Saturday, June 4, 2011

Converting a Word File to E-book Format

In yesterday's post, I chronicled how I cleaned up the manuscript for KING OF PAINE in preparation for e-book publication. In this one I'll show you how I converted the document to e-book format for free.

I should note that you can take your Word document file and have it converted for you at, using their Meatgrinder technology. Besides offering ebooks in all formats directly on their own site, Smashwords also offers distribution to many other online booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and SONY, among others. You can opt out of distribution to any particular bookseller if you prefer to upload your title for sale directly. Each bookseller has their own procedure for file conversion and uploading. Each one also has slightly different preferences for front matter and links, etc.

I prefer to convert my file to various ebook formats myself for a couple of reasons. First, I don't want to upload my file for sale unless I'm sure it's going to look great. I like to convert to EPUB and MOBI format first and review the output on my Nook and in Amazon's free Kindle for PC software. That way I can make tweaks without going through a lengthy online reconversion process and without worrying that someone may download an error-ridden version while I'm proofing and reconverting. Second, I want to coordinate my online and print publication dates, and converting to e-book format allows me to confirm my formatting is clean before creating a print version. Doing repetitive error corrections on multiple versions of a document is a waste of time. Finally, I can share my e-book with my final beta readers or, if lucky, prepublication reviewers, before going live online.

The first step is to convert the Word file into html format. Click on "File," then "Save As..." and then change the "Save As Type" in the pop-up window to "Web Page, Filtered." (When I converted THE JINX a couple of months ago I didn't know to use the "Filtered" format, and the result was a mess that I wasted a day fiddling with.) I like to do a quick scroll through the html document to look for obvious formatting errors. I found three yesterday and corrected them in the original DOC file, then reconverted. For a compulsive legal type, that was an hour well spent.

The next step is to obtain conversion software. I use the Calibre ebook management software, which is open source and can be downloaded free at

After opening the Calibre program, I clicked "Add Books" at the top left. A "Select books" window appeared, and I navigated to the HTML file I had created for KING OF PAINE and stored on my hard drive. The software took a couple of minutes to load the file.

I then clicked on the next button at the top, "Edit Metadata." This is where you can add author and title information, a cover image, and a description. Click "OK" at the bottom left when finished.

Then I selected "Convert Books" from the top row of buttons. There are many options that can be varied using the tools on the left panel, but I just used the defaults. The only setting I use is at the top right, "Output Format."  You can choose EPUB (B&N, Apple, most e-readers), MOBI (Kindle), PDF, among other formats. I selected EPUB and then hit "OK" on the bottom right. The file converted in less than a minute. I ran "Convert Books" again to create a version in MOBI format.

After the conversions were completed, I made sure KING OF PAINE was selected in the main window and then clicked "Save To Disk" at the top. A pop-up window allowed me to choose a destination for the files, which were saved in multiple formats in a folder with the author name.

I did a quick formatting check in my e-reading software (see my earlier post on free e-readers for the PC if you don't have a standalone e-reader), which quickly disclosed a few glitches in the way I had formatted the front matter. I also didn't like the way some one-off indenting looked in the e-reader and realized I had selected too many words to include in ALL CAPS at the beginnings of several chapters. I quickly made changes in my original, re-saved my HTML version, and re-ran Calibre.

I will spend some time over the next few days reading my revised version more carefully on my Nook for sentence level formatting errors (for example, lost italics or bold). It will also serve as one last proofread before I set out to format the book for the print version. In my next post, I'll jump ahead and briefly show you how to upload an e-book to a few key online distributors/booksellers.

1 comment:

  1. Amy R. FeigenbaumJune 5, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    VERY GOOD information