This article is aimed at the curious author, who after having created (or received) their eBook wants to make sure the eBook gives the reader the best possible reading-experience.
How eBooks are made.
Before we decide if an eBook is ready for your reader, we need to understand where they come from. There are a few ways to create an eBook, here are the most popular methods of eBook conversion:
1. Automatic eBook conversion.
You could rely on the “Meatgrinders” found on the Amazon KDP and Smashwords eBook platforms. This is where you submit a well-formatted MS Word file and the online platform chosen does it’s best to transform it into a workable eBook file.
You could have created the eBook files yourself using free or paid-for software:
3. Paid Professionals.
This is where you pay someone to create an eBook for you.
It doesn’t really matter how you create your eBook. What does matter is that you review the interior after it has been created from the source manuscript. (Normally a MS word file.)
Step 1 – The result of eBook conversion.
Firstly, it is very important to understand what to expect at the end of the conversion process, an actual eBook file.This might just be a MOBI eBook file which is used exclusively on Amazon. It might also just be an EPUB file used in all other online stores including Smashwords, Draft2Digital, the Apple store and Barnes and Noble.
- If you use the automated conversion process from the Amazon KDP website will result in only a MOBI file being created.
- If you use the automated conversion from Smashwords, this will result in both the MOBI and EPUB file being created. (As well as a few other misc formats)
Ideally, if you have a choice, have your book converted into the following formats:
- MOBI – Uploaded to the Amazon KDP platform.
- EPUB – Uploaded to most other eBook stores.
- PDF – Quick and easy to send book reviewers and beta-readers.
For those looking at using Smashwords.
Please note that if you choose to upload your ePUB eBook into the eBook distribution platform Smashwords you will need a ePUB file that has been slightly modified. As an example Smashwords will require that the Copyright page for your ePUB contains the words “Smashwords Edition” or something similar. For more detail on the tweaks you need to make to your ePUB file for Smashwords, read the style guide.
Step 2 – How to open and read your eBook.
The method of opening an eBook differs depending on the file format that you are trying to open. I normally recommend authors open and review the MOBI eBook file. As Amazon exclusively uses the MOBI file and Amazon is where most of an author’s royalties are (normally) earned, it just makes sense. Also as the MOBI file is actually created from the EPUB file, generally both formats should look very similar if not exactly the same.
Method 1 – Side loading to your eReader.
You are able to load the eBook manually onto an eReader device, known as side-loading.
Method 2 – Opening the eBook from the PC/ MAC.
This is my favourite method. Using software that is usually free I can open both EPUB and MOBI eBooks.
- For MOBI eBooks I recommend opening your eBook using the Kindle Previewer Tool. Download the software here.
- As a backup to read MOBI files use the Kindle Reader application software. Download the tool here.
- For EPUB eBooks my favorite method is using the Chrome plugin Readium. Download Readium plugin here.
- The backup for reading EPUB files directly from your desktop is using Adobe Digital Editions. Download ADE here.
I know that the Calibre eBook editing software also has a eBook reading feature for both the EPUB or MOBI format, I just am not a fan of the software due to it’s scary GUI. (User Interface)
Step 3 – Common problems to look for when reviewing an eBook
So you have your eBook file/s ready and have successfully installed the right software to read the eBook file. What next? An eBook files is nothing more than a mixture of HTML and CSS script. These are really the same ingredients used to create a standard website. This often means that the same errors found in websites are found in an eBook.
Watch out for these common gremlins in your eBook:
- Snippets of HTML code that obviously don’t belong.
- Chapters not starting on a new page.
- Blank pages.
- Random line-breaks.
- Picture sizes that are not right, too big or too small.
- Drop Caps.These do not belong in eBooks. Rather use a larger, bold letter to begin the paragraph.
- Incorrect eBook Metadata. This is the basic book info embedded in the ePUB and MOBI file. Are the book title, subtitle etc spelt correctly?
This unexpected HTML code will annoy any reader and should obviously not be there.
A misplaced line-break.
Avoid using drop-caps.
Want to learn more about the technical side of eBooks?
Step 4 – How to fix problems in your eBook.
Fixing a poorly-formatted eBook depends on how the eBook was first created. It could be as simple as an email to your designer with an error description (include a print-screen, this really helps.) Alternatively, it could mean tweaking your Word manuscript if you are submitting it to Amazon or Smashwords for automated conversion.
Fixing your Word file.
Here are the formatting guides for Amazon KDP and Smashwords, if you have taken the DIY conversion route.
Fixing your eBook using eBook editing software
If you are feeling brave you can edit the ePUB file using an editor like Sigil (my fav) or Calibre. Once you have fixed the ePUB file, the MOBI file ican then be automatically created from the ePUB file using KindleGen software.
Step 5 – The final step, validating your eBook (EPUB)
Don’t forget once you have recreated your ePUB file to make sure there are no obvious problems. Do this by using thisfree online eBook validation tool. This online ePUB validator will find most serious errors in the ePUB file and will return a basic error description and location.
Both the Sigil and Calibre eBook editing tools will have their own ePUB validation tool.
Even if you are outsourcing your eBook conversion to a third-party, validate the ePUB file regardless to keep your eBook supplier on their toes!
Validate your ePUB files!
Validate your ePUB eBook using the Sigil eBook editor.
I really hope this tutorial helps you better understand how to review your eBook file. The goal is always giving your reader the smoothest read possible 🙂