Converting your book to epub

From draft to print epub banner cover

Note: This advice is strictly for a Malaysian context and will be updated as I go along. However, feel free to adapt and customise according to your own needs.

I wrote this because I was massively annoyed at a local course on “how to publish your own ebook.” As I went through the steps listed below, I realised my annoyance stemmed from the way he delivered his course and video. It’s not bad, it’s just that I cannot gel with his style.

That said, this is a step by step quick tutorial on how to turn your completed MS Word Docx into an epub file that’s ready to be uploaded to a platform such as Google Play Books (which is what I use) and Amazon Kindle.

Now, these are usually the steps towards writing a book:

  1. Drafting said book (outlining etc, may be skipped)
  2. Writing said book
  3. Editing book (including beta reading, consistency and grammar editing!)
  4. Self-publishing? Prepping your ebook for publication, including (We are here!)
    • Formatting your book
    • Testing your epub format
  5. Submit to an ebook platform (not being covered here)

Prepping your ebook for publication

This is what I call one of the most tedious parts of self-publishing. It’s a lot of niggly bits, but these bits are important towards ensuring your book can be read properly in an ebook reader (whether it’s a smartphone, ebook reader, tablet or even PC!).

Formatting: Headers, chapters and do you really need page breaks?

Answer to that last one is yes.

Ideally by the time you reach this step, your book would have already been divided into chapters at the very least. This is important for several reasons:

  • Gives your book structure
  • Makes it easier to read by breaking your book into sections
  • For fiction, chapter headings and titles offer additional narrative possibilities

Now, some of you may be like me, in that you write everything in Gdocs and chapter titles are literally just plain text with “Chapter 1: The beginning” or something similar. Some of the more advanced and forward-thinking of you would have used styles instead, to make your chapter titles stand out (in which case please jump to “Turning your book document into an epub”).

So assuming you were like me, let’s get started on styling those chapter titles. Using “styles” (and no, this is NOT just changing the font size and style) allows your word processing program to section your book, and in most cases, automatically creates a table of content or outline for easy reference.

Applying styles to your book

This one is very easy. I’m going to use Google Docs (GDocs) as that’s my primary word processor, but it’s a similar process in Microsoft Word too.

  1. Open your editable ebook in Google Docs.
  2. See your title? Move your mouse and highlight that text.
  3. Look in your Google Docs toolbar at the top. Click on the Style drop down (this is usually before your Font Selection) and select Title.
    Where Styles is (1)
  4. Watch the entire title change! If the Title selection changes the whole paragraph instead of just the Title, press CTRL + Z (or Undo), go to the end of your title and press enter. Then repeat step 3.
  5. Most people will put the author’s name below the title. Turn this into your Subtitle (same place as you applied the Title text).
  6. Now go through the rest of your ebook and do the same, but applying Heading 1 to the Chapter Titles. If you have subsections you’d like to call out, then apply Heading 2 to denote subsections.
    • Doing this turns your table of contents into something like Chapter 1: The Beginning of things
      • Part 1: Marking the middle of the beginning
      • Part 2: And it all blew up
  7. Optional: Once you’ve done this in GDocs, go to View > Show Document Outline and it should show you a table of content with all the chapter headers you did. Adjust if needed.
    Styling 2

Pro-tip: As you format your chapter titles, insert a page break at the end of each chapter. You will always want your next chapter to begin on a new page for readability purposes.

Once this is done, take a break, go and have some coffee or tea and come back the next day. You earned it.

Turning your document into an epub

Software required: MS Word, Calibre

Before we begin, I feel like I need to clarify a few things. Calibre (pronounced Cali-ber) is a powerful tool to help people manage their ebooks. If you have a lot of ebooks or read them across different platforms you may be familiar with them. This software helps readers manage their ebook downloads and control their own ebook libraries. And yes it’s completely free.

As for Microsoft Word – technically I don’t think you need the software to be installed, though it is a nice to have just in case you need to do additional formatting.

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to actually start turning your book into an epub.

Converting .docx to epub with Calbre

  1. First, download and install Calibre (link goes directly to the download page). Complete the setup wizard when you launch Calibre for the first time.
  2. Then in Google Docs, hit File > Download > MS Word (.docx) to download your styled book to your PC.
  3. Open Calibre on your computer and look for the icon above to add your Docx.
    Calibre Add books
  4. Once added, highlight the book (like so).
    Highlighted book calibre
  5. Click on the newly added book, and then click on “Convert” at the top.
  6. You’ll be presented with several options, something that looks like this. Now I recommend adjusting details of your book in 1 and 2 (as per the screenshot below). I prefer uploading my own cover as a separate image rather than from within the book as I don’t like adjusting images in GDocs.
    Calibre conversion 2
  7. Once done, you can click through the sidebar on the left to look at the various options. They’re pretty self-explanatory I think, but for the most part you don’t have to adjust them.
  8. Press Convert in the bottom right and that’s it! When the book is done converting you’ll be taken back to the previous screen. Your new book should be ready.
  9. Click on the EPub in the right side of the screen and Calibre will launch its own e-reader. You can start going through the book now to ensure it’s been properly formatted and there’s no typos, and you’re done!

And now you know how to convert your Word Docx into an epub for easy reading and/or selling! Also check out Chap Fan by Prose-ACK! here on Google Play Books.

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