The first step in how to format an ebook with Calibre is simple. Download Calibre! It’s a free and easy to use tool to both manage and build ebooks.
How to Format an Ebook with Calibre Step 2: Add books–
Just click the “add books” button. It will bring up a place where you can browse to the file you want. You can import books in a variety of ebook formats, as html or as a Word Doc. Select the one you want and hit “open.” Ideally you are pulling in the Web Page Filtered HTML file you built using my earlier article: How To Format an Ebook starting with Microsoft Word.
How to Format an Ebook with Calibre Step 3: Edit Meta Data–
Click “Edit Meta Data” button.
Title should be filled in, but you may need to edit it. Should be the title of the book and nothing else here. Hit arrow beside it to fill in “Title sort” box.
Author – put in name as you want the world to see it. Hit arrow beside this to fill in “Author sort” box.
Series – fill this in if part of a series. Once you list a series here, it will be there for future use (in drop down). Then go to right and enter correct number. Calibre will for future books try to guess which number each book is. If you format your books in order, it will guess right.
Change cover– “Browse” to your cover. Select and hit “open.”
Tags – enter your keywords here.
Publisher – fill in if you are using a publisher name.
Comments – Paste your back cover copy here. You can view it normal or html. Don’t stress over this. No one but you will see how it is laid out.
How to Format an Ebook with Calibre Step 4: Convert books –
Input format will be ZIP Output format (top right hand side of window) should be whatever file format you wish to create. – For Kindle/Amazon select “MOBI ” (for Kindle and MobiReader). – For Barnes & Noble and Kobi select “epub”
Metadata should be as you want it to be, but you can make changes here if you like.
Look & Feel – If you have formatted your book in Word with style sheets, you don’t need to change anything in this section. If you find your final product (ebook) doesn’t turn out quite the way you would like it, you could come back here and tweak things.
Heuristic Processing – Again, you shouldn’t have to do anything with this section.
Output profile: – for MOBI to upload at Amazon select Kindle. – for epub to upload at Barnes & Noble select Nook. – for epub to upload to Kobo select Kobo Reader. If you have reason to believe one of the other devices listed will be used more for your book, select that. If you want a one size fits all and are just going for an epub at this stage, I use Nook HD+. This creates a cover big enough that Kindle Previewer doesn’t complain that the cover is too small.
Input profile: Leave at “Default Input Profile”
Margins: I leave these at 5.0 pt, again if you aren’t happy with the outcome, you can edit this.
Detect chapters: Calibre uses a language called XPath to specify chapter boundaries/page breaks. Basically, the default set up allows you to make copy H1 or H2 and NOT have it show in the TOC..) You could edit that line so it does make everything h1 or h2 go into the TOC, or you can edit the line and add things that aren’t listed, like “About author”. You can also just leave it alone, but then only the words listed in that line that are marked as h1 or h2 will show in your TOC. I use: //*[((name()=’h1′ or name()=’h2′)) or @class = ‘chapter’] This tells Calibre to list anything with an h1, h2 tag or class of “chapter” in the Table of Contents.
Chapter mark: If Calibre thinks it sees a chapter, it will insert whatever you have selected in this box before the start of that chapter. I keep mine set to “none” since I put this into the Word HTML file.
Insert page breaks before: By default, Calibre inserts page breaks before detected chapters as well as places where you have put a manual page break. I don’t want it to do this, so I deleted the copy in this box.
Everything else in this section you can leave as is.
Table of Contents –
Number of links to add to Table of Contents: Default is 50. This is the maximum number of links Calibre will put in your TOC. If you have 60 chapters, make it 60, etc.
Level 1 TOC: Enter h1
Level 2 TOC: Enter h2 (if have a second tier)
You don’t need to mess with anything else on this page
Search & Replace – Skip this.
MOBI – I change nothing here.
ePub – I check “Preserve cover aspect ratio”
Leave everything else as is.
Debug -Skip this.
Calibre will now create your ebook!
For ePub: you will want to make a few tweaks in Sigil and then check to make sure the file validates at Epub Validator before uploading for sale. For MOBI: Open it in your favorite desktop app and see how it looks, or load it onto a reader that reads MOBI files. OR if you are creating both, first build the epub, tweak it in Sigil/get to validate and then return to Calibre. There change your “Input format” from “ZIP” to “EPUB”. This will pull in your already tweaked file. Set “Output format” to MOBI and continue. You can also load the epub you created into Kindle Previewer which will both preview your book and create the necessary files for Amazon. (Or just upload the epub to Amazon and they will do that for you.)
As you have probably noticed there is a lot to Calibre that I don’t use to actually create an ebook file. Calibre is also an ebook management tool. You can use it to keep your ebooks organized and to easily load a book onto your ereader–if it is a book you bought from Smashwords or somewhere else that is not automatically delivered to your device.
I hope you found this article on how to format an ebook with Calibre useful. There are a number of other options for formatting ebooks since this article was originally written, but Calibre still works and the information here should still be up-to-date. If something has changed that I missed, leave a comment and I’ll update.
Lori Devoti is the author of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and young adult fiction. Under the name Rae Davies, she writes the USA Today Bestselling Dusty Deals Mystery series. Check our her books at www.LoriDevoti.com and RaeDavies.com. Looking for help with your writing? Lori also does developmental editing and critiques for other authors and publishers. See our Editorial Services page for contact information and pricing. Or check out Lori’s classes at the Continuing Studies Department of the University of Wisconsin: Deepening Fiction and Write by the Lake.