Workshop: Preparing Manuscripts for Ebook Publication

Issue 62


Preparing Manuscripts

for Ebook Publication


Lazette Gifford

Copyright © 2011, Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved

Many people, and not just Indie Authors, have reason to learn how to properly format a manuscript for electronic publication. Perhaps you would like to give away something free on your site or republish older material that you now have the rights to again. Getting the format right before you try to create the ebook is essential.

There are several ways to actually get the manuscript into the various formats for ebooks (epub, mobi, etc.). You may create an account at Smashwords and let the program there do the hard work. This is a good spot for free books. It is also good for ebooks the reader pays for, but be aware that they are a publisher and will take part of the payment. If you use Smashwords, make certain that you have read the entire Smashwords Style Guidelines at least once if not more. This is not a replacement, but merely a checklist for some of the obvious steps.

If you want to do the work yourself, Calibre is a good, relatively easy program to use. Again, make certain you read any documentation and style guides.

Below is a simple checklist of things to do before you translate your story into any ebook format (with the exception, perhaps, of PDF). Like the SmashWords Style Guide, this is aimed primarily at Word users, so some of the things will need to be adapted to other programs.
After the checklist, you'll find some longer explanations of some of the steps.

Check List:

  • Back up file
  • Save as Doc File
  • Check file properties for proper author name
  • Remove headers and footers
  • Remove Smart Quotes (see below)
  • Replace line breaks with paragraphs
  • Tag italics, bold, etc.
  • Apply Normal Style
  • Find and reset italics, bold, etc.
  • Apply Chapter Style AND two returns before manual page break and two after (This is just prior to Chapter starts. Make certain the word 'Chapter' is used so that places like Smashwords will automatically create links).
  • Place blurbs before title page
  • Create title page including copyright, ISBN, and Smashwords License or something like it
  • Create ending bio and links
  • Upload book and cover art to Smashwords or to your conversion program.
  • If you are using SmashWords, add the ISBN through dashboard
These 15 steps will help you to create a good, clean ebook format. Below is a little bit more depth on some of the items.


For Smashwords the original doc file must be smaller than 5 megabytes. Larger files would most likely contain images, so this is a good size to keep in mind no matter how you are doing the book.

Remove SmartQuotes

Turn off AutoCorrect, AutoFormat, etc. Make certain you absolutely have the SmartQuotes turned off in both AutoFormat and AutoFormat as you type! You should always have them off, no matter where you intend to submit your work. Even so, they may turn up in the autocorrected contractions like doesn't, which might have corrected your spelling if you got it wrong. I like that it will correct common mistakes, so I don't turn everything off. However, that means I need to do an extra step here.
SmartQuotes will often remain even if you do a paste text only. Again -- make certain you have SmartQuotes turned off in the AutoFormat and AutoFormat as you type sections. The same is true for the auto hyphen, fractions and ordinals.
Once they are turned off, simply do a find for ' and replace with '. This will strip out the SmartQuote version and put in the regular one. Repeat for ".

Identify Formatting for Conversion

Easily strip out formatting and get italics (or bold, etc.) back in after full format with these few steps.
Go to find/replace
Click on 'find' and then Control+i. Font: italic will appear below the line. Do not type anything here.
In 'replace' type <i>^& (Note: If you want to make this an html field put the closing tag: <i>^&</i>though it is not necessary for this work.)

Replace all. You will now find that the tag <i> now appears before all italicized words in your document.  Plain text or Normal

Do this BEFORE you have set your manuscript to 'Normal' or plain text (see below). Once you have the text in normal format, search for <i> and reformat was needed.  Either delete the tag now or do a find/replace for all of them at once.  Also note that <em> is now often used for italics and <strong> for bold, but for this purpose, it's not important.

 Also check for line breaks that should be paragraphs by replacing ^l with ^p (You can do this even if you don't think you have any. It won't hurt to be safe.)



There are two ways to strip your manuscript of all unwanted formatting. The first is to create a style (or adjust 'Normal Style') to these settings:

Create (or adjust) Normal Style:

Use Times New Roman, Garamond and Arial

12pt for the body of the text

Use Indentation controls rather than tabs: Special= first line, By=0.5 (maximum) and 0.3 is a very good indent amount. (If your manuscript has Tabs instead of using the automatic tab setting, you can replace them by doing a find/replace for ^t and replacing it with nothing. Once you have removed them and applied this new Normal Style, the new paragraph indents will appear.)

No 'auto' or number before or after, unless block setting

Left justify (full justification can cause odd lines in ebooks, unfortunately)

1.5 line space


Once you have set this, apply it to your entire manuscript. You will need to go back and reset chapter headings afterwards.
The second way is to do a 'Control a' and paste the entire manuscript back in and choose 'text only' in the options. Afterwards, you will still apply the Normal Style, but this way you are almost certain to have wiped out any stray formatting. You can also paste the file into Notepad and then back again. If you find that you have stray formatting still showing up, try the various different ways to clear it out.




Create a Chapter Heading style:


Use Times New Roman, Garamond and Arial

14pt for the body of the text


No indentation/tab

No 'auto' or number before or after, unless block setting

Left justify

1.5 line space



Other things


If you type with two spaces after sentences and now only want one, use the find replace -- set find with two spaces and replace with one. Replace all.

Use no more than 4 consecutive paragraph returns in a row

If you add blurbs, keep them brief and put them before the Title & Copyright page. If your book has received rave reviews from readers, add short snippets on the first page, so readers who sample your book will feel more inclined to purchase it.

You will attach your ISBN via your Dashboard's ISBN Manager at Smashwords.


Title page for Free book:





Copyright 2011 Author

A (Name) Publication (This for any publishing company)

(Below is required for Smashwords editions,

but may be adapted for your own work outside for outside that site.)

Smashwords Edition


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.



Title for sale books:





Copyright 2011 Author

A (Name) Publication (This for any publishing company)

(Below is required for Smashwords editions,

but may be adapted for your own work outside for outside that site.)

Smashwords Edition


Smashwords Edition, License Notes


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



The end of the book:

The End




About the Author:

(Write a very short bio for here. Usually something no more than 100 to 200 words will be necessary.)

Connect with Author:

Web Site:




(Etc. Don't make the list too long!)


Cover image:



1600px wide, 2400px tall


Title and author name, no links

If you want the cover to appear in all formats, insert it at the top of the file. However, it will appear twice in Epub and Mobi versions. (That's Nook and Kindle versions.)




These relatively simple steps will help you create clean ebook versions of your work. Always double-check the end result, though.


Good luck and have fun!