A simple guide to ePub file conversion and sales

In the second of two guest posts, MA Publishing student Eryl Norris shares her top tips for the ebook file conversion process, which she picked-up while on placement as part of her course. Check out Eryl’s earlier post if you want to know how to format your files as ebook PDFs.

Simply using a Word or PDF file as an ebook itself isn’t usually sufficient, as they cannot adjust to the size of an e-reader screen and are often difficult to read. You need to make your files dynamic, which you can do by converting them into ePub (‘electronic publishing’) format. You will also need to think about the channels you intend to use to sell your finshed ebook.

Our tips help you format book files for use on Kindles and other e-readers (Pic: Geoff Moore/Rex Features)

How to format your ePub files yourself

You’ll need an ePub (‘electronic publication’) converter such as DNMAL’s PDF to EPUB or the open source Calibre. You upload your PDF and select the area of the page to ‘extract’. The software recognises the text and extracts it into a new .ePub file.

It’s important that you work through a list of symbols the program produces, to check that it has correctly interpreted letters and punctuation. There may be some obvious unrecognisable symbols; look out also for more subtle mistakes, where you’ll need to manually type in the corrections. Failing to do this will result in random characters appearing haphazardly throughout your book.

Once you have converted your file, use an ePub ‘checker’ to look for common errors and file size problems. There are various free programs available, such as Rainwater Soft’s ePubChecker app or – if you’re familiar with command lines – EpubCheck.

You can view your finished ePub files in Adobe Digital Editions, where you can play around with text size by selecting ‘reading’ and ‘increase text size’.

How to use a third party to create your ePub files

If you are willing to pay an organisation a fee, just hand your files over in Word or PDF format and they will do the rest of the work. You may need to use a file transfer protocol (FTP) client like YouSendIt to transfer large files over the internet, which they will probably set up for you. If you’re not familiar with this sort of program, the bonus is that you can pick up the phone, call your third party and they should guide you through it – one of the advantages of paying someone for their help.

Amazon offer a list of professional conversion services on their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) site.

How to sell through third parties

You can also work with third parties who do not personally convert your files. Instead they provide a step-by-step platform for uploading and selling your book on their website. As opposed to charging an upfront fee, they may take a percentage of any sales income.

You’ll need to supply metadata to go with your book. Forms for submitting this will be provided by the third party.

How to sell through Amazon: for Kindle

Amazon have a general guide to formatting your book for publishing through their KDP platform, but the process is renowned for being more confusing that it first appears. For the best results save your file as ‘HTML, filtered’ and proceed from there using their guide or eBook Architects’ Kindle Formatting resource. Amazon also accepts .doc, .zip, .ePub, HTML, .pdf, .txt, .rtf, .prc and .mobi files. More information about the supported formats can be found on the KDP Types of Formats page.

Once uploaded, your book should be online within 24-48 hours.

How to sell through Apple: for iPad + iPhone

Download the iBooks Author app from Apple (you’ll need an Apple Mac or iPad to use it), which allows you to drag and drop information to create your own book. Interactive features allow you to incorporate graphics, widgets and images. However, you will still need your ready-made files in ePub format and it’s a requirement that they be verified by the ePubChecker engine before you proceed. All of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

Ultimately, your decision on which method to use will depend on the type of book you have, where you want to sell it and how much time you have at your disposal. For self-publishers, David Carnoy’s CNet article How to self-publish an ebook provides a good overview of the main approaches and their pros and cons.

Eryl Norris is a student on Kingston University’s MA Publishing course. She worked on placement at DCD Media.


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