When Bicycle Comics gears up to make a new book, the first thing the team does is exchange panicked E-mails until we remember where we’ve stored our templates and workflow documentation.
Dropbox? Plain old Box?
Google Drive or Google Docs?
I bookmarked that with…Firefox?
Actual kick-off E-mail thread for Carrie R’s book.
See, at the end of each book project, my team holds a “post-mortem” meeting to discuss what lessons we need to bring to our next title. We write them down and store them safely. Then, count on it, we misplace them. Okay, I misplace them. Bicycle only publishes 2-3 titles per year, so months can go by when we’re not using our hard-won bookmaking know-how. Techniques that seemed important and stark as we finished our last book can seem minor or hazy as we plan our next one. So we write this stuff down, and we update those policies as we get smarter.
This blog is a demonstration of those policies. There’s more than one way to make an E-book. I couldn’t cover them all; I don’t even know them all. But I can cover the process my team uses to make E-books at Bicycle Comics. This workflow is the result of endless Web searches, dubious how-to books, and plaintive blog comments. We’ve used, iterated, and improved it for three poetry E-books so far. I wish we’d started the Alight E-book with this workflow. It would have saved us time, worry, and money.
I’m hoping it can save you time and money, too. I’m hoping that you’ll use our techniques with your own projects and put more well-formatted poetry books into the world. I’m hoping that, with practice, you’ll figure out even better workflows and techniques, which you might share in turn.
And even if none of that innovation and sharing happens, at least this way I’ll remember where the heck we stored our workflow notes, you know?
Microsoft Word wasn’t made for E-books. But we have to start there anyway.
My college poetry teacher was adamant on this point: Never apologize for something you are about to do. Either don’t do it, or don’t apologize. Well, I’m sorry, but…I’ve created this whole tutorial workflow using Microsoft Word as the starting point. Hear that noise? That low, distant howl? That’s an Internet full of E-book editors who believe MS Word has no place in E-book production. (Some of them aren’t wild about the hyphen in E-book, either.)
The big blue elephant in the room.
I actually agree with them. I think MS Word is a fine writing tool. Great for school papers, business memos, and publishing contracts. Books and E-books? Not so much. Word creates needlessly bulky .xhtml files. It gives InDesign fits. If I had to make a Bicycle Comics book in just Microsoft Word, I’d howl, too.
It would be simpler, and cheaper, to use a basic text editor such as TextEdit for Macintosh. And OpenOffice added an EPUB tool recently…
But I’m picking my battles, here. MS Word may not be an ideal E-book tool, but it’s nearly universal. You may not have the Adobe Creative Suite, but you probably have Word. Chances are, you used it to write and revise your poems. So we’ll start there.
If you have intermediate or advanced coding skills for HTML/CSS, or if you simply can’t abide a detour through MS Word, fear not! We’re only using Word to get to an HTML/CSS baseline, anyway. Catch up with us after we’ve finished Step 2 and ride the rest of the way through xHTML, external CSS, .ncx and .toc files, indexing, and so forth. We’ll put a link right here when we get that far.
Pop the hood to see what a standards-compliant Ebook poetry anthology looks like.
The Yellow Buick Review putters out of the driveway in May, 2014! Come along for the ride!