Creating an ebook: Kindle and epub file formats for beginners

There’s two ways to publish your book: as a traditional paperback/hardback, and as an ebook. An ebook is a digital file. Ebooks sell on sales channels.

Sales channels are websites where readers can purchase your ebook. The biggest sales channels are Amazon (US and UK), Barnes and Noble, and Apple.

Amazon uses and requires a different ebook format from all other sales channels. Amazon has their own thing. It used to be the mobi (short for Mobipocket) file format. In late 2011, Amazon switched to something called Kindle Format 8.

The other ebook file format is epub. Epub files are sold by all sales channels except Amazon, and are read on non-Kindle tablets (like the iPad and Nook).

So, how do you convert your manuscript’s digital text file (such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc) into the Kindle and epub file formats?

1. Do it yourself. Amazon provides step-by-step instructions. For epub, you can build your file from scratch using Sigil, or, if you’re less techy, with Calibre. If you’re a perfectionist, study Guido Henkel’s guide.

2. Hire a professional. It’ll cost anywhere between $5-$99. A list of people who offer this service is here. Buyer beware — sometimes you get what you pay for.

3. Use Smashwords, a sales channel aggregator. In return for a percentage of your sales, they will process your MS Word file through their “meat grinder.” Then you click on any sales channels you wish to sell through, including Apple. They do the rest.

Carefully double-check your formatting before you publish. It matters!

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