Categories
LaTeX

Publishing on Google Play

This is an excerpt of the book “Better Books with LaTeX.” The book comes with a LaTeX template you can use to easily create your own books.

While Amazon KDP is the current market leader, it might be worthwhile to also publish a book on other platforms. One alternative is Google Play where people can buy books directly from their pre-installed “Books” application on their Android smartphone (or online on their computers). The advantage of Google over other competitors is that many people already have a Google account and have added their payment information, so that shopping online becomes less of a barrier to purchase. Another point for Google is that fewer competitors offer their books there (compared to Amazon). This is partly due to the more complex initial setup and upload process which we will be discussing in this chapter step by step.

To publish your e-book on Google Play, you need to have your EPUB file ready, have or register a Google account on https://www.google.com, and then register yourself as a publisher. Registering a Google account is straightforward, so we can move on to creating an EPUB file.

If you already have the e-book on Amazon KDP, make sure it is not (or no longer) in the “KDP Select Program” which prohibits the release of the e-book (or large parts of it) on other platforms.

  Creating EPUB Files for Google Play

To prepare for the epub conversion, the LaTeX code might need some cleaning up. Go through this checklist to make sure those issues are met. There might be issues beyond that; if you encounter any, let us know at mail@lode.de. If all else fails, you can also use the PDF output—with the downside that it is optimized for print (two-page view, fixed trim size, etc.) while the EPUB output can be adapted to the specific size, resolution, and page orientation of the reader’s device. You can also refer to Google’s checklist of how to make a book available online:https://support.google.com/books/partner/checklist/4489282.

  • Do not use special characters (like colons) as the ID of entries in the bibliography.
  • Do not use the \url{} command for emails or other non-URLs.

Calibre   Calibre is a HTML to EPUB converter tool (see https://calibre-e-book.com/download) that also allows you to edit the metadata of the EPUB, add a cover image, and set the parameters of the conversion.

There are many free software tools to convert your HTML file into EPUB for Google Play. I recommend using calibre. After download and installation, start the “E-book management” program which shows your current library. To add a book, click on “Add books,” browse to your directory where you have extracted the zip file you downloaded from Overleaf , and select the HTML file. On the right side, you will see a default picture for the cover (we have not assigned any yet), as well as a list of “Formats.” As we have not converted the file to EPUB yet, ZIP is the only format we have.

Next, left-click on your book entry, and click on “Convert books.” On the top left, you will see the input file format (ZIP), and on the top right, you will see the output format (EPUB). If another output format is shown on the top right corner, click on it and select EPUB. All that is left to do is to fill the meta data and adapt the page setup—all other items are good at their default setting.

On the right hand side, you need to enter the title, author(s), publisher, series name, and series number. You can skip the large text field below—the book’s description can be filled out on the particular platform where you release the EPUB file and might need several revisions there.

Then, add the cover file you have created previously in Chapter 11 (Google Play does not have an inbuilt cover creator).

Next, click on “Page setup” on the left, and select “Tablet” from the “Output profile” list. This disables image scaling for the conversion, and the images will instead later be scaled according to the device the reader is using to read your book. While this increases the size of the EPUB file, it allows your e-book to be read on any device.

Then, click on “Search & replace.” This looks a bit cryptic, but we need to fix how tex4ht builds its links in the file. Insert the following string into “Search regular expression”:

 
 
<a id="\w[0-9]-[0-9]+doc"></a>
 

Leave Replacement text empty, and click “Add.” Clear the “Search regular expression” field and now enter:

 
 
<a id="chapter\*\.[0-9]+"></a>
 

and click “Add” again. These two rules will remove faulty links that will otherwise show up as errors by Google Play.

Finally, press OK, wait for the conversion to be completed, and click on EPUB to open the e-book reader and check if the conversion was successful. Now you have an EPUB file we can later use to upload to Google Play’s e-book platform and release it.

After you have added your book the first time, you can simply copy the meta data and the cover image from your previous versions. For this, simply right-click on an existing entry, select “Edit metadata,” “Copy metadata,” and then right click on the new entry, selecting “Edit metadata,” and “Paste metadata.” You will probably import your book several times while learning how to work with Overleaf and LaTeX, so this feature can be helpful.

  Troubleshooting

Instead of waiting for Google Play to process and check your EPUB file, you can also use an EPUB validator like http://validator.idpf.org/. The downside is that it is more strict than the Google Play validator—the output of Calibri will show a number of issues accepted by Google Play:

  • Error while parsing file ‘value of attribute “id” is invalid’ The id of one of your bibliography entries contains a special character.
  • Referenced resource could not be found in the EPUB. This issue shows up if your \url commands are malformed (the URL does not start with “http”).
  • CSS selector specifies absolute position. This is an issue of Calibri and cannot be fixed but has no effect on the actual e-book read by your readers.

For reasons of optimization, Calibri splits the HTML file into parts. Thus, the line numbers shown both by Google Play as well as the EPUB validator relate to those split files, not your original HTML file. To access those split files, go to the Calibri output directory, right click on the EPUB file, and unzip it with WinZip (or another similar unzip program).

  Registering at Google Play

Google sets some limits on people registering as a publisher (or a self-publishing author). The first step is to fill out the form at https://play.google.com/books/publish.

This is generally also the address you can return to if you get lost during the publishing process.

Click on “GET STARTED NOW” which leads you to a login page (if you are not already logged in Google) and then to the entry page (“Find new fans. Sell more books.”). Click on “online interest form” (https://support.google.com/books/partner/contact/playbooks_partner_program_interest_form) and fill out the “Google Play Books Partner Program interest form.” The fields are all straightforward, fill in your info, and then press “SUBMIT.” This submits a request to Google which will put you into a queue.

Please note that because publishing on Google Play is still in development, the links could change. If you encounter a broken link, let us know and we will get you on the right page.

After a week or so (that is how long it took for me, it might vary depending on when you sign up), you can enter your publishing company’s name and country. Once your details are entered, the terms of use are displayed. Read carefully about your rights and when payments are made. If you agree with the contract, check the boxes and continue. Next, fill out the form with the payment address, and continue again.

Note that it now takes additional time for Google to confirm the data you have entered. You can set up your book(s), but you cannot publish any until then. This activation took, for me, about a week.

  Managing Your Book Library

Finally, you come to the overview window. Click on “Book library” and then on “Add book.”

I recommend to simply use the automatically generated one from Google (GGKEY, a unique key like the ASIN on Amazon) which you can get for free. For the other settings, leave the defaults and select “Digital” (e-book) as the medium.


Did you know?


If you are releasing multiple editions of your book (for example due to updates) on multiple platforms, you might want to think about acquiring ISBNs and assigning one ISBN for each edition. This helps you to keep track what edition you have released where and makes it easier for authors to cite, or for readers to review, your work. -→ Read more in Writing Better Books, the Agile Way


Next comes a series of forms that are similar to the ones to set up your book on Amazon KDP. If you have already entered your book on KDP, you can simply copy and paste most of the information (title, description, about the author, series, etc.). Once the meta data is entered, you can move on to the next item and upload your EPUB file. After the upload is finished, the file is automatically scanned for issues (this might take an hour or two). If you encounter any error messages, read again Chapter 12.1 or let us know at mail@lode.de. But if you have not made any major changes to the template, your file should be ready to be released. If you have just set up your account, you might still have to wait a while.

Before releasing the book, you might want to add yourself (or your editor) as a quality control inspector at the bottom of the “Contents” screen using your Google mail address.

The book will show up at https://play.google.com/books of your Google account (or in the books application on your smartphone).

Once released, you can find your book by going to https://play.google.com/store/books and search for the title of your book. That is it!


Did you know?


While marketing a book on Google Play takes somewhat more effort than on Amazon, Google also offers prominent display of your book on the Google search results page (see Figure 12.1). -→ Read more in Writing Better Books, the Agile Way 

Figure 12.1:Google Play books are displayed prominently on the Google search results page.

Categories
LaTeX

How to Create Cover Graphics

This is an excerpt of the book “Better Books with LaTeX.” The book comes with a LaTeX template you can use to easily create your own books.

Cover graphics are separate from the LaTeX project. You can neither create a cover graphic in LaTeX nor include it in your project. Instead, you need to use an external program to design it.

While Amazon (and other platforms) offer automatically generated covers, I strongly recommend not using them for your final publication. They are fine if you just need any cover to get your book printed and have a physical copy, but may well turn people away because they think the (lack of) effort you put into the cover reflects on the content of the book.

Unfortunately, I can give you only a technical guideline and some ideas. I recommend hiring a designer to produce the final version. Still, if you are somewhat proficient with a graphics editor, the following sections can give you at least a start. If you do not plan to publish a print edition, simply skip to Chapter 11.2.

 Download KDP Template

A cover consists of the front cover, the back cover, and the side, called the “spine.” Paperback cover are usually printed in one piece, meaning you need to provide an image with your back cover on the left, the spine in the middle, and the front cover on the right. Later, this print-out is folded and glued to the printed pages of your book. First, you need a template that fits the size specifications exactly. You do not want half of your front cover to bleed over into the spine or to have your text cut off at the edges. KDP provides a service for this, simply go to https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/cover-templates and enter the trim sizepage count, and paper color (which affects the thickness of each page and hence the width of the spine). For the trim size, use the same size as specified in lib/bookformat.tex. For the page count, use the actual page count of your PDF (which has nothing to do with the numbering you put into the book). Amazon will check your template, but not automatically, meaning you might lose a few days waiting for approval if your cover template does not match your PDF with the book’s content (for example if it shows a different title, or if the spine size does not fit the number of pages). Likewise, for the paper color, use the same setting you have selected previously in Chapter 10.2 in order to have the correct spine size. Once all is entered correctly, click on “Download cover template.” Note that the resulting template rounds your number of pages up to a multiple of 10. If possible, the best approach is to also align your content’s pages to a multiple to 10, but this is not required. There is a margin of error and KDP might decide to add empty pages. If your book has 251 pages (thus you need the 260 page template), you might want to check, though, if you can save a page somewhere. The template file contains both a PNG file and a PDF file. Depending on your graphics editor, choose the one with which you are most familiar. The template itself is self-explanatory: use the whole back cover space, spine space, and front cover space (including the areas marked red) for your back cover, spine, and front cover picture. Then enter your text while being careful not to touch any of the areas marked with red. The ISBN number on the back is added automatically, so be careful not to have any content in or near that area.

 Front Cover Structure


Did you know?


The front cover of your book is like the front of a shop: it is the one single thing with which you connect with possible readers. -→ Read more in Writing Better Books, the Agile Way


Concerning the front cover, note these two technical aspects:

  • If your front cover is white, you need to add small gray lines (maybe 3-4 pixels) around your template. This is because while the borders are clearly visible when the book is printed, the book cover preview on Amazon is displayed in front of a white background. Adding a gray border will make it stand out.
  • As a designer, you might be inclined to make it look as good as possible when you hold it in your hands. While this is a fine approach, the front cover also needs to look good (and readable!) when shown on the Amazon website. Try to scale down your cover and see if you can still recognize the writing and the image.

For the second point, let us look at the details currently at Amazon:

1.
346 pixel height in the product page (where the customer decides to buy it or not).
2.
218 pixel height in the search result page.
3.
160 pixel height in the “Sponsored products related to this item” view.
4.
115 pixel height in the “Shop by Category” view.

My proposal is that the following elements should be easily readable for the corresponding sizes:

1.
(346 pixel height): Main title, subtitle, author name, ribbon, …
2.
(218 pixel height): Main title, subtitle, ribbon.
3.
(160 pixel height): Main title, subtitle.
4.
(115 pixel height): Main title.

You might also have to use fonts that are easily readable at those sizes. This might reduce the quality of the high-resolution image and the printed cover but the only thing a potential buyer initially sees is the “minified” version of the cover. With printed books primarily sold in a (physical) book shop, the situation is different because customers can actually hold the final product in their hands: here, the details matter.

For the e-book cover, the process is the same as described above. The only major difference is that you are not bound by your selected trim size of the book. Instead, it is recommended by Amazon to use 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (1.6:1) aspect ratio). If your aspect ratio of the cover for your printed book is larger (meaning it has a smaller width), it might be worthwhile to create a new cover that makes use of this additional space.

I recommend saving the e-book cover as lossless PNG file. If you upload it to an online platform like KDP or Google Play, the platform will convert it automatically to the best format and resolution suited to each website.

 Back Cover Structure

The back cover is the text a potential buyer turns to after seeing the front cover. The reader now knows what the book is about and is deciding whether or not to buy it. Thus, the back cover is the place where you make the sale. You should list a more detailed description of the contents at the top, and a short author biography, ideally with a picture of you, in the middle. Unlike the front cover, there are no special requirements for the font sizes for the back cover. An interested reader will look at it in full resolution.

 Spine Considerations

The spine provides space for the book’s title and your name (rotated by 90 degrees). If your title is part of a series, you could put the series name here, too. Also, you might wonder how your book will book on the shelves in stores or libraries. There, your spine is the point of sale. If it is part of a series, you might want to go fancy and provide a nicely composed picture for when the books are arranged side by side.

 Cover Design

As mentioned above, it is recommended to have a professional designer work on your cover. Contact us at mail@lode.de if you need help in that regard. If you want to select a freelancer on your own, I recommend hiring someone with whom you can communicate very clearly, as cover design goes beyond simple “Draw this,” “Here, I am done,” and “Thank you.” The designer needs to know what sets book covers apart from other graphics (like the different sizes of the cover graphic for advertisement discussed above). Ideally, the designer should have completed a number of past cover design projects. Examine his or her portfolio closely and do not expect that he or she will create a significantly better (or worse) design for your project.