While reformatting a document for ebook publishing can be a little intimidating at first, a little education goes a long way. Finding the steps is often more difficult than actually implementing them. As Kindle is the gold standard for writers and generates the most income, I’ll focus solely on this platform for the purposes of this article.
The first and most important thing to do is to make sure the document will jibe with KDP’s conversion system. This means the text should be in a font the system recognizes (i.e. Times New Roman) and a size that will be appealing and readable on a Kindle device (I like 12 point myself, but some prefer 11). Hard tabs will also have to removed from the document. This can be easily done by using Find/Replace. Simply type ^t into the first text box, leaving the other blank. Then, click Replace All. Next, highlight all the chapter content (except the headings and any marks denoting breaks) and go into Paragraph, setting the Special First Line indent to whatever you feel is appropriate (I go with 0.3) and change the alignment to Justified. Note that you may want to use a different indent size for the first line of each chapter or a section break as these are not normally indented in a regular book. However, as Kindle will automatically indent such a section, the closest you can get is to highlight the paragraphs containing these lines and set their indents to 0.01.
It is also very important to remember that KDP’s system will not know what to do if you are merely separating your chapters by way of hard returns. You will need to use a break instead. To do so, go to Insert and select Next Page under Section Break at the end of each chapter. This will make sure each new chapter starts on its own page.
Assuming the document was written in standard manuscript formatting, there are some other changes that will have to be made. While the usual one-inch margins are acceptable, other things will have to be altered. Underlining should not be used for emphasis or internal thought in a finished book and should be changed to italics. Again, Find/Replace makes it easy. Hold Ctrl and type U into the first text box. Then, hold Ctrl and type I into the second, followed by U twice. This should both remove any underlining and replace it with italics. Additionally, any double spaces between sentences should be changes to single spaces. This can also be done using Find/Replace by typing a period and two spaces into the first box and a period followed by one space in the next. Follow the same procedure with any other ending punctuation marks. I would also suggest going into Paragraph and altering the usual Line Spacing from double to 1.5 as it looks better and is again closer to a print book. Also, delete any headers or footers in the document.
Finally, provided the work in question isn’t a short story or poem, a table of contents will have to be generated. To do so, highlight each chapter heading. Go to Insert and select Bookmark, typing in the heading and hitting Add. After doing this with all the headings (including the copyright and about the author sections), return to the front matter of the book and set aside a page for your TOC (which should be buffered on both ends by a section break, of course). A couple lines below the heading, go to Insert and select Hyperlink. Click on Place in This Document. Here, you will find a list of all your bookmarks. Select OK after selecting the one you want and a link should appear that will guide both you and the reader to the bookmarked heading. Skip a line and repeat with each bookmark.
After all this, just save the document as a filtered web page and the file should be good to go. Just make sure you check out the preview option after uploading to make sure you didn’t miss anything!
While this may seem like a long list of steps, many of them can be completed in mere moments. Full conversion of a file, even a large one, can usually be done within an hour. So, if you have a little trouble the first time around, just remember: practice does make perfect.