This article outlines how to turn your manuscript (as a Word document) into an e-book. What took me weeks to research and glean from several sources, I’ve compiled here in a one-stop shop for you. It takes a little bit of effort, but the good news is: it’s not hard—at all.
When it came time to publish the second installment in my fantasy series, Crusade, I knew right away I did not want to take the traditional route to publishing. I spent years trying to get Conspiracy published. Countless query letters. Piles of rejection notices (if they bothered to reply at all). Only to end up getting roped into a joint-venture contract with a vanity press. Needless to say, that process left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So I started researching self-publishing.
Formatting: Write the Right Way
This is the most time-consuming part of the process. Your Word document has to be formatted a certain way or it will look wonky when it hits the e-reader device. My suggestion, if you plan to publish multiple books, is to format your manuscript while you’re still writing. Waiting until the end and trying to change everything is a hassle. Believe me; I know.
Table of Contents
Microsoft Word has tables integrated into the software that will make these for you. It’s really important to have one so it will transfer into your e-book. While the software typically keeps the reader’s place, it’s a huge convenience to be able to jump wherever you’d like to go in case that fails.
The Table of Contents in Microsoft Word works on the styles templates. Usually, you’ll see them displayed across the top of the screen.
Chapter titles will appear in the Table of Contents using the Heading 1 style. You can alter the font, size, and alignment as you will. I use Cambria font, 16-point, boldface, center alignment for mine because I like the way it looks on the e-reader screen, but feel free to get creative. It’s your book and should look the way you want it. It is important to note, you should make sure any part of the chapter title you want to appear in the Table of Contents is part of the Heading 1 style.
I’ll use one of my format as an example. I include the chapter number, title, and perspective from which the chapter will read.
A Sample Chapter
Whichever parts of this segment I include in the Heading 1 style will appear in the Table of Contents. If I included the whole thing, it would look like this:
—1— A Sample Chapter CALEB
As you add to the manuscript or make changes, be sure to right-click on the Table of Contents and click Update Field, Update entire table, and save the document. Remember, you don’t have to follow this format to the letter; it’s your book.
Speaking from experience, this can be a pain if you mess it up. I’ve noted writers will format their manuscripts in different ways, usually based on preference. Some use double-spaced lines. Some use indentations. Others use HTML format (line break after each paragraph, no indentation). When it comes to turning your manuscript into an e-book, there is a right way to do it.
For the body of your story, use the No Spacing style. Do NOT use the Tab button to indent. At the top of your page, Microsoft Word will have a ruler. On either side of those rulers are little brackets to margin the indention on the page. Move the top bracket on the left side over one inch for the body of your story. Now, every time you hit the Enter button, the next line will indent automatically.
If you highlight a large body of text, move the ruler, and find some of your paragraphs are double-indented, this means you’ve hit the Tab button. You’ll need to go back and manually delete each incident. It’s a pain, but if you don’t, some of your paragraphs will appear that way on the e-reader.
After the end of each chapter, insert a Page Break. The hotkey command for this is CTRL + Enter. Hitting enter until a new page starts in Word is not sufficient. If you don’t include the Page Break, when you swipe left to turn the page on the e-reader, the end of one chapter will bleed into the beginning of the next and your title will appear in the middle or bottom of the page at times. To keep it streamline, use Page Breaks after everything.
You’ll need to have cover art to complete an e-book. The best resource I can recommend is Fiverr. There are a ton of artist out there willing to make an e-book cover for as little as $5.00. As with most things, you get what you pay for. You can post a request for work, set a budget and outline exactly what you’re looking for. There are artists out there using this site as their main source of income. Once you’ve found an artist you like, and they complete the work you commission for them, you own the image and can use it as you see fit.
I use Amazon to publish as it’s free, user friendly, and pays 35% royalties (25% higher than the industry standard). You control your price within their very reasonable parameters. But before you upload your book on Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, you need to change your manuscript from .doc or .docx into a .mobi file. Here’s some great news for you. There is FREE software called Calibre. It’s user friendly, and if you have trouble, there are some YouTube tutorials out there to show you step-by-step if you’re a visual learner.
Once you download the software, the first thing you need to do is save your manuscript as a webpage or .html. You can do that by File –> Save As, and in the drop-down box beneath the file name ‘Save as type’, select Web Page. Take note of the file location and get ready to convert.
Click on Add Books and find your HTML version of your manuscript. Once it’s added to the queue, select it and click on Convert Books. It should default to .mobi conversion, but make sure that’s what the target file will end up becoming. Upload your cover, title the book, add your name or pseudonym as the author name and start the conversion. It takes approximately 60 seconds to change it.
Uploading on KDP
You’ll need an account with KDP. You can use your Amazon account if you already have one. If not, it’s free and easy to create. Once you’re logged in, click on Create New Title, fill out all of the necessary information, upload your .mobi file, set your price, click the agreement and hit Submit. Kindle says it can take 72 hours for your book to be available in their Store, but I’ve never waited more than a few hours for it.
Once it’s available, it’s time to start marketing. As marketing an e-book is an entirely different animal than writing and publishing one, I intend to write an article outlining some of the marketing techniques I’ve used and found successful.
Until then, I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Thank you for reading!