Category Archives: Organization and Data

Making the table of contents, index, metadata, and cover of your book.

Go Back to the EPUB and Check Who’s There

(Continued from earlier post)

4. Create a table of contents, again.

Wait, didn’t we already do that? Yes, but that was a HUMAN table of contents. We made it “by hand” and it both looks good and works well. However, most E-readers won’t specifically recognize that ToC as a ToC. So now, we need to make what’s called a “logical” ToC.

Aesthetic disclaimer: This technique kind of sucks. It comes into play because there are three (3!) different kinds of Tables of Contents for E-books.

  • Traditional Table of Contents: The thing you think we’re talking about? That’s what we’re talking about. This is a list of sections, or chapters, or poem titles, typed up by a human and positioned in the first few pages of a book (let’s not argue, now) so that people browsing the book can find out where to go.
  • A Logical or Metadata Table of Contents: This is a list in outline format that lists the contents of your book by header <hx> elements. It usually is not styled, typed, or formatted so much as it is generated by an E-book editor. This list is where people will go when they click on the “Table of Contents” button or menu option in their E-reader. It should go at the end of your E-book so it doesn’t clog up your frontmatter (which already has a ToC).
  • An NCX file. The NCX file is a series of bookmarks or milestones (EPUB 2.1 and Kindle .mobi) in an E-book that helps some readers on some devices jump around inside the book. For example, a proper NCX file will allow a reader to jump around in the E-book in exact, one-chapter increments. The NCX file is created automatically by an E-book editor.

Fortunately, our E-book editor Sigil will handle most of this for us. Continue reading


Filed under Organization and Data

Let’s All Gather Together at the EPUB!

Use Sigil to assemble the files for the E-book anthology.

illustration of files into epub

Our files are back together like peas in a pod.

You can, if you wish, use a text editor and a compression utility to make the EPUB .zip file. You can, that is; I sure can’t. And I see no clear reason why anyone would want to, not when Sigil is back in active development.

As Sigil is (kind of) an HTML editor, I could have used it all along for making the HTML/CSS markup in Steps 3 and 4. That wouldn’t have been a particularly awesome idea, though. As of this writing, Sigil hasn’t fully transitioned to HTML5. I feel it’s better to code in an HTML5 setting such as Dreamweaver, then step backwards a little bit closer to the end, rather than to do a whole project soup-to-nuts in an older specification and have more to re-code if you ever update the book to modern standards.

The first move is to download and install Sigil. If you need an older/more compatible version, those are still available, too, although they have been deprecated. I’ll wait…got it up and running? Great! Here’s what we’ll do next:

  1. Dump our files into a new Sigil document.
  2. Put the files in the proper order.
  3. Input some metadata (I’ll explain).
  4. Create a table of contents, again.
  5. Validate the files with FlightCrew.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

This post will cover 1-3. It’ll be fun. Ready? Continue reading

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Let’s Split Up but Stay Friends

Just a book should (must?) have multiple pages, an E-book should have multiple .html files.

Having one big .html file for the interior of our E-book has its advantages. After all, what’s the expression we use when we talk about keeping a project organized? “Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.” But we’re (almost) done with the HTML and CSS portions of our book, and there are good reasons to split our .html file into smaller .html files:

splitting .html file into smaller files

  • Compatibility with older E-readers. Some of the early E-books couldn’t load a file larger than 128K or 256K. Splitting our book into segments helps us keep early-adopters in the game.
  • Easier navigation on some devices. Some devices, again, often older ones, allow the reader to “blip” ahead by section. If your anthology is all one big section, then the only “blips” allowed will be the very beginning and end of the book.
  • Guaranteed page breaks. Sometimes, you just need to be certain that a certain line will appear at the top of a new page. Start with a fresh .html file and know that it will have a fresh page all to itself.
  • Alternate cascading style sheets. YBR uses one CSS, but it might be that part of your book (a prose section, perhaps) will refer to a different .css file. Put that part on its own .html file and you’re good to go!
  • Reuse of “evergreen” sections. Okay, look, the back 10 pages of every Bicycle Comics poetry E-book thus far has been 8 pages of advertising for our other E-books. We don’t want to re-write or re-code that section; we just want to pop it in.

To be clear, we are making one E-book poetry anthology; an E-book can contain multiple .html and .css files. For the Tandem anthologies, we made each month its own chapter, so each month got its own .html file, as did the frontmatter and backmatter. But we combined those .html files into one EPUB file for each of our E-books. Here are the steps: Continue reading

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Filed under Code Samples, Organization and Data

Before You Break Up, Make a List of Your Stuff

Make the table of contents before you split the interior .html file into chapters and sections.

We’ve already separated our CSS from our HTML, and soon we’ll split our HTML into separate pages. Before that happens, we’ll make a table of contents while we still have all the information we’ll need on one page. Ready to start? Here’s what we’ll do:

  1. Type up—but don’t link—the Table of Contents.
  2. Put <a> anchors on the titles of your poems.
  3. Pay attention to anthology-specific issues.
  4. Do some light housekeeping.

1. Type up—but don’t link—the Table of Contents.

Remember, Yellow Buick Review is a sample poetry anthology. Anthologies tend to have big tables of contents, and there are often many stakeholders (and egos) involved. So be careful. This is our ToC for Yellow Buick Review, without any links:

<h2>Table of Contents</h2>
<p class="PoemStanza">From the Editor</p>
<p class="PoemStanza">Epigraph</p>
<p class="ContentsSection">April Contest Winners</p>
<p class="PoemStanza">Stan Grenfield</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">Chrome Bumper Reflections</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">Penny Candy</p>
<p class="PoemStanza">Jennifer Riggle</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">The Lighthouse at Salt Marsh</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">Donec Elementum</p>
<p class="ContentsSection">April Contributors</p>
<p class="PoemStanza">Nancy Kilroy</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">The Tale of Three Eyebrows</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">What the Barn Owl Saw</p>
<p class="PoemStanza">Andy Crenshaw</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">The Sum of its Parts</p>
<p class="PoemStanza">Amit Matthews</p>
 <p class="PoemLineIndent1">On the Sixth Anniversary of its Demotion, Pluto Facebook-Stalks Astronomers Mike Brown and Neil deGrasse Tyson</p>
 <p class="PoemStanza">Poet Biographies</p>
<p class="PoemStanza">About our Next Issue</p>

Here’s how that looks in a Web browser:

screenshot of table of contents

Note: I decided that the major sections “April Contest Winners” and “April Contributors” needed a little more OOMPH, so I created a new style just for them. Remember, whenever I make a change or set of changes to my CSS, I’ll need to update the name to avoid confusing myself later, so I’ll incorporate these changes into YBR_Cranberry.css when I make it:

p.ContentsSection, li.ContentsSection, div.ContentsSection {
 padding-left: 1em;
 text-align: left;
 background-color: #CCC; /* helps this line read better in Table of Contents */

I’ll also need to make minor changes to this stylesheet elsewhere, adding p.ContentsSection, li.ContentsSection, div.ContentsSection class selectors:

p.PoemStanza, li.PoemStanza, div.PoemStanza,
p.PoemStanzaIndent1, li.PoemStanzaIndent1, div.PoemStanzaIndent1,
p.PoemStanzaIndent2, li.PoemStanzaIndent2, div.PoemStanzaIndent2,
p.PoemStanzaRightJ, li.PoemStanzaRightJ, div.PoemStanzaRightJ,
p.PoemStanzaCenter, li.PoemStanzaCenter, div.PoemStanzaCenter,
p.ContentsSection, li.ContentsSection, div.ContentsSection {

2. Put <a> anchors on the titles of your poems.

Continue reading


Filed under Organization and Data

The Poetry Workflow Flowchart

Everything Bicycle Comics has learned about formatting poetry anthologies for Kindle and Kobo.

workflow illustration

From MS Word to Kindle in six steps!

There it is. Depending on where you are in your publishing journey, that workflow looks beautifully simple or laughably Byzantine. Don’t worry; I’ll walk you through each of these steps in future blog posts. But big-picture, here is how we move an anthology from manuscript into Kindle and Kobo.

  1. Paste and proofread all the poems as plain text. We remove nearly all formatting from the poems. The document should look like (or actually be) a text file. Here we can check spelling and discuss proofreading/editorial changes with poets via E-mail. The entire interior of the book is in one whopping-huge Word document.
  2. Lightly format the book in Microsoft Word. We add basic structure to the book. If it can’t be done via the Style menu, then we probably won’t do it. We try to have all of our content debates now, because after this step, our book “forks” into two paths: one set of files goes to InDesign for our paperback edition, and one set of files goes to Dreamweaver for our E-book. If we make a change now, we make it one time. If we make a change later, we’ll need to make it twice.
  3. Save the document as HTML + CSS. We tell MS Word to export our document as HTML, and then we use Adobe Dreamweaver to tidy up the resulting code. We also pull all styling of the document into an external style sheet. If you’re coming from a traditional publishing background (QuarkXPress, InDesign, PageMaker), this step will seem the most foreign and tedious. I’ll talk you through it!
  4. Separate the HTML into chapters. We split our one huge interior HTML file into several smaller HTML files. For the most part, we split at chapters; each month of our Tandem anthologies is one chapter. Our table of contents, foreword, and contributor biographies become additional “chapters.” For the most part, we try to have all our chapters use the same, external cascading style sheet, but we’re open to adding one or two mini .css files if we really need them.
  5. Place the HTML and CSS files into an EPUB. We’ve been using Sigil, a free, open-source EPUB editor. Sigil wrangles together our HTML/CSS files, plus any images or media files we’ll be using. Sigil also helps us make a Table of Contents. Once we’re happy with our Sigil EPUB, we’re ready to publish on Kobo, Nook, and Google Play Books!
  6. Create a MOBI and/or KF8 book with Amazon Kindle Previewer. We use the free Kindle Previewer program to translate our EPUB into Amazon’s specialized Kindle format(s).

On a tight budget? Bicycle Comics uses both commercial and free software to make our poetry E-books. In subsequent posts, I’ll offer advice on how to work through each step using low-cost substitutes for some of the expensive programs.


Filed under Look and Feel, Manuscript Preparation, Organization and Data