I'm writing these notes to myself so that I will remember what I need to do when the "Tiny Tales from India" book is ready to go (target date: July 10). You can see the contents of that book being staged from Diigo right now: India book contents. I have six books in various stages of production right now: India, Aesop, Sufi Stories, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, African Stories (showing the African sources for the Anansi and Brer Rabbit stories).
My goal is to do this as a true series with similar covers, layout, everything the same for the series. The more that I can minimize the production overhead, the more I can maximize time for WRITING. I have lots of research and writing skills (and so many stories I want to tell!), but my design skills are zero, which is why I am so grateful to Pressbooks: they have let me produce a book that is based on my writing, and I didn't have to do any design work at all.
Literally: no design work.
Here's the step by step of how I made the Nasruddin book:
Text file. I started with a plaintext file (in another post I'll write something about my editing process and how I ended up with this file). Key features of the file: no special characters, line breaks for paragraphs, and -- this is the key thing! -- a tilde character before and after each title. You can see the text file here.
Create book. Pressbooks makes it easy to start a new book project. I created an account, and I created a new book project. I also upgraded so that I could get watermark free ebooks ($20). I'm not really interested in the print version, so I'm happy to live with the watermarks in the PDF versions. In fact, I'm glad to be advertising for Pressbooks. I had no idea how easy this would be and what a wide range of export formats are supported.
Re-create book? For next time, I hope I can just clone the book I designed this time and swap out the contents while keeping design options the same. I have not explored that yet. If it's not possible to clone a book, that's not a big deal: I'm recording the options I chose this time now so that I can choose them again next time.
So, here is the step by step process I followed ... and kudos to Pressbooks for organizing the interface in such a way that the steps I needed to follow were clear from the dashboard layout itself!
Organize. With my minimal approach, I was able to rely on the default areas to add content (I'll write a separate blog post about what I mean my "minimal approach" but you can get the idea: very short stories while attempting to erase myself from the process as much as possible to focus on the stories). Here's the screen for "organize" showing the four content areas I am using: front matter, chapters (just one!), back matter (two parts).
remove top matter. First, I removed top matter from the plaintext file with the title, author, license, and version information. That is content which I entered as Book Info in Pressbooks (see below).
paragraphs. I replaced all line breaks with closing/opening p tags. Having the paragraphs marked up as actual paragraphs was very helpful because of the different ways Pressbooks lets you format paragraphs for PDF as opposed to ebooks; more on that below.
titles. For the story titles I was able to do a find-and-replace on "~ " and " ~" (start and close of title) to mark up the titles as H1. Then, I found how Pressbooks lets me add a "page-break-before" option by styling the H1 tags. That was perfect for me: h1 class="page-break-before"
Then I just removed the extra close/open paragraph tags adjacent to the h1 tags, which is also a simple find-and-replace in my text file.
Paste into text view. I'll confess I am not a fan of this "Text" view in the Pressbooks/WP editor; I'd rather just see the HTML view so I could see the actual p tags, but that's okay. I wasn't doing any editing in Pressbooks anyway. The content I copied and pasted from my textfile with the HTML markup worked fine! It replaced the p tags with spaces breaks, which I guess is a WP thing (I'm used to the Blogger editor, which has HTML display option).
Finish organizing. I think I may have deleted an item that was a default in the organizing setup but now I can't remember. Anyway, I ended up with the four Pressbook content areas: in front matter there is About This Book (as opposed to Introduction), then The Stories (that's chapter 1, and it's the only chapter), and then two pieces of back matter: Story Title Index and Story Sources.
Configure organizing. After I got the content set up, I then adjusted the Status box for each area (show in web, show in exports, show title), then I added Short Title down at the bottom (but no subtitle; that was messing up my table of contents but when I just left subtitle blank, that worked perfectly), and I also disabled contents for the Stories. I prefer using Hypothesis instead (more below on enabling Hypothesis).
Book Info. I have to create myself as a Contributor to add myself as Author, so I did that. I entered the publication date. I uploaded the cover I created with Canva (I chose something very easy to re-use in Canva by just changing color scheme and background; that's my zero design skills at work... since I had created the cover in Canva I didn't use the Pressbooks cover designer). Primary subject is "Folklore, myths and legends" as it will be for all my books, and then I entered a few keywords. I listed myself as copyright holder, and then the CC BY-NC-SA license that I want to use. (I had that license information in my text file also.) I wrote a book tagline. I did not write a long book description. I may add that later when I see what what happens with Kindle Store and/or print-on-demand options that I have not explored yet.
Theme. I'm clueless. I chose Lewis. It looks good. Maybe expert Pressbook users will have some insight into a theme that would be even better for my style of book. I like the fact that I can easily go back and change themes if I decide that's a good idea. I'd like to use the same Theme for the whole series.
Theme options. This was really cool! For the web option, I chose "skip lines" between paragraphs, and likewise for the PDF, but for the ebooks I was able to choose indent paragraphs. That really makes sense for my 100-word stories: I want to fill up the page in the PDF/print versions, but I want to compress in the ebook versions. I may go back and choose additional options for the PDF after I see what happens when I expertiment with print-on-demand options. (I was able to check the ebooks options already: mobi and epub both looked good with the paragraphs indented!)
Settings: Sharing and Privacy: I made the book public.
Settings: Hypothesis. I'm really excited about the Hypothesis integration, and I turned that on with Highlights on by default, and then "Allow on Chapters" which means people can make notes on the stories.
And I immediately put the MOBI file on my Kindle and in the Kindle app on my phone: I could not believe I was seeing my own book in Kindle format like that, and I didn't have to do anything except tell Pressbooks to generate the MOBI file. Wow. Just wow.
I was so excited at how easy it was that I did not take notes step by step, but I will update this blog post in July when I do the India book to add any step I might have left out.
And thank you, Pressbooks: this all was so much easier than I ever imagined.
And a huge thank you also to Tineke D'Haeseleer : the book that she and her students created, China's Magical Creatures, is what inspired me to try Pressbooks this summer, and I am so glad I did!
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