Friday, April 01, 2011


 I was wrong when I stated in my last post "Please note that Calibre cannot format your book manuscripts for e-publication." You can and I'm grateful for Ben Trafford, formerly of International Digital Publishing Forum, for explaining exactly how to do it. I invited Ben to write a guest post for The Beacon Blog and he did. Huge thanks!

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 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:
To review the important bits:
  • 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.
To see what your freshly minted ePub looks like, open it up in your favourite ePub reader (Stanza, Sony, Nook, etc.), and see how you like it. To find the ePub file on your hard drive, right click on the title in Calibre and select "Open Containing Folder." My suggestion would be to review the book on the targeted device of choice.

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