Novice Self-publishing 2: e-book or print?

Formatting for  e-books  versus print.

Instructions in this and subsequent posts are for Word.

If you are using another word processing program, such as Open Docs, there are probably similar instructions somewhere in the program, but I don’t know where. Sorry.

As mentioned in my earlier post, it makes sense to format your e-book first.

Printed copies require you to think about such things as page size and layout, headers and footers, page numbering, justification, page ends and blank pages… in short, what the printed book will look like.

But there is no point fretting about your e-book manuscript’s page ends or numbering. Pages will change as the reader adjusts fonts and sizes to their own preference.

For this reason…

When preparing your e-book…


(ie. don’t click on the alignment icon that straightens the right-hand side of the paragraph; leave the right side ragged.)

Paragraphs should be left-aligned, to avoid  spaces in unexpected places.

Unexpected spaces and blank pages can occur in the e-reader if there are unwanted, surplus line breaks in the uploaded manuscript. 

To identify unwanted spaces, I recommend you get used to working with spaces and line breaks visible. Toggle space and paragraph symbols on or off by clicking the ¶ symbol in the HOME tab. 

pilcrow symbol

NEVER use the tab key at the start of a paragraph. 

NEVER EVER use five spaces at the start of a paragraph. 

Instead, use Word Styles to set up indented paragraphs.

I’ll go into Styles in another post but I thoroughly recommend Smashwords (see below) for more comprehensive advice on Styles and all things e-book related

Turn off Widow and Orphan Control

Paragraph formatting will be covered in my next post on Styles; Widow and Orphan control is on the second tab of the Paragraph formatting box. In printouts, this prevents a line or a single word appearing alone on the following page. For e-books, it is more likely to create a gap in the middle of one.

Do not add page numbers

The Table of Contents (TOC) will be hyperlinked. Page numbers are meaningless in an e-book.


For detailed and easy to follow tuition in all aspects of formatting your e-book, I recommend Smashwords Style Guide.

It’s free to download, and covers everything you need to know to produce a professional-looking e-manuscript.

Smashwords also offers free video tutorials. Their advice is relevant to e-publishing on any platform.  Check out…
blank white hardback

Formatting for print

If you would rather format your own print manuscript template, copious advice can be found on the web, but for our printed book I started with a basic template downloaded from Amazon. I ended up changing some of the template to suit our needs, (such as adding our own Styles and a Word-generated Table of Contents), but the template gave this beginner a starting point in terms of size and layout.

Justify text if you want to.

This gives a more professional appearance, but it comes with a downside if you want to adjust page endings for any reason – and you will. (More about this in my next post).

Page numbers.

Page numbers are set up automatically in the Amazon templates, but are otherwise easy to set up from the INSERT tab on Word.

Even numbers are on the left-hand page, odd numbers on the right. (This can confuse if you are viewing a two-page spread in Word, as they appear the other way around).


The author’s name usually appears above the left hand page and the book title on the right (one reason why Page Layout of your template differentiates between left and right pages). Problems arise if you want to omit the headers on certain pages, but I’ll write about that in a later post.

Table of Contents.

This won’t include hyperlinks, but page numbers. Tables of contents are covered in a later post.

Blank lines and pages.

Blank pages and gaps are not wanted in an e-book, but for print your white space will stay where you put it.

You want your text to begin on a right-hand page however many pages your Table of Contents may expand to. This could involve adding a blank page after the TOC before you publish. 

If you are grouping chapters into sections, your section heading page will be a right-hand page – probably with its reverse blank as well. It may also require a blank page at the end of the chapter before it. Formatting these blanks with section breaks will be covered in a later post.

In this and the following posts, I am assuming that the ribbon in your Word toolbar is showing Tabs and Commands. If not, you can make these visible by clicking on the rectangular icon with an upward arrow inside – at the top right of the screen, next to the question mark.

I may have left something out…

Please let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed that’s relevant to converting an e-manuscript for print.

I’m no guru.

After all – I’m the one who did it the wrong way around last time.

14 thoughts on “Novice Self-publishing 2: e-book or print?

    1. True – although that’s an optional. The template has Dedications in there.
      I wouldn’t normally do that myself (too many people to annoy by omitting), but my Christmas booklet was dedicated to one of our dogs who died unexpectedly in November.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, thanks for the reminder. I’ve kind of skimmed over the addenda, back and front. We had a section with a paragraph about how the writing group started and mini-biographies of our authors (some of them were very reluctant to write anything for this bit). In my little Christmas offering I added another short poem that pointed to my Commaful account – the end is a good place for ads too.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Really helpful tips that could save people a lot of time & hassle further down the line. I don’t think I’d ever even heard of Orphan control, then again I’ve been using Mac for a couple of years now so I’ve done away with MS Word (my excuse for not being as tech-savvy as I once was!!) xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean. I feel that new technology is passing me by since I retired. Self-publishing last year dragged me kicking and screaming back into the flow, but way behind where I want to be. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.