You’ve spent months (or years!) penning your masterpiece, became intimately familiar with the phrase “back to the drawing board”, and masticated your tired fingertips into a bloody pulp worrying about final edits.
But you made it in the end – your work is finished.
It’s only beginning! And what’s worse – you have no clue what to do next.
ePub what? Mobi who? PD(wt)F?
How does a writer with no background in technological wizardry get started converting a manuscript into a digital e-book format?
Take my hand, fellow wordsmith, and follow me into the magical land of electronic publishing!
In this multi-part tutorial, I will help you get a grip on the different formats and tools you will be working with, walk you step by step through the conversion process, and prepare you to deal with the design quirks of different e-book publishing channels.
Digital Book Formats
Before we get started going into the nitty-gritty of getting your book converted, let’s go over the different types of e-book formats and where they are used.
The fact is, e-book formats are a dime a dozen, so to keep things simple, I’ll focus on just the major formats used for best effect at popular sales channels.
- Amazon.com favors the MobiPocket (.mobi) format, which seamlessly converts into Amazon’s own AZW format (which itself is based on .mobi).
- Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony Bookstore, and many others favor the EPUB (.epub) format, which is really a zipped up HTML-based folder containing a website-like structure for your manuscript.
- Smashwords relies on the Microsoft Word 97-2003 (.doc) format, which it them converts into a bunch of other formats. The saying “Garbage In – Garbage Out” very much applies here.
So, while there are a bunch of other formats out there in the wild, I’ll focus on these three – MobiPocket, EPUB, and Word 97-2003.
Tools of the Trade
There are three important software tools you’ll need in order to do what I’m about to show you:
- Calibre – the bread & butter of e-book conversion. This powerful one-stop-shop application will become one of your favorite tools – and one of the most important.
- Sigil – where Calibre is your heavy artillery, Sigil is your surgical scalpel when fine-tuning your EPUBs.
- OpenOffice.org - the free Microsoft Office replacement that has the ever-so-helpful quality of being compatible with Calibre’s e-book conversion tools.
Conversion Workflow / Tutorial Roadmap
For the sake of keeping things simple, here’s a brief roadmap of what a typical conversion process entails.
- Assuming your manuscript is in Word 97-2003 format (.doc), you’ll need to convert it to OpenOffice Writer (.odt) format. Don’t bother using the .odt option in Word‘s own Save As dialog – it’s screwier than a basset hound on Red Bull.
- If your manuscript is NOT in Word 97-2003 format – like, say, the new .docx format used by the latest MS Office – before doing the above step, I strongly suggest converting to the old .doc format ONLY – especially if you plan to put your book on Smashwords. It will save you a ton of headaches later on – trust me!
- The Calibre e-book conversion tools feature many specialized options for different formats, and I will dedicate a separate tutorial to explaining all of them.
- Amazon Kindle Reader for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, PC, and Mac
- Nook Reader for iPad, iPhone, Android, PC, and Mac
- Adobe Digital Editions for PC and Mac
- Sony Reader for Android, PC, and Mac
- MobiPocket Reader for just about every platform out there
- Submit your MobiPocket to Amazon
- Submit your EPUB to Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Sony Bookstore, and others.
- Submit your Word 97-2003 manuscript to Smashwords
In my next tutorial, I will go into further detail about each of these steps, and field any additional requests for advice on this topic.
Keep in mind, this is NOT the only way to do this – so please share with us your tips and tricks!