We’ve come to arguably the most difficult process for the self-published author: formatting your eBook. It may seem easy. You can read all the numerous guides published y Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Oyseter, Google Play, iTunes and you still won’t get it right. Why? Because those who write the manuals and those who wrote the software are two completely different departments, and never the twain shall they meet.

Until you come along, trying to self-publish your first novel, your baby, your labor of love.

In this lesson we are going to cover your publishing options, weigh strategies, and do some universal formatting. In our next lesson we get into the nitty-gritty.

First up, where should you publish? That’s easy. EVERYWHERE.

Let’s see the differences. First up, we have Amazon kindle. The world’s largest eBook retailer, they have a large proprietary chokehold on publishing. As such they have their own software, policies, procedures, and they do NOT play nice with any other publishers. You can either take 35% or 70% of royalties.

Smashwords covers most bases. They will convert your book to almost any format and sell it on their site as well as the Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Aldiko, Oyster, and many others, taking a small percentage. They will publish to Amazon…someday, provided the sales already amass US$2,000 on Smashwords. You earn 60% of your cover price here, 45% for sales to libraries.

Google Play Books is very challenging to navigate the upload and setup process, but they do often successfully sell books. The royalties are 52%.

Barnes & Noble, like Kobo and others, can be done alone or through Smashwords. At the end of the day it’s up to you, but it’s easiest to just go through Smashwords. If you do go through Barnes & Noble, this is their “simple” royalty matrix:

$0.99 - $2.98 -- 40%
$2.99 - $9.99 -- 65%
$10.00 - $199.99 -- 40%

€ 0.99 - € 2.49 -- 40%
€ 2.50 - € 9.49 -- 65%
€ 9.50 - €199.99 -- 40%

Now, for first-time authors, keep it simple! I had to learn this in faltering missteps and I don’t want you to do the same.

For your best exposure let’s plan to format for Amazon, Smashwords, and Google Play Books (or whatever they are calling it at the time you’re reading this, it changes often).

Now that we have our targets, go to these sites. Set up an account. Have your bank information to set up the direct deposit. You know that bio from your website? Copy and paste it into the about the author. Set up any related author pages (such as Amazon’s Author Central). Link all your author’s platform: your website, your blog’s RSS feed, your Twitter, FaceBook, Google +, LinkedIn, Instagram, whatever. Link that shit up.

It’s going to take a while and it should be done before you get to the headaches to come. So, once you’re done with that (each site is fairly self-explanatory) come back and we begin eBook formatting.

All right. Smoker? Get your cigs. Drinker? Get your poison. Emotional eater? Break out the Hostess. Whatever keeps you from getting violent should be close at hand.

First up, change the name of your book. Add “_ORIGINAL” or some such to the end. You NEED to keep a non-eBook version, for a thousand reasons.

Now, create a new document, title it your book title and note it’s the eBook. Now, open the new document. Click CTRL+A to select all, then click on the paragraph box for the dialog, and move to the Line/Page Breaks tab.

Make sure that the Widow/Orphan Control is NOT clicked! Very important! Muy importante! Now, Save. Save at every goddamn step in this preliminary process.

At this time, I should remind you that you should have some basic formatting already done. All font should be 12 point. Paragraphs should be justified: breaks such as chapters should be centered. The first line of each paragraph must be automatically indented, not set in by using tab. Go back to that step of any of this is not done.

Next, you have a new document, so there should be NO HEADER and NO FOOTER. No page numbers, nothing. If they are there, double click and delete. Gone, Gone, Gone!

Next, I want you to open the folder that has your finished cover. Drag that sucker into the beginning. It should take up the first page, and be centered.

Now, on the second page, you will put your title, author name, and copyright info. You can add your author notes such as dedications and thanks. Note you can use different fonts, bold, underline, italics, but  ALL FONTS MUST BE 12 PT and YOU CAN NEVER HAVE MORE THAN 2 LINES BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS.

Later on we’ll have to specify each edition, but don’t just add it yet. You can center or justify these things, I like to center my dedication and justify my thanks. Just remember: 12pt font and no more than 2 lines between paragraphs.

Now go to the very end. Write “THE END” if you like or don’t. No matter what, hit return twice and then center three pound signs (Millenials, you’ll know them as hashtags) - ###

Hit return twice, and centered, in all caps, write ABOUT THE AUTHOR then insert your bio. Don’t worry about why my ATA is linked, we’re about to the get to that. 

To get familiar with links, in your bio you can link to your website, blog, and social media. You can add an appeal for reviews and link to the book’s point of sale website (we’ll do that in the next lesson). Select the text you want to link, then select INSERT and HYPERLINK.

When the dialog box pops up, go to the address line and simply enter in the complete web address (beginning with https:// or http://), click okay, and you’re done.

Now we need to create bookmarks. This is going to take some time. Before anything, go back to your Prologue or Chapter One. Make it ALL CAPS so it reads PROLOGUE or CHAPTER ONE. Make it bold. Underline it. Repeat this until they are all fixed.


All right, it’s time to bookmark. If anything can screw up in this process, it’s this. So do this slowly, do this carefully, take breaks to scream into your pillow. Because even if it works perfectly in MS Offfice, it may not work on Smashwords or Amazon without major tinkering. However, follow my instructions and I swear it will work, it has worked on all four of my self-published books as of time of writing.

All right. Return to CHAPTER ONE. Select the text, then go to INSERT and now click Bookmark.

The dialog box that pops us must have “Hidden Bookmarks” checked. Check it, and if anything pops up, DELETE IT. We want no other bookmarks but those you create.

If there are no hidden bookmarks, it’s time to create a bookmark.  We’re at CHAPTER ONE so do something simple but easy, such as C01, CH_01, or CHAPTER_One. Use underscores, make the number 01 (you should have more than 10 chapters and this will keep them in order).

Okay…got it? Now you need to do that for every chapter, and your ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Eventually, you’ll have a list of bookmarks similar to this:

Now you have them all bookmarked. It’s time to create a Table of Contents. THIS is what will fuck you up with Smashwords in particular. Don’t bother reading their style guide, I did, and it did not help. Through my knowledge of computers, trial, and error, here is how we do this:

Return to the title page. After your thanks, hit return twice, then write TABLE OF CONTENTS in all caps, bold, underlined. Then type out the chapters on separate lines. Try to align left or center, do not indent.

Once you have them all written with ABOUT THE AUTHOR placed at the end, I want you to hit return thrice, place a period (“.”) CENTER, then hit enter three more times and that is where CHAPTER ONE should begin.

This is the ONLY place to break the “only two lines between paragraphs” rule. Why? Because Smashwords software can’t distinguish between two links so close together, and eventually this will all be links. Three lines, non linked text (the period, which you should make white so it is invisible) and three more lines gives enough separation.

Do this the first time and this process goes smoother. If you get errors at Smashwords, (the only place you will) later on, just go back to this step and make it four lines. Do NOT forget to do this step! This will be the only mistake Smashwords will hassle you about (unless you try to use fonts of varying sizes, it hates that too).

All right, now we need to make each entry in our TABLE OF CONTENTS a link, but we’ll link to the bookmark you created. Get back to INSERT and HYPERLINK after selecting CHAPTER ONE for your TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Click “Place in this document” and select the corresponding bookmark for chapter one. Click okay, and done!

Now, do this for all your chapters, then take a break. A long break. Seriously, this is taxing. You need to break, go for a meal, watch a movie, read a book, have sex, take a nap, do something to relax and come back refreshed.

Because you’re going to simultaneously check these links and create new ones in a moment.

Now, Go up to TABLE OF CONTENTS, select that text, and just as you did before INSERT a BOOKMARK. However, you will see MS Office created one for you! ref_TOC is what you want to use.

Now, make sure all is saved. Press CTRL as you click on CHAPTER ONE under your TABLE OF CONTENTS. It should jump you right to the actual CHAPTER ONE.

When you arrive at CHAPTER ONE, select the chapter title, and INSERT a HYPERLINK just as you did before…to ref_TOC. Save. Hit CTRL + right clock on CHAPTER ONE and now it should jump you to TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Now you will repeat this. Insert a hyperlink to the TABLE OF CONTENTS for each chapter heading and ABOUT THE AUTHOR, and make sure the TABLE OF CONTENTS’ links work.

Now once that is done, put this aside. You’re done for the night. Tomorrow is when I want you to spell check and double check the format of your title page, and then double-check each and every link.

Once it’s done we’ll get into saving into various formats and converting for Smashwords, Amazon, and Google Books.

Godspeed my friends, and the best of luck to you!