Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quick and Dirty eBook Formatting

Formatting a book for Kindle, Nook, or Smashwords seems like a scary venture. But it doesn't have to be. One round of quality formatting should suffice for all three venues. These instructions are for a simple book with no fancy formatting or images. Edit: Additional info for Smashwords posted below.

Suggestions to make your life easier:
  • Finish all edits before formatting. You don't want to mess up and have to reformat the whole thing.
  • I use OpenOffice, so I can't guarantee these directions will work for Word (though I don't see why they wouldn't). Make sure you save your OO document as a .doc, though.
  • Turn on Non-Printing Characters under View (Ctrl+F10). Eliminate any extra spaces or paragraph markers as you go through the text.
  1. First step is to remove all formatting (except bolds and italics. Those are still ok.) Clear formatting works for me usually.
  2. Do a Ctrl+A to select all of the text. Set font and size. I use Palatino Linotype size 12 because I think it looks nicer on the page, but the font really doesn't matter. Kindle will change it to Kindle font. 
  3. Highlight the whole thing again. Under Format, choose Paragraph, then Indents&Spacing.
    • Before Text, After Text, Before Paragraph, After Paragraph should all be set to 0.
    • Set First Line to .3 (I prefer .3, but you may prefer .5)
    • Line Spacing should be set to Single.
  4. Under Paragraph, then Alignment, set it all to Justified. Last Line should be set to Left.
  5. At the end of each chapter, insert a page break (Insert->Manual Break->Page Break). Do NOT use extra lines, tabs, etc.
  6. Now on to chapter headings. Highlight the whole heading (ex: Chapter 12), then Format->Paragraph. Set Alignment to Centered. Everything on the Indents tab should be set to 0. Spacing should be single.
  7. Set the chapter font to size 18, bold, then add a line break before and after (I prefer there to be a bit of space between the chapter heading and actual text).
  8. Now you can add the cover page, if you want one. (Please note: These are my preferred font sizes. If you're more comfortable with HTML, you can go into the code after you save it and change the sizes that way.)
    • Put a page break before the first chapter, so you're working on a clean page.
    • Set the font to 72 , set everything on the Indents tab to 0 and spacing to Single, center it using Format->Paragraph->Alignment, and hit enter (should leave a pretty big space at the top). Type your title (on several lines if you so choose), then leave another blank line.
    • Reduce the font to 15 and type your byline, hit enter.
    • Reduce it to 6 and type your copyright info. Here's an example of mine. Feel free to steal it. Don't forget to add your cover art copyright info, too, and credit the person who made the cover.

    © 2011 Samantha Warren
    The following story is a work of fiction and all names and characters are strictly the creation of the author. All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any manner without expressed written consent from Samantha Warren. 

    Additional Smashwords info: I'm working on publishing my first novel to Smashwords and I've run into a few things that work wonderfully on Kindle and Nook, but Smashwords won't accept.
    1. On your copyright page, change the © 2011 Author Name to Copyright 2011 Author Name.
    2. Also on the copyright page, add a line that says Smashwords Edition. They're picky about this. They want Smashwords on there or they won't accept it.
    3. They don't like font size changes. (The style guide calls them 'ugly'. I don't agree, but it's their platform). Change any font size over 14 to 14. 


  1. This is just what I needed! I have additional questions, hope I didn't just miss them in the post:

    What is the page size you choose in Open office?

    Do you submit to Kindle in .doc or convert to that mobi file?

    Thanks so much!

  2. I used just the basic letter size. I don't mess with margins and such. I submit it in .doc format. I've never had a problem with that, as long as I've done everything else (spacing and such) correctly.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!


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