My Step-By-Step eBook Formatting Process

Formatting a print book is stressful enough but, from looking at other books, it's easier to be able to tell what to do. Formatting an eBook might have you frantically searching Google for answers but, don't worry, I'm going to help you with this guide!

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Format your page size

I recommend doing this at the start, before writing your novel, as you'll then be able to see an accurate representation of what your final page number will be. Generally, anything A4 size or less is perfect for an eBook size. I found that using my paperback size, which is 5.060" x 7.810" (198mm x 129mm), worked well for me.

Once you've determined your trim size, go into Microsoft Word and go to File > Page Setup.

A box will appear. Click the paper size drop-down, and then click Manage Custom Sizes (you may have to scroll down to see this).

Once you click Manage Custom Sizes another box will appear. Click the plus (+) icon to create a new size, and input the numbers for your size.

Depending on who you're using to publish, whether it's Ingramspark, Amazon KDP or somewhere else, you'll need to add margins to your document. These numbers will be added to the Non-Printable Area, so make sure you research what these margins should be for your trim size.

Change your font size

Most suggest using a standard Times New Roman font at 12-point size. You can decrease your point size if you'd prefer, as well as change your font but know that many eBook previewers, such as Kindle, are only able to display certain simpler fonts. It's a case of trying and testing using apps such as Kindle Previewer.

To change your font size go to Home and you'll see a drop-down with a number that you can change, as well as the font style next to that.

Change the line spacing

Line spacing is super important when formatting your novel because you don't want your lines to be super squished against each other, or with too much space. Personally, I've found using 1.15 line spacing to be the sweet spot, however, it really depends on what you're genre is. If you've written a long book for adults, then maybe using a smaller line space would be better. My genre is YA Fantasy so I want my books to be easy to read to younger and older ages, and I feel 1.15 caters for all.

You can change the line spacing by going to Home and then clicking on the highlighted icon. You can even create a custom line spacing by clicking Line Spacing Options.

Set your main body text to justified and headings to centre or left-justified

Your heading can be justified to whatever side of the page you want, however, most tend to use either centre of left-justified. To change the text alignment, go to Home and click which alignment you'd like.

Change the indentation and spacing

Even on most eBooks, you'll see that every first line has an indentation. So, to change this highlight all the main body text, right-click and select Paragraph.

Then go to the Indentation section and change the special to First Line. Now, I like my indentation to be 0.5cm, as I feel it's not too long or short and I cross-referenced this with other published eBooks, however, it's a personal preference. Play around with the numbers and see what works for you. Next, go to the spacing section. Now, as we've already changed our line spacing to 1.15, this should show. You can change the before or after spacing to make the space between paragraphs longer. My after is 2.3 as I feel it makes the reading experience easier but, again, it's a personal preference.

Drop caps

If you're manually formatting your novel on Word, you won't be able to include drop caps in your eBook as it doesn't generally cross over onto an eBook reader or app very well. If you do want to have drop caps, you can use Draft2Digital, which allows you to easily select drop caps and chapter headers for your novel.

Page numbers

You do not need to add page numbers to your document when formatting for eBook.

Headers and footers

Ebooks do not have headers and footers, so there's no need to add these in.

Track changes

If you've had your work seen by an editor who uses the track changes option in word to showcase their edits, you need to make sure this is turned off when formatting your eBook, otherwise their comments will appear on your eBook.

To turn these off, go to the review tab in Word and make sure the toggle shows the word 'off' like the above. To the right of that, you should also make sure 'no markup' is selected on the dropdown.

Use page breaks

I can't tell you how helpful using page breaks are! Gone are days where you press 'enter' so many times that your words go on to the next page. Page breaks are what you should use when you've finished a chapter and want to move on to the next. Chapter headers start on their own pages, so to ensure this happens and won't mess up the formatting if you go back and edit (like it would if you were to press 'enter' so many times), you have to add a page break.

To do this, have your cursor at the very end of your chapter go to Layout > Breaks.

Now, the only two you'll need to use when formatting your novel is 'Page' and 'Next Page'

Page - Use this after you finish each Chapter. Once you click this, your cursor will go to the top of the next page, where you can then type your chapter title and so on.

Next Page - Use this if you want to add a page that doesn't have page numbers. This would be used at the start of the novel, when you add your title page, copyright and dedication, alongside anything else, as well as at the end, when you add your acknowledgements and about the author page.

Insert your front cover on the first page

If you're publishing with Amazon KDP, you don't need to do this step as they'll automatically add your cover to the first page. However, if you're not publishing with Amazon KDP, you'll need to manually insert your cover file to the very first page of your eBook manuscript version.

To do this, click your cursor at the top of your page and go to insert in the top bar. Then, select pictures and select choose from file. You can then find your cover file and insert it. Enlarge your image by selecting it and dragging on the corners. Make sure you leave some room on the outside of the page. Wrap this image as either square or top and bottom and include a page break after it.

Include hyperlinks

At the end of your book, you should have back matter such as an about you page, a CTA (call-to-action) page such as a purchase link to the next book, etc. The cool thing about PDF's and eBooks is that you include clickable hyperlinks. Here are some hyperlinks you could include;

  • At the end, add a review page with a link to your book's Goodreads page, encouraging readers to leave a review.

  • On your author bio page, link to your website and social media.

  • If your next book is available, or up for preorder, have a page that links to Amazon and other online retailers where users can purchase.

  • Link to a shop of yours if you have merchandise for your book.

To include hyperlinks in word, highlight the text you want to link, then go to the insert tab. Under links, press links again and then insert the URL in the webpage section and click ok.

Save your files in eBook format

Once you're finished with formatting your eBook and have saved it as a .doc/.docx version (which is the standard Microsoft Word version), go to Convertio. Convertio is a free online website that allows you to easily convert your files into other formats. Once on Convertio, upload your eBook .doc/.docx file and make sure you've set the configuration to turn your document into a .mobi file. Then, press convert and download your new format file.

Some self-publishing publishers do not accept .mobi files and will only allow you to upload a .epub file, like Ingramspark, for example. You should do this again, but instead of converting the document to a .mobi file, you should also convert it to a .epub file as it's good to have both on hand. If publishing with Amazon KDP, generally a .mobi version will work well.