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Frustrations of Do-it-Yourself Publishing

I’m now entering the final stage of production for my latest novel.  This stage, sucks the most for me.  Let me explain.

I wrote the novel in Scrivener.  Great tool.  I then exported it to Word for editing by myself and my editor and for the beta readers to comment on.  The comments in Word are not ideal, but work for most editing tasks.  When the manuscript is done, I convert it to RTF and send it to my designer.  He imports it into Adobe InDesign, where he makes it look like a book. He exports to PDF for the final upload to the printer.

We do a proof and find some errors.  I correct the PDF and send it back to him.  He corrects the InDesign document.  Makes a PDF again and we repeat the proof process.  After all is good, the book is ready to be printed.  We also have a nice PDF for electronic publishing.

But, the process is not over.  We also need an electronic book version.  Actually, we need a bunch of versions for pocket computers, Kindle and epub formats.  In order to make an ebook, you need clean HTML.  Clean HTML is reducing the text to <p> tags and <br /> tags.  You can’t put styles (CSS) in the HTML.  It must be simple.  You can have italics tags but that is about it.

In order to get the cleanest HTML, I use MobiPocket Creator to convert the PDF to HTML.  (For this I must rely on someone who has Windows, as that program, like Scrivener is only on one OS) The resulting HTML is close to being clean, but there are many <br /> tags in it that need to be replaced with the <p></p> tags. Dialogue is the worst culprit for that.

This part of the process is a huge, tedious and time consuming ball of badness.  Why can’t a word processor convert to just <p> and <i> tags?  Is that so hard to do?  I should be able to write, edit and convert to both RTF and basic HTML all in one tool.  Right?  Am I completely off-base with that request? I think not.

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