What We Are Going To Do

A description of what this series of blog posts intends to cover.

Right, though it is a little counter-intuitive, I’m going to start by telling you how this is going to end. This is going to necessitate I tell you a few things before I have defined or clarified them, so don’t worry if you don’t fully understand something. I’ll explain everything in more detail as we progress.

So, after you’ve worked through this tutorial, you are going to have (drum roll) a master copy of your novel formatted in LibreOffice in such a way that you can create versions in various different formats (print and electronic) by going to export and simply selecting what you want. Exciting or what?!

Explicitly these formats will support publishing on the kindle via a custom export plugin that you’ve tailored to the exact needs of your novel (though if your novel is formatted similarly to my example, you might not need to customize it), publishing in print using the industry standard PDF format and a whole smorgasbord of smaller platforms (including the iPad) using Smashwords.

Just in case you have been living under a rock, kindles are the e-readers sold by Amazon and will account for most of your sales, and the iPad is an overpriced tablet pc made by Apple, but seeing as only people with money to burn own one, depending on the demographic of your intended audience, it might well be an important market for you. There are also a whole host of less popular devices, some of which use EPUB and some which use their own format. If you think one of these devices is likely to be an important market for you, you might want to create a custom plugin for them too so you can ensure the quality of your end product. However, for most of you, this won’t be the case and allowing Smashwords to take care of them for you is fine. I’ll talk a bit more about what exactly Smashwords is in a bit, but for now, all you need to know is that it takes a specially formatted DOC file (Microsoft’s truly awful, binary document format) and spits out versions of your novel formatted for lots of different devices.

Now, for the print version of your book, I’m going to explicitly show you how to format it to be used with Createspace, which is Amazon’s print-on-demand service, but the steps are pretty much the same for any publisher, print-on-demand or traditional, as they will almost certainly all require from you your novel in the industry standard PDF file format (and I would be very concerned about any that didn’t).

As well as having the documents ready to publish, by the time we’re done, you’ll also understand the ins and out of document formatting, meaning you can cope with any peculiarities your particular novel throws up and will ensure that you create a professional product on all platforms. And best of all, this should all take just one evenings worth of your time!

It is worth noting that there are various other ways to achieve the same thing, and I’m not going to pretend that the LibreOffice way is perfect, but it does have some very big advantages, which will become apparent as we progress. However, I will mention the main disadvantage now, which you may have picked up on during this introduction if you haven’t been asleep: this is going to take a bit of setting up, not much, but at the time of writing this, there is no magic bullet piece of software that can accept your manuscript, however you’ve formatted it, and spit out good quality versions for the different devices.

The closet thing that exists at the moment is Smashwords, which takes a specially formatted Microsoft Office file and, from that, creates different versions. However, setting up LibreOffice to create the specially formatted DOC file alone isn’t really any less work than setting up LibreOffice properly. Plus, the files Smashwords creates for the various devices are not always the best quality.

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