Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tips for Self-Publishing - Step Three: Formatting Your eBook

Formatting may be easier with a little help!
Hi all,

When I first started the self-publishing process nine months ago, I certainly had a lot to learn. How did I learn it? Through reading other writer's blogs, reading all the information on sites like Smashwords, Amazon and B&N and by trial and error. I hope I can help you have a smoother transition into self-publishing by giving you a few tips on formatting your eBooks. If you haven't already done so, take a look at the first two articles in this series – Preparing Your Manuscript and Choosing a PublishingPlatform.  Okay, here we go…

Tips for Self-Publishing – Step Three: Tips for Formatting Your eBook

Your manuscript is ready and you've chosen the platforms where you wish to publish your book – now what? Now you have to delve into the world of formatting your eBook so you can upload it to the sites you have chosen. For many indie authors, this can be the most confusing part of self-publishing, especially if you are not comfortable with computers. But formatting your eBook isn't really as difficult or confusing as you may think. And the best part – if you really don't want to do it yourself, there are many services out there who will format your eBook for a minimal cost for all three platforms.

I personally enjoyed learning how to format my eBooks. I'm not saying it was especially easy at first, but as soon as I understood what I was doing, I didn’t mind it. In this post I am not going to tell you step by step how to format your eBooks – there are guides for that – but I'll guide you in the right direction on where to find the information and how to use it.

The Best Formatting Guide

Finding a formatting guide that walks you through the process is priceless and there is one out there for FREE that will save you hours of time and frustration. Smashwords lets you download their Style Guide for FREE and you can use this not only to format for Smashwords, but as a basic formatting guide for Amazon and B&N as well. Just join Smashwords for Free and then go here to download their style guide either in PDF for your computer or Mobi for your Kindle or whatever format you wish. I downloaded it in PDF on my computer so I would have it at my fingertips every time I format a new book.

Of course, there will be a few variations when you create your Amazon Kindle file and B&N Nook file. For example: For Amazon, you will want to use Page Breaks at the end of each chapter so your chapters don't run into each other. For B&N, Page Breaks don't work – you have to use Section Breaks instead so your new chapter will start on a new page. But you can find these tips out on the individual pages for Amazon and B&N.

Formatting for Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Amazon/KDP has their Simplified Formatting Guide.

Barnes & Noble/Pubit has their Formatting Guide in their FAQs. 

For all three platforms, you can start with your Word document and begin formatting for each platform. First – make a copy before formatting – then start. I'd advise you to use the information from the Smashwords guide that applies to your type of book to format and then make whatever other changes Amazon or B&N require. Always keep a separate file for each format; otherwise you will confuse them when you are uploading your files.

Honestly, if you follow the directions step-by-step, you can do this yourself. It just takes time.

Checking your Formatting

When uploading to Amazon and B&N, they allow you to preview how your book looks before you hit PUBLISH. This is important. You want to make sure your formatting looks good before publishing it. If you own a Kindle or Nook, that is even better. You can upload your file (by connecting your Kindle or Nook to your computer) onto your reader and go through the book to make sure it looks good. I never publish a book without doing this first.

Uploading your eBook

All platforms allow you to upload your formatted Word document – simple as that. I do it a little differently, because I like having the mobi or epub file available to share with reviewers without having to pay a bookseller for it. You can upload Mobipocket Creator to create mobi files or you can upload Calibre to create epub, mobi or  any of the files you wish.

But I still can't seem to do it myself…

That's fine too. For many people, it isn't worth their time learning how to do formatting when there are services available that will do it for you for a good price. Tugboat Design will format your novel for all three platforms for only $65. That's a bargain. They also format for CreateSpace and can also create your book cover too.

What about CreateSpace Formatting?

Formatting for CreateSpace is simple and complicated all at once. I use the Word doc that I formatted for Kindle to upload to CreateSpace – BUT – once you upload the file to the size book you have chosen, you then have to work on that file to create page numbers and headings (if desired). I haven't figured out how to do page numbers so I hand the file over to Tugboat Design to finish it for me – she can place in page numbers and headings without a problem.

I hope that some of these suggestions and links helped. In the next article, we'll talk about the importance of book covers.





  1. Great info, Deanna - thanks! I've successfully formatted and uploaded for Kindle myself. I needed help from my BIL for CreateSpace, however. And it seems like we had to convert our Word doc to print-ready PDF before we could upload to CreateSpace. So you just uploaded your you Word doc and then it was modified after that?

  2. Yes, you're right - it has to be switched to PDF for upload. So many processes with all of these sites I sometimes forget until I work with them again. :-)

  3. Hi Deanna,
    Great site with some great tips! This post will come in handy when I format my new book for Kindle--the first one was a pain to do!

    Thanks for following my blog. I am definately following yours!

  4. Hi Greg - Thanks for visiting - glad to help!