December 14th, 2011
Welcome to the fourth in the series of articles on submitting your ebook to the various outlets for publication. This guide will focus on Apple’s iBookstore. For the record, if you are thinking of doing this, be prepared to spend some time on it. While Amazon and Barnes & Noble seem to want your books, Apple takes a more, “If you want us to accept your book, you better make damn sure it is perfect” stance. They are not fun, not easy, and frankly, sort of suck. So, if you think you aren’t up for hours of formatting, filling out forms, and searching the Internet for the meanings behind obscure error codes, then read this for fun only. But, if you are like me and can’t stand how you get no stats from Smashwords (which, apparently, is only an issue if you price your book as free), you’ll probably plow through this anyhow.
Again, you’ll want to start with my Amazon Kindle Publishing guide focusing on the formatting. You need to have a word .doc ready to go. I used the same one I made for Kindle, changed appropriate links so that they pointed to the iBookstore rather than to Amazon, and changed the name of the file (for organizational purposes). That’s the easy part. Next, we’re going to have to go through a lengthy conversion process. But first, let’s talk about what you’ll need to even sell through Apple.
Selling in the iBookstore
There are two things you’ll need to even consider selling your book through Apple’s iBookstore. First, your book will need an ISBN. This is a number that identifies the EPUB version that you are selling. You can get one from here. And no, they are not cheap. If you buy them in bulk, they aren’t bad, but individually they are around $125 a pop. But before you run out and start ordering them, you’ll also need one other thing.
A Tax ID number is something given, generally, to businesses. But, as an individual, you can get one with your SSN. Check out this link for more information. This will garner you a TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) that you can use for Apple to pay you. You can’t sell books though Apple without it.
Back to the ISBN numbers. If you are going to go this route, you need to consider what you’ll be doing with your book in the future. If you decide you want a print version, you’ll need a second ISBN. An audio version for sale in stores? That’s another ISBN. As you can see, it makes sense to buy more than one. At $125 for one and $250 for 10, I can’t see why you’d buy less than 10. But of course, it is up to you.
Now that you have those two things, we can talk about formatting.
With your Kindle formatted .doc repurposed for iBooks, you need two new programs. If you haven’t downloaded Calibre, now is the time. You’ll also need a second program called Sigil (I used that link to download it so I know it is safe). First Calibre.
Calibre is a program used to convert from one format to another. Oddly, it doesn’t work with Word .docs (probably just to keep life interesting). So, while you can use Word to save in a number of formats that Calibre will recognize, the one that worked best for me was HTML. When you hit “Save As” select “Web Page”. There is also an option for “Web Page: Filtered” but I didn’t use it.
Next, open Calibre. You’ll need to add your document to the list (there is an “Add Book” button on the left). Next, hit “Edit Metadata”. Here you’ll add your name, publish date, cover, etc. Shouldn’t take long. Last, you’ll hit the “Convert Books” button (these three buttons are all in a row). Make sure your output is EPUB (drop down menu on the right) and that under the EPUB output tab on the bottom left, make sure the “Preserve cover aspect ratio” box is checked.
That’s all I changed when I did my conversion. If you’ve used my Kindle_formatting_Template, that’s all you should have to do as well.
Now, if you take the outputted EPUB version and upload it to your iPad/iPhone/iPod, you’ll say, “Wow, that looks great! I can’t wait to upload it to Apple!” But what Apple will say is, “What’s this shit? Do it again.”
Yeah, I know. Why? Well, because they are Apple and they can.
So, the next step is to open Sigil. Sigil is basically a word processing program that works with the EPUB format natively. So, when you open your document, you’ll want to do two things immediately. First click the “Cleaning With HTML Tidy” button on the far right. This will do…something. I’m not sure what. I know, big help, right? But I had it checked and my book was accepted into iBooks so that’s something. I also had the next button (looks like a red circle with a white dash in the center) labeled “Checking for Well Formed Errors” clicked. Not sure what that does either. But, again, my book got accepted so it, at the very least, didn’t hurt anything.
Next, you’ll want to hit the green check mark (“Validate EPUB” button) on the far right. This checks for errors in your EPUB file.
“Whoa,” you say, “that’s a lot of errors.”
Yes, yes it is. Now the top few will refer to some strange errors talking about media types, OPS documents being reachable, and the like. I have no idea what any of that means. I started past that with the first error that said, “attribute ‘target’ is not declared for element ‘link'”. There were tons of those and ones that read, “attribute ‘clear’ is not declared for element ‘br'”.
Now, remember: you created this document from another document. If you completely fuck it up, it is fine. You can go back to Calibre and just make a new one.
What is cool about Sigil is that you can click on each one of these error messages to have Sigil take you directly to the error. I did this, and, looking over the errors, I noticed that the first ones with the ‘target’ and ‘link’ had other link statements around them. The rest of the links didn’t have targets so I took out the offending target (from the word “target” to the last quote – make sure you don’t take out the /> because those are important). For the “clear” issues, I took out the text: “clear=”all””. I just deleted it. Then I hit the green check mark again and was left with nothing but those first errors which I had no idea how to fix. I saved the document (it is so nice how you can just hit ‘save’ instead of having to make changes in a word document and then reconvert) and prayed.
I tested the new EPUB file on my iPad and it looked fine. But the other one did too and Apple didn’t like it. So I crossed my fingers and uploaded. It went through without a hitch. Now, as of this writing, it is still under review and not yet in the iBookstore so I don’t know how the final product will look, but all evidence points to it being fine. I even checked it with Apple’s new “Book Proofer” application (under “Deliver Your Content” in the iTunes Connect menu) and it was error free.
Would I Do It Again?
Maybe (hard to say until it actually shows up in the store). As much as I love to badmouth Smashwords (and I do), this is one instance where I might let them take their cut of my sales. First, you don’t have to pay for an ISBN. Second, while I’ve always had weird issues with their formatting for iBooks (some things that should be centered aren’t, while others using the same style formatting are, for no reason I can ascertain), it’s a hell of a lot less pain than the DIY method. Technically (I could be wrong but I don’t think so), if you decide to make any changes to your book once it has an ISBN, you have to give it a new ISBN. And that SUCKS when you think about the cost. So, since Smashwords probably buys them by the thousands and pays less than pennies per ISBN, why not let them suck up the cost?
Lastly, a huge THANK YOU to the makers of Sigil. Without that program, none of this would be possible. If you use the program, I urge you to donate. They certainly deserve it. Again, if you run into any problems, feel free to comment below. I can’t promise to help, but I promise to try. I’ll post more info in the comments below (changing this document as needed) as it becomes available.
If this guide has been helpful, please consider supporting me by buying one of my books.
Other Self Publishing Guides:
CreateSpace (coming soon)