At a Glance: Ebook Formatting for Kindle Publishing

Updated January 10, 2015

by Corina Koch MacLeod

In a previous post, I provided you with a “cheat sheet” that will help you format an ebook for Lulu using Microsoft Word. This week’s cheat sheet is for formatting an ebook for Kindle Publishing, using Microsoft Word 2010.

Amazon has a few guides for formatting a Kindle ebook using Microsoft Word:

Building Your Book for Kindle
Building Your Book for Kindle for Mac
Simplified Formatting Guide
Formatting for Kindle
Kindle Publishing Guidelines

You may need to read beyond these guides in order to troubleshoot the quirks of the Kindle conversion software. I’ve found these resources to be helpful:

Formatting of Kindle Books, by Charles Spender
From Word to Kindle,by Aaron Shepard
Pictures for Kindle, by Aaron Shepard
HTML Fixes for Kindleby Aaron Shepard

Kindle Cheat Sheet


  • You can upload one of several file formats to Kindle Publishing. In this post, I’ll focus on the Word-to-Kindle process, where you upload either a Microsoft Word .doc file or a .docx file. Tracy R. Atkins suggests reasons for why you might want to work with a .docx file instead a .doc file.
  • After you’ve formatted your Word file, Amazon recommends that you save it in Word as Web Page, Filtered (Windows) or Web page (Mac).

Document Clean-Up

  • Be sure that you’ve removed any typewriter formatting from your Word document before you begin to format it. Extra spaces between words and paragraphs, as well as “unintended” fonts lurking invisibly in the background, can make a mess of your ebook.
  • Remove any headers, footers, page numbers, comments, columns, text boxes and nonbreaking hyphens (these typically show up in files originally formatted for print). Accept all tracked changes.

Document Set-Up

  • Use Word Styles to style chapter headings. This will make it easier to generate a table of contents (TOC) automatically in Word later on.
  • Tip: to see if you’ve used Word Styles to style your headings, open your Word document and then open the Navigation Pane or Document Map if you’re on a Mac. Click on the Outline tab on the left. If you’ve styled your headings using Word styles, the headings will be listed in the Navigation Pane. You can click on these headings to navigate your document.
Navigation pane in Word 2010


  • Set your book title in the “Title” style in Word Styles.
  • Set chapter headings as Heading 1s and subheadings as Heading 2s, and so forth.
  • Setting your headings in this manner will ensure that readers will be able to access your TOC from the Go To menu.

Table of Contents

  • Generate an internally hyperlinked TOC by using Word 2010’s automatic TOC feature (References tab>Table of Contents). Mac users will have to generate a TOC manually.
  • Place your TOC at the front of front of your ebook, so it shows up in the Look-Inside feature on your Amazon book page.
  • Use Word’s bookmark feature to bookmark your TOC so that it shows up as a “guide item” on an e-reader’s Go To menu.


  • Use a “safe font,” like Times New Roman, that translates well on a variety of Kindle readers and apps. Remember, the reader has the option to change the font, anyway.
  • For font sizes, stay within the 10-point to 18-point range. A 12-point font works well for running text.
  • Make sure your font is set to “Automatic” in Word. This will prevent your fonts from showing up in an unwanted colour.
  • Chris Robley suggests to avoid using special characters that don’t appear on your keyboard (yet another reason why Times New Roman is a good font choice: it contains lots of “legal” special characters. Access them in Word by going to Insert > Symbol).
  • You can apply boldface and italics using the buttons on Word’s ribbon.


  • Set paragraph styles based on Normal in Word Styles. According to Aaron Shepard, in his book From Word to Kindle, the Kindle converter hijacks Word’s Normal paragraph style, but will leave any style based on Normal alone. Tip: renaming Normal will “trick” the Kindle converter into leaving your Normal style alone.
  • Avoid using too many hard returns to create spaces after paragraphs: they can create blank pages in smaller e-readers. It’s better to set a 10-point space following a paragraph by modifying your paragraph style (Word Styles>Normal>Modify).
  • Style your paragraphs as justified, as the Kindle converter will change them to justified by default, anyway. If you prefer left-justified text, you can tweak your paragraph settings in the HTML code (see Aaron Shepard’s book From Word to Kindle).
  • First-line indents are the paragraph style by default. If you want to use block style, you’ll have to trick the Kindle converter by setting an imperceptible first-line indent or by tweaking the HTML (Aaron Shepard’s book HTML Fixes for Kindle will tell you how).
  • Avoid hanging indents. Older Kindles don’t handle them well.

Page Breaks

  • Insert a page break right after the last sentence of the chapter by going to Insert>Page Break in Word. This will prevent your chapters from running together.
  • Insert a page break after the title page.


  • Don’t style bulleted and numbered lists from the buttons on Word’s ribbon.
  • Style bulleted lists using Word’s paragraph styles (see Formatting of Kindle Books, by Charles Spender) or insert a bullet manually using Insert>Symbol, and select the bullet symbol.
  • Style numbered lists using Word’s paragraph styles, or insert numbers manually.
  • Consider using Jutoh to format your book and create your .mobi file, as it tends to handle bullets and numbered lists rather well.


  • To create an off-book hyperlink, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Address and type in the URL. Don’t link to other online bookstores.
  • For within-book hyperlinks, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Place in this document.


  • Save images as a JPG or GIF, with a resolution of 96 ppi (Windows) or 72 ppi (Mac).
  • According to Aaron Shepard in Pictures on Kindle, JPGs are the best format for pictures, and GIFs are best for line drawings and tables. PNGs work for line drawings, too, though they tend to be a rather large file size.
  • Insert images inline and centre them (In Word 2010: Insert>Picture).
  • Place an image in its own “paragraph.”
  • Set larger images on a page by themselves. This may require you to insert a page break before and after the image.
  • Images should be no larger than 500 x 600 pixels and no smaller than 300 x 400 pixels.
  • Make sure images are in RGB (red, blue, green) format.
  • Recommended cover image size: 600 x 800 pixels.

Diagrams and Tables

  • Save diagrams, line drawings and tables as images in GIF or PNG format, and insert them inline.
  • Diagrams and tables should contain a font size of no less than 6 pixels for the letter “a.”


  • Use Word’s bookmark feature to link “footnotes” to “footnote” markers in the running text. Go to Insert > Hyperlink > Place in this document.


Most distributors have strict rules about advertising in your ebook (don’t do it), and Amazon is no exception. Remember to fill out your book’s metadata so readers can find it on the Amazon website.

Each distributor’s conversion software has its quirks. Their formatting guides are designed to help you to prepare a Word document that works with their conversion software. If your file doesn’t convert the first time, don’t give up! Go back to the formatting guides to see if you missed anything. It often takes a few tries to get it right.

For additional help with Kindle ebooks, check out the KDP support forum.

Image by Petra B. Fritz

Getting Started With Jutoh: A List of Resources and a Cheat Sheet


by Corina Koch MacLeod

In a previous post, I wrote about Jutoh, an inexpensive piece of software that allows you to convert Word docx files to mobi or epub formats. In fact, I even used Jutoh for the latest book published at Beyond Paper.

I find that it takes me a while to find my way around any new piece of software I tackle, and I always appreciate it if software comes with accessible support materials. Here are some of the support materials that come with Jutoh:


Julian Smart, the creator of Jutoh has written a detailed manual titled, Creating Great Ebooks Using Jutoh. It’s available as a free download in a variety of formats on his website. I prefer to access the online HTML version, and I can find answers to questions fastest if call up the manual with search terms in Google.

For example, if I key in the terms “Jutoh” and “pictures,” Google will call up Chapter 11: Working With Pictures in a matter of seconds. If I’d like to read that in French, Google translate will gladly comply. I can’t help but think that Smart knew what he was doing when he made the manual reachable through a Google search. Of course, if you prefer to scroll through a PDF or view it as an epub on your tablet, those options are available, too.

Video Tutorials

In addition to a manual, the Jutoh website contains two detailed video tutorials that demonstrate how to use this software. The first video, created by author India Drummond, is about twenty minutes long and will give you the fastest way in to setting up a fiction book with limited styling in Jutoh. The second video, created by ebook formatter Charles Seperaddresses metadata and many more hows and whys, and lasts for nearly an hour. I went through Seper’s video twice—once to get my legs under me and again to document some of my how-do-I questions.

Dr. Julian Smart

If you’ve combed the available resources for an answer to a conundrum (which I did on more than a few occasions), but you’ve come up with nothing, don’t worry. I was delighted to discover that the Doctor was indeed in. Dr. Julian Smart, that is. If you have a question that the manual and videos don’t answer, you can email Julian Smart for help.

Jutoh Cheat Sheet

After viewing the videos, searching through the manual, mucking about in Jutoh, and contacting Julian Smart, I compiled a cheat sheet—a list of how-do-I questions that I can return to the next time I use Jutoh to create an ebook. While this is not a comprehensive list, I do believe that it contains some of the tasks you’ll want to accomplish in Jutoh. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything.

The items in this list are alphabetical. I’d recommend reading through the left column quickly so you know what’s there, and later, when you have a question, you’ll be able to find that item quickly. 

You’ll understand the items in the table better if you know what Jutoh looks like when you’re working in it. Here’s a screenshot of the various panes:

Jutoh panes
What do you want to do? Go to…
Add an ISBN Book, Project Properties, Metadata
Change metadata Book, Project Properties, Metadata
Change paragraph style Palette pane, Styles tab, right-click on Body Text style
Change the cover Control Panel pane, Build tab, click on the cover, Edit Cover Design
Check spelling Edit, Check Spelling
Clear formatting Select text, Format, Text, Reset Text Formatting
Create a mobi Control Panel pane, Build tab, Configuration: Select Mobipocket, Compile
Create a new style Palette pane, Styles tab, right-click on a style name, New, select style type, name your new style
Create a table of contents (TOC) by hand Palette pane, Styles tab, Use “TOC Entry” style for each TOC entry
Create a TOC automatically (apply heading styles through document first) Book, Project Properties, Index, Run Table of Contents Wizard
Create an epub Control Panel pane, Build tab, Configuration: Select Epub, Compile
Delete picture Right-click on picture, Delete
Find hyperlink errors after conversion Palette pane, Inspector tab, Links (watch for inserted spaces)
Highlight special characters, so you can remove them View, Preference, Highlighting
Import file from Word to Jutoh File, New, work through Jutoh’s file set-up wizard
Insert hyperlink Format, Insert, URL
Insert picture Format, Insert, Picture
Insert special character Format, Insert, Symbol
Link TOC entries to chapters in the book Organizer pane, TOC file, select a TOC entry, Right-click, Insert, Link to Page (this method links to pages instead of headings)
Preserve original picture format (e.g. PNG—otherwise images are converted to JPGs) Click on picture, check Preserve original format
Remove font specifications (so readers can choose the font on their e-readers) Book, Project Properties, Configurations, Generic Font Names heading, uncheck Generate Font Names
Remove internal TOC from NCX Organizer pane, right-click on TOC file, Properties, uncheck Nav Map option
Remove Jutoh credit (default) Book, Project Properties, Configurations, under Options heading, uncheck Credit Jutoh
Remove tabs, extra spaces, etc. Book, Document Cleanup
Remove unused styles Book, Project Properties, Configurations, under HTML Formatting heading, check Optimize Style Sheet
Set first few words in caps Format, Change Case
Set guide types for book sections Organizer pane, right-click on file, Properties, Guide type: choose an option from the pull-down menu
Set your start page (where an e-reader will open your book) Organizer pane, right-click on file, Properties, Guide type: choose “start” option
Show extra spaces, extra paragraph marks, etc. in colour View, Highlighting (F10)
Split document into chapters Edit, Split Document

One final thought: the first time I converted an ebook using Jutoh, I did everything in Word—applied styles, inserted hyperlinks, and so forth — and then exported the file to Jutoh. The second time, I created a document in Word, stripped out all of the formatting, exported it to Jutoh, and then applied all of my styling in Jutoh. I found the first method more efficient, probably due to my familiarity with Word. Both methods created a nicely styled ebook.

Scrivener Cheat Sheet: Start Using Scrivener Now


by Corina Koch MacLeod

Scrivener is a wonderful tool for the drafting and revising stages of a book. It allows you to move chunks of text around with ease, organize everything, including research notes, in the same project file, and convert your book to ebook, web, and print formats.
When you first open the program, though, it can seem a little confusing. It doesn’t operate quite like the word processor you might be familiar with — mostly because things aren’t where you’d expect them to be. Don’t despair. Scrivener is a powerful tool with many features you’ll learn to locate and come to appreciate.
With a cheat sheet, though, you can begin using Scrivener right now. 
Open Scrivener, Select “New Project,” choose a template (the Blank template is least confusing) and click on the Green Plus icon at the top. This will create a new “file.” Park your cursor in the “Editor” pane in the middle and begin writing.
Begin typing in the middle panel

Downloadable Cheat Sheet

If there’s something you’d like to do, but you don’t know where to find the command, consult this downloadable cheat sheet at the Tech Tools for Writers site. 
* This list favours Scrivener for Windows, but I’ve included some Mac features, too.
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How to Design an Ebook Cover in Word


by Corina Koch MacLeod

Did you know you can design an ebook cover in Word 2010?* I’d have hardly believed it unless I’d tried it myself. Until now, I’ve been limping rather awkwardly in GIMP. But creating a cover in Word has blown things wide open for me.

Graphic designer Derek Murphy is responsible for inspiring me to create a cover in Word. Please know, I am not a designer (it’ll be obvious), but his tutorial is so good, my attempts were less of a fumble than usual. Following his steps was akin to peeking over the shoulder of a design master. If you have Word 2010 on your computer, and you’d like to try your hand at designing a cover just for fun, give Derek’s tutorial a try. It’s so much easier than designing a cover in GIMP. You can also subscribe to Derek’s template program at CreativIndie Covers, and choose from soon-to-be hundreds of templates to get you started.

From docx to PDF to JPG

After I created my cover in Word, I saved it as a PDF as instructed by Derek in his tutorial. From there, you need to convert it to a JPG. This is where things get interesting. Derek recommends a couple of workable options but also states that he’s open to other options if anyone has discovered them. So, in the spirit of discovery, these are the results of the various tools I used to get from PDF to JPG.

Troubleshooting Conversion Options

Zamzar (free)

Zamzar is a PDF to JPG converter recommended in Derek’s tutorial. It did a great job of keeping the lines in my design clean, but as you’ll discover later in this post, the colours have been altered. My cover background was originally orange, and less brown. The stripes at the top and bottom were orginally putty, not gray.

Cover converted with Zamzar

Zamzar also converts a PDF to a PNG or a TIF (Amazon accepts covers in JPG and TIF formats). I was unable to upload the TIF onto this blog (I got an error message), but the typeface in the TIF isn’t as sharp. The colour holds, though.

Derek Murphy’s Conversion Tool  (free)

As if providing a free tutorial isn’t enough, Derek Murphy has created a free PDF to JPG conversion tool, making him the new champion of cash-strapped self-pubs everywhere.

Derek Murphy’s free conversion tool

Derek’s tool does a decent job of converting my PDF, but my typeface isn’t as crisp as it is with the Zamzar conversion (at this size, the differences don’t show too much). But man, the guy wrote a piece of software that he’s allowing self-pubs to use for free, and it does an acceptable job, so no one’s judging here.

PDF to JPG (free)

Next, I tried PDF to JPG, a downloadable piece of software with a respectable rating on CNET. The interface is simple and fairly easy to use. The typeface came out fairly fuzzy around the edges, putting this conversion software behind Zamzar and Derek Murphy’s tool.

PDF XChange Viewer (free)

My editing colleague, Carla Douglas, suggested that I try PDF XChange Viewer — PDF mark-up software that many editors use for proofreading digital documents. Of course! As per Carla’s instructions, I right-clicked on the cover and exported to a JPG. Again, some of the colour is lost, and the conversion wasn’t on par with Zamzar or Derek Murphy’s tool.

PDF XChange Viewer, saved as JPG

I then right-clicked on the cover in Word once again, and exported it as a PNG. The original colour is retained.

PDF XChange Viewer, saved as PNG

Windows 7 Snipping Tool (free with Windows)

Windows 7 and 8 comes loaded with a Snipping Tool that allows you to take screen captures. I took this screen capture right in Word, where I created my cover. It retains more of the original orange colour, but introduces a bit of background “noise” when you save the cover as a JPG.

Windows Snipping tool, saved as a JPG

The background is cleaner if you save this cover as a PNG (see below). Remarkably, most of the colour of the original Word cover is retained and the typeface is crisper. This makes sense because JPGs tend to work better for images, while PNGs work better for line drawings (a nice little trick I learned from Aaron Shepard’s book, Pictures on Kindle.).

Windows Snipping tool, saved as a PNG

The only trick in working with the snipping tool is to ensure that you’re as precise as you can be when you capture the cover (you might have noticed the gray stripe on the left and right sides of the cover, where I’d inadvertantly captured Word’s background). You also need to remember to capture the cover at 100% of it’s original size (I enlarge the cover when I’m working on it).

Snagit ($49.95)
Like the Window’s Snipping Tool, Snagit allows you to take screen captures. Its results were surprisingly not as crisp as Window’s Snipping Tool.

Bottom Line

In the end, the PDF to JPG conversion tools didn’t retain the colours of the original cover in Word. This may or may not be too much of a problem if your cover has a background image instead of a solid colour. If you’re design-savvy, you may be able to troubleshoot any potential colour changes. So, it’s a trade-off: do you sacrifice colour for clean lines? What do you think?

*I use Word 2010 for Windows. Consult the Microsoft website for the capabilities of your version of Word.

Related Posts

Getting By With a Good Enough Cover
How to Design a Cover for Free
What Makes a Good Title: Survey Results
Create a Book Cover in PowerPoint, by Diane Tibert

How to Prepare Images for Ebooks Using a Free Image Editor


By Corina Koch MacLeod

If you’re writing a nonfiction ebook, including images in your book can help readers to better understand concepts you’re describing with words. Sometimes, images are an economical way to convey information because they can take the place of a page of written instructions. Images also give readers a bit of a break from reams and reams text.

When selecting images for your book, only include images that add to the reader’s understanding. In other words, don’t decorate your book with images just because you can. Images take up a great deal of file space, and most ebook distributors have a file size limit for an ebook, so use them judiciously.

Using images in your book requires a bit of extra tech knowledge. But you can manage this tiny learning curve with a bit of know-how and a free image editor like

*Note: the instructions that follow require you to work with your images outside of your ebook file. If you’re writing your book in Word and you’ve inserted your images into your Word document, take them out and store them in a separate folder, titled Images. You can re-insert them into Word after you’ve made the required adjustments in, or some similar photo-editing software.

Here are the basics for preparing images for ebooks:

1. Decide on an image format. Most images can be saved in a variety of formats. JPGs,  PNGs and even GIFs are the recommended formats for ebooks. Line drawings look best when saved as PNGs or GIFs and photos look best when saved as JPGs.

Save line drawings as PNGs

Save line drawings as GIFs

Save pictures as JPGs

2. Edit your image (optional). I’m not an image editing expert, but I do know that taking a picture in good light or finding a quality image can reduce the amount of image editing you need to do. I also know that the tiniest tweak in image-editing software can sometimes make a big difference to the appearance of a photo. If you’re a bit of a hack, like me, you’ll keep things simple by cropping, sharpening, and maybe adjusting the light levels of your image.

I like to use for image editing because it’s free and simple to use. I’ve also experimented with GIMP (also free), which I’ve heard is a lot like Photoshop. GIMP is an excellent tool, but I’ve found that it’s a Mercedes when a Volkwagen will do.

Here’s how to do some simple image editing in

  • Cropping: Click on the Select Rectangle tool (see the image on the right) on the Tools bar: Image>Crop to Selection (video)
  • Sharpening: Effects>Photo>Sharpen
  • Adjusting light levels: Adjustments> Brightness/Contrast

3. Resize your image. Ebook distributors have restrictions on how many pixels wide and how many pixels high your image can be. Most distributors can accommodate an image that is a minimum of 300 pixels wide and maximum of 800 pixels high. Check your distributor (Amazon or Lulu, for example) for exact image measurements.

To adjust your image size in Image>Resize and fill in the desired pixel width. Your image will keep its height and width proportion if you have the Maintain aspect ratio box ticked, reducing the chances of a distorted image with that “stretched” or “squashed” look. Play with the height or width so that your image is within your distributor’s pixel range.

4. Compress your image. Compressing your image reduces the amount of file space your image will take up. This is important because distributors have restrictions on how big a picture file can be. True, compression slightly reduces the quality, but really high quality images are not as necessary for ebooks as they are for print. You can compress a JPG image in by setting the image quality to about 75%. Go to File, Save As, insert a file name and a menu will pop up. Set the Quality slider to 75%. For a PNG, set your image resolution to 72 ppi: Image>Resize>Resolution.

5. Insert your image into your book file. If your book is in Word, insert your image by going to Insert>Picture. Make sure that it’s left-justified or inserted “inline.” If you’re using Jutoh to convert your ebook, this image will travel with your book document when you convert from Word to Jutoh. Otherwise, it’s also possible to insert your image directly into Jutoh.

That’s it! With the right tools and some simple instructions, including images in your ebook is a snap.

Want to know more about images in ebooks? Check out Aaron Shepard’s book, Pictures on Kindle. For help using, consult the beginner tutorials or the manual.

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From Word to Jutoh: Ebook Creation Made Easy


Self-pubs, have you discovered Jutoh? Jutoh is an elegant and inexpensive piece of software ($39 USD) that allows you to convert Word docx files or ODT files (for those of you using Open Office) to EPUB and Mobi ebook formats, without tearing your hair out. And the creator, Julian Smart (aptly named), provides incredible customer support should you run into any snags. Case in point: I ran into a little snag when I was using Jutoh to create an ebook, and Julian Smart tweaked and updated the program. Now that’s customer service. I really can’t say enough about this tool (or its creator).

I recently formatted a nonfiction ebook that contained lots of images, lots of heading levels, bulleted and numbered lists, and plenty of internal and external hyperlinksa potential ebook formatting nightmare. Jutoh managed all of this rather handily. The beauty of Jutoh is that it allows you to begin with the tool that many authors are already using: Microsoft Word. If you know how to properly format your book in Word using Word Styles, getting from docx to EPUB or Mobi is dead easy.

To borrow an expression from author Karen Bergen, if you don’t “have a hot sweet clue” about what I mean by Word Styles, check out the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. (For those of you following this blog who have taken our Editors and Ebooks course, you know everything you need to know to begin using Jutoh).

Below is my current Word-to-Jutoh workflow. Unless otherwise stated, I performed most of these steps in Word 2010.

1. Tag any special formatting that you’d like to retain, such as headings, italicized and boldface words, and hyperlinks. JW Manus suggests a system for tagging special formatting. Use what works for you. The idea is that you want to be able to search and replace for these items later.

2. Nuke your Word doc. Word is infamous for creating formatting gremlins that can show up in your ebook. Zap ’em. Copy your entire book into Notepad (comes with Windows) or another text editor and paste it into a brand new Word document. I then execute a Clear All from the Word Styles menu for good measure. A bit much? Maybe. But I’ve noticed that a nuke doesn’t always remove hidden fonts. How do I know? CrossEyes (free for PC users) helps me to see what lies beneath…

3. Clean up any extra uses of the space bar and Enter key, such as extra spaces between words and after end punctuation, or extra paragraph spaces. Clean up tabs, too. You can use a copyeditor’s trick and do this automatically by using tools like the Editorium’s File Cleaner or the Wiley Publishing Cleanup Tool (free). You can also use Word’s Find and Replace feature to clean up extra tabs and spaces.

4. Set heading and paragraph styles in Word. If you want to use an indented paragraph style, be sure to set your indents in your paragraph style. Use fonts that are ebook-friendly and copyright free. Times New Roman is always a safe bet. Remember, readers can adjust fonts on their e-readersyou want to choose a font that plays nicely with conversion software.

5. Resize images in an image editor. I use Paint.NET, but GIMP is another good free option. Check your distributor (Amazon or Lulu, for example) for image width and height restrictions.

6. Insert images into your Word file (Insert > Image). Images can really increase your file size so remember to compress them. You can compress them in your image editor by setting the image quality to 75% or you can compress them in Word 2010 using the Picture tool.

7. Insert external, or off-book hyperlinks where you’ve tagged them. Shorten links using a link shortening service, like Shortened links have a better chance of surviving your chosen distributor’s converter.

8. Address any cross-references, or internal hyperlinks in your book using Word’s bookmark feature. If you forget to do this in Word, you can use Jutoh’s indexing feature.

9. Page through your document with with the Show/Hide feature activated (Pilcrow). Look for any extra spaces you may have missed (or re-introducedit happens).

10. Import your file to Jutoh. If you’ve carefully formatted your document in Word, your file will import almost seamlessly, with styles, images, and hyperlinks attached. Tip: some font styles won’t import. If you use the ebook-friendly fonts recommended by the Jutoh manual, your fonts will transfer over.

Bottom line: Julian Smart has designed Jutoh to play nicely with Word. If you follow good ebook formatting practices in Word, your book file will convert seamlessly.

Creating and Checking Your EPUB in Sigil


by Corina Koch MacLeod

This is the third post in a series on using Sigil, a free EPUB editor, to build ebooks that you can upload to distributors like Lulu, Smashwords and Kobo. In previous posts, I explained how to get your ebook from Word to Sigil and from there, how to style your ebook so it looks and operates like you want it to. In today’s post, I’ll show you how to create and check the quality of your EPUB so that you end up with an ebook that looks great!

Sigil has two views: Book view and Code view. If you’ve been following my tutorials, you’ve been working in Book view. To review: Book view looks and operates like a simple word processor. Here’s what your book will look like in Book view:

Sigil’s Book view

I have all three panes open. The middle pane is the working area where I’ve styled my ebook. The pane on the right is the Table of Contents pane, which I created when I generated a TOC using the TOC button in Sigil. I like to use the TOC pane to navigate the book.

The left pane is the Book browser. You can also navigate your book by double clicking on the files and folders in this pane. Each chapter in your book, the table of contents, and your images are listed here as separate .xhtml filesa format not unlike HTML that’s used for creating websites. You’ll notice that other information, such as style information, is stored here, too. Later, you will convert your book file in Sigil to an EPUB, and the resulting EPUB will be a container that holds all of these .xhtml files and folders together.

Let’s look under the hood and see what Sigil’s middle pane looks like in Code view:

Sigil’s Code view

Note the text in blue, between the angle brackets. For example, <li>. This is a tag. It means that the sentence between the <li> tags is in a bulleted list. If you’re not familiar with HTML tags, have a look at this glossary to decipher what they mean.

Essentially, tags are placed at the beginning and the end of a section of text, and they indicate how that section of text behaves (as a line, heading, paragraph, etc.). If you’d like to learn more about HTML, this free course looks promising, but be assured that you don’t need to know too much about HTML to create an EPUB using Sigil. A basic understanding of HTML tags will only become necessary if you’re experiencing problems with your EPUB file. More about that later.

Now that your book looks and behaves like you want it to, you’re ready to tie up some loose ends:

1. Add your metadata. In Sigil, click on the Metadata button on the toolbar:

Sigil’s Metadata button

A box like this will pop up:

Metadata helps readers find your book

Fill out your book’s metadata. Metadata is information that search engines will use to help readers find your ebook, so it’s important that you fill it out. You can also click on the Add Basic button to include more details about your book, like the date of publication.

2. Convert you book to an EPUB.
Simply go to File> Save as and save your book. Sigil will automatically convert it to an EPUB with a .epub extension. That was easy wasn’t it?

3. Check your EPUB. Click on the Validate EPUB With Flightcrew button to check if your EPUB is working properly:

Sigil’s EPUB validate button

If all goes well, you’ll get a message that looks like this:

This is what you’re hoping for!

4. Do one more EPUB check.
If an EPUB passes Sigil’s validation process, I like to run it through IDPF’s EPUB validator. If your file passes this final test, you’re ready to upload your EPUB to a platform that will accept it. Congratulations! It’s time to throw a party.

If your EPUB doesn’t pass Sigil’s EPUB validator, you’ll get messages that look like this:

Errors show up in red

Don’t despair. In a future post, I’ll address how to handle these error messages so that you can create an EPUB that looks and works great!

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8 Steps to Styling Your Ebook in Sigil


by Corina Koch MacLeod

In a previous post, I described how to get your ebook from Word into Sigila free EPUB editorso that you can create a nice looking EPUB that you can upload to a variety of distributors. In today’s post, I’ll discuss how to style your ebook in Sigil.

Many of the steps in this post are based on Paul Salvette’s excellent tutorial, How to Make an Ebook with Sigil. I’ve broken down the steps further and provided more screen shots in those areas where I think it’s easy to get stuck. I’ve also suggested some “how-tos” and “why-tos.”

If you followed the instructions in last week’s post, you will have pasted your ebook into Sigil’s composing or editing window. It will look something like this:

My ebook in Sigil

After you’ve copied and pasted your document into Sigil, scroll through your book to see if it has retained its formatting. You can adjust any formatting using the toolbar in Sigil. I’ll walk you through the major features of the toolbar below.

To review, Sigil has two “views”: the Book View and the Code View. We’ll concern ourselves mostly with the Book View for now because working in Book View is very much like working in Word.

 Book View (red arrow) and Code View (highlighted in yellow)

If you’re familiar with the ribbon in Word, you’ll find the tool bar in Sigil to be quite similar. It has all the features you need to style your ebook.

Let’s begin.

Styling Your Ebook in Sigil

1. Align your text.
Check your distributor’s guidelines for how their conversion software handles text alignment. Generally, it’s a good idea to left-justify your text (also called ragged right).
Left-justify your text

2. Style your headings. 
This step is really important because Sigil will use your styled headings to generate an external table of contents (NCX) that readers can use to navigate your ebook. Style a heading by selecting it, or clicking in the middle of it and then clicking on one of the heading buttons:

I used the h2 button to style this level 2 heading

If you have a nonfiction book, you’ll have lots of headings, subheadings and sub-subheadings. If your book is fiction, your headings will be your book title and your chapter titles. I like to style headings first because it helps me to see where I need to break up my book. If you already styled your headings in Word, you can skip this step. I’ve noticed that heading styles are retained when you convert your Word .docx file to a Plain Text file.

3. Break up your book into chapters. 
Up until now, your file is just one continuous “chapter” in Sigil. You want your book to be divided into chapters. Place the cursor where you want to split your book and click on the Split at Cursor button:

Split at Cursor button

Look what happens:

From one file to many

Don’t worry, your split parts haven’t disappearedeach chapter has become a new file. Note the highlighted parts in the screen capture above. To access your “chapters” at any time, double click on the .xhtml the files in left menu bar, or on the tabs at the top of the middle window.

4. Style your paragraphs using the Paragraph button.
This sets your paragraphs to “normal style” in the same way that you would set your paragraphs to Normal using the Word Styles menu in Word 2010 (if you don’t use Word Styles, it’s a great habit to get into for the purposes of ebook building). Again, if you already styled your paragraphs to Normal in Word, you can skip this step. 
Use the Paragraph button to style paragraphs
5. Style any lists using the Bullets or Numbering button.
This will ensure that your lists are lined up neatly on the left. If you’ve styled your lists in your original Word file, using the Bullets and Numbering buttons on Word’s ribbon, check to see whether that transferred to Sigil.

6. Insert hyperlinks. 
If your ebook contained hyperlinks in Word, they may have transferred intact to Sigil. If they haven’t, select the URL and insert a hyperlink using the Insert Link button on Sigil’s tool bar.
Insert link button
7. Insert any images using the Insert File button. 
Inserting imagesand deciding on format, size, and resolutionis a separate set of considerations and deserves a post of its own. For now, consult your distributor’s formatting manual for image guidelines.
8. Create a table of contents (TOC). 
Open up the TOC pane by going to View>Table of Contents, if you don’t have this pane open already. Click on the Generate Table of Contents button:
A menu will pop up:
All headings are selected by default
Decide which headings you’d like to include in your TOC and click OK.
Your file now looks something like this:
Sigil’s TOC pane with your new TOC
You can use your newly created TOC to navigate your Sigil document. Click on a TOC entry and give it a try.
Congratulations! You’ve now successfully styled your ebook in Sigil. In future posts, I’ll show you how to check the quality of your EPUB and troubleshoot problems using Sigil’s Code View. Don’t worry: it’s not as difficult as you think!

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How to Create an Ebook With Sigil: It’s Easier Than You Think


by Corina Koch MacLeod

There are a number of steps you need to take to publish an ebook. In this post and this post, I discuss how you can clean up your manuscript in Word so that it converts cleanly to an ebook format. Whether you’re producing an ebook for Amazon (Kindle mobi format) or Smashwords, Nook, or Lulu (EPUB format), the clean-up process is a critical first step. Whatever you do, don’t skip this step.

Once you’ve cleaned up your ebook, you can upload it as a Microsoft Word .doc or .docx file. Many distributors will convert your Word file for you with their online conversion software. Nifty, right? If your ebook is mostly text and you’ve done a good job of cleaning it up in Word, the end result can be quite acceptable.

Expect the Unexpected

Sometimes, though, a distributor’s conversion software doesn’t do what you expect. For example, the Lulu and Kindle converters tend to indent paragraphs, even if you’ve applied block paragraph styling in Word (block paragraphs are generally the preferred style for nonfiction books). While there is a way to trick the conversion software’s annoying tendency to indent automatically, the results aren’t always pleasing.

Block-style paragraph styling in Word
Paragraph styling is indented after it’s converted by Lulu conversion software

Enter Sigil. Sigil is a free, open source EPUB editor that allows you to create an EPUB file that you can upload to most distributors. It’s surprisingly easy to use and if you’re at all interested in having more control over how your ebook looks, Sigil allows you to do a bit of tweaking under the hood.

How Sigil Works

Sigil has two views: “Book View” and “Code view” (don’t worry about Code View for now). Sigil’s Book View operates like a simple Word processor. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t tried it myself. Look at the buttons on the toolbar. I’ll bet you can guess what some of them do…

Sigil’s Book View works like a Word processor

Help Sigil Read Your File

Your first obstacle to using Sigil is to figure out how to get your ebook from Word into Sigil. Why? Sigil doesn’t read .doc or .docx files, it only reads HTML, EPUB and .txt files. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Open your ebook in Word (I use Word 2010). Go to File > Save As, and save your file as Plain Text (.txt). This option strips your Word file of unnecessary code that can mess up your ebook in the conversion process.

Save as Plain Text (.txt)

2. A message box like this will pop up:

Select UTF-8 encoding

Select “Other coding” and choose UTF-8 encoding (you’ll need to scroll down in the menu), Click OK.

3. Now that you’ve saved your document in a form that Sigil can read, copy and paste it from Word into the middle window in Sigil’s Book View.

Paste your ebook file in the middle window

Because you copied your ebook from a Plain Text file, you will have lost a lot of your formatting, so you’ll need to make some adjustments to your ebook in Sigil. But here’s the good news: if you click on the Code View (the button to the right of Book View), your ebook will have been cleared of a lot of unnecessary code that can give you undesirable results later on. This point will become more meaningful in next week’s post.

An aside: The Sigil User Guide suggests that you can also save your Word files as Web Page, Filtered. This will leave your formatting mostly in tact, but your book will look like a dog’s breakfast in places in Code View. So, while it’s possible to save your Word file as Web Page, Filtered, saving it as a Plain Text might be a better option. Don’t take my word for it, though. You can save your file in both formats and copy them to Sigil to see what I mean.

4. Your next step in producing an EPUB is to style your ebook in Sigil, using Sigil’s toolbar. For now, don’t be afraid to play around a little. I will discuss the ins and outs of styling an ebook in Sigil in next week’s post.

(If the suspense is killing you, check out Paul Salvette’s excellent tutorial, How to Make an Ebook with Sigil). You don’t have to be a tech wizard to create an ebook in Sigil. It truly is a lot easier than you think.

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At a Glance: Ebook Formatting for Lulu


by Corina Koch MacLeod

There are lots of ways to publish an ebook, and some methods require more technical knowledge than others. Distributors like Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu are trying to make the process as simple as possible by allowing authors to upload ebooks using the word processing software they are already using (often, Microsoft Word). That makes good sense to me.

Each distributor has its own guidelines for uploading an ebook, and they often provide self-publishing authors with some sort of formatting guide. To ensure a smooth conversion from manuscript to ebook, it’s important to follow your distributor’s formatting guide to the letter:

Formatting for Kindle
Smashwords Style Guide, by Mark Coker
Lulu Ebook Creator Guide

Often, these formatting guides can be lengthy and fairly involved, requiring you to “read a book to format a book” (Kawasaki & Welch). Sometimes, as is the case with Lulu, the information changes quickly and the downloadable guide’s instructions are different from the advice given on the website. Digging through these details can be a bit like playing hide and seek.

This week, I’ve prepared a cheat sheet for formatting your Word document for Lulu. If there is anything on this cheat sheet that doesn’t make sense to you, read the Lulu Ebook Creator Guide to get your bearings. You can then use the cheat sheet below as a checklist, or memory tool, when it comes time to format your ebook file.

Lulu Cheat Sheet


  • Lulu allows you to upload a Microsoft Word doc file, and most recently, a docx file. There are reasons why you might want to upload a docx file instead a doc file.

Document Clean-Up

  • Be sure that you’ve removed any typewriter formatting from your Word document before you begin to format it. Extra spaces between words and paragraphs, as well as “illegal” fonts lurking invisibly in the background, can cause the Lulu converter to reject your manuscript.

  • Don’t include page breaks, headers, footers, page numbers, columns, or audio or video files.

Table of Contents

  • If you have an internally hyperlinked table of contents (TOC) in your Word file, remove it. Lulu will create an external TOC for you.
  • Use Word Styles to style headings. Lulu’s conversion software uses styled headings to create an external TOC, or NCX, that readers can use to navigate your ebook. Tip: to see if you’ve used Word Styles to style your headings, open your Word document and then open the navigation pane (Ctrl + F in Word 2010). Click on the Outline tab on the left. If you’ve styled your headings using Word styles, the headings will be listed in the navigation pane. You can click on these headings to navigate your document.
Navigation pane in Word 2010


  • Lulu is sticky about heading levels. The Guide says you can only use three levels of headings, though I managed four levels without dire consequences. Heading 4s didn’t show up in the TOC/NCX, but that’s okay. 
  • Book sectionsTitle Page, Copyright, Preface, Epiloguemust be Heading 1s. Be sure to include a separate Copyright page.
  • Chapter headings must be Heading 2s.
  • Subsections/subchapters must be Heading 3s. 
  • You must begin your ebook with a Heading 1. No exceptions.
  • Headings must appear in order. For example, don’t have an H3 follow an H1. An H3 must follow an H2.


  • Use Times New Roman, Garamond or Arial fonts.
  • Avoid using special characters that don’t appear on your keyboard.
  • Apply boldface and italics using the buttons on the ribbon.


  • Set paragraph styles to Normal in Word Styles.
  • Set first-line indents and spacing after paragraphs using Word Styles.
  • Left-justify your paragraphs.
  • Avoid using too many paragraph returns: they’ll get stripped out in the conversion process.


  • Style bulleted and numbered lists using direct formatting from the ribbon.
  • Avoid using square bullets; use round bullets instead.


  • To create an off-book hyperlink, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Address and type in the URL. Don’t link to other online bookstores.
  • For within-book hyperlinks, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Place in this document.


  • Save images as a JPG, GIF or PNG, with a resolution of 96150 DPI. 
  • Make sure they’re in RGB (red, blue, green) format.
  • Images should be less than 500 x 500 pixels.
  • Insert images inline and centre them.
  • An image’s size must be less than 250 KB.

Diagrams and Tables

  • Save as images and insert them inline.


  • The Lulu converter produces epub files, and epubs support footnotes and endnotes. Go to Insert > Footnote.


Lulu has strict rules about advertising in your ebook (don’t do it). You must also fill out the metadata for your book in a very specific way. This isn’t a suggestion. Lulu will only convert your ebook if you attend to the details in each if their requirements.

Each distributor’s conversion software has its quirks. Their formatting guides are designed to help you to prepare a Word document that works with their conversion software. If your file doesn’t convert the first time, don’t give up! Go back to the formatting guide to see if you missed anything. Check support forums, like Lulu’s Knowledge Base. It often takes a few tries to get it right.

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