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Making an ebook the quick and dirty way

When it comes to writing, I’m a pretty visual person. Yes, I need to be able to see a scene, the setting, the characters, and the action in my head. But it’s more than that. I also need to set up my Word document to look as much like a book as I can, so that I can visualize the end result. I know approximately how many words my scene should be, and as the writing progresses down the page, I can start to see the shape of the scene—the dialogue, action, description, and pacing.

But what about when I’ve finished a manuscript and I want to see the shape of the whole story?

At this point I like to read it on my Kindle, to see if it hangs together (that’s a technical term!), so I make an ebook from my Word file. It’s easy and free.

Note: This is not the way to make a beautifully formatted ebook ready for sale on your website or Amazon. This is meant purely for your own use to get a new perspective on your story, or if you’re critiquing someone else’s manuscript.

Note for parents: This is also something you could do for children who write. Imagine how cool it would be for kids to see their story on an ereader and be able to share it that way with their family and friends!

To make an ebook from a Word file:

  1. Download and install Calibre.
  2. In Calibre, click the Add books button.
  3. In the Select books window, select your Word file (.docx format), and then click the Open button. Your Word file appears in Calibre in the center pane.
  4. In Calibre, click the Convert books button.
  5. In the Convert window, select the Output format from the drop-down (top right corner of the screen):
    • MOBI: For Kindles.
    • EPUB: For most other ereaders.
  6. Click the OK button. Calibre converts the Word file to an ebook format, which you’ll see in blue in the right pane when the conversion is finished.
  7. Once you have created the ebook, you can transfer it to the Kindle (by email or using the USB cable).

This covers just the very basics. There are obviously lots of things you can do to improve your ebook—such as adding a cover and table of contents, and changing the formatting—I’ll tell you about those things in another post.

If you have questions, ask me in the comments.

Behind the scenes

Prove it, Josh

A few people have been asking what’s been going on in the world of Josh, so I thought I’d give you a quick overview of all the steps on the road to publishing a fiction book. Other publishers might do things slightly differently, but here’s how it happened for me.

1. Signed the contract!

Wahoo! This is the first and most exciting step for a first time author. It means someone else out there believes in your story, despite the fact that it might be in fairly rough shape at this point.

2. Substantive edit/revisions

The manuscript goes to an editor, who reads it carefully and comes up with a list of issues and questions that need to be addressed. In my case, the fabulous Barbara Pulling was my editor. Barbara sent me a Word document with all her thoughts and then gave me some time to read it through and think about it, and then we had a chat via Skype.

I loved every one of Barbara’s suggestions, so it was just a matter of coming up with a plan for how to tackle each one. I started with the things I could fix quickly, to give myself some courage for the more difficult and bigger changes, and as time went on, I crossed things off my list and moved onto the next suggestion, until I’d worked through all of them.

Once I’d finished, I crossed my fingers and sent the revised manuscript back to her. And she liked it! Another Wahoo moment!

Next, Barbara went through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, marking up the Word document with smaller changes. We went back and forth on these a couple of times, and then when she deemed it ready, it was onto the next step.

3. Copyediting

After the revisions, it was time for the copyediting. This is when a copy editor (Dawn) looks at every sentence and every word, to make sure it all makes sense and is clear and that there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. Since I’d written the manuscript in American English (I generally use American English in my day job as a technical writer), Dawn fixed all my spelling to make it Canadian English, as well as fixing some of my odd phrasing, and a few Kiwi-isms I’d managed to slip in (apparently in Canada we call the lounge a living room). After a few emails back and forth, it was onto the next step.

4. Book design/page layout

Next it was onto the book design and layout. Frances did a fabulous job making the cover (isn’t it cool!!) and laying out all the internal pages. When I saw the design earlier this week, I spent the rest of the day with a great big grin on my face. Nice fonts and a super clean style. As a technical writer, I’ve done a bit of design and page layout for technical manuals, so this is something I really appreciate!

5. Proofreading

Next the manuscript was sent to Audrey for proofreading, to make sure there were no spelling mistakes or typos, and to check once again for any Kiwi-isms. Audrey also picked up on a few descriptions that weren’t quite clear.

6. Printing

Today PROVE IT, JOSH went to the printers! (Yes, that’s a glass of bubbly in my hand!) So it won’t be long now before I can actually hold a copy of the book. I can’t wait!

7. Book launch!

And finally, once the books are printed, it’ll be time for the book launch. We’ve already started planning the launch, but I’ll tell you about that another day.

So there you have it! That’s what’s been keeping me busy. As you can see, it’s quite a long and involved process, and takes the skill of many people, including publisher Diane Morriss at the helm, to pull it off.

And if you’re wondering where you can buy it, it’ll be available from Sono Nis Press (with free shipping in Canada and the US) and, as a paperback and an ebook.

If you want to pre-order a copy, especially if you’re outside North America, you can phone Sono Nis Press – 1-250-226-0077 or email books[at]

Or, of course, you can order it through your local independent bookseller (hat tip to Maggie for reminding me!)

Smile – it’s your first speech!

Gollum at the Wellington airport
–Gollum at the Wellington airport

So we all have fears, right? I’m afraid of spiders, I’m not good with heights, and I’m terrified of drowning. But the most common fear of all, and definitely one of my biggest fears, is the fear of public speaking.

That’s why it’s so great to be a writer. I can write, and ponder, and rewrite until I’m happy that the words are saying what I intend them to say, and I can do it alone, where no one can see me. That’s all well and good, except that when you have a book published, there’s an expectation that you’ll have a book launch, read from your book, do interviews—lots of speaking in public about your book. And this small fact I’d managed to avoid facing until a month ago, when the Sono Nis Press catalogue came out. It was then it suddenly occurred to me. Oh oh—I really am going to have to do something about this fear of public speaking.

So, I joined Toastmasters. I’ve been going to meetings once a week for a month now, and so far I’ve managed to pretty much avoid speaking. But this weekend, when next week’s preliminary agenda arrived in my email, I noticed to my ABSOLUTE HORROR, that I’m down to do a 1.5 minute speech. It’s a smile story, so the idea is to come up with a very short story that will make people smile. I’m just hoping I don’t pass out or puke. Please, keep your fingers crossed for me!

Here’s my smile story

My name is Jenny, and as some of you may know, I’m from New Zealand, land of the long white cloud—although, most of you probably know it as the land of hobbits and Middle Earth. In New Zealand, we have two official languages—Maori, the language spoken by our native people, and the Queen’s English.

Now I admit I have a bit of an accent, but still, I’m speaking English, right?

Or am I?

I went to the supermarket the other day to buy things for dinner. I got some salad vegetables and fruit, and then I went to the meat section to pick up a couple of top sirloin medallions. But the shelf was empty.

My husband, Patrick, says, “Oh well, let’s get something else.”

But I want those medallions—I’ve been thinking about them all day, and nothing else will do. “Don’t worry, I’ll ask the butcher,” I say. So I march over to the butcher’s counter and one of the guys comes to help me.

“What can I get you?” he asks.

Well, at that precise moment I have a brain fart, like you do, and I can’t remember what the steak is called. Never mind, I think to myself, I’ll just describe it, and he will know what I mean.

“I want some steak—you know the round ones with the string around them?”

The butcher looks at me blankly, so I try to clarify.

“I looked on the shelf, and there were none there. You know, that steak with the string around them.” Because everyone knows that when someone doesn’t understand you, the best thing to do is just repeat yourself.

Another blank look, and then he says, “Stick?? Is that a kind of fish?”

{Edited to add: You might also be interested in my latest speaking nightmare.}

An ISBN number and a catalog page!

Today my publisher sent me a copy of my catalog page. It’s pretty exciting to see that PROVE IT, JOSH now has an ISBN number!

Prove It, Josh

Scouting for locations

It actually felt like spring here today, so a couple of us decided to scout for locations for a photo shoot for the cover of PROVE IT, JOSH. That’s one of the fun things about working with Sono Nis Press – I actually get to have some input into the cover design, which is pretty unusual if you go the traditional publishing route. I shot a bunch of photos of the boatyard and surroundings, so I thought I’d share a few here.

Here’s the boatyard at Brentwood Bay with the ferry dock in the background:


This is the ways (marine railway) used for hauling boats out of the water for repair:


Here’s the Brentwood Bay – Mill Bay ferry – just a small one compared to the ferries that run between Vancouver and Vancouver Island:


And finally, in one of the scenes in the book, the kids watch a seagull trying to eat a seastar. If you’ve never seen this for yourself, it’s quite a sight!


We even discovered a secret beach, but I can’t show you pictures of that, because then it won’t be secret anymore!

On my walk…

I saw a woman dragging a sea-foam green chest down her stairs. I wonder what was inside that was so heavy…?