Important Dos and Don'ts For Formatting Manuscripts with Conversion In Mind

For Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign

  • Learn to use the STYLES feature of the software you use to creature your layouts for your print book designs. Word Processing software such as Microsoft Word allow you to define different styles for your text. For example, you can set up a style called BODY TEXT that will be Times Roman 12 pt. justified with a .25 inch indent for the first line, another called BODY TEXT FIRST which would not have the first line indented (for the first paragraph in a chapter), and a third called CHAPTER HEADING that will be 24 pt. Times Bold centered. Then all you need to do is apply the appropriate style to each paragraph. Your styles need not have these names or these definitions and you can use as many as your design requires. Just remember that every paragraph, including the Table of Contents, the Copyright Page, the Bibliography, etc. need to have a style definition. Using styles greatly streamlines the process of converting Word to ebook formats.
  • Don't use forced hyphens for formatting. They're likely wind up in an ebook in the middle of a line.
  • Don't use forced line breaks: They're also likely to wind up in the middle of a line.
  • Don't rely on specialty fonts such as Old English or script, to help communicate. Your readers probably won't see them in an ebook.
  • Avoid laying type over a background image. Older ebook reading devices don't support this feature.
  • Do use your software's Auto Page Numbering feature. If you manually place page numbers, they will flow into the ebook in unwanted place.
  • When creating a Word document with conversion to ebook in mind, don't use tabs. The only exception is in creating a table, keeping in mind that only small tables with few columns work in an ebook.
  • Don't use double line spacing to create extra space between paragraphs or sections of type. They'll vanish in an ebook. Instead, use a paragraph style that specifies a space above or below the text.
  • Above all, don't think you have to sacrifice design in a print book just to make its ebook counterpart easier. By using tips like this you can have both a print and an electronic edition that readers will enjoy and recommend to others.