Some say that writing a book is like birthing a baby. How could you really compare these two things? I am certainly not qualified to do so, but it's a great analogy. Our "baby" Metropolicks (a romantic comedy novel that I've co-written with Victor Scott Rodriguez) has been about four years in the making and through three different titles!
Last month we finally finished with the final round of copy edits on Metropolicks. Since then, for the better half of this month, I've been working on the conversion of Metropolicks from Microsoft Word, to Adobe InDesign to EPUB. And going through this conversion feels like a "slow labor." Pardon the birth analogy, but it has most certainly been a long, laborious task.
You may be wondering, how could we be still editing and working on the ebook coversion when the book was already available for pre-order? Well, around the time that we put Metropolicks up for pre-order, we decided to add some extra content to the book, which would affect the entire layout of the book. But we figured that we would be able to 1) prepare the extra content to be included, and 2) reformat the ebook layout during the two month pre-order period.
During the first conversion of Metropolicks in September, the book was mostly text and the conversion was done using Calibre. Since we knew that the extra content being added would affect the entire book's layout, we decided to use InDesign, a popular desktop publishing software to create an EPUB file- which is one of the standard formats for ebooks.
The procedure was supposed to be very straightforward. In theory the steps would be: 1) convert Microsoft Word document into an InDesign document, 2) work out layout issues in InDesign, 3) convert InDesign document into an EPUB file, and 4) test/check EPUB file and edit InDesign accordingly. Consequently, I was faced with a steep learning curve in order to get up to speed on how to use InDesign. Throughout this entire process, I have been working with my friend George, who's very experienced with handling EPUB files and ebook conversion.
But when we did the first conversion from Microsoft Word to Adobe InDesign earlier this month, I nearly had a meltdown. When I saw all of the formatting issues that came up, I freaked out and wondered if we would ever be able to get our book formated correctly and fully converted into an EPUB in time for our publication date of November 23rd. I even considered pushing back the publication date, but after a conversation with my co-author, Victor Scott Rodriguez, he helped me to calm down and put things into perspective.
I realized that there will always be issues when converting from one format to another. So I spent another week wrestling with importing our manuscript as a Word document into InDesign and testing the resulting EPUB file. George and I just couldn't seem to get the Word document to look right in InDesign. The resulting InDesign file just had too many formatting issues that needed to be fixed. So, I decided to abandon using InDesign. It was too involved of a process. Call me crazy for trying all this, but I like solving these sorts of problems and figuring things out. At this point I was undeterred and thankfully George was equally determined that we would figure out a way to do the ebook conversion. We actually considered a whole schlew of crazy ideas like using iBooks author to create a book which we'd somehow convert into an epub. Like I said, I was determined to work through the conversion myself because and I had decided that it would be best do the ebook conversion ourselves, rather than pay for an ebook conversion service for two reasons: 1) we could have control over the layout of our ebook and 2) we would be able make any and allnecessary edits/revisions to the ebook ourselves going forward. That's the beauty of an ebook. We can always edit it and reupload a revised version of it. In turn, our readers will be able to redownload a revised version of the novel at anytime at no additional cost.
How did we finally make the ebook conversion happen?
With less than a week to the November 23rd publication date, I went back to basics and simply converted the Word document into an EPUB, which George was able to edit in XHTML format. It was an intense deadline! We owe a lot to George for making the ebook conversion for Metropolicks happen.
The other challenge we've faced is the almost nonexistent customer service or help offered to publishers/authors of ebooks. Metropolicks was put up for sale on four major ebook platforms. On three out of four of these platforms, the only way to get help was to go to the respective ebook platform's "Contact Us" page and to write a internal electronic message. When I used one of the sites' online chat function to contact a customer service rep about problems I'd encountered in uploading an EPUB file of our manuscript, I was told to write a message through the website and that we'd get a response in 2 business days. Clearly, the customer service on these ebook plaftorms is focused on the consumer side, i.e. helping customers to decide what type of a tablets, products or books to purchase. Customers were offered several ways to resolve their issues/concerns. But for producers of content, like publishers or authors, that same level of support was sorely lacking. The customer service offered on these two sides of the business were like night and day.
So with minimal feedback and support from most ebook platforms, it might be a bit of a rocky start the first week or two after our publication date. In these next two weeks we will be dilligently checking for layout and formatting issues in the ebook. And so we welcome all of our readers to give us feedback on this. Please feel free to do so by clicking here and filling out the form on the Metropolicks website. We'd be extremely grateful for any feedback or comments so that we can make any necessary corrections, edits or adjustments to the layout of Metropolicks.
On a lighter note, we had so many great shots from the Metropolicks photo shoot in July that we decided to create some pre-order period promotional photos leading up to the publication date of November 23, 2014. Here are the ones shared on our social media channels for Metropolicks' pre-order sales period.