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Formatting your Word Doc for eBook conversion

Preparing your manuscript for conversion to standard eBook file formats.

Standard eBook file formats are the best option for books that contain mostly text content. These files can be distributed to the widest possible range of retailers, libraries and subscription services, and they are readable on all eBook reading devices and Apps.

These eBook files have reflowable content, this means that there is no fixed page size. The text will always fill the screen in the correct format, and will change size depending on the personal settings of the reader.

If your book is fully illustrated, or contains multi column text, tables, or has a style which must be maintained as per your manuscript – you will probably require conversion to Fixed Layout formats. More information here. 

If your book is most suited to  fixed layout formats see this post: Preparing your file for conversion to fixed layout formats.

If you are not sure which format is best for your book, see this page: Is my book suitable for standard or fixed layout eBook file format?

We are often asked how to convert a Word doc to eBook files. There are many free and accessible programmes that can help you to do this, or you can enlist the help of a conversion company like eBook Partnership. Whether you are undertaking conversion yourself, or submitting the manuscript to someone else, it is essential that you familiarise yourself with the basic principles of eBook formatting from Word, before you begin.

These guidelines are for manuscripts with simple layout (novels for example, or any book that is mostly text). Images, illustrations and photos can be included in standard eBook files, and you can incorporate some simple styles. However, if you intend to convert your file to eBook files using software, it is wise to prepare carefully in order to avoid errors which can then take time to troubleshoot.

If you are using our conversion service, we will be able to incorporate some style elements into the conversion, and we can advise you on your specific file in this instance.

This post will help if you are preparing your manuscript using Microsoft Word or similar software, prior to  conversion to standard eBook file formats, mobi for Amazon Kindle devices and Apps, and ePub which is the required file format for all other retailers.

We work with our clients to help prepare documents for conversion, so if you are having difficulty implementing any of these suggestions, please get in touch, we can help.

The most important piece of advice we can offer is to keep it simple. Always bear in mind that the book will be read on a variety of different devices; mobile phones, Kindles, Nooks, PC’s, laptops, tablets etc. This means that the page sizes, font size etc will all be variable, so the original document must be clean and simple.

Guidelines for preparation.

Do NOT include any of the following:

  • Page numbers (some devices will allocate page numbers to the eBook based on the preferences of the device owner, but eBook files do not have universal page numbers)
  • Headers and Footers
  • Borders, background colors or background images – not recommended, as these can look make the text faint or indistinct on greyscale e reading devices
  • Fancy drop-caps at the start of each chapter
  • Different color text – see above
  • Multi-column layouts – just use a single column
  • Text Boxes – These can be included but bear in mind that the box may break if the text within runs onto the next page. This can happen if someone is viewing the book with a large font size, and therefore as less text on each ‘page’ or screen view
  • References to specific eBook retailers such as Amazon or Apple, as the retailers do not allow promotion of competitors in products listed on their websites.
  • Advertising – although you can of course, mention other titles, or your website or Facebook page.

Page layout

  • The page size is not relevant – A4 or letter is fine.
  • You do not need to consider margins, just use the standard settings.

Manuscript formatting:

  • Separate chapters with a page break (Ctrl + Enter/Return) – do not use multiple paragraph returns to move to the next page.
  • Separate paragraphs with a single paragraph break – do not use double paragraph breaks.
  • Separate sub-sections or sections within a Chapter with a centred break – usually  * * *   – do not use a double paragraph break.
  • Do not use tabs or multiple spaces – if you want to indent a paragraph use the Word Quick Styles options. (See below for more information about Quick Styles)

Fonts and text styling

Support for different fonts and styles is limited in many eReader devices, so again, keep things simple. Using Word’s inbuilt Quick Styles tool is a great way to save time and maintain consistent styles across your document – check out this video from Microsoft for an introduction to Quick Styles.

  • Main Body Text
    • Use a standard font like Times New Roman, Georgia or Arial for the body font.
    • 10, 11 or 12pt is ideal for the main body text.
    • Use black text.
    • Single line spacing is fine, but avoid line spacing that is greater than 1.5
    • You do not need to consider leading or kerning – these are not relevant for eBooks.
    • IDEALLY use the ‘Normal’ Quick Style in Word for the main body text, and manage the appearance of your body text through the Quick Styles options.
    • If you need to make certain words or sentences stand out try to only use basic formatting such as bold, italic, and ALL CAPS.
  • Chapter and Sub-Headings
    • Use the Heading styles available in the Quick Style list. Heading 1 for Chapter titles, Heading 2 for sub-titles or section headings, etc.
    • If you want to use a fancy or unusual font for your Chapter titles, that is fine. Usually we can display these as images to maintain a consistent style.

Images

You can include images but please be aware of the following:

  • Color images are fine but some eReader devices cannot display colour and will display images in greyscale instead. If you have diagrams that rely on color, make sure that they still make sense if they are shown as greyscale.
  • Insert your images into your manuscript but, if you can, also supply them as separate files (JPG, PNG, PDF, TIFF, GIF formats are fine)
  • Do not float images to the left or right of text, but keep them on their own line instead (see below)

Inserting images

Links

  • You can add links to websites and email addresses within your manuscript – although these will only work automatically on eReader devices which have an Internet connection.
  • To link from one place in the manuscript to another, use Word’s bookmarks and hyperlinks tools. See this Microsoft tutorial for more details.
  • If you are linking to or referencing another part of your manuscript, avoid using page numbers. For example, rather than writing “For more information on lawn mowers see page 120” use “For more information see the section on lawn mowers”

Adding a Table of Contents

If your book is a fiction title we will add a simple, linked Table of Contents (ToC).

If your title is non-fiction, the ToC can be a very useful tool for a) navigating the book and b) displaying a snapshot of the scope of the book. Again, we will add a ToC, although if you want to ensure that the ToC displays all the relevant chapter and section headings it is straightforward to use Word’s inbuilt ToC generator – especially if you have used Quick Style headings. See the Microsoft Tutorial here.

Do not include page numbers on your ToC as these will be irrelevant on the eBook version.

Finally, PLEASE do the following:

  • Run a spell check and grammar check before you consider the document complete, make any corrections and then run the checks again. It is better that you find any mistakes rather than the first person to review your eBook on Amazon…
  • Ensure that someone competent, other than you, has read the entire document before you sign it off. If you can afford to, it is advisable to engage an editor or proof-reader to go through your complete manuscript. (Unfortunately, we do not have the time to read through every book we work on, so it really is your responsibility to find and fix any typos before you submit the file for eBook conversion.)