Road to the Self-Published Author – eBook Wrap-up

It’s ‘wrap-up’ day. Since tomorrow is the official launch, everything needs to be tight and ready in the wings by end of day today. I thought I’d take some time during my breaks to summarize a variety of helpful formatting and publishing tips – starting with eBooks.

I encourage people to share any other advice or experience they’ve come upon during their own processes, regardless of how they are going about their self-publishing. Whether it’s related to Lulu, CreateSpace, Smashwords or any other channel, I’m sure it will be helpful to some – if not all – of us.

eBook Formatting – Basics

There are a plethora of file formats for eBooks. The reader(s) used by your audience will often determine which of these files your eBook is converted to. And the word processing program you use will also impact just how relevant this advice is to you. My personal experience thus far is limited to ePub (as converted by and Kindle Direct Publishing, both with manuscripts created in Microsoft Word.

If you are converting a for-print manuscript for use as an eBook, then the first step, really, is to remove all formatting from the document. Youch. This can be done in Microsoft word by selecting all your text, and then choosing Clear Formating under the Styles and Formatting toolbar. Of course, I recommend saving a separate copy or two first to make sure you don’t accidentally murder one of your print manuscripts.

Retaining Direct/inline Formatting

Something I was faced with when removing formatting was the problem of then manually adding back all the italics used for emphasis within the body of my wife’s book. This morning I came across a very helpful resource on just this (shame it was too late to benefit me during this round of conversion).

Lori Devoti steps you through some mysterious find/replace functions within Word that will help you restore your italics without having to manually hunt them out. What this involves is essentially using Word to search for ANY text with the italics format applied to the font. Then, Word will replace that text with a version surrounded by QQQ. This means that if you had the word ‘just’ in italics in one of your paragraphs, after running this find/replace it would go from

…surrounding text just surrounding text…


…surrounding text QQQjustQQQ surrounding text…

There, that’s MUCH better, isn’t it? Really though, it is. Because when that italics format is stripped out, you’ll still have three capital letter Qs on either side of those words that used to be italicized, and that will be the flag telling Word where those italics used to belong. Unless you have an unusual manuscript, it’s very unlikely you’ve used three capital Qs anywhere in immediate succession in your document – and even more unlikely that you’ve done it twice. And during our second Find/Replace, that is exactly what Lori is going to have you tell Word to look for, using a wildcard, (QQQ)(*)(QQQ), to find any text (represented by the asterisk in the middle) that is surrounded by QQQ on both sides.

Now, in my experience I had to manually tell Microsoft Word to actually use the wildcards in the Find function by selecting the appropriate checkbox. If your Find/Replace attempt returns 0 results, that’s the first place to start. I also had some trouble using a custom style to return italics to only the words that needed it. When I tried using a style applied through the Replace function Lori provides, it applied the style to the entire paragraph. I may have been doing something wrong. I did have luck using the regular formatting to apply the italics to the font in the Replace function, but have not tested any of this out in an actual conversion to ePub. So I don’t know if it works entirely as I used it. Your actual mileage may vary.

Headers and Footers Begone

I’ve read one eBook ‘How To’ that actually had headers and footers staying in the electronic manuscript. This is fine, perhaps, if you are using a PDF file for your eBook, as a PDF is essentially WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). But for Kindle and Nook formats, headers with chapter or book titles and footers with page numbers are erroneous, since text is reflowable and hard-coded page numbers don’t really exist. Some converters automatically remove these. If you want to be doubly sure they’ve gone, or you are formatting your eBook strictly by yourself, then be sure to remove all these. One way is to view your header/footer text, and start in the first header. Select all the text, hit the delete key, and use the previous/next buttons in Word to move to the next section’s header/footer and so one to make sure you’ve cleared it all out.

One thing to look for: Microsoft Word liked to sometimes add a fancy border line in my footers after I deleted the old page numbers that used to be there. Clear this by using your Borders and Shading dialog to remove any top/bottom border that it may have inserted on your behalf.

Title, Sections and Chapters

This part may be different depending on your destination format. ePub conversion through Lulu strictly uses Microsoft Word styles to determine your Table of Contents, to a maximum of three levels (Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3). So in that case, you’ll want to apply these styles to your Chapter Names/Numbers and any Subtitles you have, as well as the Title of your eBook and any special sections you have in your document (copyright page, dedication, about, preface, and so on).

You can do this by selecting the text you want to mark up as a section/chapter heading, and applying the appropriate Heading X style. Generally, you would want to start at the top and work your way down, so your Title page and book sections will use something like Heading 1, your chapters will use Heading 2, and any subtitles/subchapters will rock out with Heading 3. And, of course, if you decide you can’t stand the way the Heading styles look by default, you can right-click and modify them in the Styles and Formatting dialog to change the font face, point size and paragraph spacing to your liking.

Now, on the flip side – if you are using something like the Amazon Kindle Direct, then this is still useful, but for a slightly different reason. They have you create a TOC in Word and translate that to their eBook TOC. Well, Word uses Styles to create a Table of Contents anyway, so if you’ve just applied the Headings styles in your document, you can whip up a TOC in just a few mouse strokes. Kindle Direct will also have you insert some page breaks to denote where those chapters/sections should begin and end, though.


Ah, this is Isildur’s Bane. At least it was for me. I haven’t entirely got this working the way I would like, and that may be in part because of how eReaders actually treat images. If anyone has additional information or has found useful resources, please share them. I know I could use the help!

One thing that applies rather universally despite what type of book you are releasing, is that not all eReaders can display color pics. This means that if your eBook images are in color, ensure they will also look proper-ish in grayscale. Definitely check your specific eBook guides for information concerning what image formats, pixel size, color specifications (RBG, etc.) and filesize they recommend.

As far as image layout goes, I’ve found that images in eBooks tend to be formatted inline with text and centered. In my wife’s print manuscripts, the images were inserted and set to be ‘Behind Text’ so they wouldn’t cause odd wrapping or extra page breaks. They were also formatted to be full-bleed interior art, typically on the page opposite of chapter starts. (You know, those sometimes-blank pages in hardcopy books that are often decorated with artwork or various quotes in the event that a previous chapter ends on an odd-numbered page).

Going to eBook has proved slightly aggravating because not only are the images difficult to size properly without knowing just how the screen will look on an eReader (and full-bleed doesn’t exist, so make sure it has a suitable border), but the eReaders tend to let TEXT be resizeable, but not images. So if I’m previewing an eBook in a web or PC-based previewer such as Kindle for PC, I can zoom in, so to speak, but all that really does is enlarge the point-size of text. The images stay the same size. In our case, we have a map in the book, which meant that I played around a lot with the image formatting, converted, checked the preview, rinsed, repeated, cussed, and did it again.

And not knowing just what devices her audience will end up using means we’ll never know for sure if they can all read the map print okay. Unless they later start griping that they can’t. Thank goodness it isn’t entirely necessary to reference the map or anything, its just present for extra clarity.

In Closing

Got tips and advice? Horror stories? Share them!

~Meredith Purk


3 thoughts on “Road to the Self-Published Author – eBook Wrap-up

Comments are closed.