Writing for eBook Success

It’s a huge relief to finally finish a manuscript but a greater challenge lays ahead.  Converting your Word document into an eBook.  For new self-published authors, it can be a challenge to figure out how to get a book out of the traditional word processing program and into a format that is ready to be converted to eBook.  Here are some of the most common mistakes we see authors make.

Standard Vs. Fixed Layout

When you go to convert your eBook, you’ll have to decide on whether a fixed layout or a standard layout will work better for your content.  For the most part, many ebooks that do not rely on images or graphics throughout will be in the standard ePub format.  This means that users will be able to adjust settings on reading devices based on their preferences.  The layout ensures that words flow correctly from page to page no matter what settings the user has configured or on what device they are using.

Some eBooks (i.e. cookbooks, children’s books, graphic novels, etc) may need to be formatted in a fixed layout.  This is because graphics and other images will need to maintain their integrity throughout the book.  Users will still be able to zoom in and out and do other tasks to make things easier to see but the overall flow of the content will not change based on user settings or device type.

Indenting Paragraphs and Other Spacing Considerations

When writing in Word or other word processing programs, using the tab or space key is pretty much how you get things to go where you want them to.  Authors should avoid using these to format their manuscript.  In fact, they should avoid doing any layout or design type work while they are still writing in Word (aside from whatever makes their own work easy to read).

When you do go to format the layout, use Word’s paragraph formatting settings to set indents where appropriate.   The conversion process will come out much better  when there aren’t a lot of hidden spaces and tabs all over your document.


Unlike print books, the margins of eBooks need to be a little smaller to allow for user customization on screen.  For example in traditional print books, margins need to be wide to account for trimming, bleed and other parts of the printing process.

For eBooks obviously those factors are no longer an issue but authors do have to account for different screen sizes and custom settings of users.  Typically setting your margins at half and inch (.5) will work for most platforms.


There are many aesthetic characteristics that are taken away from the reader in the name of convenience of eBooks.  For those reasons, authors should be careful about the fonts they use in their manuscript when it comes to converting their eBook.

For example, authors don’t need to worry about font size because the end user will choose the font size using their device settings.  The type of font however should be something basic like Arial or Times New Roman.  Conversion software can have trouble with Serif fonts or other fancy characters.  Try to use only one font in your book and avoid the fancy stuff.  Of course when you go to have  print version of your book make, you can choose all those fancy fonts and use as many different characters as you want throughout your book.

Spaces in the File Name

A very common mistake when authors make their own eBook or have a company convert it is putting spaces in the file name of their manuscript.  Spaces may be fine on your own machine but when it comes to third party software programs converting files, spaces can cause hiccups.

Authors should also avoid any kind of special characters in their file names.  Instead use hyphens or no spaces at all when sending your files for conversion or converting them on your own.

Knowing what to look for before you go through the conversion process can save you a lot of time and frustration.  Do you have any tips for converting your manuscript to ePub or some other format?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.

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