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Production: Best Way to Format Your Own .epub Files for Ebooks

Debbie Young Indie Author Fringe Speaker

Debbie Young, ALLi Author Advice Center editor

If you’re planning to format your own ebooks to distribute anywhere other than on Amazon’s KDP platform, you’ll need to master the industry-standard .epub that is used by just about every other ereader and ereading app.

But as with so many tasks within self-publishing, there is more than one way to achieve it. We asked experienced ALLi author members to share their preferred means and methods of formatting .epubs, and here’s a summary of their recommendations.

 

Four Favourite Software Packages

ALLi members cited these four programmes as useful conversion tools:

  • Calibre (free)
  • Jutoh (small cost – less than you’d pay a third party to format one ebook – but offers free trial)
  • Scrivener (small cost as above – designed as writing software but also includes conversion facilities)
  • Vellum (more costly and currently only for Mac, but it has a great reputation, and its current beta testing for print books got some rave reviews from ALLi members taking part)

All four are relatively easy to use, though as with any software system, the more you use them, the more competent you will become.

image of ebook on Kindle in cover showing lots of book pictures

From print book to ebook – the easy way

Using Distribution Platforms for Ebook Conversion

Another route is to use the conversion services offered within certain distribution platforms, eg Draft2Digital or Pronoun. (Similarly if you need a .mobi file to send to someone, just download KDP’s proof of your ebook.)

Although a conversion service is part of these providers’ distribution package, designed primarily so you can easily distribute your ebook via their platform, you can also download the conversions created this way for your own use elsewhere.

D2D and Pronoun don’t mind if you stop short at the actual “distribute” stage, effectively enabling you to get your .epubs completely free, because, like KDP, they don’t charge you for their services until you start selling books, retaining a small percentage from your revenue.

Although technically you can do the same Smashwords, you shouldn’t, because their terms and conditions prohibit using the files elsewhere.

ALLi logo

All for one, and one for all!

With thanks to the following authors for contributing to this discussion held on our members-only Facebook forum (just one of 21 great benefits of belonging to ALLi): Pauline Baird Jones, Fiona Cameron, Anna Castle, Keith Dixon, Karl Drinkwater, Elizabeth Ducie, Jean Gill, Tim Lewis, Roz Morris, Alison Morton, Lynne Pardoe, Russell Phillips, Katherine Trail, Linda White

OVER TO YOU Do you favour a different method of creating .epubs? We’d love to know what it is and why you prefer that way – please leave a comment!

Quick'n'easy way to turn your ebooks into .epubs - a round-up post by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet

OTHER HELPFUL POSTS ABOUT EBOOKS

KDP Rules Roundup

Production: How to Format Illustrated Ebooks with Vellum

Publishing: 5 Top Tips for Formatting Ebooks

 

3 Responses to Production: Best Way to Format Your Own .epub Files for Ebooks

  1. Barb Drozdowich March 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

    I’ve used all of the methods listed and have to say I prefer Vellum. Not only is Vellum quite straight forward to use, but it produces a beautiful ebook. If what I read are examples of what some authors find acceptable products to sell, I’d like to suggest that these authors view their own end products and then compare them to what can be created by Vellum. There are a lot of really ugly ebooks out there 🙁

  2. Pauline Baird Jones March 17, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    Pronoun doesn’t take a cut of ebook sales.

    I would say, if you have a large back list, get a Mac, even a used one. Vellum is a wonderful program and so easy and fast. Other bonus is direct upload to iBooks. 🙂

    (I have heard others say you can use Vellum in MacInCloud, but someone somewhere told me it doesn’t work. I do not know about that, because I haven’t used MIC.)

  3. Karl Drinkwater March 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    Two quick notes:

    “Similarly if you need a .mobi file to send to someone, just download KDP’s proof of your ebook.”
    If you use Pronoun you can alternatively send the .mobi they generate – or just send a link to it which Pronoun provides, to save having to email files around. They do the same for the epub too. It’s pretty rare that I need to email an actual e-book anymore.

    “Pronoun […] don’t charge you for their services until you start selling books, retaining a small percentage from your revenue.”
    I thought Pronoun didn’t keep any revenue, they passed it all on to the authors? It may have changed since I last checked though.

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