The third part of a series to share how I took my book from a humble, regular Word document to a fully-fledged, pretty ebook available on Kindle + all e-readers and devices.
ps. I’m currently putting the paperback version of my book together… and I’ll be adding the ‘paperback’ part to this series, too. So stay doubly-tuned for that :)
Here are the other parts in the series so far:
So, by now, my Word manuscript has had its front and back pages added to it. In other words, we have a full book manuscript ready to go!
Unfortunately, it’s not simply a case of uploading a Word document to Kindle or other e-book stores. There is the matter of book formatting, which is basically the act of getting your book ready to be distributed in versions that are ready for release. These formats are known as: EPUB, MOBI & PDF.
Book formatting is when you convert your book into a version that’s ready for either a) e-book release or b) paperback release (and/or hardback).
(I’m putting together the physical version – in paperback format – as we speak).
And so I’m now going to share how I took my humble, regular-albeit-long Word document to a fully, fledged pretty e-book, available in the eBook-friendly formats of EPUB, MOBI and PDF.
To be honest, this was the part of the process where I hit a hiccup. It was, to put it kindly, an…. adventure :) Let me explain what happened.
1) Trying to self-format
So being the resourceful, independent creative person that I am (😇)… I figured that I could this whole formatting thing all by myself. I’d come across a couple of free tools, Calibre and Reedsy, which allw you to self-format and I thought would make the process nice and simple. The short verison is that I personally found them a little tricky and I couldn’t make them do what I wanted them to do. One of them was very technical/code-like (Calibre), and the other was more intuitive but still not as smooth an experience as I had hoped it would be.
So I kinda panicked and then realised I was not going to release my book when I said I would. This wasn’t easy, especially as I’d prepared for a certain release date and felt – after two years – I wanted to finally honour the 50 amazing authors who’d shared their stories with me, but ultimately I just had to accept that this was going to take a little longer. I communicated with the authors in questions and I told myself: You’ve been working on this thing for two years… another couple of weeks isn’t the end of the world. Chill, Jas.
Now there is also a piece of software called Vellum. It’s Mac-only, but I hear there is a workaround for non-Mac users called ‘Mac in Cloud’. I hear Vellum really is great, and makes it very simple and intuitive for you to self-format your books. A writer friend of mine does exactly that and she speaks very highly of it. If Vellum had been available on Windows, I’d have probably given that a shot. (PS. Atticus, a fabulous piece of software equivalent to Vellum to its ease of use and also available on Windows, was not available at the time).
And so, after trying to self-format and ending up huffing-and-puffing for a couple of days, I decided to use a book formatter who’d previously been recommended to me.
2) Using a specialist book-formatter
And so I sent my book to this book formatter, he worked on it for around a week before sending me the finished ‘format’ back.
There were several back-and-forths, as I asked for changes and tweaks to be made. To be honest, my book formatter did a great job and was very responsive. He was lovely to work with, but it was a bit of a pain going back and forth. In the future I plan to figure out book-formatting for myself so I feel like I’m more in control of the process:
[I’m currently formatting the paperback version of my book using the aforementioned, and now available, piece of software called Atticus. It’s a work-in-progress, but it’s going well so far. Stay tuned for future updates on the ‘paperback creation’ part of this Word document to Book series.]
3) A happy ending
And so there was eventually a happy ending to that sticky chapter (no pun intended), my book formatting got done in the end, and I’m really grateful to my formatter. Ryan, thank you, you pretty much saved my skin.
And even though the formatting episode didn’t go as I’d planned it to, I’m glad I’ve trialled the experience of working with a formatter, and a high-quality formatter who I had a great experience with.
But since I published my book, a new piece of software called Atticus.io has gone live, made by Dave and the team at Kindlepreneur.
Going by the videos I’ve watched, and a couple of the early-user reviews I’ve read, as well as the reputation of Dave Chesson & his Kindlepreneur blog – I’m very hopefully indeed. It looks comparable to Vellum in terms of easy-of-use, it’s compatible on Windows, and I’m very much looking forward to trying it out.
Update: I can confirm, as of February 2022, Atticus is pretty awesome. More to follow in a future post(s).
4) In summary…
And so to summarise:
- I tried to self-format
- I hit a roadblock
- I then enlisted the help of a book formatter who helped me out big-time
- With his help, I now had EPUB, MOBI and PDF versions of my ebook for all devices
5) Ebook file types
Just a quick word on those file types I’ve mentioned.
- EPUB is now used by all e-readers
- MOBI was the format you previously used to upload to Amazon, but Amazon no longer let you upload MOBI files when you upload to KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing to use its full title, which is Amazon’s e-book self-publishing platform. However, if you want to give your readers an option to buy directly from you – Kindle doesn’t let you manually transfer an EPUB file; so direct-buyers have to use MOBI or a PDF.
- MOBI in my experience has a prettier layout, it is pretty much identical to buying directly from the Kindle Store, and it has all the correct hyperlinks, too; for example if you have hyperlinks in your book contents that take you to relevant chapters. PDF, on the other hand, comes out a little different and without those embedded hyperlinks.
- PDF is useful for folks who don’t have an e-reader, as it’s a document that can be read on any device (whether it’s a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer/laptop)
All of that to say, if you’re wanting to give your readers the option to buy directly from you, you’ll still need the MOBI file for those readers who own a Kindle but choose to buy from you directly, rather than from the Amazon store.
Note: online you’ll find articles that say, since Kindle and all e-reader stores now accept EPUB files when you (the author) uploads them, that MOBI is pretty much defunct. That as may be, but if you’d like to give readers an option to buy direct from you, that MOBI version will be handy (for the reasons I’ve outlined above; for the people at the back, your direct buyers CANNOT manually transfer an EPUB file to their Kindle device).
Some final words…
So there we have it. I now had a full-fledged e-book that had been formatted and was ready to upload on the web to sell to interested readers. I was getting real close now to seeing my book on the digital bookshelves… 😁
And so that’s it for Part 3 and “formatting” my book.
This little series was originally filmed for my youtube channel… here’s the accompanying vlog to this post:
Stay tuned for Part 4 to find out all about how I made my book available on Amazon Kindle, the other e-readers, and my own little online shop…