Writing 101: Converting to eBook

It's an exciting feeling to finish a book, but once all the writing and editing are done you've still got more work ahead of you -- so don't start celebrating just yet. Your book might look great in a document file, but there's all sorts of things that can go wrong when you try to convert it for eReaders. Software really helps when you want to make your book look great electronically, not just on paper.

Get Some Software

Your book isn't going to look the same on an eReader as it does on your computer. But even if you don't have an eReader, you can find out what your book looks like to your readers (and make sure it's perfect before it's published). First, you've got to convert your book into a format that eReaders can actually read. For that kind of thing, having the right software really helps.
  • Mobipocket is free, and it converts .html, .pdf, .txt and .doc formats into the Mobi format used by Kindle. Upload the book directly through the software, and you can edit the html file to remove any errors before the book is published. Add pagebreaks using the <mbp:pagebreak/> code and blank spaces with <br>. The software allows you to add the cover, author information and even the blurb.
  • Calibre is an ebook management program that converts .txt, .pdf, .html and all ebook formats (but not .doc). You cannot edit the book's html with this program, but you can easily convert your books into additional mobile formats. I use it to change my Kindle-friendly books into ePub books, the only format that B&N accepts.
Viewing Your Books

Always, always take a look at your books before and after you publish them online. If you don't happen to have an eReader, it's no big deal. Amazon, B&N and lots of third-party sites offer free software that allows readers to view ebooks on their computers. You can even download add-ons for web browsers that make it possible to view ebooks. Once you've converted your book into the formats you want, give them a good once-over before uploading them to a bookstore. Once the books are published and live online, download them and take another look at them just for good measure. You cannot double-check your book enough times. Readers want perfection, and perfection takes a whole lot of attempts.

Bah! Who Needs Software?

Not everyone has a great computer system, or the skills to download and organize a bunch of different software programs. Free software is all well and good, but free doesn't make it easy to use. So if just can't download a whole bunch of stuff, don't panic. There are ways around the problem.

Smashwords accepts .doc files all day, every day, and they'll convert your books for you into just about every format any reader could ever want. You've got to list your books on Smashwords to take advantage of this, but you'll get a lot for creating a free account and adding your books to this site. Before you upload to Smashwords, take a look at their style guide because the site has extremely specific formatting requirements.

After you upload to Smashwords, you'll receive emails regarding any stylistic problems with your work, so you'll know what needs to be changed. When all is said and done, go straight to your Smashwords page and download ebook copies of your own work. Even if you can't use it, places like Amazon and B&N can. You can take your downloaded, eformatted book and upload that straight to the other sites where you'd like to sell.

Smashwords will allow you to view certain formats of your book online, but to see it in eReader format you'll have to wait until you're uploading to another site. When you upload to Amazon or B&N, for example, before you complete the publishing process you'll have the option of previewing your work. Do so to see exactly what your readers will see when they download your book -- no software required.

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