should use. We could:

1.Scan the book to a PDF file.
This was our first option because of the many pictures and illustrations included in the book.

2.Scan the book using OCR technology.
This option was never considered because text and graphics usually don’t scan successfully.

3.Use the book source file and reformat it.
We choice this option because we had the original Word document file.

The Bloody Omaha Source Document
Garry emailed me the source document and we started the project. The book is probable a typical package that most authors would be faced with after they had published the original book on paper.

Here is a list of the properties of the Bloody Omaha source document:
1. It was a two sided Word document formatted for POD.
2. The text was center justified.
3. It included headers and page number throughout.
4. There were 39 pictures, mostly black and white. Because the way the book was created, Word had wrapped the pictures with text.
5. No cover was attached.
This is usually handled separately in the printing process along with the back cover.
6. There were no internet links in the documents. Inserted links not needed in the paper version.
7. The table of content was not linked to the chapters. The TOC included page numbers as references which is not needed in an ebook.
8. The picture index referenced page numbers.

The Bloody Conversion details
We controlled the conversion process by emailing drafts back and forth (four drafts in all).

1. Convert to one page text
First task was to copy and paste the original document into a one-page Word document with the format already defined, eliminating the two page design.

2. Omit headers, footers and page numbers
The next task was to delete the headers, footers and page numbers. Headers and footers are not used in ebooks. Ereaders establish their own page numbering scheme based upon the user’s selection of the font size.

3. Redo TOC – no page numbers
The table of content had to be reworked, omitting the page number references.

4. Adjust text to a simple format
The text in the book had to adjust to the simplest form using chapter headings and subtitles as a Header 1 format and the main text as a Normal setting. Later on in the blog I will list links to three formatting reference guides for the most popular formats to help you.

5. Left justify text with indent
The normal paragraph was set to .3 indent which gave a good visual result on a Kindle.

6. Omit tabs at the start of paragraph
Near the end of the process during review several tabs at the start of paragraphs were omitted. The indent in the previous step replaces the need for tabs.

7. Linked table of content to chapters
Next the TOC was linked by adding bookmarks to chapters and linking back to the TOC

8. Add Internet links in bio page to the author’s website
Books usually may include a written links to the Internet but the actually links must be inserted manually.

Most of these processing steps will be required if you don’t plan ahead when you’re writing your book. Although the process may seem overwhelming to the new author, a little planning will help when you’re ready for your digital book.

The Bloody pictures and illustrations
How the real fun began. We needed to render the ebook with links and pictures.

1. Save pictures as individual files
First the pictures were stripped from the source document to eliminate the wrapped text problem.

2. Reinsert pictures
Next step was to reinsert the pictures back into the document using the insert picture process. This process worked just fine.

3. Redo picture index
Because the picture index was setup for a printed book, the index was modified to omit the page numbers references.

Actually we wanted to establish a link between the picture titles and their references in the index. The page numbers were changed to reference numbers and bookmarks and links were added. The index was a one page entry in the back of the book. This presented a problem for readers who wanted to find the specific reference for an individual picture.

Page breaks were placed between references and included the statement ‘Depress the BACK button to return to the ebook’ was added after each reference. This solved the problem.

4. Picture formats
We converted all the pictures to a jpg format. Some pictures were in a png format which produced some funny results when we got to the creation stage.

5. Adjust picture files to page properly on Kindle 2
Some of the pictures were too large for the Kindle screen, so the images were scaled back to a smaller size. If you include a large image sometimes it creates a blank screen before the picture that the reader has to skip through. Not good.

6. A picture with image overlay
One of the pictures which worked fine in the paper version had an arrow overlaid on top of the base picture. When the ebook was created, Kindle displayed the arrow as its own image directly above the base picture. We had two choices. Doctor the original photo by inserting the arrow or omit the arrow and use the description to point out the person. We chose the latter and deleted the arrow.

Now the Bloody Book Cover
With that all done we were ready to deal with the cover. We started with the cover image that was used in the paper process. When the image was inserted into the Word document it was too small for an ebook cover. (The standard Kindle cover image is a 600 x 800 image.) When the image was stretched to fit the screen it became unreadable. Solution: reconstruct the original cover in the right size. Although the Kindle is currently in black and white, color is on its way. Our cover was in full color and displayed properly on the Kindle.

One of the unexpected things was the cover rendered differently between the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3. The Kindle 3 presented a blank page before the actual cover. We reduced the size of the cover slightly and all was fine.

Review Process
We had four drafts in all. After the first two drafts, each new version was uploaded (USB) to a Kindle for review. This is an important step. You must review your work on an actual device.

One of the things that helped the speed of the conversion process was the ability to make a change and be able to review it immediately in a Kindle format. With the combination of Kindle for PC, Kindlegen from Amazon and a home grown software program, an ebook change in a mobi format could be review with two clicks of a mouse.

This project took 7 days, part-time. I estimate about 12 hours for myself. Garry took about 6 hours. The book was 106 pages printed and contained 39 pictures.

Reference Material
Links to format guidelines
Amazon guidelines - Kindle
Barnes and Noble Publisher and Author Guidelines - Nook
Smashwords Style Guide- variety of formats

Topic reference blogs
Illustrations and Text in Ebooks by Bob Spear (December 7, 2010)
The post discusses the problems that authors have with pictures and illustrations in ebooks.

Top 10 Tips for Working With A Book Designer from The Book Designer posted by Joel Friedlander
Also Joel is putting together a list of people and companies that do ebook conversions.

To read more about rendering take a look at my blog: eBook Authors: Render you Ebooks
It also can be viewed at Self-Publishing Review.

I hope this will give you some idea of the tasks ahead of you if your choice to do the conversion yourself. Of course, all of this is after you have edited, proofread, corrected the grammar and fixed the typos.

Remember getting help is not a bad thing. I know I like to write the most but I like helping others also.

Feel free to email me with any questions you have at
or you can visit my website for the latest for eBook Authors.

If I don’t know the answer or there is someone more qualified, I will supply you with the information.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Publishing: A Tale of Two Authors

In the last month or so I started researching the controversy over the sale of the eBook A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Amazon pulling a copy with a price from its store and substituting their own free copy. I was curious about the rendering of the replaced book and whether the author had actually added value to the eBook.

I was struck by the parallel of the Dickens novel and the struggle between the French peasants and the aristocrats and the current book industry. Dickens initial paragraph reads like he is writing a blog on the current book industry and the struggle between the traditional author/publisher and the eBook author/self-publisher.

His quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. . . .”
That says it all.


Like all my fellow bloggers, this one is easy. Content is king. Editing, proofreading and spellchecking are common ground for both situations. We start to see the difference with book covers. The paper book’s full color covers with their professional artwork are designed to attract the reader and create an impulse buy.

The eBook thumbnail is more of a readability challenge than a sales tool. Of course, full color separates the two author/publishers now but eBook color will be the standard soon.

Publishing Process

This is where the two authors start conflicting dramatically. The traditional author usually has an agent and submits a multitude of book proposals to various publishers. After, sometimes many rejections, the author gets a publisher to sign on to his book. The publisher then takes control of the project and they become the aristocrat in this scenario. They take control of the author and the process.

In contrast, the eBook author, the self-pub author if you will, has no proposal to shop just the eBook to publish. The indie author controls the process including the price.


The paper version starts through the typesetting and printing process. After many months, usually at least 12 months, the book is ready for market. Then the publisher can start to create a digital version. If they are smart they don’t have to go through the scan and OCR drill by using the digital source supplied by the author. Creating a backlist eBook from paper is an entirely different story. The editing of the new OCR product must be completely redone.

The eBook author produces his book, along with the appropriate formatting, to go directly to an eBook platform, including rendering and enhancing. The production costs are much less thus the profit is greater.

Selling the Book

Here is where the aristocratic publisher seeks reviews, distributes to bookstores and sets the price. And to top that, the author has to provide most of the marketing support while the publisher concentrates on his mainstream books that have the largest sales potential.

The eBook author is his own publisher with complete marketing and pricing control. He has no middlemen and usually no agent. He has a target market and maybe a niche market. The reader can view samples, see online reviews and make the buy decision right now.

Get the Book to the Reader

The paper book goes through distribution and warehousing and eventually to your favorite bookstore where readers browse and buy. The traditional author is at the mercy of a shelf space problem. The paper book shelf life can be measured in weeks and then the publisher takes the returns and moves the title to a backlist.

The eBook author has one upped the aristocratic author/publisher. He provides the reader with the ability for immediate purchase and download. The convenience of the purchase is a key advantage. There is no shelf space problem. His eBook can be available forever for the reader.


The traditional author’s payday is where Dickens’s forecasts the worst of times. If the book sells, the author’s royalties will be a small percent of the publisher’s set price. The odds of success are against the traditional author.

The eBook author royalties are greater with no shelf life and no backlist to get in his way.
Granted the books must sell in both situations.


The real struggle is with the author himself. Does he continue to go only with the system or does he revolt and go digital? The opportunity is straight ahead of him. There are no sure things or cinches in this business but it could end with a happy ending by going digital.

The question to ask: Was Dickens forecasting the current state of the book publishing industry and the plight of the author or commenting on the revolution between the French peasants and the aristocrats?
I should end this blog with another quote from A Tale of Two Cities.

“It is possible - that it may not come during our lives … We shall not see the triumph [but]
we shall have helped it.”

To read more about eBook rendering check out by blog: eBook Author: Rendering your eBooks

What do you think? Is the analogy a valid one? Give me your comments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Amazon Warning to Associates and eBook Authors

eBook authors who live in Illinois and were planning on getting a 70% royalties for their ebooks and getting a shot of affiliate revenue for selling their ebooks on their blog or website have been put on notice.

You know when you get an email from Amazon and it is not a sales pitch something is up.

The next indication is the subject: Possible Termination Because Of New Illinois Legislation

And then when it starts: Greetings from the Amazon Associates Program, you know it’s not good news.

Here is a portion of the email from my partners, Amazon.

We regret to inform you that the Illinois state legislature has passed an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that, if signed by Governor Quinn, would leave little choice but to end its relationships with Illinois-based Associates. You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Illinois. If our records are incorrect, you can manage the details of your Associates account here.

Please note that this not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Amazon Associates Program. But if the governor signs this bill, we will need to terminate the participation of all Illinois residents in the Associates Program. After that point, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for sales referred to, and nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Illinois residents.

The unfortunate consequences of this legislation on Illinois residents like you were explained to the legislature, including Senate and House leadership, as well as to the governor's staff.

Over a dozen other states have considered essentially identical legislation but have rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states' residents….

We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and wish you continued success in the future.


Well this doesn’t impact me to much but I had been an affiliate long before I published my first ebook. I have setup my blog and internet site with affiliate links to my ebook, “Call Off The Dogs” along with a nice Amazon cover display and a buy button.

Missing affiliate revenue is not that big a deal but the task of redoing my blog, my website and my marketing literature will be very time consuming. eBook authors with volume and are relying on the extra revenue to cover their marketing costs have a problem.

First of all, eBook authors beware. If Illinois pulls this off, watch out for other states to follow suit. Amazon will have no choice but to lay the hammer on them too.

Second. Is there anything we can do about this besides calling the governor who is behind the whole thing? I guess I could move to the sunny west coast.

A Book Inside - Author Spotlight for 1/10/2011

I am honored to be included in this week’s A Book Inside's Author Spotlight. The creator of the blog, Carol Denbow, is an expert in the book and ebook industry and her blog is a helpful tool for all authors, especially new eBook Authors.

Carol recently was included in the list of 52 Great Blogs for Self-Publishers by Joel Friedlander, another leader in the book and ebook industry.

A Book Inside feature: This Week's Author Spotlight is on... as it appears:

James Moushon

I am currently wearing two hats. I am a fiction writer and a computer consultant. I have spent the majority of my adult life developing computer systems and thinking about writing.

The writer part of me has just self-published an eBook. I went through the complete eBook process from writing the novel to the creation of the eBook to publishing it on Amazon.

My first novel, Call Off The Dogs, was published in November on Amazon.

The computer consultant part of me is focused on ebooks and their development. Over 15 years ago, I helped lead the startup of the electronic forms industry in the creation, conversion and usage of electronic forms by supplying that industry with a continuing source of published literature, software products and training seminars.

I was born in Illinois and I am a graduate of Bradley University in Peoria, IL.

My website is:
To contact me, e-mail:

Call Off The Dogs was published on Amazon November 2010

     Another shooter in the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy is uncovered by Jonathon Stone  

     CIA Agent Jonathon Stone’s purchase of an old rifle from a gun dealer leads him on a search for the owner of the gun. When he finds the owner, a Cajun gun for hire, he discovers that he was one of the shooters in Dealey Plaza in Dallas the day President Kennedy was assassinated.

     The rifle purchase leads to a chain of events that threaten Stone’s cover, his life and puts the CIA Long Beach undercover operation in jeopardy.

     As the search accelerates, fellow agent Carol Haney joins Stone on a journey that goes from California to the French Quarter in New Orleans to Dealey Plaza in Dallas to the plains of East Texas in an effort to Call off the Dogs.

Book Information

By: James Moushon
Published By: HBSystems Publications
November 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4507-4529-1      ASIN: B004AYCTI8
Copyright © 2010 by James Moushon
Genre: Fiction, Alternative History

Rendered eBook

     Call Off The Dogs is a rendered eBook created for the Kindle eBook Platform. In the rendering process I have added in-book links to information to assist the reader in the eBook experience. The in-book links do not require the wireless communication to be turned on.

Carol Denbow's blog is entitled: 
A Book Inside – How to Write and Publish a Book

Carol Denbow is also an author. Her current book was written for our industry.
A Book Inside, How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Story which is available at Amazon in Perfect Paperback or ebook.

Her e-mail address is:
Carol’s web site is: Plain & Simple Books Publishing

Joel Friedlander's blog The Book Designer is one of the most informative blogs in the eBook industry.
Joel's website is:
Joel Friedlander is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California.

By following the links in this article, ebook authors can get a wealth of information to help in their eBook production process. Let me know if the links helped by commenting below.

Friday, January 7, 2011

eBook Cover Study - Can you really till about an eBook by its cover?

This is the first in a series of blogs we will be posting as we conduct a large study on eBook covers and their impact. We are undertaking this study to assist the eBook author in his decisions during the development of his eBooks. The goal is to help the eBook author improve the cover part of his eBook package.

The study will consist of reviews of current eBook covers and comments and opinions from readers and professionals in the industry. The completed study will be published as a FREE eBook to help the eBook author and promote the eBook Experience.

Study One
So what did the Study One show?

Study One concentrated on the eBook covers for the eBooks Amazon ranked as their top 100 Customer Favorites for 2010. We analyzed the Authors name, the Title of the Book and the appeal of the Cover (design and the merging of the three including their contrasts) of the 100 eBooks, trying to get some sort of sense of the importance of the cover to the buying process and to the overall eBook experience.

We tried to take into account that these were customer favorites and not necessarily the top selling eBooks for 2010. Also, we wanted to compare whether there was any correlation between the covers and who the authors or the publishers were.

The black and white covers were reviewed because the Kindle and the grayscale Nook allow direct purchases from the devices with no color enhancement. Therefore if the cover was going to be a part of the decision to buy, the prospective buyer should be able to read the title and the author’s name at the minimum.

Study Stats
Here are the basic stats from the study.

100 covers were reviewed which included:
45 from top ranked publishers
15 from top ranked authors

The covers were ranked into 4 categories: Good : Ave : Poor : Unreadable
A good ranking was awarded to a cover if the Author’s name and Title could be read in the thumbnail/cover and the image or background did not interfere with the legibility of the two.

Black and white covers and thumbnails reviewed
Authors name: 2 Unreadable : 11 Poor : 21 Ave : Balance rated Good
     5 of the poor names from top publishers
     1 of the Unreadable from a top publisher
Title of the book: 11 Poor : Balance rated Average or Good
     5 of the poor titles from top publishers
Covers: 9 poor : Balance rated Average or Good
     5 of the poor covers from top publishers

Color covers and thumbnails reviewed
Authors name: 18 Poor : Balance rated Average or Good
adding color with a bad font actually made things worse
     6 of the poor names from top publishers
Title of the book: 10 Poor : Balance rated Average or Good
adding color with a bad font actually made things worse
     5 of the poor titles from top publishers
Covers: 8 Poor : Balance rated Average or Good
     4 of the poor covers from top publishers

Price: when we introduced price into the study
(used lowest 25 priced eBooks in the top 100 - range in price between .99 and 9.10)
Author name: 8 Poor : Balance rated Average or Good
     1 of the poor names from a top publisher
Compared to color cover study above – 10 books with poor covers priced > 9.10
Title of the book: 1 Poor : Balance rated Average or Good
     None of the poor titles from top publishers
Compared to color cover study above – 9 books with poor covers priced > 9.10
Covers: 2 Poor : Balance rated Average or Good
     1 of the poor covers from a top publisher
Compared to color cover study above – 7 books with poor covers priced > 9.10

Top Authors: when we introduce the branded author to the study
Authors name: all average or above
Title of the book: 2 Poor (see Note *)
Covers: all average or above

Note: * Both poor cover titles are from one top author.
This bothered me so I went to a bookstore and looked at the hardback cover. The pictures on both books studied had great pictures which captured the mood of the author’s romance novels perfectly (problem seemed to be a light background). What I am saying is the books had beautiful images coming out of the hardback cover process but when the covers went digital, the effect was destroyed. The title and the background contrast became poor and part of the name and title were behind the Amazon logo.

As a side note, the author writes mystery novels under a different name and one of those eBooks was included in this study. It was rated one of the top covers in our study.

Takeaway 1
When you use the hardback cover to create the eBook thumbnail/cover, the subtitles and bylines don't work.

Takeaway 2
There is a big difference between grayscale covers and color covers especially at the thumbnail scale. So if you’re making your buying decision with a Kindle or black and white Nook, the thumbnail doesn’t help the decision.

Takeaway 3
Cover designers/project managers should take into consideration the expanded use of their covers in the sales cycle. A great cover in the bookstore maybe a complete flop on-line.

Takeaway 4
If price is an indicator of the value of the eBook (the more expensive, the more value), there was no pronounced correlation of the quality of the cover to the price. Although lower priced eBooks have a higher percentage of poor covers, I don’t believe the sample is big enough to draw any conclusion. High priced eBooks had poor covers also.

Takeaway 5
All top authors had good eBook covers.

Takeaway 6
Top publishers had some poor eBook covers.

Takeaway 7
One question that was raised. Should we try to develop separate covers for hardback and eBooks and get away from the one size fits all process we have now? Of course, the major assumption here is that the eBook’s cover is a part of the prospective customer’s decision making.

Takeaway 8
Color images will greatly improve the possibility of the cover affecting the buying decision.

Takeaway 9
Of course, the one thing missing from the study is the data on how many non-buying decisions were made because the prospective customer didn’t like the eBook cover.

Takeaway 10
When we went to the Amazon book sales page to view the covers enlarged, some of the covers were covered by the Amazon sales logo. Barnes and Noble has their sales logo below the sales cover which avoids the problem. In this study the Amazon logo covered either part of the title, part of the author's name or part of a second author's name 50% of the time. That's right. There were 50 cover problems out of a 100 covers studied.

Top List Source
Amazon Top 100 Customer Favorites for 2010

Future Parts of the Study
Expert opinions from leaders in the eBook publishing industry
Reference materials from leading authorities
Opinions and comments from eBook readers

There is more to come as the study accumulates information, data and comments and opinions. Check HBSystems Publication’s website on a regular basis to see the latest updated information from the study.
Also we will be publishing regular blogs to highlight findings and good comments.

If you have a comment or opinion, please comment here or email me at: Good quality comments will be referenced in the study, along with credits for the comments and links.

The study is based on the opinions of a few people and their review of eBook covers. We have tried to limit the scope of the Study One to the top 100 eBooks that Amazon customers favored. We are not professional cover designers and we are not looking at this from the best practices point of view. We are trying to look at this from the reader’s and consumer’s view point.