Fun With Indie Publishing Part 2 - Formatting

Find Part 1 here.


Getting your book(s) ready. I'm not really going to go over editing except to say it is up to each individual author on how much editing you think your book needs for primetime. I know writers who higher out for content editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. I know writers who hire out for a proofreader. I know writers who use beta readers and critique partners to proof their manuscripts. I know writers who have one trusted reader to do it. It is up to you which way you choose to go. No way is the "right" way despite what some people will say. But I will agree you should have at least one other person read it with at least an eye toward typos and errors - authors are notoriously bad at catching those things.

Once you have set up your accounts at KDP, PubIt, and Smashwords it is time to start formatting your files. If you have any short fiction or nonfiction I would recommend starting with those since it is a lot easier to fix a shorter document than a long document. Please note this is my advice for those who don't already know how to format or design books already. If you have the skills to directly format in html and epub format - please go for it. Though you will have to do a doc version for Smashwords distribution, but KDP you can directly upload a mobi and for PubIt you can directly upload an epub.

Save As your manuscript file and name it Title Master. This is the file you will do the bulk of your formatting in.

Smashwords requires you to upload a Word .doc file so I use word for all the formatting. Smashwords has a handy dandy Style Guide which will help you with the majority of your formatting - Read through it. I still reference it when formatting to make sure I did everything I need to do.

Here's my checklist for what I do:
  • Turn on Show/Hide  ¶  icon in Word to be able to see all formatting. This is very helpful to make sure you don't have any weird formatting. If you do have odd symbols past the dots for spaces and the enter arrow for a carriage return refer to the Smashwords guide on how to remove it. Here's a site which explains what all the formatting symbols mean:
  • Make sure this is a clean document with no Track Changes/Comment Boxes formatting stuff as this can really mess up your file.
  • Select All. Resize font to 12 point Times New Roman. Remember to keep your fonts simple for e-readers. Chapter headers and title page - size font to 14 point Times New Roman.
  • If you use tabs for paragraph indenting or to place text a certain way - get rid of it. They don't show up correctly. You can do Find/Replace. Find: ^t - Replace: leave blank. 
  • Also use Find/Replace to get rid of multiple spaces which will look like multiple dots in a row in your manuscript right now. 
  • If you want paragraph indents set it manually. Select all. Depending on what Word version you have it might be in a different spot. But for Word 2002: Format > Paragraph ... Special Dropbox: First Line: Set to .3. 
  • I then go through and set all centered text - like chapter headings to NO First Line indent.
  • Line Spacing. Select All. Format > Paragraph ...Line Spacing Dropbox: 1.5 
  • In the Paragraph box, make sure everything else is blank or set to 0.
  • Do not have multiple enters-carriage returns in a row. These can place your text funky. No more than two unless you want it to show up on a new page in the ereader. 
  • I use page breaks and enters for new sections. Some ereaders don't understand page breaks and don't show them while others do. My method is after a section/chapter: two carriage returns - page break - two carriage returns - Chapter or Section Heading. 
  • Make your Table of Contents. Smashwords Guide describes this clearly. You'll use the Bookmark and Insert Hyperlink tools to create your TofC.

I keep a few special formatting, smart quotes, dashes, ellipses. But I also don't sell in .txt or .rtf format (we'll cover more about this later on). Mobi, .epub, and .pdf don't seem to have any problem converting those special formatting, but if you are worried go ahead and take them out as the Smashwords Guide tells you to.

Once you have removed everything which will cause the platforms to spaz out when you upload or make your book look really ugly, :-) you can start working on the front and back matter. Coming in the next edition of Fun With Indie Publishing. Find Part 3 Here.


  1. I did this with a short story ebook I put out. Lots of work, but the Smashwords format works for all the others, too, so it's worth the time. But I'm not sure I'd have the patience to reformat a book like this. Best to start with these guidelines.

    1. Congrats on the gorgeous cover. I love it. Smashwords Style Guide is great, isn't it? I almost didn't do my little checklist since I think everyone should read and learn the style guide, but then realized all of the post would say is - go read the style guide. :-)

  2. On a side note, once you start regularly formatting for ebooks you might find yourself drafting in that format giving you fewer things in your checklist to reformat. Makes it a lot easier. ;-)


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