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How to Create an Ebook you can Publish Anywhere

Fotolia 41302161 XS 300x200 How to Create an Ebook you can Publish Anywhere

© Markus Bormann – Fotolia.com

This tutorial is going to start with the assumption that your book has been edited and is ready to publish.

I. Formatting

For easy and zero up front cost distribution to online bookstores you will want to format your book according to Smashword’s Style Guide. Many people seem to have trouble with it, but it’s not as hard as it seams.

A. Word Doc. Whatever word processor you use, Smashwords wants the file saved as a word doc.

B. Paragraph Style

1. Every word processor has this in a different spot but look out for words like “format” and “paragraph” to find what you need.

2. Never tab indent your paragraphs. Instead, via the paragraph format box, set your first line indent at .3″. In my opinion anything larger than this looks bad on an ereader.

3. Set single line spacing

4. Set it to have 0 spaces before and after paragraph returns.

C. Page Style

1. Use “insert section breaks” from your “insert page break” options to make each chapter start fresh on it’s own page.

2. Use no more than 4 returns on any page. You might want to use returns to set your chapter number lower on the page. Use no more than four. Also, I believe a shift/return works best for that.

3. To center a chapter number or a scene separator (like ***) use a hard return to end your scene, then a shift/return so that you won’t have an indent on the line you want the chapter title or *** on. Then center the line. Follow that with a hard return (that’s just a regular old click on the return button) so that your next next scene won’t be tied to the centered formatting of the scene separator or chapter heading. Then select Left Justified for your paragraph

D. Fancy Fonts

1. Bold and italic work fine. Ereading devices let the reader select the font they want to see, so whatever you type in is lost in the process of becoming an ebook. For ease of distributing on Smashwords use Times New Roman.

2. Sometimes you want a fancy font anyway. For example, I like to use the cover font for the chapter numbers. To do so, create jpegs of the word or number you want to see and insert it as a picture. It can take a while to get it adjusted to the size you want, but it works. Unfortunately, if using a transparent background you will get a weird black outline. To avoid this, when creating your jpeg “fill” the text box with white. This creates a white background on some ereader devices, but that looks better, in my opinion, than the outline. You can also get creative and create a shadowed or outlined text box on purpose. You can have a lot of fun with this. Just remember to save as a jpeg and insert the image rather than copying and pasting.

E. Other Images

1. Insert all images the same way you inserted chapter title images

2. Insert rather small images when possible. There will be “delivery charges” based on file size from the sales venues

3. Remember to use a shift/return between the last hard return and your image so you can center it without the indent

4. The following are useful images to have in your ebook:

a) Title Page with font that matches cover

b) Small publisher logo

c) Some fancy twirly thing instead of a *** to separate scenes

d) Author photo with your biography

e) Covers for other books you have written and published

F. Table of Contents

There are easier ways to create tables of contents but this is the only style Smashwords accepts and you need Smashwords to sell at Sony and to sell at iTunes (unless you have an Apple Computer) and a few other sites.

1. Bookmark all of your chapter headings with the title or chapter number. Bookmarks can be found in “insert>bookmarks”

2. Right before Chapter 1 insert a page and write Table of Contents at the top. Bookmark that as ref_TOC. According to the Smashwords style guide, this is why: “(by preceding the bookmark name with “ref_” you’ll help prevent Meatgrinder from duplicate NCX items)”

3. Type a list of chapter titles or numbers. I like to put a hard return after each since we have to click these with our fat fingers when we use the table of contents on our eReaders.

4. Somewhere on the toolbar of your wordprocessor is a little picture of a link, maybe even a link over a globe. Highlight chapter 1. Click that link. The box that opens up will allow you to hyperlink the highlighted text. On the side of that box in Word it says “bookmarks.” Click that and then select the bookmark that matches the chapter you have highlighted. Repeat for all chapter titles in the table of contents you wrote.

5. Now go through and hyperlink each chapter heading in your book so they link back to the Table of Contents bookmark you created. (The one that says ref_toc.) Now readers can click from a chapter heading to the toc and from the toc to any chapter. They’ll like that.

6.  I haven’t perfected that with using images for chapter headings yet. I can make the TOC work, but not clicking BACK to the TOC. On my work in progess I plan to have a single digit that is hyperlinked to the TOC and an attractive heading of some sort under it to get the look of professional formatting and a highly functioning TOC.

G. Other Links

You will need to create three or so versions of this book before you are done.

1. One will be for Smashwords and only have outside links to your blog, facebook, email, or whatever type of contact you want to offer in it, since it goes to several different stores.

2. One will be for Amazon and have blurbs and covers for your other work that link back to their Amazon sales pages as well as your contact links.

3. You will also create a version for Barnes and Noble, and Kobo if you want to. Links to your other work in those books should only go to the stores they are created for. Also include your contact links.

4. Create the links the same way you created the links for the table of contents except instead of clicking “bookmarks” and selecting an interior link, type in the full web address. You can link whatever text you like such as “My Blog” or “Facebook” can link directly to those places.

II. Ebook Creation

Formatting is done! But, alas, a word doc is not an ebook. Especially if you’ve done it right and included image links.

A. At Smashwords all you have to do is upload the word doc. They have software called “The meatgrinder” that will turn that file into all of the formates of ebooks that exist in the world.

B. Best practices for Amazon is to download the “Kindle Gen” app for you PC. Open that program and follow the directions to create a kindle ready ebook.

C. Barnes and Noble has gone bonkers for their Nook and let you even type the whole thing there. Don’t do that. Upload the word doc and it should do well. You can also save your doc as html (called web page, filtered for word users.)

D. Kobo…I haven’t sold any books at Kobo in most of a year so I’m a little miffed at having to bother to write this line. Nonetheless if you are into trying crazy things go to Kobo Writing Life and find out what format they need. It’s probably just a word doc.


And there you have it! You have one document formatted in such a way that with slight tweeks in links to outside sources, you can publish it to any site that sells ebooks. For further help with formatting, check out the Smashwords Style Guide. icon smile How to Create an Ebook you can Publish Anywhere

For help on writing the book you want to publish check out these great books:


Filed under How To, Novel Development, The Business of Writing, Top Tips