Still struggling with the first part…


After mucking about with InDesign for a few weeks trying to get my eBook thing going, I spent many a frustrating hour figuring out the whole process.

This and This video were key to my understanding the whole thing. They cover pretty much the whole process and every weird bit you’ll run into.

Here I’ll try to offer some helpful tips that came to mind as I got my feet wet in the whole self-publishing ocean and the bit where I stepped off the beach-shelf and got dragged to the murky depths.

Please keep in mind that the following tips relate to InDesign, but your own DTP program might suffer similar issues (or similar delusions of grandeur, as it were)


  • Don’t bother with Master Pages, headers/footnotes, page numbers, or many other fancy things outside of what you can pull off in a Character or Paragraph style.  The HTML style format and the fact that an ePub can resize a page means that these things get stripped away, no matter how good they look.  Save all this for the PDFs or other formats.

  • When you think you’ve finished and gotten everything, convert to ePub, then use another reader (your Kobo, Calibre, whatever) to read it. I had a whole extra chapter hidden away at the end of one chapter – I couldn’t see it, since in InDesign the text overflowed the pages I had set up, but it was still there and was exported to the ePub. My point: some mistakes will show up in the reader more obviously than they might in your fancy WYSWYG program.
  • New chapters need their own .INDD file.  Sure, you can chuck it all in one big thing, the formatting will separate one chapter from another, but it looks better with each chapter starting at the top of a page.  String all the .INDD files together in the Book Doc -the .INDB file. Then export from there.
  • All instances of italics, bolds, etc, need their own tag. In InDesign, they might look like they have italics, but they need the italic tag. Use Find/Change to search for Character style Italic and replace them with same, otherwise they won’t survive the ePub conversion.
  • Save before exporting. Exporting from an .INDB file auto-saves, but just make sure: InDesign will likely crash hard after the ePub is exported.  It does not appear to crash while saving out individual .INDDs.

I submitted the ePub to Kobo’s Writing Life – their self-publishing service sometime late on Monday evening. A few things went weird. Firstly, after I had submitted, the eBook was declared as “publishing” or some such and I was informed it would take 24-72 hours. Seemed reasonable. Didn’t hear anything for a day, so I thought I’d check back on the website – now it says “On Sale!” Congrats I thought and looked for it on the website. There were no results. Patiently, I waited, until I realized that:

Secondly, I managed to submit the content of the book and mostly everything else except a cover image and a synopsis – my own fault, since i misunderstood what and where this was asked. Since I was submitting an already formatted ePub, with a cover etc, I thought they might strip the data for the cover from the ePub, but they require a separate upload for it. Probably better in the long run, as they allow for images up to 2Mb for it, but in a weird aspect ratio (somewhere around 2:3). I resubmitted it, with these things, thinking that’s possibly why it wasn’t showing up in the lists: I mean, who would sell a book without a cover and a synopsis? It “published” immediately and was still “on sale”. The record of it in my account area of the website shows the book with the cover and everything. Still can’t find it on the site. Two days later, I’m still looking for it through the search function and nope, nada, nyet comrade. Realized the published date wasn’t what I set, so I adjusted that, resubmitted.. Nothing.

Looking around on the net, it seems this has happened with a few other authors, so maybe its all okay. Maybe so, but its rather annoying. I don’t mind the waiting for something to happen (in most cases), but it would be nice to know where I stand on the whole thing: “Heya, we’re checking your drivel for offensive words and scenes” in an email would be nice. Or, “since you changed x and y, we need to resubmit your work and it will take another 24-72 hours.” To this date, I think I’ve only gotten one email from Kobo about this whole thing, and that was welcoming me aboard. I’m used to agents and publishers in the video game industry stringing me (and an entire company) along, but this…? Not so much. Anyway, a watched pot never boils as they say, and I’ve been checking on it way too many times per diurnal cycle, so perhaps i should just forget about it and stop worrying. After all, this was just a test with a few stories jammed out in a matter of hours, not my life’s work.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, there’s a novel or two to be written (or finished, not necessarily the same thing…)