I’ve been uploading my poetry collections to Nook (and also to Kobo, but that’s not what this post is about), and I have to say it hasn’t been an entirely smooth process. While Amazon allows you to upload a Word file and then basically does the formatting for you — with surprising accuracy — it’s definitely advisable to format an ePub file before trying to publish it.
I’ve never really formatted e-books before, so this was a steep learning curve. As of writing this post, I’ve spent the last two and a half hours trying to properly format Crossroads Poetry, but by the time you read this I’ll be at the other end of the country (yay, scheduled posts) and everything’s live. Links to Nook etc can be found here.
Here’s what I’ve learned from the process.
The online tool for Nook looks pretty, but actually doesn’t work that well.
I spent way too long formatting all my chapters using their online tool, assuming that because they made it, it would create something that their devices could work with. Nope. When I opened it using the Nook app on my tablet, I found that it had formatted all but three of my poems entirely as hyperlinks, as well as the introductory text. The table of contents seemed to be the culprit, whether I made it in Word before uploading or whether I created it with their own tool.
So that was out.
When Calibre prompts you to update the programme, do it.
Calibre is an e-book formatting tool that was recommended to me by the Writer’s Guide To E-Publishing, back when the site used to be active. (All the archives are still there, but they no longer post anything new.) I’ve had it on my computer for a couple of years and I mostly use it whenever I want to give a Kindle file to my beta readers, or when I want to send my own work to my Kindle for proof-reading.
But it keeps asking me to update it to the latest version and I’ve never bothered to do it. After googling various solutions to my formatting glitches, I found out that Calibre has an “edit book” function that would allow me to fix that and make a functional (and pretty) ePub file. Well, the latest version does, version 2.0. Unlike version 0.8, which is what I was still using. Feeling like an idiot, I went to download the new one, a quick and painless experience that made everything easier.
Calibre’s pretty cool — and free. Use it.
Now that I actually had the latest version of the program, I decided to make use of it.
Using the ‘edit book’ function, I was able to give the book coloured headings, a working table of contents that didn’t cause glitches throughout the content, and a regular formatting style. It took time, but on the whole it wasn’t difficult. Skim-reading a single article about using the tool gave me enough information to get started, and once I’d done that it was partly trial and error. It’s fairly intuitive if you know anything about HTML or the sort of text editors you get on websites, rather than obscenely complicated as I feared it might be.
HTML is a really useful skill.
I’m not good at code. I wish I was. It was one of the things I planned to learn over this summer and didn’t. I can’t build websites from scratch the way I could when I was about thirteen, because I’ve completely lost those skills. But the knowledge I once had and the amount of time I spend on forums (fora?) that are HTML-based means I can navigate it pretty well, especially when it’s simple.
Armed with that knowledge, I could create a Table of Contents that looked how I wanted it to, mostly by removing the list tags so that it wasn’t indented even while centred. It still worked when I was done, so I counted it as a success.
Make sure you can read your book as it will be on all platforms.
I’ve yet to figure out how to open the file in the Kobo app I just downloaded (Pepper, my tablet, came back from being repaired this morning), but I made sure to seek out a Nook app as soon as I got the tablet back. I’ve been worried since I uploaded it since, while it looked okay in the online viewer, it’s impossible to tell exactly how it’ll behave on the device, and I personally use a super old-school Kindle Keyboard.
It was only when I opened the file with the Nook app that I realised it wasn’t working, so who knows how long it would have been until someone pointed it out to me? Admittedly, I haven’t sold any books on that platform yet, but I wouldn’t want to abuse my readers by giving them something that doesn’t work.
Spend the time formatting properly before you start, or you’ll just have to redo it.
I’ve wasted so much time today because I cut corners the first time I uploaded it and didn’t bother to format it myself, trusting in the online tool to do it properly (and then using the Nook file for Kobo, so I expect it’ll be just as full of problems once I actually manage to open it). I won’t make that mistake again when I release my next collection: in fact, I might even use Calibre for the Kindle file, just so that I can make sure it looks pretty, too.
So that’s what I’ve learned. I hope it’s useful to anyone planning to self-publish using Nook Press — my sole piece of advice would be use Calibre to format because it has saved my soul. If you’ve got any further advice for me (like how to sell books, because I seem to be pretty bad at that), I’d be delighted to hear it in the comments!