Format an Ebook Manuscript Before Uploading
Formatting a traditional manuscript is already a daunting task, and an ebook manuscript can seem even trickier, since it has to be readable on a number of different devices. So let’s say you want to make an ebook, but you’re not sure you want to mess with all that EPUB conversion software. Well, in that case, you’ve come to the right place; we’ve got you covered!
When making an ebook, you have the option of uploading your manuscript as either a Word document (.doc/.docx) or an EPUB file. PDFs are not supported, unfortunately.
When you upload your manuscript as a Word file, we make life easy for you by converting that file to an EPUB automatically. Nevertheless, to make sure our conversion process gives you a slick, professional-looking EPUB, it’s a good idea to format your Word document a certain way before uploading it. Here are some tips for doing just that!
How do ebooks work?
Before we get into how you should format your manuscript for the best possible EPUB, it’s worth looking briefly at why this formatting is even necessary.
EPUBS are “reflowable”. That means that the text in an EPUB file adapts to the size of the screen it’s displayed on – go science! This means that on a smaller screen, sentences are shortened and your book will have more pages than it would on a bigger screen. As such, the layout of your e-book will vary depending on the device on which it is being read. PDFs don’t support this adaptable text, which is why we don’t let you upload your e-book manuscript in that format.
In practice, this means that even though a certain section of text fits on a single page in Word, it can be spread out over several pages on an e-reader. In other words, don’t worry about the position of paragraphs on a Word page, but make sure that the text itself is well-structured and that the spacing between paragraphs makes sense.
This can sound rather vague, but just try to imagine that you’re writing on a single, massive page and ask yourself whether you’d still be able to understand the text as a reader.
Word template for ebooks
Alright, let’s start this section off with some good news. You don’t have to format your Word document from scratch! We’ve put together a handy downloadable template for you with all the most important settings for a good e-book toggled on.
Choosing a font for an ebook manuscript is a bit more complicated than you’d think. That’s because most e-readers allow readers to select their preferred font. This means that whatever font you end up using in your manuscript will most likely be overridden by the e-reader on which your book is being read.
The moral of this story? Don’t worry too much about finding the perfect font. As long as you can stand looking at it while typing, it’s fine. Georgia or Baskerville are always solid choices for serif fonts, and Arial, Helvetica or Verdana are never bad options when it comes to sans-serif fonts.
Chapters, subheadings, and the table of contents
To split an ebook up into chapters correctly, it’s important to make proper use of headings, which you can find listed as ‘Styles’ in Word’s ‘Home’ tab. There are a number of different styles for different applications, which we’ve taken the liberty of outlining for you:
- Normal: Use this style for the body text of your manuscript.
- Title: Unsurprisingly, this is the one you use for the title of your book on the aptly named title page.
- Heading 1 (H1): Use this heading for chapter titles. In the table of contents, these will show up as the first-level headings. Our template is set up so that every one of these headings starts on a new page.
- Heading 2 (H2): Use this heading for subtitles, for example if you want to divide your chapters into sections. These will show up as second-level headings in the table of contents.
- Heading 3 (H3): These headings can come in handy if you want even more specific subsections in your chapters. You’ll probably not need these if you’re writing novels, but they might come in handy for non-fiction.
If you’re not a fan of the way these styles look, you can always change them by right clicking on the style you’d like to customize in the Home tab. You can change the font, size, or spacing of your headings this way. Keep in mind that these customizations can still get negated by e-reader settings though.
Table of contents
If you’ve structured your text correctly using the headings outlined above, our template will automatically generate a table of contents for you. This table of contents will be accessible to readers when they press the corresponding button on their e-readers. In other words, the table of contents won’t show up when paging through the book. Then again, this isn’t necessarily desirable when it comes to e-books, since e-readers will have a button for bringing up the table of contents anyway.
At some point, you may want to have certain text start on a new page without it being preceded by a heading. In situations like these, you can rely on the trusty old page break to make sure your text ends up where it needs to be. You can use the keyboard shortcut ctrl+enter (cmd+enter on Mac) to insert a page break.
Heads up: we’ve set up our Word template so that each H1 always starts on a new page. This means you do not have to insert a manual page break for every H1. Less work for you!
Page numbers, headers, and footers
If you’re one of those thrifty people who has already downloaded our template, you might have noticed that it doesn’t contain any page numbers. This is intentional. As we discussed earlier, EPUBS are ‘reflowable’, meaning that there is no set number of pages due to variations in screen size, font, size and spacing.
If you were to add page numbers to your manuscript, they’d show up in odd places throughout the book, and wouldn’t correspond to the actual page number. Simply put: do not add any page numbers to your ebook manuscript!
Additionally, we strongly discourage you from using headers and footers. In a print book, these can look good and add utility, but in an ebook, they have a tendency to show up in the weirdest places, and will do more harm than good. Make sure that the header and footer fields in your document are free of text!
EPUB is a format developed especially for rendering text as clearly as possible across a variety of devices and screen sizes. That being said, you can also include photos and pictures in an EPUB file. Since you’re working with Word however, any pictures you want to use need to be incorporated into the document a certain way. Specifically, the ‘wrap text’ option must be set to ‘in line with text’.
To check if this is the case, right-click on your image and hover over the ‘wrap text’ option in the menu that appears. A sub-menu will appear, listing various wrap text options. Make sure that ‘in line with text’ is selected in this menu. Alternatively, you can left-click on the image, click on the wrap text icon that appears in the upper right corner of the selection box, and check if ‘in line with text’ is selected there.
You don’t need to create a cover for your book when writing your manuscript. In the cover design step of the publication flow on our platform you’ll have the option to either upload a premade cover or create one from scratch using our cover designer. We’ll make sure it gets added to your book.
If you’re a non-fiction writer, we can imagine that you’d want to add tables to your manuscript in order to communicate certain information more clearly. Unfortunately, tables tend not to work all that well on e-readers, since they’re often too wide to be displayed properly on the widely varying screen sizes that different types of e-readers have. Our recommendation would be to present information in lists instead.
Do I need to add page numbers to my document?
No, you do not need to, nor should you, add page numbers to your document. The numbers you add will not correspond to the actual page numbers in the final version of the ebook, and will only result in numbers appearing randomly in the text. The e-reader being used to read the book will automatically attribute page numbers and make sure they’re visible. In other words, you don’t need to do anything. Nice, right?
Do I need to add the cover of my ebook to my Word document?
Nope, we’ll add your cover to your book automatically once you’ve created it in the cover design step on our platform.
The text on my e-reader looks different than it did in my Word document, why is that?
This is normal. An EPUB is ‘reflowable’, meaning that the text is automatically formatted to best fit the screen of the device upon which it is being read. Check the ‘How do ebooks work?’ section above for more info on this. You might also see a different font on your e-reader than you do in your Word document. For more info on this, check the ‘Fonts’ section of this guide.
Can I upload my e-book manuscript as a PDF?
Sorry, we do not support ebook manuscripts in PDF format at the moment. Converting a PDF to a good, adaptable EPUB file is almost impossible, which is why uploading a Word document or a ready-made EPUB is your best bet.
Do I have to add my ISBN to the manuscript myself?
Yes, since we don’t make any changes to the contents of your manuscript, you’ll have to add your ISBN yourself. You can add your ISBN to the colophon page (which is the second page in our Word template). There’s a line marked ‘ISBN’ on that page, where you can fill it in.
Can I make my own EPUB file?
Sure thing! You can upload a ready-made EPUB file to our platform. We have another article on making an EPUB that you might find interesting.