Except you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you’re familiar with the concept of an ebook. For those who don’t know, an ebook is an electronic book that requires an ebook reader, which can be either hardware (like the Kindle or an iPad) or software that runs on your computer (e.g., iBooks or Kindle for desktop). This article will show you how to make an ebook from an existing Word (.doc or.docx) or similar document, such as Apple’s Pages (.pages) or Open Office document (.odt). You can accomplish this for free if you are willing to learn new technology and are willing to put in the effort.
Creating an Ebook
Here is a review of the process:
- Format Your Document for an Ebook
- Create an Attractive Cover
- Run Your Document Through Conversion Software
- Test Your Ebook Files
- Fine-Tune Your .epub File
STEP 1: Prepare Your Document for Ebook Publishing
The first stage in making an ebook is formatting, which is both an art and a science. The art section deals with the layout and changes that make your book appealing to the eye. The scientific portion is the technical side of the ebook that ensures it functions properly and improves the user experience. In this stage, we’ll focus on the latter part.
Keep in mind that ebooks aren’t the same as paper books. When designing a reflowable ebook, there are certain limits to consider. For example, you can’t specify the exact positioning of photographs in relation to the text. Some people are frustrated by these limitations, but keep in mind that the upside is that your book has a universal format that can be read on virtually any ebook reader.
- Remove all headers and footers. Ebook readers automatically add their own headers and footers.
- Remove page numbers. Ebook readers reading reflowable ebooks do not use page numbers since users have control over the text size. Also, remove all references to page numbers in your book (e.g., “See page 12”).
- Use heading styles. Do not create the headings by simply applying text styles to each header; use the proper heading styles to set these, so the conversion software is consistent and knows how to handle headers.
- Use first line indenting. This is the best way to separate paragraphs consistently.
- Insert page breaks between chapters and/or major sections. Page breaks work well in ebooks and lets the readers know when the chapter or section is over.
- Unwrap all images and center them as inline images. Remember that reflowable ebooks do not allow text to wrap around images. For best results, just place the image after a paragraph and center it. Use .jpg images.
- Add a title page. All ebooks should have a page with the title and author name.
- Add a copyright page. All ebooks should have a page with copyright information and ISBN (this can be combined with the title page).
- Make sure your TOC is automatically created by the software. Do not try to manually add a table of contents. Word processing software includes a TOC feature—use that to create your TOC. This is another reason to use heading styles.
- Include the cover image as the first page. It is okay to add this as a floating image. See the next step for more details.
STEP 2: Design an Eye-Catching Ebook Cover
Once again, we’re discussing an art and a science… but this time, it’s more of an art than a science. Unless you are an expert in graphic design and have a keen sense of color, fonts, layout, and so on. I strongly advise leaving this step to the professionals or enlisting the assistance of an artistic friend. People truly do judge a book by its cover, especially when we’re talking about books! Here’s what you need to know if you’re going to make your own cover.
- Images should be created at roughly 1659px wide by 2500px tall to cover the new requirements from most of the vendors. Barnes and Noble require a smaller image.
- Images should not have a border (i.e., a thin line outlining the cover image).
- Images must be RGB (not CMYK).
- Images must clearly show the title and author as it appears in the metadata when the book is submitted to the retailers.
- Images must be good quality and not pixelated.
- No “offensive” images (each retailer has different criteria)
Check this page out for some sample designs.
STEP 3: Run Conversion Software on Your Document
Converting your document into one or more of the various ebook formats is the first step in creating an ebook. The most common file types are.epub,.mobi, and.pdf. You’ll be fine if you convert your book into these three formats.
PDF. Let’s start with .pdf since this is usually as easy as exporting the document to .pdf from within your word processing software. If you do not see that option, try one of the many simple and free online tools such as https://www.freepdfconvert.com.
EPUB. Now things get more complicated since you can’t simply export to .epub. If you have a .doc file, you can use our free online converter which is still quite simple. If you are willing to give up the simplicity for a heck of a lot more functionality, download the free conversion software Calibre and check out that site for detailed instructions on how to convert to an epub.
MOBI. If you have Calibre, you can also export to .mobi. You will only need your .mobi file for Amazon, and Amazon will automatically convert your .epub file for you. The upside is that you don’t need to convert it to .mobi yourself. The downside is that it is an automated routine with no options, so you may not be happy with the results.
If you are willing to invest money in this step, there are professional services that can handle this conversion for you and make sure your book looks great in all three formats.
STEP 4: Put Your eBook Files to the Test
Automatic converters are fantastic nowadays, but they are far from perfect. The flaws they leave behind may be enough to cause readers to give them low ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. This is unfortunate because prospective readers can’t tell the difference between bad ratings caused by poor ebook conversion quality and bad ratings caused by poor writing quality. As a result, you should put your ebook files through their paces. You will need a.mobi file to test the.mobi file… if you planned to have Amazon convert it, you would not have access to that file yet.
Depending on whether you have a MAC or a PC, you will have access to different software to test these files. For example, if you have a MAC you should download the free iBooks app and open your .epub file. You can also download the different reader apps for your mobile device and test your book on your mobile device. See the following links.
Once you have your document open in the ebook reader apps, check the following:
- Does the cover look good?
- Does the table of contents work?
- Are your images in the right place?
- Do bullets and indenting show as indented?
- Are all the pages there?
If everything looks great, you can stop here, otherwise, proceed to the next step.
STEP 5: Fine-Tune Your.epub File
You can go back to step one and make sure you formatted things correctly and hope that solves your display problems, or you can edit your .epub file with Sigil—a powerful editor that allows you tweak your document to perfection. For full details on Sigil, see their online manual.