girl reading book

August 15, 2016

When most people think about DIY publishing, formatting the ebook is possibly the biggest void they’re unsure of. And I struggled with how to provide the important information in this step and keep it from being the most boring post ever.

So, if you’re in the process of DIY Publishing, read on.

If not, enjoy the first chapter of the Tattered Heart audiobook.

Interior Design

Chapter Divisions

If you don’t already have it, insert a manual page break at the end of each chapter and each section. Then you’ll need to decide how you want to handle your chapter openings.

  • Do chapters have a title? Or is it just the chapter number?
  • Do you want a graphic of some sort above or below or even beside the chapter heading?
  • Or perhaps simply a few asterix (*) or tilde (~) beneath the chapter number. Or between the chapter number and title?
  • If you have section breaks, do you want to use similar formatting with both the chapters and sections (for instance if you have a image by the chapter number, do you put that same image by the word ‘Acknowledgements’ or ‘Find More Books By Me’)?

You have more options with a paperback format when it comes to images and fanciful chapter openings because you have more control of the end result. With an ebook you want to keep it as simple as possible. There’s much less control over how an image will display on different devices, with different screen sizes so it’s best to stick with something small enough and simple enough that it’ll work anywhere.

Paragraph Formatting

There are basically two choices with paragraphs: indent or block.

Not sure which to use? Open up some of your favorite ebooks and see how they do it. Mostly likely if it’s fiction you’ll see paragraph indent with no extra line break between paragraphs.

If you’re going with block text, then you want a line between each paragraph.

Keep in mind, we’re just deciding what to do with our paragraphs here – we’ll get to actually implementing that choice in a bit.


For the body of your book, you likely want a basic font like Times New Roman unless you’re going for something especially stylistic.

Want some other basic options? Again, check out some of your favorite ebooks to see what they use. If you’re not sure what the font is Identifont is a great resource.

Once you’ve got your chapters and sections looking the way you want, it’s time for the nitty gritty.

Character Review

First, in Word on a PC, use Alt E+E and your quotes and apostrophes will be straight lines instead of smart quotes. That way you don’t have to worry about one going the wrong direction or looking funny on an ereader.

Then, again in Word, turn on the Show Characters option. This will show you every paragraph return, space, line break, everything. You’re going to skim through the text (probably a few times) looking for two things:

  • 1 – Odd Characters. Remove any you don’t recognize or you don’t want. These are most likely if you’ve used Google Docs or OneDrive or other cloud-based software with your editors or beta readers.
  • 2 – Consistency in character, paragraph and page spacing.
    • Do you have two spaces after every sentence?
      Use Find and Replace to replace a period and three spaces with a period and two or a period and one with a period and two. Then just keep your eye out for instances of “Dr.” or “Mrs.” that should only have one space.
    • Do it again for question marks.
    • And exclamation points.
    • And commas so they have a single space after them.
    • Now look at your paragraphs to see if they have one or two hard returns afterward (one for indent spacing, two for block spacing).
    • Also look for the number of hard returns you have between each chapter/section before and after the line break. There isn’t a right or wrong, but make sure is the same each time.


You want to use styles to define any text changes (like italics or larger font or a link). Two pieces of text may look visually the same but have two different styles. Sometimes different styles will actually make the text look different on an ereader.

You can pop out the styles if you’re in Word to see a list of all the ones used in your document.

This is where you define what “Normal” is so that it uses the font you decided on. You also want to indent Normal something like 1.38 if you’re doing indented paragraphs.

Use “H1” for your chapter and section headings so that it feeds your table of contents properly (and so it’s consistent).
If you want something to look like H1 but not be included in your table of contents, create a second style that mimics H1 (but isn’t a copy of it – copying will include the new style in your ToC which we’re trying to avoid).

Read through the list of styles and check out any that seem odd, redundant or unnecessary. Sometimes I’ll delete a style (text assigned that style usually reverts to Normal) and it will reveal text I thought I deleted (again from cloud-based editing).

Keeping the list of styles as simple as possible reduces the likelihood that something will be odd on ereaders.

Format Variations

AFTER you’ve done everything, reviewed your characters, added and formatted all the sections and text and images you need… when you’re SURE this is everything you’re book needs to be, THEN you’re going to Save As a couple of times to create multiple copies.

I generally create folders for each copy to also hold any ancillary files I need. You’ll want your master file, just in case. And:

  • Paperback
  • epub (used by Amazon, Nook, Google Books, Kobo and iBook)

In the next few DIY Publishing posts I’ll get into the specifics of each of these formats to get them uploaded to different distributors.

Check out the entire DIY Publishing series.

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