“Which file formats do I need to load my book to vendors and distributors?”
In the beginning, you needed a MOBI for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and an EPUB for all the other vendors and distributors. Very few sites accepted Word documents.
Formats have evolved since the early days of self-publishing. Let’s look at what works now.
Many vendors will now accept a correctly formatted Word docx (filename.docx) which are converted to EPUBs. Many of them have instructions for you to follow.
Smashwords accepts only Word doc files (filename.doc) even though Microsoft hasn’t supported this file format for years. The Word file is converted via a proprietary process to an EPUB. Unfortunately, Word files don’t always convert easily. More on this later.
In the beginning, Kindle Direct Publishing accepted only mobipocket (mobi) files which were converted to a proprietary format for Kindle devices.
KDP now recommends loading epub files and only supports mobi files. A wrinkle is that many book reviewers prefer mobi for use on their older Kindles.
KPF files (a new, improved version of mobi) are created using either Kindle Create or Kindle Previewer.
Update Dec 15, 2020: As further evidence that mobi isn’t wanted by KDP, a warning is now kicking out when you try to export a file to the mobi format.
EPUB is the gold standard for ebook files. They’re now at version 3, though all versions are accepted at all vendors. Not all ereaders (there millions of old devices still in use) are advanced enough for the full functionality of version 3.
All vendors and distributors, including KDP and Smashwords, now take EPUBs.
Before you upload, all EPUBs must validated by EpubCheck, a Java-based validation tool.
Word doesn’t create any form of ebook file. You can use Adobe InDesign or one of the many apps out there; Sigil, Calibre, Jutoh to name a few, that use a Word document as their basis.
Whichever app you use, check for the validation. Don’t worry, Woven Red provides validated files.
These are PDF files, created in Word or Adobe InDesign, that have a flowable structure. Vendors will take them but the conversion is unreliable. Some reviewers prefer them.
Regardless of whether you use KDP, IngramSpark, or a local printer, all files for print books are PDFs. They are essentially a digital picture of your words that is loaded to a huge digital printer that will create your book.
Word and Adobe InDesign both create PDFs. Go to their support sites for details.
The same PDF for the same trim size can be loaded to KDP, IngramSpark, and most other printers. Local printers may vary, so do check with them.
We’ve been talking about files for the interior of the book, its content, front and back matters.
Ebook covers are jpeg files of the front cover. The standard size is 1600 pixels by 2560 pixels, or a width to height ratio of 1:1.6. The jpegs are embedded in the book files to present as the first page when you open the file on an ereader.
Print book covers are PDFs sized to wrap the interior pages, calculated according to the trim size and the spine size.
The most common issue with print covers is a variation in spine size which depends on the page count and the thickness of the paper. KDP and IngramSpark provide downloadable templates that factor in trim size, bleed margins, page count, and paper thickness. Local printers will have their own paper stocks, so do check with them. With thinner books, you might be able to get away with the same cover file for all printers.
The standard cover is paperback. Hardback and dust-jacketed covers are also available on IngramSpark. KDP doesn’t have this option, but IngramSpark will distribute the books to KDP for you. When this happens you can claim your book via KDPs Author Central.
If you’re not going with Word files, you will need the following for a successful upload to vendors and distributors.
|Ebook interior||EPUB to upload, MOBI for reviewers|
|Print book interior|
|Print book cover||PDF for each printer, as needed|
Formatting in Word
Getting your Word document formatted correctly for loading to vendors and apps can be a tedious, frustrating business. Print book precision is demanding and can cause hair loss. You can follow the instructions on the various vendor sites or you can sign up for Mastering Word for Fiction Writers, the definitive online course to save time, money, and effort and tame the beast that is Word. Don’t fight your book, write your book!