I don’t like fishing. Waking up before sparrow’s fart to plod out on a cold miserable morning does not sound like fun to me. Smelling like salty fish and spending hours waiting for a bite on the line— aww hells no, I could be sitting on the couch eating cinnabons and watching Jessica Jones instead! So know that when I say I’d rather be fishing, I mean I would rather be gutting a fish, touching wriggly bait or stinking like yesterday’s whale vomit than formatting an eBook.
But you already know this; I can see the bruises left from hitting your head on the wall. Purple really is your colour.
Let’s try this optimism thing I hear so much about. Here’s the good news: it’s do-able, I’d even go so far as to say it’s doable.
I was lucky, my manuscript was straightforward and there weren’t many fancy images or graphs to deal with, so the butthurt was unpleasant but bearable.
Step 1: Find a self-publishing platform
Google is your friend, use it to research platforms like:
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Step 2: Create an account
- Set up your profile, author page and complete bank details.
- It helps to have a dedicated email address for your book administration.
Step 3: Tax forms
If you’re a non-US self-publisher this bit might feel like a swift kick up the arse.
- There will be forms (ugh, right?), don’t panic, just read it a few times.
- You will need your tax identification number from your own country on hand.
- From my own experience, I found the process most streamlined on KDP, forms are completed online and posting of hard copies is not required.
Step 4: Read the site’s guidelines
You’re looking for the following info:
- File format: MS Word (doc or docx)
- Cover dimensions / size
- Image format supported
There are no pages in eBooks, your book will look different on different e-reader devices because we sacrificed the ‘page’ to give our readers flowing text that can be adjusted by font, size, and spacing to suit their individual needs.
With that in mind:
Step 5: Dunk the junk!
Remove: page numbers, headers and footers, backgrounds, fancy fonts and different colour texts.
Step 6: Page and paragraph breaks
- Do not use tabs or multiple spaces to delineate the beginning of a paragraph.
- Use the the automatic paragraph indent feature marked as “¶” on the toolbar.
- Page breaks are not required in eBooks but if you absolutely must have them: do not use tabs/spaces to move to the next page— separate chapters with a page break (Insert > Break > Page Break).
Step 7: Strip your manuscript
Copy all your text and paste in a simple text-editing program like NotePad (PC) or TextEdit (Mac)—this will remove your previous formatting settings.
Open a blank MS Word document and copy your text from NotePad. This is our start-from-scratch document.
Now select all text and change it to:
- A standard font, like Times New Roman, Arial or Georgia
- Normal’ paragraph style (block or first indent style)
- Left-aligned text, avoid justifying text—it does not convert well
- 10, 11 or 12pt is fine for main body text (I have seen bigger font in children’s books.)
- Single line spacing
- Use the heading styles in Word’s Quick Styles: Heading 1 for Chapter titles, Heading 2 for sub-titles or section headings, etc.
At this point you’re probably wondering:
How the heck are those changes supposed to be made?
I know that when I tried, the information did not sink in until I looked at pictures showing me what to click on and how the end product is supposed to look.
Resources that got me through this:
- Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog post: a step-by-step guide with pictures!
- Lulu’s Creator Guide:
The rules that apply for formatting to mobi or ePUB are similar; I have used the same manuscript on Lulu (ePub) and KDP (mobi), but I found the guidelines on Lulu easier to follow, simply because they had pictures.
Here are few topics I found useful:
- EPUB Conversion: Prepare Your Manuscript for eBook Conversion
- EPUB Conversion: Paragraph Styles
- EPUB Conversion: Fonts, Images, Hyperlinks, and Footnotes
Step 8: Upload your book
- Follow your publisher’s instructions and check that the table of contents (created automatically) is correct. I did this ten times before I realised that all my chapters were Heading 1 and not Heading 1 for Chapter 1, Heading 2 for Chapter 2 etc.
- View your book before finalising: Download an e-reader like Adobe Digital Editions, use iBooks (Mac) or view on the Kindle app or Kindle’s onscreen preview.
- Download a copy of your draft eBook and view it on different devices, if possible. I recommend this especially if your book has images. What looked great on my Mac, looked sloppy on a Kobo device—which meant adjusting the image layout and size for the umpteenth time!
Step 9: Upload your cover image:
Cover image dimensions/size are not the same across platforms. I used The Book Designer’s guide for a quick check but your publisher’s site should be your main reference.
Step 10: Publish!
Now take a seat, brave one. Your work here is done.