“Wait a minute! You said you don’t use conversion tools to make your ePubs!” Well, that was before my clients decided they also want a paperback book from CreateSpace.
Most of the books I format are quite long at over 400 pages with many chapters and hyperlinks to terms used in the text. I really needed an efficient method to construct an ebook as well as format it for print. While it isn’t a perfect solution, Adobe’s CS6 InDesign has provided a decent platform for my efforts.
The learning curve is very steep for InDesign and requires much study and practice. It is the industry standard for print formatting so I think it is worth the effort required to become proficient. I stop short of saying “mastering” it because I believe that could possibly require years.
The InDesign tutorials at Lynda.com are invaluable and well worth the subscription price. Anne-Marie Concepción’s InDesign CS5.5 to EPUB, Kindle, and iPad is very good. She demonstrates the use of Edit All Tags in Paragraph Styles. Use it to assign your CSS styles to your Character Styles. This tidys up the XHTML code; for example, InDesign will use a span class for italic text you have assigned a Character Style, very long and messy. You can assign this Character Style to the html code <em>.
Also, be sure to watch Mike Rankin’s Creating Long Documents with InDesign. I wish I had watched his course first!
The bottom line is that, even though I use InDesign to make the ePub file, there is still lots of work to fine tune it and complete the opf file. InDesign saves some construction time, however, there is no substitute for understanding the structure of an ePub, proper XHTML code and the CSS template.