ePubs for the iBookstore

I just finished uploading my latest to the iBookstore: Tolkien Warriors—The House of the Wolfings: A Book that Influenced J. R. R. Tolkien. If you like the riders of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings, you should enjoy it. Tolkien even gave Morris as a source for his warrior scenes in a 1960 letter. Others have published the same WIlliam Morris book, but mine includes much more for the same price: a detailed descriptions of the links between the two authors along with all sorts of pluses, including chapter summaries, great formatting, and definitions of the obscure words Morris liked to use.

I was surprised, however, that this upload proved more trouble than my first iBookstore title, Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments. Gowns took just a few minutes to fix the errors. I wrestled for over an hour with Warriors before reporting my woes to Apple and getting a prompt response.

I actually had two glitches. The first I figured out for myself. The second took Apple’s reply for me to make sense of the cryptic error messages I was getting from iTunes Producer. Keep in mind that I was using InDesign, but the same principles should apply with an ePub generated by Scrivener.

1. Add ePub Metadata
As a format, ePub is very geeky and insists on metadata being packaged with an ebook giving the title, author, copyright status and other information. Be sure to include that or Apple with flag the lack as an error. They want your ePub to be proper.

2. Cover Image Size Inside the ePub file
This is what gave me the greatest headache. Apple wants to get the cover image twice. One is used on the store’s page for the book. That, they want to be large so it looks good. The other is a cover image that’s embedded inside the ePub. They want it to be smaller, since it will be distributed with the ebook.

I was using the same file for both and that was generating an error that was driving me batty. How could my jpeg file be over 2 meg when it was clearly 500K? The problem was that I was confusing the file for their store with that inside the ePub. Since the filename for both was the same, I couldn’t see what I was doing wrong.

The answer is that there are two different specs for cover images. One is for that to display on the store. The other is that embedded in the ePub. And the latter can’t be greater than 2 meg as calculated by the number of pixels for the width times that for the height, i.e. without compression.

Once I embedded a smaller image inside the ePub, the error message went away.

I’m sure I’m not the only one having glitches with the iBookstore, so feel free to add your own experiences to this discussion.

–Michael W. Perry, Seattle

Here’s part of the support email that Apple sent me.

Non-tech question: are you satisfied with the sales & support you get on the iBookstore?
So far we’ve only used Kindle, because of the ease of preparing text via Scrivener.
And Amazon does a good job of helping us sell e-books.
Congratulations on your latest publication.

I was certainly impressed with the speed and helpfulness of Apple’s response to my question as detailed above. The query for help is built into the iTunes Producer app and gets to a real person. I live only a few miles from Amazon’s global headquarters, and I’m not sure who at Amazon I’d contact for similar help. If you’re not a paying customer, Amazon doesn’t seem to like people-to-people contact.

Estimates are that Amazon has about 70% of the ebook market and Apple 20%, so your question is partly about whether 20% more sales is worth the effort. I’m the sort who thinks it is and is particularly careful about not putting all my eggs (meaning books) in one retail basket. Also, judging by my last book, an ebook looks a bit better on an iPad than any Amazon gadget. The limitations of an ePaper Kindle are particularly frustrating.

Scrivener will also generate an ePub file that Apple will accept. As a preliminary, you can run that epub past the checker here:

validator.idpf.org

If it passes, Apple will probably accept it. Actually, the one they just accepted from me had a couple of TOC errors, but they took it anyway.

And if you or a friend has an iPad or iPhone, you can get the iBooks app for it and see how it looks. If it looks OK, then the publishing side of things should be fine.

You can then go to iTunes Connect and go through the process of becoming a publisher through them. If you’re in the U.S., the only hard part is likely to be getting an EIN to identify your business in addition to your SS number. They’re quite insistent about that. If you’re outside the U.S., use Google to find out the more drawn out process for getting that EIN.

itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObje … a/wa/apply

After than you’ll need to get two apps. First, iTunes Producer to do data entry and file uploads . Second, if you have an iPad or iPhone, get Book Proofer. The latter makes tweaking an ePub file very easy by auto-loading it into the iBooks app on an iPad or iPhone. You really don’t want to publish without seeing what it looks like on at least some devices.

When I uploaded ebooks back in early December 2012, Amazon had it approved and online overnight. This time they only promised to do that within 48 hours. And last time Apple took about a week. The delay is apparently because they check books more carefully than Amazon, including content.

Since perhaps 99% of time spent in the creation of a book lies in the writing and editing, I regard the extra few hours to get it on other platforms time well spent. I use InDesign and, like Scrivener, it can output the same text to Kindles (mobi) and iPads (ePub). Smashwords, which can be used to reach almost every ebook retailer but Amazon, now accepts ePub submissions (with some limitations) instead of Word documents.

Most of the time I spend to put an ebook on a retail platform is spent dealing with data entry, but that’s also time well spent, since it means I–rather than some third party–controls how my book is presented. That’s why I send my ebooks directly to Amazon and the iBookstore. That gives me the authority to change its sales information, pricing and distribution directly. Sony, Diesel, and even B&N have fewer ebook sales, so the descriptions I give Smashwords will have to do for them.

I’d suggest taking your best-selling book and giving it a try on the iBookstore to see how well it does.

Hi

Any advice about what to put in the fields would be appreciated.

[attachment=0]zz 2013-03-28 at 11.19.19.png[/attachment]

Title - name of the book?
Author - if one author, should you write first name then last name, or last name then first?
Contributors - leave this blank or at least put in “none”?
Subject - this is the category? Fiction? Science Fiction? Romance, etc?
Description - the book’s blurb—even if it is a few hundred words?
Publisher - Leave blank if self-publishing, or use your own name, or write “none”?
Rights - this is a copyright statement? So just the author’s name? Should it include the copyright (c) symbol?
Date - Publishing date?
Unique Identifier - leave blank or write some kind of code number in there?

With thanks

Mac

I have pretty much the same questions. Any advice?

/bump/

Anyone?

There are no universal answers to these questions. Always check with the vendors you are publishing through for their guidelines on how dates should be formatted, names and so on. But a general rule of thumb: if the field is irrelevant leave it blank, unless you want Mr. None to be your contributor. :slight_smile: These are often search results or indexing keys, they will be returned when people type in the words you provide and establish sort order.

Many thanks for the advice, Ioa. Grateful.