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Friends, Citizens, and Indie Authors—the holidays are upon us! Black Friday is right around the corner, soon to be followed by Santa and reindeer. Those cheery Christmas songs and Holiday ads are already popping up online and at that shopping mall around the corner. And, unfortunately, for most Independent Authors, it’s visions of finances—not sugarplums—that dance in our heads.

So, you’re an author, or you want to be one.

You have a story you’re dying to share with the world, right? You’re probably thinking e-book because there are no printing costs and everybody owns an e-reader these days. But you also possess a list of unavoidable things already tying up your purse strings or wallet this time of year:

  • Credit card bills.
  • Gifts for family members.
  • Gifts for friends.
  • Secret Santa.
  • Hotel stays.
  • Car rental.
  • Plane tickets.

You may be one of those people who, like I once did, believes you have to pay a service for e-book conversion to get it on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Trust me, you’re not alone—folks are making income off that misconception. Google the topic (e-book conversion) and I guarantee that you’ll find online services happy to charge you anywhere from $49 to $300 or so just to convert your novel into ebook format for you.

 Repeat after me: “Aww. That’s so sweet of you, random service. Thanks for taking my hard-earned money.”

If you are in the ranks of the group above, I’ve got some potentially good news for you—you can stop saying thank you.

Ever heard of Calibre e-book management? Here’s how it defines itself:

Calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. It has a cornucopia of features divided into the following main categories:

  • Library Management
  • E-book conversion
  • Syncing to e-book reader devices
  • Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form
  • Comprehensive e-book viewer
  • Content server for online access to your book collection
  • E-book editor for the major e-book formats.”

You noticed the second bullet point, right?

E-book conversion!!!!!!!!

It is a free downloadable application—you can also make a donation of whatever you can afford (a few bucks is a nice gesture, for the record). It also converts to a broad range of formats for you, though I only mention a few here.

It took me a little time playing around with it, at first, because I’m the dummy who likes to skim through online tutorials rather than reading themI eventually decided on what I like (at the moment) for my pre-conversion Microsoft Word .docx settings.

As for document specs:

I have found that a regular 8.5 x 11 .docx (but not .doc—for some reason, the software can’t convert it) document with margins formatted for 1″top, 1″ bottom, 1.25″ left, 1.25″ right, 0″ gutter, 0.5″ header, 0.5″ footer  works pretty well. (See the example below) when I convert to .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (Nook & iBooks) in Calibre:

                                                      DOCUMENT MARGINS

 I also tend to prefer wider spacing for paragraphs, so I mostly use 8-10 pt spacing before and after and 1.5 line spacing (see the example below) for shorter works, but that is by no means the only way to go.

PARAGRAPH (Indents & Spacing)

Note: What you see in the snapshots above are my preferences, not necessarily yours. I encourage you to check out NookPress, KDP Amazon, or even Google formatting e-books or formatting margins for .mobi, epub, etc. in ___(whatever program you use—Word, etc.) and see what you get.

Now, as for Calibre:

  • You download it.
  • Open it up and choose the “Add a book” option.
  • Add your edited, formatted .docx (or other) document, add front matter (cover image, etc. if you already have it—I’ll probably get into cover design in a later blog, but you can look up all kinds of YouTube tutorials on it, too).
  •  Once your document has loaded, choose “convert books.” Note: I believe it is recommended to convert to epub (Nook/iBooks compatible) before .mobi (Kindle compatible file).

I also find it helps if you have an epub or Mobi compatible device. Since the conversion is instant, you can then open it in your reader (w/Amazon Kinde, you may have to email it to the email associated w/ your Kindle device and open it as a “Doc.”) and check it out for yourself. 

Huge benefits of converting yourself:

  • It keeps that hard-earned money in your pocket.
  • Mistakes you (or your editor) didn’t catch in the original formatting sometimes leap out at you when you read it in the new, e-book format.
  • It’s an excellent way to send review copies at no cost (as opposed to paying to gift a copy through a vendor site).

Note: This blog post is just for fun and is meant to share my personal experiences and opinion in the writing arena. It is not intended as specific advice (take it or leave it as you like), and I have received no compensation—monetary or otherwise—from Calibre in return for this post. To the best of my knowledge, they have no idea I even exist, and they’re probably not the only free conversion service app out there, so feel free to do your homework and compare.