There are many different ways for self-published authors to format their ebooks, from farming out the task to a specialist formatter, to doing it themselves. Experienced indie authors often become passionate advocates of one system or another, and some are more accessible and affordable than others. But while Vellum, for example, is a favorite among Mac users, a very common starting point is Microsoft ® Word. In today's post, Ian Andrew, former Microsoft trainer turned self-published author, provides a simple beginner's guide to using Word to format ebooks.
Why Use Word to Format Ebooks Anyway?
Yep – I get that some of you are keyboard wizards and witches, warriors all, scurrying away with Scrivener and ripping through with Reedsy… But, there are quite a lot of us mere two-finger mortals still ploughing our lonely furrows with that bastion of word processing software, the mighty Microsoft® Word.
Now, in a former life I was an accredited trainer of all things Microsoft®, and the biggest revelation to me was how poorly prepared people were when given a PC and expected to “get on with it”.
We wouldn’t let a welder just weld, but we let an administrator just wield their way through Word. Normally woefully.
Thankfully, it needn’t be that way. To format a document is a simple matter of using things that expert programmers have built into Word for us. Sadly, so few even know these things exist, let alone how to use them.
So, if you want to format a Word document such that it sails through the conversion process for Kindle’s Mobi or the more generic E-Pub… read on.
First, Ditch What You Don't Need
First things first, you need to lose quite a lot of what would be in a paperback version. You don’t need to worry about:
- page size
- page margins
- page numbers
- footers or headers
All of these are irrelevant for ebook documents, because the smartphone or tablet device relies on dynamically resizing the pages it displays. Likewise, drop capitals and anything too fancy, distract from the on-screen experience. I mean, you can have them, of course you can, but if you are doing this by yourself, keep it simple. (Editor's note: including complex graphics in ebooks can reduce accessibility for the visually impaired, so are best avoided – see link to related post at the foot of this page.)
Having removed all the things that hinder free-flowing text, you can put in all the extras that ebooks enjoy, such as:
- links to your social media sites and websites
- links to email addresses
- links to review sites for your book
- most importantly, links to your other books
Within ebooks, hyperlinks, with a touch of a finger or the click of the mouse, will take your readers to where you want them to be.
Top Tips for Ebook Formatting in Word
Learn to view your document correctly. You need to see the formatting marks, so turn them on, as well as the navigation pane and the ruler, by clicking the back-to-front P sign (the paragraph symbol used by proofreaders).
Use the built-in styles that Word provides. Make your heading text how you want it to be, and then update Word’s built-in headings to match your selection. That way you harness their power, while keeping your preferred style. It will also allow your headings to appear in the navigation pane and the Table of Contents automatically.
Create your own paragraph styles. Make your paragraphs look exactly the way you want them to appear, then create a style that captures that format. Do not use spaces or tabs to set an indent, use the ruler indent marks to move the first line if required. Then highlight the paragraph and ‘Create a new style’. Give it a name. Use it to format all the rest of your document.
Insert hyperlinks to take your readers to where you want them to be. Copy the address of the page you want your readers to link to, then insert a hyperlink to that address. You can link to review sites, websites, social media, email or, most importantly, the sales pages of your other books.
Insert a hyperlinked Table of Contents. If you have used the in-built Word headings, inserting a Table of Contents is a simple matter of clicking on the Reference Tab in word and choosing to insert a Table of Contents. Turn off page numbers, select hyperlinks, click OK and that is that!
If you are still floundering, you might like to consider the new free on-line course of ‘How to format a Word document for E-Book’. Provided by ALLi partner member The Book Reality Experience, the course lasts just over an hour and will show you, step-by-step exactly how to implement the tips above. Click here for more information.
OVER TO YOU If you format your ebooks in Word, do you have any top tips to add to Ian's list? We'd love to share them!#Authors - how to format ebooks in Word, quickly & easily - by @IanAndrewAuthor #selfpub Click To Tweet
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS ABOUT EBOOK FORMATTING – FROM THE ALLi ARCHIVE