How to convert your book file into ePub format—fast and free!

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So here you are with a dandy book that millions of hungry readers want to buy and hide on their tablets, readers, or computers—but you can’t get it from Word (.doc or .docx) or other formats into .ePub. You probably want to use .ePub to post your book with an “open” publisher like Kobo or others who want it that way now or soon will. So I asked the question to Google: How can I do that free? (I should have added: in simple-simple tech terms so I can get it done this millennium.)

Here’s what I extracted from the choice of responses it gave. (The bottom line: it works, but none of the instructions told all. I had to hunt-and-peck-and-guess, a couple of times, like my typing, but then I converted two books in about 20 minutes each! It should be even 50% faster now that I’m an expert.) Alas, if you can’t do it my way, please don’t write and ask me to figure out what you are doing wrong. God knows, if he does. Just try my way again and again until it does work!

1. Find the ready-to-go file of the ebook you want to convert. That means that the .ePub form of your book will, ultimately, also be ready to publish by the house you are submitting it to.

2. Bring up the whole file on your screen. Open it and give it one last read-through to make sure it’s ready to be posted. Remember, no page numbers, headers/footers, and so on…

3. Then highlight the first pages of the copy: the title page, the pages that immediately follow, and the whole table of contents. Stop.

4. Now open the style box—it’s to the left of the box that tells the typeface you are using (like Arial or Times Roman). There’s a down arrow there and if you hit it, a mysterious list of numbers and fonts opens up. Scroll down slowly until you see “Heading 1.” Open that but nothing more.

5. Now save the whole file (from title to the very end) by going to File/Save As. When that window opens, click the drop down menu and hit “web page.” You should see *.htm or *.html at the end of the file instead of *.doc or *.docx.) Hit the SAVE box, lower right.

6. Next you must download the magic formula file that does the conversion. Tell your computer to open www.calibre.com. When it appears, download the free new software. (It’s not going to shock you or hurt anything in the memory.) Incidentally, after you see it work, you might want to send a buck or two to the creator through the DONATE box. No, it’s not me!

7. When Calibre opens you will see a new screen with lots of colorful boxes on it. At the top of the menu open the “Add Books” icon. A “Select books” box will open. Find the file you’ve just saved. (Again, it will have an .htm or .html ending.) Hit the file and it will fly onto the Calibre library list. Just leave it alone; move on to #8.

8. Go to the right of “Add books” and open “Edit metadata.” Fill in the lines you can. Start with book title and author, then hit the arrow to the right of each and what you typed will appear in the next box. You will need to fill in Publishing date, Publisher, and Languages too.

9. To add the cover, go to browse and find your ebook front-cover-only file. The choices will appear in a “Choose Cover.” This cover file must have one (just one!) of these endings: .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, or .png. [You don’t have to add a cover at this time—this cover is for your Calibre library listing only.]

10. Next, open “Convert books.” Make sure at the top right corner in Output Format it says EPUB, if that’s what you want. (Calibre opens other formats too.) Then see the column of activity icons on the left. Click “Look & Feel,” and hunt for the “Remove spacing between paragraphs” line, and put a check in the box before it.

11. Still on the “Convert…” page, see the “Table of Contents” icon below “Look & Feel.” Attention here! Find the row that says “Level 1 TOC (XPath expression).” Go to the far right and click open a funny wizard icon, and when it drops a box find “Match HTML tags with tag name.” You will again have drop box options; select “h1.” It will fill in more letters but don’t worry about it. Keep going.

12. Still in “Convert…,” in the left column, find “Page Setup.” This may be optional but I did it anyway. I changed the top and bottom margins from 5.0 to 2.5. (Don’t ask.)

13. Finally, on the “Convert…” page, find the “EPUB Output” icon. Then on the page that opens find the “Preserve cover aspect ratio” line and check the box before it. Hit OK at the bottom of the page.

14. The big moment: when you push that “OK” button, the book copy (and cover) will convert into a digital ePub file in about 10 seconds.

15. After conversion, hold you breath and put your mouse in the big box in the middle of the page and push on the book cover. The ready-to-read book will open up! You can read the file by pushing your “Page Down” or “Page Up” computer keys. It’s in a different computer language. What a polyglot you are!

16. If it doesn’t look good, you will have to go back and make the needed corrections at step 2. It usually means that the first 3-4 pages are goofy.

17. The biggest problem I had was finding where my new .ePub file was hiding in my computer. I knew all the usual hiding holes but it wasn’t in any of them. The Search button told me that the new .ePub file existed, but where? I found it by right clicking over the book’s name in the Calibre library’s list of books (it’s below the cover). A box appeared with a “Save to disk” choice, so I opened the arrow to the left and hit “Save only EPUB Format to disk,” and when it opened I chose the book folder in My Documents, where it appeared as a ZIP folder with the metadata, the interior file, and the ebook cover.

18. So that’s where I will retrieve them for the “open” publisher’s submit box when they request my book’s interior copy—to publish!

This works every time for me, so here it is if you are, or will be, in the quandary I was in: no ePub version to publish when it was required.

Again, please, I know almost nothing techie about computers so don’t contact me if it doesn’t work. Try it again. I’m not a computer person. See them, please, for those or any other such esoteric 0-1 problems, except laundry. Sorry.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If you wonder what all this refers to, it’s publishing ebook versions of your book(s) at houses like Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, Create Space, LSI, and others. I explain the rest of the procedure in my book How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.

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