From Manuscript to (e)Book: Your Self-Publishing Adventure Guide

Converting Word Files to Kindle Books

I’ve posted quite a bit about creating ePub files from Word files, but not much about creating Kindle books. The good news is that you don’t have to be technical to convert a Word file to a Kindle book.

Unless you’re going to pay someone to convert your file, your first step is to apply styles to your Word document. Conversion tools aren’t mind readers. If your Word file doesn’t contain any hints about how to format your chapter headings, your scene openings, etc., then don’t expect a tool to magically figure things out and generate a wonderfully formatted Kindle book. If you don’t know much about Word styles, your favourite search engine should be able to point you to helpful articles around the net.

You also don’t want your Word file formatted for a print book. You have to throw your notion of a “book” out the window when dealing with an eBook.

Once you’ve applied styles to your Word document, what options are available to convert the file to a Kindle book?

Amazon DTP

Amazon DTP will convert several file formats to the Kindle format, including Word files. To go that route, you have to sign up for an Amazon DTP account and set up a title. At some point in the setup process, Amazon will ask you to upload your file and will then convert it. You’ll be given the chance to preview the converted file, and if there’s a problem, you’ll have to tweak it. Visit the Amazon DTP forums for help.

Mobipocket

Use Mobipocket Creator to convert your Word file to a MOBI file and upload the MOBI file to Amazon. Kindle books are actually MOBI files. So if you have Kindle for PC, you can use it to read MOBI files.

One advantage to all the methods that generate MOBI files is that if the MOBI file looks good, the Kindle file will look good, since they’re pretty much the same thing. So you can view the results and do any necessary tweaking before setting up your title with Amazon DTP.

Calibre

Calibre is a popular tool that converts between many different document formats. If you look at the supported formats, you won’t see .doc there, but you will see TXT and PDF. So save your Word file as a TXT or PDF file and there you go. You can use Calibre to convert to a MOBI file.

Other Tools

Use one of the many other conversion tools out there. I posted about Jutoh in regard to creating ePub files, but it also creates MOBI files, and you can use its WYSIWYG editor to tweak the resulting files, if you want to fix any formatting problems.

Pay Someone

If reading all this gave you a headache and you’d rather pay around $50 to have someone do the conversion for you, I’ve heard good things about the following two conversion companies: eBook Architects and Jim & Zetta.

You might also want to use a conversion company if your file contains lots of tables, images, or fancy formatting. Most of the conversion tools work best when dealing with text and simple formatting—a typical novel. Try out the different options, and if you’re not pleased with the results, consider paying someone (or tweak the generated files yourself).

See you in the Kindle store!

About Sarah Ettritch

Canadian author Sarah Ettritch writes stories with strong female characters. She's the author of Threaded Through Time, The Rymellan Series, The Missing Comatose Woman, The Salbine Sisters, and The Atheist. Visit her at sarahettritch.com.

Comments

  1. Well, after reading about http://www.Smashwords.com on here last Friday, I’ve converted and uploaded my first 12 books there in the first week! Still not totally “pain-free” — but much less stressful than what I’ve been going through to get my books converted for the Kindle….and then for the Nook…I found the style guide from Smashwords to actually be understandable AND helpful. I learned how to make table of contents for the ebooks! Very cool. Now, if some of those samples will just turn into purchases, I’ll be all set…

  2. The great thing about Smashwords is that one Word file can get you to B&N, Diesel, Kobo, the iBookstore, and Sony. Smashwords does have an agreement with Amazon for the Kindle Store, but I’m not sure if it’s shipping eBooks to Amazon yet.

    I upload to Amazon directly. I use Smashwords for everything else.

  3. “I upload to Amazon directly. I use Smashwords for everything else.”

    That’s a good idea. I was wondering about doing that. I was already selling books on Amazon before I started uploading to Smashwords, so I didn’t want to jeopardize that. When in the process do you tell Smashwords where else to submit your books to?

  4. As soon as a book is accepted for the premium catalog, it’s opted in to all the distribution channels (except Apple. I think you have to explicitly opt in to the iBookstore).

    To opt your books out (or in) to a distribution channel, login to Smashwords, go to Account, and then go to Distribution Channel Manager. From there, you can opt your books in or out of distribution to each store. Unfortunately you have to do it for each book individually. If you already have some of your Smashwords books on Amazon, I’d opt out of Amazon distribution ASAP.

  5. Excellent. Done. Thank you for the step by step instructions – no telling how long it would have taken me to figure that out!

    Do you sell many books on Smashwords? I have LOTS of samples already – but no sales yet. I keep telling myself it’s only been just over a week. And that the distribution will be worth it, regardless.

  6. I do sell books on Smashwords, but you have to be patient. You might find that you sell more through Smashwords’ distribution partners than you do through Smashwords itself. It can take a few months for sales to be reported from the other sites.

  7. Hi – Thanks for all the detailed help. My problem is rather different. I can convert the MS Word 2007 documents to Kindle without a problem by sending them to Amazon via email. I then can see the document/book on the Kindle 3. When I open the document on the Kindle 3, I can read the first page. All is well.
    When I page forward, the next page I see is the last page in the document (or 100%). I can’t get to the equivalent of page 2. When I am at the last page of the document, I can page back and see each page (great if you want to read the book backwards, that’s great). until I get back to about 12%. Then it goes to page 1 (or1%).

    Please help – this is very frustrating.

    Al

    PS – It does not seem to make any difference whether the MS Word 2007 document is .doc or .docx

  8. I’m afraid I can’t help with Kindle conversions that aren’t working as expected. I’m not familiar with the internal format of Kindle books, so I have no idea what might be causing the error you’ve described.

    You might want to try the formatting forum at the Amazon DTP site. Someone there might have run into the same problem or know enough about the Kindle format to give you a few suggestions you can try.

  9. Keith B Rosenberg says:

    Why in the sam hill is converting a DOCX file to MOBI, ePUB or other reader format so complicated. I should not need to convert the file to anything else to do it.

    And why don’t Word, Word Perfect, Open Office and the other word processors have it built in as a “Save As” feature?

    Downloaded two apps just now and Calibre sucks and the Mobi Creator does not deal with DOCX files.

  10. You might want to check out Jutoh. I use its close cousin, eCub (a stripped down version of Jutoh from the same developer, for more tech-savvy folks):

    http://www.jutoh.com/

    If you’re willing to give Calibre another try, you could also check out the book I reviewed here, which takes you through the conversion process with Calibre step by step:

    http://selfpublishingadventure.com/convert-word-to-mobi-epub-smashwords/

  11. This was so useful! I’m really glad you wrote this up. I’m using the second one to convert some of my work to .mobi so that I read through them for editing purposes while on trips. So much easier than pulling out my laptop to work all the time, especially with how short my laptop’s battery life is these days.

  12. I’m glad you found a tool that works for you. I wrote the article from the perspective of converting a Word file to a Kindle book and selling it on Amazon. It’s great that you’ve applied the information in a way that suits your needs. :)

  13. Thanks for the helpful information Sarah. Having just figured this out myself, I thought I’d share what I learned: http://pdxnat.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/how-to-make-an-epub-mobi-file/ I documented the process of converting a word doc to epub / mobi with Calibre. Free and easy.

    Thanks!

  14. Thanks for the link. Calibre is great when you want to convert Word documents to another format so you can load them onto your eReader.

    When I want to create a mobi file that I can upload to Amazon, I prefer to use eCub or Jutoh, because you can use Amazon’s kindlegen tool with them.

  15. thanks for the detailed and informative post. I also want to share a method that kindle owners might also find useful. there are now free online tools or websites which you can use to convert your kindle clippings to convenient or more workable formats such as pdf or ms word. take a look and try http://clippingsconverter.com.

    hope that this also helps.
    Kim

  16. Thanks for the link, Kim. :)

  17. Seriously helpful post! Just finished my first book, the “No-Carb Revolution”, and my next step is putting it up on Amazon…so I really appreciate the tips here!

  18. Glad you found it useful, John. Good luck with your book! :)

  19. Sam Gilmour says:

    I’ve found Scrivener to be fantastic for compiling to just about any format you want. It does epub & mobi files especially well. That and its other features convinced me to migrate from Word, and I haven’t looked back.

  20. Treb Gatte says:

    If you are encountering bizarre issues with Word to Kindle conversion, I put together an eBook tracing most Word actions through to Kindle conversion. I also note which things are problematic and how to fix them. Go to http://www.tumbleroad.com for more info.

  21. @Sam: Thanks for bringing up Scrivener. I haven’t used it myself, but I’ve seen people rave about it on writing forums. For those interested, check out Scrivener here:

    http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

    @Treb: Thanks for letting us know about your book. :)

  22. Thank you so much for your post. It’s really helpful for me.

  23. You’re welcome! :)

  24. Sher Latiff says:

    Above mentioned tools are very good for simple e-book conversion but it does not work for the complex formatting layouts like box, coloring, etc..

    Also thank you for mentioned some conversion companies and I recommend AtoZ ebook conversion services and they did the great job for us. Here is the link,

    http://www.atozebookconversion.com/word-to-kindle-conversion.html

    Thank you for the great article and hopes it helps to all the authors.

  25. For sure, if you have a complex file, then an automated tool won’t do well. Even with simple files, you’ll sometimes have to tweak the result.

    Thanks for the recommendation.

  26. Gary Istok says:

    OK, I spent 6 years researching a massive collectors guide for LEGO, probably the most complex toy ever (over 8000 sets produced in 63 years). My research includes help from the LEGO Archives in Denmark. I created 73 chapters and 4 appendices, each a separate Word Doc with color pics. The total is 2,800 pages, 6,000 images, and 1/4 million words… and when I PDF them (max resolution) I have 688MB of data… which fits on a DVD, and can be downloaded to a desktop as linked PDF chapters via a Table of Contents. But that’s not going to generate a lot of sales in that format. A Kindle book only allows 50MB, and 14 collectors guide books on LEGO is unacceptable. What options do I have to publish this massive amount of research of a vast quantity of LEGO sets, parts and related material?

  27. Gary Istok says:

    Oppps…. forgot to mention that in the previous post… I did this as MS Word documents (in total 83 Word Files including a Table of Contents)….

  28. Wow, Gary, that’s quite the work. Since I’m a novelist, I don’t have any experience with books that contain tons of images, so I can’t advise you. You might try contacting an ebook formatting professional. I’ve heard good things about the following two companies: EBook Architects, Jim and Zetta.

    I’ll also point out that PDF ebooks do sell well to niche markets. I’ve bought lots of PDF ebooks on specialized topics. You’ll have to promote the book to the niche market, but that’ll be true no matter where and how you publish it.

    Have you considered print? That might be another way to go…

  29. Gary, Use QuarkXPress. It is still the premier long doc publishing tool. It and only it can handle documents the size you are soeaking of. Adobe InDesign can but the files will become so big it will choke.

  30. A friend wants to convert her books for Kindle. I can set it up in a Word or pdf document, but need a couple of pointers:
    It will contain photos, so what will happen to the formatting and placement if it’s created on an A4 sheet?
    I can set the page to a different size, but what is right for Kindle?
    If I include a colour photo, will it convert to B&W?
    I tend to use basic fonts, but which are best when converted, and what size should I use?
    Do I include the front and rear covers in the whole document?
    Is the original ISBN included within the document?
    Any help would be gratefully received.

  31. I don’t have any experience with including photos, so all I can say is that many Kindle models are B&W only, so if you include photos, make sure they’ll still be clear in B&W.

    When dealing with eBooks, throw the notion of “pages” out. Your page size and margins will not be preserved.

    Stick with a basic font like Times New Roman. Don’t include the covers. Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN, but if you want one in the metadata. I’m not sure where to add that in Word. I always do it through the tool I use (eCub). Don’t start with a PDF, use Word.

    I’d suggest using Amazon’s instructions for setting up and converting from Word. You’ll find them here:

    https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A17W8UM0MMSQX6

  32. Andrew Bukowski says:

    Hi guys! I have here a suggestion that might be useful, an online tool that converts from PDF to mobi, epub or text: http://kitpdf.com/. It’s simple and fast to use. Enjoy.

  33. Ariana Lussier says:

    I have a formatting question?

    I’m writing a fiction novel, and I like to have my paragraphs formatted with a space between each paragraph and the first line of the paragraph indented (I was always taught 4 spaces in school).

    Now, Microsoft Word does that for me rather nicely with formatting options, but I’m wondering if those options will be preserved when I convert it to an ebook.

    I don’t want to get to the end of the book then find out I have to go back and put all those lines and spaces in manually, nor do I want to put them in manually at this stage only to find out that it messes with the various ebook formats.

  34. I can’t answer the question without knowing how you intend to convert your Word file to an eBook and how your Word file is formatted. If you intend to upload your book to the Kindle Store and want Amazon to convert the document for you, you should format your Word document according to Amazon’s instructions, which you should be able to find by doing a search.

    You should never manually indent or put blank lines between paragraphs. Always use Word’s Paragraph options.

    Note that, for fiction, the convention is to indent and have no blank lines between paragraphs. Usually it’s either don’t indent/have a blank line between paragraphs (popular for non-fiction) or indent/no blank line (popular for fiction).

  35. Ariana Lussier says:

    I was planning on doing as suggested and upload to Amazon directly for Kindle and use Smashwords for ‘everything else’.

    But for now, you say “You should never manually indent or put blank lines between paragraphs. Always use Word’s Paragraph options.” so I’ll go with that.

    Thank you very much for answering! ^_^

  36. I’d suggest downloading the style guide from Smashwords and reading through it, to make sure that you’re not doing anything you’ll have to correct later. There are other things you need to do/watch out for. Files formatted for Smashwords will likely be okay for Amazon (or only require minor changes).

  37. larry severson says:

    I have the rights to a K-6 hands-on science series that has proven to raise student grades in EVERY subject area. It is in PDF format. It also, as a science education series, contains lots of pictures and charts. The biggest file (in PDF) is 17MB. Based on the above postings, I can not get a good, useable book series for standard ePub. Is there any source that will market in PDF. The books are great on both PCs and Ipads.

  38. Larry, you might be able to get a usable ePub file. Like I suggested to Gary, you should get in touch with a formatter company like eBook Architects. They might be able to advise you on the best way to proceed. The big markets want ePub (except Amazon, but it will take and convert an ePub to what it wants).