Saturday, January 4, 2014

The only Constant is Change - ebook publishing continues to shift.

(photocredit: Nikki L.)
Of course, I owe you an update on "Just Publish: Ebook Creation for Indie Authors" - because there have been so many changes going and coming around.

If I haven't already let you know otherwise, I've got an entire work-up on how to publish on Google Play.

That means you can make even more income, particularly since between iTunes and Google Play, you are instantly available on any smartphone or tablet out there (except the 7% of Windows Tablets...)

All is not as it was...

On catching up on some backlogged stalled books on Lulu, I noticed that my old working line-up wasn't working - it seems iTunes and B&N have both "upgraded" their standards for ebooks, so my earlier scene of simply doing the epubcheck on Sigil didn't pass muster any more.

As I'm writing, this I have Lulu directly converting an ODT file for me - and they are taking forever to process it.

Meanwhile, I've downloaded the latest update to Sigil and installed it. I'll try with another bugged file and see how this goes...

- - - -

OK, that won't do it - see this forum post: - apparently this has been going on for awhile (April 2013) with B&N/iTunes.

Testing this: funny, my file just passed: "Validated using EpubCheck version 3.0.1."

I tried an entirely different file - passed on that EpubCheck, flunked on Lulu's in-house scene.

So this complicates the flow. Only workaround I have is to hand-edit those files to make them work. The alternative is to have Lulu do it for you, which is interminably long. In fact, searching for this error via forums gave me a free ebook Epub on Lulu Simplified by Dave Lemay - where he simply tells you to set up a Word .doc exactly (much as Smashwords says to) and then submit that.

No thanks. Way too slow for the volume I have waiting for this.

The final solution perhaps isn't nice, but it works.

The why is being too complicated.

Things you need to know:

  • Epubcheck doesn't mean anything. Lulu has had to tweak whatever they had so it will generate content acceptible to iTunes and B&N. Just as Smashwords had to do. 
  • Your Sigil-proofed file will work just fine on other platforms with its internal epubcheck.
  • Complicated files make things worse. KISS.

Searching through the forums finds that Lulu doesn't like anything above H2 (Heading 2) - How I got replicable success was to

  1. Simply scrape the text out of the original document, saving it to a straigh-text editor to remove all formating. (Yes, I know, that hurts.)
  2. Only put in H1 and H2 headings for your chapters. H3 crashes their system every time.
  3. Make sure in Writer2Epub that you fill out the publisher and date spaces in the dialog.
  4. Replace any TOC with Sigil's and then save. (While you're at it, tweak your style sheets. Remove any you aren't using.)
Then you'll be fine. When in doubt, strip it out - and try again. The simpler you can make these books, the better.

Writer2Epub will eliminate a lot of extraneous stuff, but the points on not getting about H2 on your headings is key. Don't know when Lulu changed this, but that's now the way it is.

Yes, I've got another update to that "Just Publish!" book, as I mentioned.


  • iTunes/B&N no longer accept anything below Heading 2. 
  • Remove any H3's, etc. 
  • Format everything else with bold and italic (ebook readers don't necessarily honor indents, sometimes not even bullets.
  • Replace your Writer2Epub table of contents with Sigil, then go ahead and do your epubcheck.
  • The file you wind up with will go anywhere else.
PS. You can't just use your earlier-approved epub files. Tried that. But one shortcut is to download your earlier file, open it up in Sigil, convert the H3's to p's (paragraphs) and then recreate the TOC. Finally, epubcheck (always) and re-upload.

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