ePub Author Question – How Do I Convert My Color Book to Black and White and Make a LOT More Money?

If you are self-publishing hardcopy books with color images, you may want to take a long, hard look at converting your book to black-and-white. The printing cost of a black-and-white book is just a fraction of that of a color book, which means you’ll be able to price your B&W book much cheaper and sell a lot more copies.

If you haven’t priced out the difference between color printing and B&W, you’ll be surprised. I’ll give you the numbers from one of my books as an example. 

My best-selling book is a 478-page book called Practical and Clear Graduate Statistics in Excel. I originally published the hardcopy version in color using Print-On-Demand from Lightning Source. The printing charge from Lightning Source was $44.02. At a retail price of $79.95 with a 20% wholesale discount (meaning that Amazon would get 20% of the sale price), I earned $19.94 per sale.

Introducing Lightning Source’s Convenient Publisher Compensation Calculator

Lightning Source has a convenient Publisher Compensation calculator on their web site. Below is a screen shot of the LS Publisher Compensation calculators running the numbers above: 

Lightning Source POD Publisher Compensation Calculator - Color Book

Lightning Source POD Publisher Compensation Calculator - Color Book

Now let’s take a look at the numbers after the same book is converted to B&W. The printing charge from Lightning Source was reduced to $9.90. At a retail price of $39.95 with a 20% wholesale discount, I earned $22.06 per sale. Cutting the retail price in half greatly increases sales and I even earn a few dollars more per sale. Below is a screen shot of the LS Publisher Compensation calculators running the numbers above: 

Lightning Source POD Publisher Compensation Calculator - Black-and-White

Lightning Source POD Publisher Compensation Calculator - Black-and-White

Not every color book will work as a B&W, but many will. Yours might.

Converting a book from color to black-and-white for the most part involves converting all images from color to grayscale. You will also need to create a new cover artwork file because the spine of a B&W POD book is thinner than a color POD book. This requires a whole new cover artwork .pdf file to be created and then uploaded to Lightning Source. Let’s do that first.

First step – Create the New Cover Artwork File

There are two files that must be created when submitted a book to Lightning Source for Print-On-Demand. Both files are .pdf files that must meet rigid, professional-quality printing standards defined by Lightning Source. The first .pdf file contains the book’s contents. The second .pdf file contains the cover artwork.

We have to create a new cover art .pdf when converting from color to B&W because of the thinner spine of the B&W version. B&W POD pages are slightly thinner than the pages in a color POD book. The spine of the B&W version of a book is therefore thinner than the color version. A thinner spine means that a whole new .pdf cover artwork file must be generated.

Introducing Lightning Source’s Convenient Cover Artwork Template Generator

Lightning Source provides a custom cover art template based upon the book’s dimensions, selection of color vs. B&W, binding type, and number of pages. Here are the inputs for Lightning Source’s cover template generator: 

Lightning Source Cover Artwork Template Generator

Lightning Source Cover Artwork Template Generator

The above inputs are for a B&W, 8.5 X 11 inch, perfect bound book, white paper with gloss laminate having 478 pages. I am choosing to have this template emailed to me as a .pdf file that I will open up in Photoshop. Note that the bar code will not include price information. This is nearly always the correct choice if your POD book will be sold in online retail bookstores such as Amazon. I do a lot of experimenting with pricing for all of my hardcopy POD books. That would not be possible at all if the barcodes on my POD books contained fixed prices.

Below is a blank Lightning Source’s .pdf art cover template based on the preceding inputs:

Lightning Source Blank Artwork Cover Template

Lightning Source Blank Artwork Cover Template


This file then should be opened in Photoshop and the work begins. A specific procedure must be followed when opening Lightning Source’s .pdf template in Photoshop to ensure that bar code will contain only black and white without adding any color. If the bar code contains any color, the cover artwork .pdf file will be rejected by Lightning Source. Opening the .pdf template incorrectly in Photoshop is one major cause of color appearing in the bar code. Here is the correct procedure for opening the .pdf from within Photoshop:

– File / Open / browse and select the blank .pdf template saved on your computer that Lightning Source has emailed to you.
– The “Import PDF” dialogue box will appear. Enter the input choices as follows:
– Crop To:  Media Box
– Uncheck: Anti-aliased
– The Width and Height dimensions sent by Lightning Source of the blank template should be correct
– Check:  Constrain Proportions
– Resolution:  300 Pixels/inch
– Mode:   CMYK Color
– Bit-Depth:   8 bit

After you have correctly opened the template in Photoshop, you can begin creating the front and back covers along with the spine. Red dotted lines in the blank template define the edges of the Safety Region for the covers and spine. No artwork or printing should extend past the Safety Region. The blue dotted lines on the blank template define the edges of the Bleed Region. Background color should extend to the edges of the Bleed Region, but not past it.

The bar code on the back cover can be placed anywhere on the back cover. It does not have to remain in its original position in the blank template

The final cover artwork .pdf that will be submitted to Lightning Source must have the red Safety Region lines and blue Bleed Region lines removed. Everything else in the blank template can remain. When you are ready to save it in Photoshop as the final .pdf, follow this procedure:

– File / Save As
– Name the file:   13-Digit_ISBN_cov.pdf    For example:  9781937159139_cov.pdf
– Format:  Photoshop PDF
– As a Copy:  checked
– Alpha Channels:   unchecked
– Layers:   Unchecked
– Use Proof Setup:   Unchecked
– Embed Color Profile:   Unchecked
– Save
– Adobe PDF Preset:   [PDF/X-1a:2001]
– Standard:   PDF/X-1a:2001

Saving the .pdf at the PDF/X-1a:2001 standard causes all colors to be converted to CMYK and ensures that the resolution is at least 300 ppi, which are two of the main Lightning Source requirements for the uploaded file. Here is what the final cover artwork .pdf in this case looked like: 

Final Cover Artwork .pdf File Ready for Upload to Lightning Source

Final Cover Artwork .pdf File Ready for Upload to Lightning Source

This cover artwork file is now ready for upload to Lightning Source. It will be a large file because of the 300 ppi resolution throughout. This particular file was 10.9 MB. Let’s move on to creating the black-and-white content file.

Second step – Create the New B&W Content File

The only difference between a color POD book and a Black-and-White POD book is the color of the text and images. The B&W book must have all images in gray scale and all text in black.

Converting all text to black is simply a matter of all selecting all of the text in the entire document (In MS Word click Edit / Select All) and setting the Font Color of the entire selection to black.

Converting all of the images to gray scale will take a bit more work.


How To Convert Color Images To Grayscale

To summarize the process, you’ll need to open each image in Photoshop, set the image’s color mode to grayscale, and ensure that the image is sized properly. After each grayscale image is inserted into the document properly, the document must be saved as a .pdf file that meets the PDF/X-1a:2001 standard, just like the cover. The final step is to run a check called the Preflight check in order to ensure that the entire .pdf file conforms to the same PDF/X-1a:2001 standard that the cover artwork .pdf file conforms must conform to.

The first thing to do is open each image file in Photoshop. The best and safest way to resize and transform an image in Photoshop is to first open it as a “Smart Object.” A Smart Object is a container-like layer that almost anything can be opened up in. No matter what you do to an image opened up as a Smart Object, Photoshop remembers all of the information about the original image and places that information back into the file.  To open an image as a Smart Object, click File / Open As Smart Object as shown below: 

Photoshop Opening an Image As Smart Object

Photoshop Opening an Image As Smart Object

Once the image is opened as a Smart Object in Photoshop, set the image’s size and resolution properly. Click Image / Image Size / and then set the correct setting in the Image Size dialogue box as shown below. The resolution for an image in a POD book should be set to 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Images that consist of line art should be saved at 600 ppi resolution.

The Width and Height dimensions in the Document Size box are the other two measurements to be set. For an 8.5 X 11 inch POD book, I try to make sure that an image’s width never exceeds 5.5 inches and its height does not exceed 8 inches.

The Pixel Dimension setting of width and height would be the dimension to be set if the images were going to be viewed onscreen, such as in an .epub eBook. For an .epub file, I try to ensure that all images are 72 ppi and no more than 500 pixels in width or height. Note that convention is to state the width dimension before the height dimension. Below is the Image Size dialogue box:

Setting Image Size and Resolution in Photoshop
Setting Image Size and Resolution in Photoshop

After setting the size and resolution of the image correctly, change the color mode to grayscale. Do this by clicking Image / Mode / Grayscale. If the image was not originally in CMYK mode, select CMYK mode first, and then select Grayscale. When you select the color mode (CMYK or Grayscale) you will be asked if you want to rasterize the image. You do want to allow Photoshop to rasterize your image at this point. Below is the menu selection of Grayscale.

Setting Image Color Mode To Grayscale in Photoshop

Setting Image Color Mode To Grayscale in Photoshop

Now that your image is properly sized and in grayscale, you can go ahead and swap out the old CMYK color image with the new grayscale version that you just created.

I like to create my content files using MS Word because it is so convenient to make changes. Another big reason that I usually create my content files in Word and not Adobe InDesign is that all of my clients will have MS Word on their computers. I can send my file to them as I am working on it to get their immediate feedback. I couldn’t do that if I did my content files in InDesign because most of my client don’t use InDesign. I don’t dislike InDesign. In fact, it is really a much more capable publishing program than Word. It’s just that my client don’t use it very often.

I am assuming that you have created your content file in MS Word. If you have swapped out all of the color images with grayscale CMYK images, you can now convert the Word document to the final .pdf content file that will be uploaded to Lightning Source.

The best tool to have on your computer for this is Adobe Acrobat. If Adobe Acrobat is loaded on your computer, you will have an Adobe PDF menu item in Word (this is the 2003 version) as shown below.

You’ll need to ensure that the .pdf file will conform to the PDF/X-1a:2001 standard required by Lightning Source. To do this, click MS Word drop-down menu item Adobe PDF / Change Conversion Settings as shown below:


Adobe Acrobat Change .pdf Conversion Setting

Adobe Acrobat Change .pdf Conversion Setting


The following Acrobat PDFMaker dialogue box will appear. Set Conversion Settings to PDF/X-1a:2001 and make sure Create Bookmarks and Add Links is unchecked. The PDF/X-1a:2001 setting will, by default, set all colors to CMYK. Leave security defaulted to none. Make sure that the page size is set correctly by clicking Advanced Setting / General /  Default Page Size. An 8.5 X 11 inch book should have the width and height settings at 8.5 and 11 inches. All other settings should be defaulted correctly.

Adobe PDF Maker - Correct Settings

Adobe PDF Maker - Correct Settings

After setting the Acrobat PDFMaker dialogue box correctly, convert the Word document to the final .pdf by clicking Adobe PDF / Convert to Adobe PDF.  It can take a little while for your computer to complete this process because the final .pdf file can be very large, particularly if there are lots of images. Images at 300 ppi are large files. The content .pdf file of the book shown here, Practical and Clear Graduate Statistics in Excel, was 101 MB.

After this .pdf file is created, it needs to be checked to ensure that it meets the PDF/X-1a:2001 standard required by Lightning Source for POD input files. The test to ensure that the PDF/X-1a:2001 standard is met is called a Preflight check. This is named after the check that pilots perform on the place before take-off.

Open the .pdf file in Adobe Acrobat. I use Acrobat Professional Pro Extended version 9.0. It is expensive software but worth every penny if you do lots of work with .pdf files.

To bring up the Preflight check on the .pdf content file loaded in Adobe Acrobat, click drop-down menu item Advanced / Preflight as shown below: 

Selecting the Preflight Check In Adobe Acrobat

Selecting the Preflight Check In Adobe Acrobat

ThePreflight dialogue box will come as shown below. Select PDF Analysis and then select “List page objects, grouped by type of object” as shown below:

Specific Preflight Check Selection

Specific Preflight Check Selection


You are most concerned that all images are at least 300 ppi and CMYK. 

Preflight Check Output

Preflight Check Output

Below we are expanding the image section of this report to view resolution and color mode of all images.

Specific Preflight Check Output

Specific Preflight Check Output


After you have uploaded the cover artwork and content .pdf files to Lightning Source from their web site, you will find out within usually 24 hours whether you have created both files correctly. If both files have been created correctly, you will see the following.

BOOKBLK Accepted  (BOOKBLK is the content .pdf file)
COVER Accepted

I have ordered a proof to be made and shipped to me. Below shows that this proof has been generated, but has not yet been shipped to me. 

Lightning Source Title Status - Cover and Content Files Accepts & Proof Generated

Lightning Source Title Status - Cover and Content Files Accepts & Proof Generated

I received the proof of this B&W version of the book and it looked great. Once again, great job by Lightning Source and now I should be able to make a lot more money selling this book in B&W than in color.

ePub Formatting – How To Convert a PDF file to EPUB

Converting a .pdf document into an .epub document can be done, but there is no easy way. I really wish that there was because I quite often have to convert a client’s manuscript in .pdf format to an .epub/.mobi for upload to the online bookstores. There are a number of software packages that claim to be able to do this. I’ve tried them all and they all do a terrible job. If you Google “pdf to epub” you’ll get a list of these software packages. If you are curious, I invite you to try any of the packages (they usually have trial versions) and view how badly they scramble your document. If any of these packages worked, it would make my life a lot easier because I do epub conversion for a living. I would be using it, believe me.

One of the main reasons that there is no instant way to convert a .pdf to .epub (with an .epub document that actually resembles the initial .pdf document in any way what-so-ever) if that an .epub file is actually a mini web site. Just like a web site, an .epub file contains pages of XHTML content code, a cascading style sheet that controls all styling and formatting, and a folder containing all images or links to all images.

A .pdf file cannot be converted directly into a web site nor can it be converted directly into an .epub, which is also a mini web site.

Probably the most important reason that .pdf files are darn hard to properly convert to any other format is that .pdf files contains none of the original formatting information that was in the initial document (for example, a Word file). This includes all of the basic building blocks of formatting such as line breaks, paragraphs, headers/footers, and columns. All  of this information is destroyed when the .pdf is created.

The .pdf file is the last stop on the conversion train. All of the basic formatting information is destroyed when the .pdf is created. The initial Word document and the final .pdf document will look exactly the same, but the .pdf document  now has only coordinates about where and how each object should be displayed on the page, but no longer contains any of the original formatting info.

What this means for anyone converting a .pdf to .epub is that there are no shortcuts. You need to go back and manually put all of that formatting information back in. When clients ask me to convert an .pdf document into an .epub, I always ask if the client has the original document in another format, such as Word or InDesign, which will contain all of the formatting information.

I create all of my .epub documents using InDesign or an HTML editor like Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expression Web (my favorite). I prefer using an HTML editor because I have direct contact with and total control over the XHTML and the CSS. The HTML editor provides me with the greatest ability to customize an .epub document.

Here is how I prepare a .pdf file for insertion into an HTML editor or Adobe InDesign. As I mentioned, there is no easy, automated, short-cut way to do this correctly. If there was, I would be doing it.

The first step is to extract all of the text out of the .pdf file. You can open the .pdf file in Adobe Reader and click Edit / Select All. After all of the text is highlighted, click Edit / Copy.  Open up a text editor such as Notepad and paste all of that text in.

Probably one of the first things you will notice is that original line breaks that were in the Word document (before it was converted to .pdf) are no longer there. The .pdf placed a line break (a carriage return) at the right side of each printed line. You will have to go through the entire document and remove ALL of the carriage returns that do not belong. This is a huge PITA but there is no way around this. This is the first step in returning the formatting information that was destroyed when the .pdf was created.

The next step is to separate each paragraph from the others. In the text file, you can do this by hitting a carriage return at the end of each paragraph. This will create a space between paragraphs so you can visually identify the paragraphs.

Once you have the line breaks installed correctly and all paragraphs separated from each other, you are ready to drop all of that text into Adobe InDesign or the HTML editor.

Several other articles in this blog describe how to create an .epub file using Adobe InDesign or an HTML editor. These articles can guide you from here.

The basic steps you’ll be taking from here are to paste all of this text into either Adobe InDesign or an HTML editor and add all other formatting and styling. In Adobe InDesign, you’ll do that by applying Character or Paragraph styles to the text. In an HTML editor, you’ll be applying CSS styles to the text.

As I mentioned, I really, really do wish there was an easier way to do this and get a professional result. The creation of a .pdf file destroys all of the formatting information that is essential information for creating an .epub. You have to remove the text from the .pdf file and manually add all of that formatting information back in.