You can use Calibre to prepare your ebook for publication to any service that can accept ePub files, such as Smashwords and Kindle Direct. This is how you do it:
- Get Calibre (free) at http://calibre-ebook.com/download and install it -- in most cases, this is as simple as clicking on the file you just downloaded.
- Now, assuming you've written your manuscript in Word or OpenOffice, open it up in one of those programs, and save it as RTF (Rich Text Format).
- Start Calibre. In the upper right hand, you'll see an icon called "Add Books." Click on it. This will open a file selection window -- find the manuscript you just saved in RTF. Select it. It will now be loaded in Calibre's main window.
- Select this file and click on the "Convert Books" icon above. This will bring you to a conversion screen.
- The conversion window has many, many options. It's easy to get intimidated by them all. They're covered in detail by the various tutorials found here: http://calibre-ebook.com/help
- Make sure the dropdown box in the upper right hand is set to EPUB.
- Now, look at each of the option screens for conversion.
- Metadata: The important ones to fill out are Title, Author, and Publisher. You can also choose a cover image. Your manuscript should not have a hardcoded cover image embedded in it -- meaning, you shouldn't have a word processor file that starts with a picture of your cover image. Calibre makes it for you.
- Jump to Page Setup. The parts of interest are the Output Formats. You can convert multiple versions of the manuscript targeted for specific platforms, like the Kindle, Sony, Nook, etc.
- Ensure that, if you target your manuscript for multiple formats, you save each conversion under a different name. You should save multiple versions of your manuscript from your word processor in this case, with declarative names such as "[Title]-Kindle.rtf" or "[Title]-Sony.rtf". This allows you to go through the conversion process several times, optimizing the same manuscript for various readers.
- Click "Okay." In the bottom right hand of the window, you see bold text that reads "Jobs: 1" or it may go by too quickly for you to see. That means Calibre is processing the manuscript, and when it says "Jobs: 0" it means the book is converted.
If everything looks good, the next step is to upload it to your bookseller. All current booksellers accept ePub as a file format you can upload. And you're done!
Many thanks, Ben, this is magic info for those writers who self-publish electronically because now we no longer have to format our mss by hand. Ed.
Ben Trafford was a co-founder of the International Digital Publishing Forum, the standards group that created and maintains the ePub specification. He has been a leading technical contributor to ebook standards since 1998. His website is at http://www.prodigal.ca.