Turning a Print Book into an eBook: Getting a Digital File

One of the biggest challenges I faced when I decided to republish Falling for You as an ebook, was getting a digital file to match the printed book. Since the final stages of the publishing process — copy edits and page proofs — were done by hand, my computer file doesn’t have the final changes.

My options were:

  • Pay to have it scanned. (SB Services on my Author Resource List does this at a very reasonable price.)
  • Publish the ebook through Belgrave House, in which case they handle everything with no upfront expenses, then split the royalty with the author 50/50.
  • Compare my file to the printed book page by page. Free but hugely time consuming!
  • Or, the choice I picked, find a pirated copy online.

Normally, running across a pirated copy of one of my novels is enough to send me into a rant about ignorant people who are destroying the careers of the very authors whose books they love by stealing those books rather than buying them. This time, though, I downloaded the file first, then I fired off the “Take Down” e-mail to the file sharing site. (Funny side not: since I was in a furor over book pirates when I sent the e-mail, I accidentally reported myself as a copyright infringer. I had to e-mail them back and say, “No, no, no, I’m the copyright holder.”)

Problem #1) I may have been better off paying SB Services because the pirated copy was a LIT file. I spent days Googling “How to convert a LIT file to a Word .doc.” My husband finally found a tech support guy on a PC (I’m on a Mac) to convert it using the converter that I’ve now added to the Author Resource List.

Problem #2) The scanned document had all kinds of mistakes, mostly missing paragraph breaks. I had to read the whole thing very carefully. The good news is, hey, I got to spend the weekend reading what I happen to think is a pretty dang good romance novel. And since I hadn’t read it in so long, it was almost like reading someone else’s book.

My next step in making this ebook happen. Now that I’ve fixed all the mistakes, I have to do the actual formatting. I’m currently pouring over the instructions at Smashwords.com (To follow me on this journey click on the orange RSS feed icon in the upper right corner of my blog banner.)

Have you converted any of your print books to ebook? How did you get a digital file? Was the formatting easy, or am I facing more challenges?


  1. Hi, Julie: My former agent was able to retain the e-rights for me, so I used the opportunity to re-edit my two print novels (hired fresh eyes to help me), then created a new digital file for each book. I have been pleasantly surprised by the Kindle sales on Amazon so far. I hired someone (I can give you his info if you’d like) to convert the files into Kindle versions for me, as well as help me find/create new book covers. So far, so good. I haven’t had lots of sales (that are recorded, anyway) at Smashwords, but I have nothing but good things to say about the fellow who owns Smashwords. Turned out my newly edited file was clean enough to make it through their uploading process without my having to study the style guide (luckily, since I’m computer/tech challenged). I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of ebooks on Kindle, especially.

  2. Thanks for sharing Lynda. I’m hearing mixed reports from authors about the success of their e-books. Some are doing very well, others have only sold a few. I think it’s exciting, though, that we even have this opportunity to make our out-of-print books available to readers.

    It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Julie- I’ve been following a couple of authors using Smashwords. I can’t believe you had to get a pirated copy of your book!

  4. Hi Shari! I’m getting pretty excited about having my first ebook. There’s so much to learn, but I’m getting there a little at a time.

  5. Tara Hill says:

    Hi Julie,
    I published my first novel first on Amazon and then on Smashwords. It is a lot of work to get it formatted right and I still am not happy with it.
    Smashwords got my book up on Barnes and Noble fast enough but the lack of discussion and buyer/author interaction on the B/N site means not a lot of sales. With lists, forums and reviews, my book is doing much better on Amazon. S/W has not been too successful with getting my book posted on any other site they advertise (kobo and Sony and I have no idea about apple since i don’t own an ipad). Nonetheless, I will be posting my second book on S/W because I think they will get the wrinkles in their system ironed out. Mark does a good job with his communication to his authors. Good Luck and keep posting your ebook journey updates – we all will learn from you.

  6. Thanks for the input, Tara! there’s so much to consider, it’s mind boggling.

  7. backlink seo says:

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  8. eBookopoly says:

    Thanks for the info! If you’re having trouble converting the book to an ebook, don’t forget to check out free software like Calibre or Mobi pocketbook. Then you can sell your book without giving a % to places like Smashwords

  9. Calibre and Mobi Pocket Creator are excellent free tools for creating .epub, .prc, and .mobi files. But they serve an entirely different function than Smashwords. SW is an ebook distributor. They don’t just convert a Word file into the various formats, they get your ebook into online bookstores like the Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, B&N (if you chose to forgo Pubit!) and more. I gladly give up a percentage to Smashwords for this service.

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