Step by Step Making an Epub / MOBI File

for Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and More

Converting your Word base ebook file into an Apple iBookstore ePub file, Barnes and Noble Nook ePub file, and an Amazon Kindle mobi file can be quite challenging if you've never done it before. Once you get the hang of it, you can convert a Word document book into both an EPUB and MOBI file in about five minutes flat.

These step by step instructions help you through the many hurdles in navigating your way through the EPUB and MOBI creation process.

When I first used to create my books it could take an hour or two to get the book formatted. Nowadays it takes under ten minutes. It's all about knowing how to set up your documents and what items to tweak as you convert them. I've got over 300 books loaded live in a wide range of systems - Kindle, Apple, Nook, Kobo, SmashWords, you name it. With the wide variety of genres I work with I've dealt with graphics, font mixtures, strange layouts, and just about anything life can throw at you.

Here's how to make it work.

Converting Word to Filtered HTML
Save your beginning Word file with your ebook into a NEW FILE with a new name. This is going to be a special version just for reader-based ebooks. I like to name mine xxx-ebook.doc, so in my case quicknocook-ebook.doc. Make a note in your version document of this new name and its purpose. That way the changes you make here stay separate from your print version and base version.

If you have a Table of Contents, edit it so it doesn't show page numbers. There is no such thing as a page number in an ebook. Ebooks are pageless :). Someone who has vision problems can increase the font size and suddenly the book has twice as many "pages". So select the Table of Contents. Press ALT-F9 to show the base code that is generating the Table of Contents. Then add a \N to the list of codes. \N means to leave off the page numbers. Alternately, you can remove the Table of Contents since the ebook reader will automatically include one. That's my preference.

If you have any tables in your document, now's the time to remove them. You need to make a graphic version of each table and include it simply as a JPG. An easy way to do this is to hit "print screen" while looking at your document. That will save your screen as a graphic. Open that up in Paint or Photoshop and crop the image to just be the table in question. Save that into the folder with your book document. Now include that table image as part of your document. If you have trouble with this sort of thing, there are plenty of helpers on the web who will help you with this aspect of formatting for very little money.

Resave your new Word document so you have a Word version of this set of changes.

Then resave it as a "Save as Web Page, Filtered" file. This HTM file is what gets imported into Calibre.

word save to filtered html

Converting Filtered HTML to EPUB
Download a free copy of This software allows you to import a HTM and export an ePub file. It's fair to say that you'll probably have to do some tweaking of your file before you get this part to come out the way you want it to come out. Here are some steps to take. IMPORTANT NOTE: I used to send a PDF file into Calibre. I have found that the import of a HTM file looks MUCH nicer. I highly recommend you start with a HTM file.

In Calibre, to load this HTM file in, simply click on "Add Books". Browse to find the HTML file, and bring it in.

Self Publishing with Calibre

The book should now show up on your library list. Click on that book to select it. Then click on the "Edit Metadata" button. This is how you edit its cover, title, author name, and so on.

Self Publishing with Calibre

Load up the cover image. A high quality, clear cover is critical for ebook sales. Next, verify that the title, author name, and publisher name are set. Those are really the only three things important here. Save.

Now go into the "convert books" screen.

Self Publishing with Calibre

On this screen, you want to edit the Table of Contents setting.

Self Publishing with Calibre

On the Level 1 TOC (Table of Contents) set that to be


That makes sure it adds every H1 (header 1) tagged item into your table of contents. You did do that in your Word document, yes? If not, go back and do that. Your Word document needs to have every chapter heading tagged with a H1 tag. You can see that that was done properly by turning on your "Navigation Pane" in Word.

If you use second level contents, do the same thing for the Level 2 TOC.

Self Publishing with Calibre

When these areas are set, click on the "OK button at the bottom right to run the convert process.

Voila! It had created an ePub file which was my ebook. It looked pretty close to having a good format! Note that you can edit in Calibre, but I highly recommend not trying that. Instead, I would use a separate software package for the ePub tweaking.

Software to Tweak ePub Files
While the conversion process can be fairly good, it's not perfect. There will still be line break issues or formatting issues to clean up. You want your ebook to look as professional as possible so that readers appreciate it and tell their friends about it. This is where SIGIL comes in. SIGIL, created by Google, is an ePub editor that is fairly easy to use.

You can use Sigil to validate your ePub file and to make changes. Note that in Sigil you'll realize that your ebook file is really - behind the scenes - a set of sequential pages. That's OK - don't worry about that. Just worry that the pages all look OK.

Make sure your main chapter headings are tagged as "heading 1". Any secondary headings can be "heading 2". This should all have come through fine from the import process. Remember to allow the text to flow smoothly within a given chapter. You do NOT control "page length" on an ebook reader. An ebook reader lets the person randomly increase or decrease the font whenever they wish. So it's up to that end user to determine how many letters are on a given page. Your job is to give each area a meaningful title so they can move through the book easily.

On that topic, be sure to use View - Table of Contents. This is a special table of contents that the reader itself will display. The system generates this internal Table of Contents from your defined headers.

Within Sigil, click the green check mark to run its internal validation.

Self Publishing with Calibre

If you get the error of attribute 'clear' is not declared for element 'br' then just click on each one. Somewhere Calibre has probably created a line along the lines of

<br class="calibre3" clear="all" id="calibre_pb_0" />

Just remove the clear="all" part of that line.

Repeat this same process with any other errors it gives you. In essence, delete pretty much anything it complains about.

The one exception is with images - you'll get errors about "Picture 1" being an invalid name. The problem is the space. Just remove the space in those situations and it'll be fine.

Validating your ePub File
Keep checking your file until it comes up clean. Then save it out. This is now your final EPUB version of your file.

You're now ready to submit your ePub file to Apple's iBookstore, Amazon's Kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook, and Lulu's built in stores! Those all use the EPUB format.

Errors to Watch For
You have to supply a publisher name, even if it's your own. If you do not, you could get the error Contains invalid publisher XML. (Barnes & Noble) for example. The code should be in the content.opf file which you can edit with SIGIL. The code should look like this:

<dc:publisher>Publisher here</dc:publisher>

Next, you have to supply a publish DATE. The error you'll see for this is Contains invalid publication date XML. (Barnes & Noble). The code again is in the content.opf. Edit your file in SIGIL and add this in.


You can also shorten it to:


NOTE!! You can get this error even if you have a valid date, just because something else is wrong! Make sure that you run your validator tool and remove ALL OTHER errors before you worry too much about this one.

Making the MOBI File
Once your EPUB file is set, all you have to do to make the MOBI version is go back into Calibre. Choose the input file as the EPUB file you just made. Choose the output file to be the MOBI format. Click convert. That's all there is to it - it'll take your perfectly formatted EPUB, turn it into a MOBI file, and now you have a MOBI to load into Kindle!

Self Publishing with Calibre

It really only takes five minutes once you get the hang of it. Save out the Filtered HTML from Word. Suck into Calibre. Generate the EPUB. Do a few quick fixes in SIGIL. Save the EPUB. Convert the EPUB into a MOBI. Done, finished.

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