If you're looking for a low-cost way to create, publish, and market an e-book, be sure to check out these Linux tools.
As a writer, I always am looking at new and better ways to get my words to the public. And since I write fiction as well as technology pieces, it's in my best interest to know how to get my books into the hands of readers. In today's market, the publishing industry is in a serious swing away from the traditional routes. With the major improvements in e-readers, more and more users are migrating away from the old standard hardcover/paperback books to digital formats. This has been a boon for new writers. With the ability to easily self-publish for various e-readers, it no longer requires an agent or a publisher to see your brilliance.
But does that mean everyone should be submitting their books? Well, if everyone can properly format, design, and create -yes. If not, no. For those with the necessary skills, it is important to have the right tools and/or procedures for getting your books into the Amazon, Barnes & Noble's, and Apple systems. Linux can help you do that. Let's take a look at 10 Linux tools that can help your get your book into the market.
Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
If there is one tool Autumnal Press (my digital press) depends on, it is Calibre. On the surface, Calibre looks like a tool to manage your personal books for your e-reader device. But underneath, Calibre offers much more. With this powerful management tool ,you can edit the metadata for your books and convert your books to a useable format for the Kindle, the NOOK, the iPad, and other devices. With this tool, I will take a properly formatted RTF of the original document, edit the metadata to include Author, Publisher, Cover, Tags, etc., and then covert that file to .MOBI, .EPUB, and .PDF. With those three formats, you cover nearly every e-reader on the market.
2: The GIMP/Blender/Inkscape
You need a cover for your book. Depending upon the ebook reader you're publishing to, you might need a higher resolution cover than a raster image (The GIMP). Although you can scale up to 300 DPI with the GIMP, raster graphics are still not as scalable as vector graphics. It's a good thing you can install and use a tool for either type for free on Linux. I will warn you, creating vector graphics is far more challenging than the creation of raster graphics -- so much so that you will find yourself running back to raster graphics and settling for less scalable versions of your cover. Just remember, in The GIMP, right-click the image and select Image > Scale. In the Resolution section, set it for higher than 72 for better quality.
You have to actually create the document first. If you are writing a novel or a lengthy manual, this is going to be a must-have for the bulk of the work. LibreOffice is (or will soon be) the de facto standard office suite for the Linux operating system. You will use this tool to create the RTF that will be used to convert to the various formats. Be sure to read the suggestions for the various services you will be using. For example, smashwords.com recommends margins of 0.79" all around for your books. Along with margins, you will want to closely follow the services' recommendations for tabs, font, font sizes, etc. If you don't, your file will be rejected.
4: OpenShot Video Editor
You might be wondering why a video editor is listed for ebook publishing. Simple. Once your book is published, you have to market it. Remember, self-publishing does not include a "big-six" publisher backing your book. So you must market, market, market. One way I have found is creating simple viral videos for my books. OpenShot Video Editor is an amazing tool for the creation of such videos. You can use it to create a quick multi-track video (with music included) using only images from your book or even video (such as interviews) shot with a camera.
If you plan to publish a book that includes a lot of graphics, you are not going to want to try to manage the creation/layout of that book with a word processor. Instead, you will want to take advantage of the power of the PDF. Scribus is, by far, the best choice for creating complex PDF documents in Linux. With this user-friendly GUI tool, you can create professional quality PDF documents as you would with QuarkXPress or PageMaker. Once you have that PDF created, you can then convert it to standard formats with Calibre.
Remember my mentioning marketing? This is one area you can't falter on. You must, every day, market your book. One of the best (and cheapest) means of marketing your work is social networking. But why bother working from within two browser tabs when you can use a tool like Gwibber to post to both networks simultaneously? Gwibber is one of the best tools for this task.
At some point, you are going to need a piece of financial software to keep track of the income generated by your book(s). For that, you will want to use GnuCash. I have touted GnuCash quite a bit here on TechRepublic, and with good reason. GnuCash is the single best accounting software for the Linux operating system. You can keep track of every aspect of the income/outcome required by your new ebook publishing venture.
Some of you will want to have a bit more control over the look and feel of the layout of your ebook. If so, you might want to turn to HTML-formatted books. Some of the tools used by the publishers (Amazon is big on this) prefer HTML-formatted input files. Although this might take more time than just creating an .RTF file, the results might favor the time spent.
If you're looking to sell your ebooks directly (I do this as well with Autumnal Press), you will need a platform that allows you to easily sell digital media. CubeCart is one of the best. CubeCart does have some fairly complex dependencies (Ioncube and Zend Optimizer being the more challenging), but one you have the shopping cart installed on your Apache server, you will love how easy digital products are to set up.
You should see a theme here: marketing. I can't stress enough how crucial marketing is for the success of your ebooks. One great way to market your books is using a Web site dedicated to the book(s). WordPress is one of the easiest to get up and running and will allow you to easily integrate with social media outlets. Always remember, the more links, mentions, tweets, and #tags you have for your book, the more eyes will be seeing it.
The bottom line
From start to finish, you can create and publish your ebook with the help of the Linux platform. And with zero overhead (with the exception of CubeCart), all these tools will have your book up and selling with next to zero cost to you. This means the bottom line for your ebook is all profit. Good luck with your new venture. The work is long and tedious, but the possible payoff is very much worth it.