Preparing Your Book for Formatting

Whether you’re formatting yourself, uploading through Draft2Digital and using their autoformatting, or hiring a professional formatter, there are a few things you can do to make formatting a quick and easy process.

Formatting 101

Just like a website, ebook formatting is based in HTML. Chapter headings, line breaks, page breaks, and font styles are all encoded into the file to ensure that it can be manipulated to fit any screen without losing the core features. On the bright side, Word actually incorporates much of this HTML naturally, if you utilize it correctly. Plus, the same steps you follow while setting up this preliminary foundation for your ebook will come in handy when formatting for paperback as well, because the structure is already present.

There is also a limit to the amount of formatting that will be preserved when you convert your text to an ebook. Things like headings, italics, bold, and margin settings will be preserved, but in a limited fashion.  Most fonts will be stripped away and replaced with the basic font used on the ereader so that the reader can select a font and size they prefer.

Chapter Headings

For the quickest and easiest formatting experience, it is best to utilize the header styles available in word. 

You can edit each of the styles to look however you’d like while you’re working, but most fonts will not be integrated when you upload your book to ereaders, so why the importance of using these styles rather than formatting each chapter title manually?

These styles actually change the HTML of your document to give it a working structure that will make formatting easier. If you’re uploading to Draft2Digital, their system scans your documents for headings in order to break up chapters. It also allows you and your formatter to easily navigate the individual sections of your book. Manual formatting like using centered, bold, or a larger font, without utilizing a style, does not create headers within the HTML of your document. 

I recommend always using Header 1 for chapter titles and Header 2 for subtitles or to indicate the POV character. This will also make creating a table of contents easier. 

Body Style

The body of your text should be in Normal style, and you can utilize bold and italic fonts as necessary throughout. These settings will also carry over to the  HTML of your document.

If you want to get a bit more advanced and have large portions of text that require unique formatting, you can customize a style to quickly and easily apply this formatting.

For instance, if you want text messages to be indented more than a typical paragraph, and always appear in bold in italics, you can create a new style.

Click the more button next to the heading styles to expand the menu and select “create a style.” When the next window opens you can name and modify your new style to appear however you want.


Additional requirements

  • Never use tab or multiple spaces to indent your paragraphs. If you’ve used tab, you will have to delete every instance before converting to an ebook. The easiest way to do this is to use the search and replace function in word. 
    Run a search for all instances of ^t and leave the replace option empty. When you run search and replace, it will delete all of the tabs in your document. 
    You should also run a search for all instances of a double space, and put one space in the replace function. This will replace all double spaces with a single space. Repeat this until you have deleted all instances of a double space in your manuscript. 
  • Never use multiple returns between chapters. Using hard returns  instead of formatting options to specify the spacing between paragraphs or lines of text will create problems. You should use a page break at the end of each chapter to start the next chapter on a new page. You can do this by pressing CTRL+Enter at the end of a chapter (or follow the even easier method below). You should use the search and replace function to delete all empty paragraphs. 
    Run a search for all instances of ^p^p and type ^p in the replace function and run this search and replace until no more instances of multiple returns are found. 
    If you haven’t used a page break before each new chapter, you can also do this easily by right clicking on Header 1 in your style menu. Click “Modify” and in the new window, select “Format” in the lower left corner. Select “Paragraph” and then open the “Line and Page Breaks” tab. Click the box to check “Page break before” and click okay. After that window closes, ensure that “Automatically update” is selected and click okay. You’ll now have a page break before each chapter heading. 
  • Don’t use font colors, or limit font colors. Some readers may prefer changing their ereader settings to read on a darker screen, if you use font colors, the ereader program loses the ability to invert the colors. Instead, you should ensure that your text color is set to “Automatic.” This is the default setting for word, so unless you change font colors, there won’t be a problem. If you think you may have changed the font color, that’s easy to fix as well. Use CTRL+A to select all of the text in your document then, open the text color menu, and select “automatic.”

Final Check

It’s a good idea to run one final check before the book goes into the formatting process. In Word, open the “File” menu, click “Info,” then “Check for Issues,” and select “Inspect Document.” 

This will show you any hidden or personal information that’s embedded in the document. Removing this additional information will ensure that nothing, like tracked changes or comments, is carried over to the final ebook. It also reduces the amount of HTML clutter that might be stored in your ebook, this clutter can increase the file size on your document which is something you want to avoid on Amazon. 

I hope these tips will come in handy if you’re unsure about the formatting process. A professional formatter would know how to clean up and check for all of these details, but following these guidelines will give you an advantage, especially if you plan to format yourself, or use a program or automated service for formatting. 

More Blog Posts on Writing

Leave a Reply