Though I love print books I’m so often on the road that it’s more efficient to use my Kindle Paperwhite as a personal portable library for work and for pleasure. Authors send me advance reader copies (ARCs) for blurbs or review and books for possible publication with Misadventures Media. I wish they’d send me a MOBI file but, though it’s easy enough to do, they don’t even know where to start. So I ask for a Word doc and create it myself in about 15 minutes. Sometimes I put it off, though, and forget. So, no blurb. Sorry!
Please don’t put your potential reviewers in that position. It’s actually pretty easy to make your own EPUB and MOBI files using the free Calibre eBook conversion and management tool. It should take you about an hour to follow this tutorial to create your own.
Why Use Calibre to Create Your Own?
The Calibre application allows you to create MOBI and EPUB books to distribute to your beta readers, book reviewers, and to sell directly to your customers.
The more formats you offer the more readers you reach. Your book in MOBI format can be read on Kindle devices and on any device that has the free Kindle app installed. Likewise, your EPUB-formatted book can be read on iOS devices and any device with an EPUB reading app installed. I recommend you learn how to create EPUB and MOBI files for a few reasons.
There are many reasons to create EPUB and MOBI versions of your book.
Beta readers: Beta readers can provide you with valuable input at early stages of your book’s development. An engaged team of beta readers can help you develop the storyline, give you feedback on characters, theme and plot, and make suggestions on use of language, sensual detail, point-of-view, usage of verb tenses, scenes, and many other aspects of writing and story construction. Beta readers aren’t copyeditors, but they’re a cheap way to get a very expensive service called developmental editing. They’ll generally read your book and keep running notes using another program.
Reviewers: If the publishing submissions I’ve been asked to consider and the ARCs I’ve committed to review and blurb were sitting on my desk I wouldn’t have room for my laptop. I like to get MOBI files because I can send them to my Kindle device using a secret email address that Amazon gave me. My process, like many other reviewers, is to read the book and highlight and make notes right in the Kindle app. These are saved in a separate file on my Kindle where I can scan them when it’s time to compose my review.
Sales: If you’re not selling your book directly from your own website you’re missing a big opportunity to make money. Upload your MOBI and EPUB files and sell them using a tool like Gumroad, Selz, Sellfy, eJunkie, Patreon, Leanpub—there are a gazillion ways to do this and I’ve already written about it in a post titled Productize My Book? You Bet! Sell Direct!
The Tools You’ll Need
To create an EPUB or MOBI version of your book (or any document) you’ll need to use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages doc and the free Calibre program.
The goal is to get an EPUB and a MOBI file. In a nutshell:
- You can get both an EPUB and a MOBI for about twenty bucks using Pressbooks’ WordPress blog-like software, (plus a beautiful PDF for print).
- Apple Pages users can export directly to EPUB, then upload the EPUB to Calibre to make the MOBI.
- Word users will upload the Word doc to Calibre to create both the EPUB and the MOBI.
Let’s go into a bit more detail about each of these tools.
If you have followed me for any time at all you know by now that I love Pressbooks. It’s based on WordPress, which makes it easy and familiar to authors who blog. Export your book to eBook formats for only $19.99. I write more about Pressbooks in Comparing Reedsy and Pressbooks Online Book Creation Tools.
If you’re using Word please learn how to use Microsoft Word Styles so your titles, chapter headings, and body text will be displayed properly in e-reading devices. Please review the post titled What Every Author Needs to Know About Microsoft Word “Styles” or just go straight to the free short tutorial on Smashwords.
I also highly recommend Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates, with the styles already built in. You just copy and paste each chapter into the template and you have a perfectly-formatted book.
Apple users often use their Word competitor, Pages, which, unlike Word, exports directly to EPUB.
If you’re familiar with Word styles it’s an easy transition. Do make sure to style your doc before you create the EPUB. (Here's a helpful video tutorial.)
Don’t freak out when you see the warning message below. Ebooks don’t need headers and footers and, yeah, your book is going to look different, especially if it has tables and multiple columns. This is something you should know before you plan to create an eBook so that you can simplify.
Once you’ve got the EPUB you’re ready to use Calibre to create the MOBI version for Kindle readers.
Calibre (pronounced caliber”) is a free, open source eBook management application that you install on your computer. You can download it here.
Calibre handles eBook conversion, book and editing, eBook library management, syncing, and more. We’re going to use it for eBook conversion.
First, please watch the “Grand Tour Video” narrated by the creator. It’s short and thorough.
The steps to creating your eBook files are:
- Add Your Book
- Complete the Metadata and Create a Book Cover
- Convert Your Book
- Download to Your Computer
- Send It!
Add Your Book
Click ADD BOOKS to navigate to your hard drive and select your Word or EPUB manuscript and click OPEN.
You see I’ve added a sample book …
You can view the book in EPUB format by clicking on EPUB under the author name. You can even edit the book inside Calibre, using the EDIT BOOK icon at the upper right of the screen. This is handy if you want to edit the front pages of the eBook for different audiences or individuals.
Edit the Metadata and Create a Book Cover
Calibre will grab a page from the inside of the book to create a cover. I suggest creating a quick cover, even if it’s simply the book title and author. (The size should be 1200x1600 pixels.) Calibre has a book cover creator right inside their program. There’s a tutorial here but I’ll give you the basics.
Please don’t use Calibre to create your final book cover. There are plenty of great cover design professionals who know the business of making the cover sell the book for as little as $99. Also see my previous post on book cover design.
Spend some time in the EDIT METADATA area. It handles your book cover, title, subtitle, author name, tags (keywords), and book description.
To create a quick book cover for beta readers click the EDIT METADATA button and then GENERATE COVER. Keep clicking on GENERATE COVER to change styles, until you find a color and design you like.
Or hold down the mouse button on GENERATE COVER and right-click CUSTOMIZE STYLES.
Convert Your Book
Click the CONVERT BOOKS icon and choose the OUTPUT FORMAT (in the upper right corner of the window) and then OK (in the lower right) as shown in the screen below.
The little progress wheel at the lower right of the screen next to the Jobs: 1 indicator will go round and round for a while. When it reads Jobs: 0 you’re done!
Again, click the EDIT METADATA screen. You’ll now see that your book is available in EPUB and MOBI.
Download to Your Computer
On the main Calibre screen click the SAVE TO DISK icon to save all formats to your computer’s hard drive. Alternately you can click the arrow next to it, or right-click the icon, to save just one format.
Send It or Sell It!
Now you’re ready to send your book to beta readers or reviewers. Please don’t attach the files to an email, they may never get opened (fear of computer viruses) or even arrive (limits on email size). Instead, use a tool like Dropbox, Hightail, or Google Drive.
Finally, don’t miss an opportunity to make more money from your book by selling directly from your own website using one of the tools I mentioned above—Gumroad, Selz, or one of the others.
Growing your email newsletter? Use your book or a section of it, as an “ethical bribe” for people who sign up for your email newsletter.
What Will You Do?
In this geeky publishing technology column I am never quite sure if I’m delving into the realms of glazed eyes or if you’re eagerly following my every mouse click. Is this the right level of detail? Did anything in this post cause you to ask other questions I might answer? What will you do with the information I’ve passed on to you here? I really appreciate your feedback in the comments below. Thank you!
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