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How to Format Your Fiction Novel in Calibre Without Killing Yourself

How to Format Your Fiction Novel in Calibre Without Killing Yourself

A number of people have asked me how I formatted my fiction novel myself for Kindle, and the answer is a resounding:

Calibre.

It’s all about this program. In this two-part guide, I’m going to give you the quick and dirty guide on how to format your fiction novel in Calibre, so that hopefully your process doesn’t need to be nearly as slow and dirty as mine was.

That didn’t sound right. Fun, maybe, but not right.

Anyway. Here you go. Follow these steps, tweak as necessary, and you’ll be good.

(NOTE: I DO NOT GUARANTEE THIS IS THE PRETTIEST, SHINIEST WAY TO FORMAT YOUR BOOK. It’s not. There are other programs, more detailed tutorials and experts you can pay for a much more beautiful product. But if you’re poor and want to put out a functional ebook, this will do it.)

Format Your Fiction Novel in Calibre Step One: Make Your Table of Contents in Word

First off … if you don’t use Word, use Word. It’s the only tool for the job, IMHO. And my HO is the only HO that matters. I think we can agree on that, at least.

So this can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it, it’s super easy. Even I had to screw around with Word for a minute to re-figure it out, because it isn’t intuitive … but like I say, it is easy.

First, go through your chapter headings, which should be sitting at the top of every page break. Put your cursor in front of, say, Chapter One. Don’t highlight Chapter One or put the cursor in the middle of the word or any of that nonsense. In front. (Do as I say, not as I did approximately a million times before figuring this out.)

Now click “Insert” in the main menu and select “Bookmark” from the dropdown menu.

Name it something obvious, like “Chapter One.” Do the same for the rest of your chapters, adjusting the names of the bookmarks to match the chapters.

Now build your table of contents. Write out your contents like so:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

So, you know, just as you would expect. If your chapters have titles, you would use those instead. Now it’s time to hyperlink the chapters, whether they’re titled or simply numbered. It’s easy too, don’t worry.

Highlight the whole chapter title. Yes, this time do highlight. All of it, so that for the first one, you would highlight the entirety of “Chapter One” or “Whatever Clever Chapter Title You Chose.”

Now navigate to “Insert” and “Hyperlink.” You can also use Command-K (Mac) or Control-K (PC). Instead of “Web Page or File,” select “This Document.” Now that you’ve bookmarked all your chapters, you should see an option in the window below that says “Bookmarks” with a little dropdown arrow. Click it. Now you’ll see all your bookmarks, and can just choose the corresponding bookmark for each chapter. In our current example, you would choose the bookmark titled Chapter One, so that Chapter One links to – wait for it – Chapter One.

Boom. Contents created.

Presumably, you would also want to link to your dedication, bio, appendices and whatever other stuff you’ve got going on.

(ANOTHER NOTE: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO IT THIS WAY. If you prefer, you can leave your contents NOT linked, and instead just put a page break at the top of each chapter. Calibre will make a table of contents for you. However, I think you have more control doing it this way, though it can make Calibre somewhat fussy sometimes. Also, I just think it’s really valuable to know how to make a TOC.)

Now. Time to turn it into an ebook, eh what, guvnah?

Format Your Fiction Novel in Calibre Step Two: Actually Use Calibre

The second step of formatting your fiction novel in Calibre is to download … Calibre.

* pause to recognize my genius *

Okay, we may proceed.

You can get Calibre for free by heading to their site. Do not be put off by the extreme jankiness of the design. They make an effective product, period. Trust in this.

Download, install, etc.

Once it’s on your computer, open it up. Note that you will need your cover design locked and loaded, formatting to Kindle size. I also recommend putting your Word doc on your desktop for easy locatin’, but that’s up to you.

Now click on the top left icon in Calibre that says “Add Books.” Helpfully, it’s in the shape of a big green book with a plus button on it, so if you can’t find it, call me and I’ll smack you upside the head, then give you a new pair of glasses.

Anyway, click “Add Books” and watch the little finder window pop up. Go find the book on your desktop or wherever, then click “Open” to import it.

Once imported, the doc will appear in the main window. Cool beans. Click it to highlight it. Don’t double click it, btw, or else it will just open in a new Word window and you’ll be all … what the hell. This doesn’t help at all. (What? No, that didn’t happen to me approximately a million times! What are you implying?!)

Once it’s highlighted, head back up to the main navbar and click “Convert Books,” which is brown with a little refresh button. Or maybe a recycle button. Click that.

A giant window will pop up. Reference the toolbar running vertically down the left, and click the Metadata tab (which should be the default). Here’s where you add your cover by clicking on the little blue folder icon down near the bottom, then finding the cover on your computer. Upload.

Ignore all other tabs except MOBI Output, where you should delete the [PDOC] from the Personal Doc tag window. You don’t necessarily have to do this, but I had to do it in order to get my cover to show up on some devices. Do I know why this is? I do not. Do I understand how this works? Why no, not at all. So it’s up to you.

Now click “OK” down at the bottom left. Your new Kindle book will export! Yes, it’s really that simple!

Obviously, you’re going to want to go through and make sure everything looks right, that your table of contents connects correctly, etc.

But it should.

See how easy it is to format your fiction novel in Calibre? Ur welcome. Also, if you haven’t yet written a book and are just wondering whether you could put it out yourself, the answer is YES, you could. And can. But you might need a little help, which is where the Free Resource Library comes in. It’s all about becoming a professional writer, so go ahead and check it out down below. Just click that lil’ box!

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