Friday, May 1, 2009

How I turned my novel into an ebook


By Heather Wardell

Late last year, I decided to make my first novel, "Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo", available for free download from my Web site. I expected to spend an hour or so getting it ready to go, but instead it took weeks and brought up questions I hadn't considered. Use my experience as a guide if you want to make an ebook of your own.

Which format?

There are a lot of options for ebook formats, but I wanted one that offered free document conversion and reasonably wide-spread use. I didn't see much point in converting the book into a format that hardly anyone would be able to read.

HTML format would seem to fit my requirements, but I didn't consider it. While some people do sit in front of their computer and read, they are in the minority, and I also didn't like how easy it would be for people to change and redistribute the book. Ditto with Microsoft Word.

Since I do the majority of my reading on my Palm, I wanted a format that I could read myself. The eReader eBook Studio converter costs $29.99, and while that's not a bad price, I didn't want to pay to make my book available for free.

In the end, I went with PDF, because pretty much every computer and a lot of ebook readers can handle it, and Mobipocket, because the Amazon Kindle can read Mobipocket files. So far, nobody has asked for an additional format.

Digital rights management?

I am not a fan of being forced to unlock my ebooks with my credit card number or some other code, so making other people do it seemed unreasonable. In addition, my goal is getting as many people as possible to read my book, and I know from my own download experiences that the more hoops you make people jump through, the more likely they are to simply not bother.

What clinched it for me, though, was the Kindle situation. Although Amazon's Kindle format is based on the Mobipocket platform, it cannot read Mobipocket files with DRM. Since I wanted Kindle readers to be able to read my book, I went with no DRM.

Creative Commons licensing?

A difficult issue for me. I think creators should have the right to decide how their work is distributed and to what uses it can be put, so at first glance the Creative Commons (CC) licensing seemed perfect for me.

CC is a non-profit group that provides pre-written licenses to make it easier for creators to share their work and for other people to build upon that work. It provides a great way to keep some control over your work while still allowing others to put their own spin on it.