Formatting Your Ebook for Kindle, Barnes and Noble (or Epub), and Smashwords

Thanks to tips from Melanie Nilles, Stephannie Beman, and Rose Gordon, I was able to put together this post.

I start out with making my book a paperback version for CreateSpace, so my original formatting looks like this:

I have tabs, monotype corsiva font size 24 for the chapter title, use a picture I buy from a stockpohoto site, and use garamond font size 12 for the text.  I have headers (alternating between the title of the book on the odd pages and my name on the even pages) and use page numbers at the bottom.  I also like to show the formatting symbols.  These don’t show up in the paperback or ebook, but I like to know if I’m missing a paragraph because if I do, when I make the ebook, then there won’t be a separation from one paragraph to another.  I don’t know if that makes sense, but I rely on the formatting symbols while working on the book.  😀

Okay, so now that you know what I start out with, I’ll go into how I format my paperback version into an ebook.

For Kindle

The first thing I do is make the Kindle version because I can incorporate the images I have at the beginning of each chapter into it.  Here are the steps I use:

1.  Save the document as a Kindle ebook in Word 2003.  (I don’t know if Amazon or Smashwords will allow for Word 2007 or 2010, but I do know they will take the Word 2003 version.)  I usually save the version as “Title of Book Kindle Version”.  (Ex. Shotgun Groom Kindle Version)

2.  Delete headers and footers.  I do this by clicking inside the space where the header and footer is and deleting what’s in there.

3.  I select the entire book by going to the toolbar and select.  Under Select, you can pick “select all”.  I change the font to Times New Roman and pick 12 for the font size.

3. I get rid of all of my tabs by going to find and replace.  I type ^t in the find box and leave the replace box empty.

This is what you should get:

4.  I show the ruler on my toolbar.  Go to View (on the toolbar) and “show ruler”.

5.  I select all of the book using the Select option on the toolbar.  I use the top half of the hourglass icon at the left side of the toolbar to set the indent for the first line in every paragraph.  Move the top half about 0.25 spots to the right.  You might want to do 0.30.

6.  Now I make the Table of Contents.

A.  Put the cursor at the beginning of the chapter.  Do NOT highlight the chapter.

     B.  Go up to Word’s Insert menu and click the “Bookmark”.  Enter a name for the bookmark and click the button to add it.  Do this for every chapter.

D.  After you set up bookmarks for all the chapters, go to the beginning of your document and create a Table of Contents page.  I do this after the copyright page.

E.  Highlight the first chapter name (all of the text this time).  Go up to the Insert -> Hyperlink.   On the left side of the little window, click the “In this Document” option and look for your bookmarks. Click the bookmark link and click “ok”. The text will show as a hyperlink.

F.  Now repeat for every chapter down the list.  Afterwards, your table of contents should look like this.

7.  I go back through the document to make sure every chapter starts on a new page.  I use page breaks between chapters.  I also go and back and make sure all my drop downs (*** is what I use) is centered and only has one space between it and the text.

8.  I save my changes and upload the book to Amazon KDP.  I check through the Kindle previewer and make any changes necessary.

For Barnes and Noble

1.  I save the document as Word 2003 and label it “Title of Book Barnes and Noble version” (Ex. Shotgun Groom Barnes and Noble version).

2.  I remove all graphics because I’m not sure if they work as Epub.  I know they work in mobi.  I like to put a graphic image under each chapter title in my paperback versions.  It’s not necessary to have graphic images in your book.  This is a personal preference.  (My knowledge does not extend to inserting charts, graphs, etc into a book, so I’m not commenting on graphics beyond this point.)

3.  I bought a program called Word Atlantis.  I close the Barnes and Noble version of my book.  I open Word Atlantis and then open the Barnes and Noble version of my book.  From there, I go to File -> Save Special -> Save As Ebook.  This will save your document as an Epub file, and it’ll save all of your formatting so it’s clean in PubIt.

4.  Upload the book to PubIt and go through it to make sure it’s formatted right.


You can use the Barnes and Noble version (prior to making it an Epub file through Word Atlantis.

What you’ll need to do is change the copyright page so it reads like this:

Title of book – Smashwords Edition

Published by Author Name at Smashwords

Copyright © Year of Publication by Author Name

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please do. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Nuclear Method:

If all else fails with Smashwords and you can’t the document approved for premium distribution, I’d take the entire book and put it in Notepad to eliminate all formatting.  Then copy it and put it back into Word 2003.  I’d make sure there is a space between all paragraphs, center the title page, center all chapter headings, make the table of contents, make page breaks at the end of each chapter or insert a symbol at the end of each chapter.  I’d also use a page break or symbol after the title page, copyright page, dedication page, or any other page that comes before the beginning of the story.  You’ll have to go back and underline or italicize anything you had in the book prior to putting it in Notepad.

When in doubt, make the book as simple as possible.  Some people think it has to be fancy to sell, but the truth is, if the book is clean and easy to read and readers enjoy the story, all the bells and whistles in formatting aren’t necessary.


If anyone has any formatting tips they’d like to share, please do.  The more input we have on this issue, the better.


  1. Lorna Faith says:

    Thanks so much for sharing all your great tips Ruth Ann:) I was wondering how to go about publishing my ebook and now you’ve given step-by-step instructions…you must’ve read my mind!

    1. It’s a huge learning curve if you want to format your own books, and it took me this long to figure out those indents. LOL As soon as I did, I knew I could finally do a blog post, and what’s sad is that it turned out to be a lot easier than I was trying to make it. 😀

  2. Amazing write, very helpful
    thank you for this great resource!

    1. You’re welcome. 😀

  3. Thanks for all your help, Ruth! So many people do these formatting posts and their posts end up confusing you more. Your instructions are informative, simple and easy to follow! Appreciate you taking the time to do this!

    1. As soon as I figured out the indents, I knew I could write the post. I’m glad you asked me about it so I thought to make the post. 😀

  4. Tess Harding says:

    Useful article for those who are struggling with formatting, but your process is far more labor intensive than it needs to be. I follow the same basic steps you outline, but use Word styles throughout. This means I can set up a normal paragraph than automatically indents, so when I reformat for Kindle or Smashwords or anything else there is no need for your search and replace process because all you need do is modify the style. This changes tabs, font and indents all automatically.
    I’m about to rush off to work but if you woould like I can detail the entire process in the same way you have as it may be useful to others.

    1. I started out with CreateSpace, not ebooks. So for me, I always make the paperback the master copy. It’s the way I’m most comfortable with, and I’ve been doing tabs myself for much too long that it’ll create more problems for me if I set up the indents ahead of time. The find and replace feature really isn’t that long. It takes a second and then about ten minutes to go through the document to recenter the chapters and *** I use in the text. It’s just a style I’m most comfortable with, and I think we all need to do what works best for us. Someone reading your comment might find your way more beneficial. That’s why I asked for feedback on how others did it. 😀

  5. I always format for e first. 🙂 I have one question. Why do you use tabs for the print version, then have to go back and take them out and reformat the paragraphs? Why don’t you just set the paragraphs to indent in the first place and save some work? I’m just curious. I also don’t use the ruler for setting paragraphs. I use the paragraph formatting option because I think it’s easier. It’s funny how we all use different paths to get to the same place.

    Do you ever have problems with page numbers changing while you’re formatting for print? That’s the only problem I ever have with print formatting. I know it has a lot to do with whether or not you have “link to previous” turned on.

    1. I make the paperback first because when I started out, I was doing CreateSpace a year before I discovered ebooks. Back then I did tabs. I find it easier, and I like seeing the formatting for the tabs to make sure they’re there. Just a style preference.

      I’ve heard of the way for indenting paragraphs that you mentioned, and I’ve tried it (unsuccessfully) several times. Then Melanie Nilles told me about the hourglass and it stuck. I think it’s because I can see the hourglass and move the top part over.

      I don’t have trouble with page numbers, but then I make the page numbers in the paperback versions. I don’t go from ebook to paperback, and I think that makes the process easier when it comes to page breaks and page numbers. Do you know how to use “link to previous”? It took me six months to figure it out in 2009, so I’ve banged my head against the desk many times over that one.

      1. It’s funny that I find the hourglass ruler thingy harder to use. When Smashwords first did their style guide, that’s what they suggested and it drove me crazy because I couldn’t figure it out. When they revised the style guide, they changed that suggestion to using the paragraph formatting and that clicked. That just shows different things are easier or harder for different people. 🙂

        That link to previous is hard to figure out because it seems you SHOULD use it on pages where you want them numbered, but on pages where you don’t want the number (like the blank pages) you shouldn’t. I have a hard time with page numbers every time I format for print.:( But the rest is easy.

        1. I never did get the hang of the Smashwords Style Guide. I had to ask a few authors what they did to format their books and did a lot of trial and error to figure it out. The paragraph formatting has been explained to me several times, but I still didn’t get it. Then Melanie told me the hourglass thing in two sentences and it suddenly got through. LOL I don’t know if the way someone explains it or not, but I felt like there was this brick wall in my mind where the information wouldn’t compute, and I could tell it was plain as day to the people who explained it.

          In Word, I start off by numbering all the pages. Then I go to the top of my first chapter. I insert a section break (next page). You go to Page Layout, Section Break, and choose “Next Page”. The break will show up on the page before it. Then I go to the bottom of the first page in Chapter 1 where I want to start my page numbers. The number will be something like 5, but I want it to start at 1. So I highlight the footer (where I put my page numbers) and click that “link to previous” option that highlights on the toolbar. Then I go to “Page Number” and “Format Page Numbers” and start it at 1. Then I go back to first few pages of my book (which are the title page, copyright page, dedication page, and anything else before Chapter 1). I delete the page numbers from the footers. That should take care of page numbers only being after Chapter 1.

          Do you use different headers for odd and even pages? If so, then you’ll need to go to the second page of Chapter 1 and undo the “link to previous” again and then go to the beginning of the document to get rid of the pages where the page number and footers are showing up.

          Have I just confused you even more? I do explain it in formatting a paperback. I’m going to get that post up so people can loo it over. Maybe I do a better job of explaining page numbering in there. If not, I can do a post for that topic and see if taking the screen shots will help. Let me know. 🙂

          1. Yes I do different odd and even. I do it pretty much the way you’re saying. I eventually get it right, I just get frustrated during the process when the page numbers change on me. LOL

            1. What I do now is take a paperback book I already wrote, change the title, keep the copyright page with modifications, change the dedication page, update the book list, and go into the text of the book and delete everything after “Chapter One” so I can keep all the page numbers intact. Then I change the headers and that’s about it. That way, I can simplify the page number stuff. I guess it might be considered cheating but hey if it works, right? 😀

  6. CJ Moseley says:

    I agree that Word Styles are far superior to the method discussed above. This also removes the need to litter the text with bookmarks as you can simply press the create table of contents and all headings are automatically added to that table.

    Regarding failure to convert from Word the easiest way of having a universal file format is to use HTML, as this IS the format used with all the ebook formats except PDF and if you know your html and css you can make the alterations for each version in a jiffy, but failing that the Rich Text Format (RTF) allows preservation of alignment, italic, bold and font-face choices.

    I would not recommend use of Notepad for text editing or Smaahwords compliance, as there is almost no guarrantee that special characters will transfer correctly. Alternatively you can use PDF with most good converter/creators, but be aware (and possibly beware) of the differences in pagination.

    1. I had several people explain html to me, but it never sunk in. For some html is easy, for me it’s not. 😀 My approach isn’t for everyone. If you’d like to do a guest post on formatting in html, we’ll be happy to post it.

      As for notepad, I have no special characters in my text that would be effected, so I find it easy to do if I’m in a pinch. I rarely need the method, though.

  7. Strayer says:

    I have Word 2003 and save as .doc. If you have Word 2007 or 2010, save as Word 97-2003.
    I set up the books for ebooks and used the same document for B&N, Kindle and Smashwords.
    I use MS Paint and save images as JPEG. It says for Word to use PNG, but the colors bleed together in epub.
    I use format painter.
    I use first line indent, .15. 1.5 spacing.
    No double spaces, it causes gaps.
    I have text and images. I use page break between them.
    I am formatting a print out version of a book for adults, text only for ebook.
    I have chapter title pages that are saved as JPEG.
    I have a folder with the formatted text for ebooks.
    I will put all the chapters together into one document and insert the chapter title pages using page break.
    I do the cover at 850 by 850 pixels. This is because I can work with that size. I use MS Paint and Dogwaffle to do the images. A larger size and I can’t work with the image. It’s bad enough that I can’t draw., but to try to scroll down an image is beyond me.
    I made a border for the adult book cover in MS Paint. The size is larger than the page.
    I did this by flipping the image. I did the top border using the line tool and then flipped it. It landed at the bottom and I used the line tool to do the top again. I did the same for the sides. I used the fill tool to color the border.
    I use Courier New Regular 12.
    I don’t know if any of this is useful.

    1. Thanks for sharing your way of formatting. 😀 Something that does concern me about covers is the Smashwords update where we’re supposed to use 1600 by 2400. I groaned when I saw it. All we need is for something to change when we figured out a process that works for us. *sigh*

      1. Strayer says:

        I read about this at Kindleboards. Apple is a pain in the rear end. It will make it harder, of course.
        My stuff has no TOC or anything that requires special formatting.
        I take the simple way out.

        1. I don’t think a TOC is necessary in fiction, but some authors will fight to the death to insist it is. My philosophy is that “less is more” and you never go wrong with keeping it simple. In fact, keeping it simple saves you a lot of time in the long run.

          But yeah, I think a bigger cover size is unnecessary. We’ve managed just fine up to now. *sigh* I hate it when they change things. Just when you get used to doing something, you find out it’s no longer good enough.

          1. The reason they are wanting a higher resolution is because of the newer ereaders. I have the iPad 3 which has an amazing screen. They want the covers to look the best they can. Making a higher resolution cover shouldn’t be any harder, so don’t panic too much. 🙂 What program do you use to make them?

            1. I use GIMP. I think the biggest issue I’ll have is buying large enough pictures from the stock photo sites. Other than that, I should be okay. Do you know how to check a cover size in GIMP? I have no idea how large my covers are, which is sad.

              1. I don’t know because my friend and cover artist, Anya Kelleye does all that for me. She had no problems making a bigger cover for my last book, and it did look better. She uses Corel, but it might be similar enough to Gimp so she could figure out what to tell you. If you’re interested in talking to her about it, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you her email address. She would not mind helping at all. She’s as sweet as can be.

  8. Thanks again for a grerta post Ruth. For me even though you explain things well along with thre great comments / alternatives its having the time (and the confidence to do them). I always use Jo for mine and the ebooks always go through okay. Sometimes i think its better to let those who know wha they are doing to make it professional rather than make a piggs ear of it and get it rejected by SW premium etc. I think i would need an absolute idiot proof guide for me to have any chance at all! LOL ha ha. Great / helpful comments everyone. Cheers Dave. (Have as great weekend all, peace).

    1. Strayer says:

      I went through Smashwords with no problems. Of course, the book had been online in another form and had been run through it’s paces.
      I read and asked questions for a time before I could even begin to format for ebook.
      I think it is very important to do this yourself. It adds confidence to your inner self and you come out with a great sense of satisfaction.
      I uploaded to Pubit! first.
      The feeling of watching the book come up on the Nook Color previewer and it was okay was delightful.
      Self publishing is like writing. You try and try and try again and again until
      you get it right.
      I don’t pay anything to do my books. Free is a great motivation for me to

    2. Formatting is a big pain, especially when Smashwords and Amazon changes their rules, often not telling you until you try to upload a book. Even after all this time, I struggle with it. I’ve used Jo on a couple books, but then I worry when I get an Amazon KDP email telling me to change something, I have to update the book and could lose the formatting. It hasn’t happened yet, but I hear of authors it’s happened to and they had to get it reformatted by someone else all over again. If I could just publish the book and be done with it without having to go back and change something because Amazon threatens to put the book in draft if I don’t, I’d let someone else do all my formatting. You probably don’t get those emails, but romance readers can be particular. 😀

  9. Strayer says:

    I didn’t follow the Smashwords guide except to check the basic stuff like .doc. I couldn’t even understand parts of it.
    On the site where the four yearl old’s book sits, not for sale and text only, you must use manual tabs.
    For printing out on a printer, I used manual tabs and removed them for ebook.
    I don’t go near styles. I found that up and won’t touch it. I do everything on Normal, whatever that is.
    It would have been easier to format for a paper book, because I understand that better.
    The new size isn’t going to make covers look better. The higher resolution is for other images.
    I say all the time that formatting for ebook is eye of newt, wing of bat.

    I’ll look up how to tell what the page size is in Gimp.
    I’ll report back, probably tomorrow when I find it.
    I used to do computer tech and spent eons looking up stuff.
    I think that in Gimp, it a bit hard to find how to.
    I never thought about stock photos.
    When I was uploading to Pubit, the first time I ever uploaed an ebook, I had the cover too small. I did another cover in a few minutes in a larger size and it uploaded. When I say simple, I mean simple.
    I am awful at complicated word processing and I avoid it.
    I had no idea how to do format indents until I read how to in a forum.

    1. I love formatting for the paperback, which is why I do it first. I like to have a physical copy of my book anyway, so it works best. I’d think going from ebook to paperback would be harder because you have to add stuff. When I go from paperback to ebook, I end up deleting things.

  10. Definitely something I have to file away and refer to later, Ruth! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I hope it helps. I think I sound strange to the authors who do ebook versions first. I start with the paperback file and convert them to ebooks. 😀

Comments are closed.