The Old Way to Sign an eBook
In June of 2009, The New York Times ran an amusing article about people going to book-signings and asking authors to autograph their Kindle ebook readers. This is what people were -- and still are -- doing! I gotta say, to get a Jeff Bezos autograph like the one shown, I'd deface a Kindle in a heart beat :-) and defacing an eToy is actually a lot more popular than you might think, but really, there's a better way. Save the hardware - sign the software instead!
The New Way to Sign an eBook
The goal of today's tip is to get you to the point where you can actually write on the cover of the book and give it to a customer for them to open on their eReader of choice. You can definitely do this with several formats of eBook--not just Kindles. In fact, it works a little better with ePub eBooks but I might be biased.
Let's use my Jewish Inspirational / RomCom, Coming Home (Dicky's Story), as a test subject (that's why I created and released this book, believe it or not, to be a test subject). Currently, the cover is this gawdawful "window" image (at left).
When we're done, however, I'll have replaced that cover with the one I'm in the process of cartooning - the cartoon is here and the eBook cover will look like this after we're finished (see image at right) with my scribbles written across it.
Step 1: Tools You'll Need
You will need to get 2 tools to do this nifty trick. First, you'll need some kind of image-editing software. If you have a Mac or PC, you probably have something basic that came with your computer (a Paint program, forex). If you want to get something a little more sophisticated, try GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program). It's free and available for all platforms. The second tool you'll need is Calibre, an eBook conversion program. Download Calibre now - it's free, too!
Step 2: Sign Your Book Cover
First of all, you need to open your image editing software, open the file you used when you uploaded your eBook to sell it (a JPG file probably), and using your mouse other input device (Tablet/Pen works great but you can do this with a mouse) and the pencil or paintbrush tool, sign your name or other inscription across the image. Just like I did across my cartoon of Dicky. Write whatever you like. I suggest, if your image editor supports layers, you create a new layer on which to write. That way, if you don't like it, you can easily delete the writing and not touch the image. You can also quit without saving and start again but that's a PITA and it's easier to just create a layer on which to write ^_^
Save the JPG file somewhere you can find it again but be sure to change the file name (don't overwrite your original file) putting some kind of indication like "signed" into the file name. You can put the file anywhere you like, so long as you know how to find it again.
Step 3: Open the Original eBook
If you haven't already saved local copies of your eBook after it's been published, browse to your author account on your distributor's site and save the book now. For example, if you're using Smashwords, you just choose a format and click "Save As..." to download the file. If you're only using KDP, you can get a copy of your book from your KDP Dashboard. Save the Mobi file and open that in Calibre.
Start Calibre by double clicking on its icon (if you installed it with the default options, it put an icon on your desktop; if you changed the installation options, just browse to wherever you put it).
Now click the "Add" button to import the copy of your eBook you saved locally. Remember, ePub format works best but you can choose to import the Mobi file if that's what you've got. The file format you "Add" does NOT have to be the one you're going to export. I advise you to use ePub whenever possible. I added the ePub of Dicky's Story here:
Notice the ugly "window" cover appears in thumbnail now and all kinds of text is in the "Metadata" beneath the thumbnail. That's all been extracted by Calibre from my ePub file. I didn't enter it here. I entered it on my book page at Smashwords. Kewel, huh?
Step 4: Setup the Conversion Options
Click "Convert books" and choose the "individually" option.
Step 5: Choose Output Format
You can maintain or change the format of the eBook. It makes no difference, but you have to select the output format from the right-side pull-down menu.
Step 6: Be Sure to Override the Source Image File
All those things listed in a column on the left side of the screen are called submenus. The first one is called Metadata. You can fill in all kinds of stuff that'll get attached to your output eBook but more relevant to our discussion today is that you can choose a new cover image file to use for the cover of the ouput.
You'll need to scroll down a little to see that option like in the following screen shot. Just be sure the checkbox on the left is not ticked and then click to browse to your newly-signed cover image (from Step 2 above):
Step 7: Choose a New Cover Image File
This is pretty straightforward. Just be sure the new image file being displayed is the one you want before you move on.
Step 8: Set the Output Options
If you're using the ePub format for your output (not required but I'm doing that for my example), you'll need to tick a few extra boxes. In the left-side column of submenus, click on EPUB OUTPUT and you'll see the following screenshot:
Be sure to tick the checkbox next to "preserve cover aspect ratio" or the ePub output will have a stretched image for a cover and it'll look all funky. If you leave the "no default cover" unticked (like in my example screen above), the output ePub file will have a cover image on the "outside" and a cover image inside the book where you placed it in your Word file. You can opt to only have the latter but I like having them both so that the image shows up on the eReader main menu (like when you view your books by thumbnail) so I leave this unticked.
Just in case you decide to output a Mobi (for Kindles) instead of an ePub (for iBooks, Kobo, Nook and everyone else), don't worry if you can't find this aspect ratio box. The options in the submenu column in Calibre change depending on what output format you choose. For Mobi, you cannot alter the aspect ratio of the cover image. You'll just see the following kind of screen shot:
Step 9: Convert the New eBook
When you click "OK" the book will be converted. The bottom right of the Calibre window will display "Jobs: 1" and when it's done, that'll change to "Jobs: 0" (see screen shot below).
Calibre will automatically create a folder with the same name that appeared in the "Author Name" field of the Metadata (see Step 3 above). Calibre will save a copy of your original eBook with the word "original" appended to it, and a copy of your new eBook with the name assembled from the Metadata fields.
Calibre won't open your file manager / explorer but I opened mine to show you that there's a folder now with the Author's name. Wherever you put your Calibre software when you installed it, the new author's folder will be there, too, and the new eBook files will be inside that folder.
10: Open Your New eBook
If you don't already have a copy of Adobe Digital Editions (ADE), it's also free and you should get a copy so you can use it to open your ePub-formatted eBooks to check them for correctness. This is especially important if you're using the Smashwords Meatgrinder to convert your books for sale.
Between MS Word and Meatgrinder, all kinds of weird errors get introduced, so you should make it a habit to open ePub files in ADE for error-checks you might not see if you open your book in say, iBooks or Stanza. Knowing the error is there doesn't help you find the source or fix it but thinking your file's fine when it's not is worse.
As you can see from the above screen shot, when I open Dicky's Story in ADE now, I have a new cover but the rest of the book is still intact. All I did was replace the cover image. Yay Calibre! Could this be easier? I think not.
Next Monday's Marketing will be another entry in the Branding (for Indie Authors) series. Be sure to tune in! Thanks for stopping by!