Easiest 3 Ways to Self-Publish ePUB Ebooks


1. Smashwords

Smashwords continues to kick goals in self-publishing. In an increasingly crowded market, I just don’t think you can beat Smashwords for ease of use, price (you can’t do better than free), and distribution. Fling your words to Smashwords, and you’ll quickly end up with an ebook in multiple formats, playable on all devices, and distributed to iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store. Soon they’ll be adding Amazon to the already impressive list.

The website could use prettying up, but this offering is the best one-stop-shop free solution out there.

Other services include Lulu, Scribd, iUniverse and Amazon Digital Text Platform, but none of these has the reach, ease of use, low price, and cross-platform openness of Smashwords.

NB: As an experiment, soon I’ll be self-publishing something I have up my sleeve, and monitoring both what distribution channel sells how much, and whether ebook beats pbook. More on that soon.

2. Pages ePub export via iWork

Last week, Apple updated its popular iWork suite of applications,  allowing self-publishers to export their words in ePUB format from its Pages word processor. It was a small update – iWork 9.0.4 to be precise – but potentially an important one for publishing. There’s even a Pages template for use in creating an ePub document that you can get here.

Given that Pages can now give you ePUB and PDF, this means you can spread your work everywhere, including Amazon’s Kindle Store (via their Digital Text Platform, above).

Liza Daly, of digital publishing consulting firm Threepress Consulting, has a very thorough review on her blog. In it she delves all the way down into the CSS it creates and the OPF file. I suspect that not all that many self-publishers will want to go that far, but she says she got good results out of the box, without tweaking anything:

“I had a few random Pages documents lying around and I got decent ePub output from them too, even without using the styles found in the best-practices template. Those styles should be used on content of any length or complexity, if only to get the critical XHTML automatic chunking.

Overall I’m quite excited that there’s finally a commercial tool for normal humans that produces one-step valid ePub output.”

3. Anthologize

If you have a WordPress site, (or, possibly, you know someone who does and can persuade them to post your words for long enough), Anthologize (note the “z” if you are searching for it) is a new plugin that will convert words on a blog to ePUB and PDF formats.

It’s free and open-source, having been developed by a brains trust of kind-hearted boffins as part of the “One Week, One Tool” program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in the US.

From the Anthologize site:

“Anthologize is a free, open-source, plugin that transforms WordPress 3.0 into a platform for publishing electronic texts. Grab posts from your WordPress blog, import feeds from external sites, or create new content directly within Anthologize. Then outline, order, and edit your work, crafting it into a single volume for export in several formats, including – in this release – PDF, ePUB, TEI.”

Images can be included in your ebooks, and – I find this part sooo exciting considering this is a free tool – multimedia is said to be coming soon. Speaking of multimedia – there’s a video of team talking about the project right here. And here’s a shot of the resulting ePUB ebook that the Anthologize folk made from their blog post being read in the iPad.

Via BookBee


  1. “Other services include Lulu, Scribd, iUniverse and Amazon Digital Text Platform, but none of these has the reach, ease of use, low price, and cross-platform openness of Smashwords.”

    The Amazon platform has more reach, is easy to use, provides high royalties … and, according to several authors who have stated publicly, SELLS more books by indie authors, author-by-author, probably by an order of magnitude.

    As an independent author, you simply must be on Amazon. Smashwords is a very nice second choice because (some) of the books do show up in many places beyond Smashwords — Kobobooks, for one. so, if you are doing two editions — Amazon and Smashwords — and that gets you to .azw/.mobi and .epub, with or without DRM (your choice).

    But, if you have time for only ONE edition, it’s hard to recommend Smashwords tool … if the goal is exposure and sales.

  2. I want to add to the Anthologize reference a second, very lightweight plugin for WordPress written by Thierry Crouzet called wp2epub. Anthologize does more things, I think, but Thierry’s plugin offers a bunch of customizable options and it treats each post as a separate chapter, all linked in a Table of Contents. Posts are selected by tag, and you can add a custom CSS if you want. I find wp2epub to be dead simple and very flexible. Plus, it works every time…!

  3. Thanks for the plug, Jason!

    Further to your and Alexander’s points, I think some authors fall into the trap of thinking it’s Smashwords vs. Amazon, either/or, one or the other. This is a mistake. It’s like saying you want your print book only carried by Barnes & Noble in the United States because they’re the biggest, but not distributed by your distributor to Borders or any of the thousands of other smaller retail outlets around the world.

    We’re the distributor that gets an author’s book to non-Amazon retailers (and, as Jason said, hopefully to Amazon soon as well).

    Ebook authors should be on both Smashwords and Amazon. Authors should work to maximize their distribution reach while minimizing effort, because each retailer puts the author in front of more readers.

  4. I have been focused on epub ebook creation (using calibre and its .html+css to .epub conversion) right now, but maybe involving sigil later. One can then create a .mobi from the .epub with calibre if you want that format. What is strange to me about Smashwords is it only accepts .doc formats; one must hope that one can take their already edited epub book, import it into Word, and then export it as a doc file and have all the xhtml/css formatting remain. Seems like a tortured way to go.

  5. As I understand it, the logic thinking behind Smashwords is that most authors created .doc first, not .html. However, since MS Word and other word processors can save .doc as .html. A better way would be just let authors submit .html saved from .doc. Unfortunately, the EPUB format requires the strict XHTML while the word processors save .doc as regular HTML. To convert from regular HTML to XHTML is not an easy task. This is the major reason why we are switching from EPUB to a much simpler Web format which uses regular HTML. See


  6. Well, you can thank/blame me for finding out very early on in Smashwords’s history that complex HTMLs would break everything.


    The thing is, Smashwords documents are about the easiest thing you can do. You have all sorts of authors who kinda sorta know what ebooks are and want to be IN ebooks but don’t understand, have never read one, and only care insofar as another outlet for their titles. It’s ALMOST foolproof. The people who are served are the authors who can’t mess around with formats and the readers who want different and/or free and are willing to go find it.

  7. Smashwords Word doc formatting requirements UGH!! I tried and tried but it was always an ugly result. Easy but ugly.

    And I don’t write in Word, have to convert to that from my preferred writing enviroment.

    Handcoding CSS for epub is easier.

    Epubs are just zipped websites in XHTML (plus some wrappers). Decompress a non-drm epub to see with your favourite decompressor.

    The easiest way is to cut and paste or import into the epub WYSIWYG sigil app, and yes, Pages is looking good.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.