It’s time to publish the novel you have worked so hard and long on, but where do you start? Which ebook software should you use to create a beautiful ebook that will impress your readers? Below we have compiled a list of software programs, along with a description and our recommendations for each option. Keep in mind that you will need to create an EPUB file for all ebook vendors except Amazon, which requires a MOBI file instead.
Different Ebook Creation Software
It is possible to export your book directly to an ebook format in Microsoft Word. Don’t do it. The results would be unevenly spaced paragraphs, paragraphs that are more indented than other paragraphs, randomly changing fonts, and other problems. This method may be cheap and easy, but the results will turn away readers and cheapen your novel.
One thing to note is that Word will change your image sizes, so you need to make sure they look good on the ereader. You can opt not to change/compress the size, however, but getting images the right size might be tricky.
Word and Calibre
If you have Microsoft Word 2007 or later, you can save your book as a .docx file (it should save as a .docx by default) and import that file into calibre. Before importing your file into calibre, be sure your chapter titles and any other headings are assigned to a corresponding Word style. This will allow calibre to identify what text to turn into headings. After creating the ebook, be sure to look through it and identify any funky formatting.
This method can be a good choice for authors on a budget, but it may becoming frustrating to fix small formatting errors, since you can either go back to your original Word document to fix them, or you can use calibre’s HTML editor to directly fix, and preview, the underlying HTML of your ebook.
For earlier versions of Microsoft Word, you can export your Word document as an HTML file, then directly edit the HTML to achieve the styling you want. In the HTML file, you’ll need to format your table of contents and fine tune any other formatting. Once your HTML file is ready, you’d import it into calibre, where you can then export it in your desired ebook format. This method gives you complete control over the final result and is inexpensive, but it requires some knowledge of HTML and can be tedious. Formatting the HTML incorrectly can lead to funny formatting or even a broken file, so while there are multiple help guides for HTML online, we do not recommend this method to those who are not familiar with HTML.
For either of these methods with Word and calibre, you can make the final result better by first performing general cleanup in your Word file, such as deleting tabs and extra paragraph returns and replacing ellipses with periods spaced with nonbreaking spaces.
One drawback is that certain settings in calibre will create block formatting (which is distracting to readers), if you don’t know what you’re doing. Another issue to consider is that Word to HTML often leaves unused/redundant HTML tags that can create EPUBs that have problems uploading to Apple Books, Google Play, or Smashwords. Because the document is originally created in Word, image sizes may also be changed.
Let’s take a look at some methods that give you a bit more control.
Sigil is free and is specifically for EPUB files. You paste in the text of your book and apply formatting, manipulating the HTML code where needed. Using Sigil is easier than just editing the straight HTML file, but if you’re not careful, you could introduce errors, so even if you know HTML, it may not be the best choice.
Many authors claim Vellum is the easiest method to create ebooks, and they enjoy the different styles, drop caps, and ornamental swashes Vellum has to offer to make ebooks more fancy. There are various styles to choose from to help you create your ebook quickly. The program will also down-size your images automatically, and creating retailer-specific ebooks is just a matter of pasting in the different links. The option to create all the books for all the retailers (MOBI and EPUB) with one click is a great time saver.
There are two drawbacks, however. One, Vellum is ONLY available for MAC. Two, it’s a steep $199 price for unlimited ebooks, or $29 for a single project. You can check out the Vellum website for more information.
Jutoh can create both EPUB and MOBI files, and the software can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It gives you complete control over every aspect of your ebook in a user-friendly environment. Creating a simple ebook is easy—just upload your DOCX—but if you want greater control over how your ebook appears, Jutoh has options for that too. For instance, you can add scene break images, embed fonts, or use drop caps. Using their configuration options, you can format retailer-specific ebooks using the same file. Unfortunately, each retailer configuration is compiled one at a time instead of with just one click, so if you have six retailers, it can take a few minutes. You can also create fixed layout books. Jutoh is similar to Adobe’s InDesign program with the way it treats paragraph and character styles. You can create unlimited styles for different books and series.
Jutoh also has even more advanced settings, and if you’re into technology, you might have fun investigating these options. One example is strings, which can be used on sections of your book that are often updated, like Other Books By section. With strings, you update one file, and all the ebooks attached to that file will be updated the next time you compile the books. You can also add custom fonts or drop caps in your ebooks. However, remember that these fancy options and the time it might take to learn them are not necessary for creating most ebooks.
Scrivener currently costs $40 for Windows and $45 for Mac, but it’s more than ebook creation software. Scrivener is first and foremost a writing and organizational tool. You can use it to create ebooks by first cleaning up the book (like you would in Word), then “compiling” the file to create an EPUB.
Because Scrivener was not created to be ebook software, you won’t have a lot of control over details (for example, Scrivener does not handle drop caps well). We do not advise getting this software just to create an ebook. But if you’re already using it for writing your book, and your ebook is simple with no or few graphics, then give it a go.
This ebook software is free on the Mac, but any ebook created with it can only be sold through the Apple Books app. iBooks Author has a lot of great tools and a user-friendly interface. It does great with ebooks that have a lot of pictures, and you can even insert interactive elements.
Creatavist (or Atavist) has a lot of options that may seem overwhelming to a first-time ebook creator. It does well with images, as well as sound, video, and interactive elements (all of which do become obsolete on older ereaders). But Creatavist costs $10 a month to output unlimited ebook files, which can add up quickly. Creatavist is also a publishing site, which means you can publish your ebook to different vendors, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, directly from the site. Unfortunately, it also means you don’t get the ebook files (MOBI and EPUB) yourself, and all your ebooks must be managed through Creatavist rather than directly through the vendor. While this may be right for some authors, it’s not something we would choose to use.
Which ebook software do we prefer?
We at Book Cave prefer Jutoh because it gives us more control than most other ebook software out there, while still maintaining a friendly interface. We also love the very reasonable one-time price and the cool (nerdy) options. Vellum seems to be another program that is a friendly, useful option for authors, but it is pricier.
Because we use Jutoh, we’ll be posting tutorials on how to use Jutoh to create ebooks, so be sure to check back for more information and tips!
Which ebook software do you prefer?
We’d love to know what software you use and why. Please post your questions, comments, and suggestions on the comments section below.