Simplified Formatting of an e-Book!


Good morning, especially if you are a Denver fan.  Peyton Manning can ride off into the sunset victor of two Super Bowls if he chooses (and really he should).

Today’s column isn’t about the Super Bowl though, it’s about the tricky art of formatting your freshly created novel into the best format for e-books.

**I only upload my books on to Amazon.  For Smashwords, the Nook, or etc., please see another formatting guide.**

First, let’s go over the 4 basics:

  1. Do not ever use the Tab button.
  2. When you finish a chapter, use page break, not the enter button, to get to a new page.
  3. Chapter headings always need to be in Headings 1.  Use Headings 2, 3, etc., for subtitles and such.
  4. Always insert a table of contents.

With those broken down, I’ll hit each one individually.

#1 – Never use the Tab button

The Tab button does weird things to a book when it is in e-form.  You’ll see some of your paragraphs starting halfway across the page.  Others will have just one word on the first line then drop to the next line.  If you’ve Tabbed in your manuscript, take them away pronto!

My recommendation is to format each chapter individually.  Once you are perfectly happy with your chapter, highlight the body of it and click the “Paragraph button” under the Home main tab.  Next, under the indentation option click special and first line.  Here is a crappy picture to demonstrate.


Once you click first line, it’ll ask you how far in you want to indent.  I always use a .3 indent, but it’s personal preference.  Boom, now your chapter is perfectly indented and Amazon won’t make it look all funky.

(If you want to get fancy and use the drop cap for your first paragraph, master this first.  Don’t reinvent the wheel on your first go-around.)

#2 – Use Page Break, not the Enter Button at end of Chapter

So you’ve finished your chapter and it’s time to move on to the next.  Amazon will seek you out and kill your manuscript if you hit the enter button multiple times to get to the next page.  Seriously, drones or ninjas will fly down upon you in a fury.

No, what you need to do is use the “Page Break” function Word gives you.  You’ll find this little gem hiding in the Page Layout tab one over from Home.  Click on it and you’ll have new options.  You see the one that says Break, click on it and the first option will be the page break.  Fire up the crappy WordPress pictures for demonstration!

page break

My recommendation is to leave one space between your last sentence and your page break.  Also, if you end up with a black page, you can either leave it (not really cool, but an acceptable option) or add/subtract clutter (my preferred method) from the chapter to get rid of it.  Either option is totally up to you.

#3 – Use Headings 1 for Chapter Titles

This is important because you’ll need a table of contents and if you just make your chapter title big and bold, that won’t be squat to help later.  So let’s dive in to this one shall we?

When you are ready to write your chapter name, click the “Heading 1” option under the Home Tab.  Type in your chapter name and double click.  Word will automatically return you back to the “Normal” option.

heading 1

Ahhh but Jeremy, I want a different front than the default one.  It’s so boring!  Damnit, okay.  Highlight your chapter title and select the font you want to use.  Once that’s down, right click on the “Heading 1” option and click update to match selection.  That will make it your default chapter style.

update selection

#4 – Always Insert a Table of Contents

The very last thing you should do (after editing, proofreading, final walk-thru) is insert your table on contents.  You can insert it anywhere between your title page and first chapter.  Page break to an empty page and head over to the References tab (a few down from Home).  Once there, click on the “Table of Contents” and scroll down to insert table.

table 1

Next, pick your settings.  How many headings did you use?  Pick that number of levels.  Page numbers are irrelevant since this is an e-book format.  Once you have it set, just click okay and Word will do the rest.

table 2

Phew – we should be good to go with the hard stuff now.  A few last minute tips –

  1. Use the Title option for your book’s title. (self explanatory right?)
  2. Proof your formatting one last time before you upload it.
  3. Make sure the Table is the last thing you put in the document.  It can sometimes mess up your formatting, so double check afterwards.
  4. Go have a beer, formatting is terrible.  But you researched it and your book is going to look really good on the Kindle.  Good job!


You can find my books at



About Jeremy Croston

I'm a comic loving, soccer playing, devoted husband who has a writing addiction. I can be found at Orlando Solar Bear hockey games, at the local sports bar cheering on my teams from Philly (go Flyers!), and being led astray by my schnauzer, JJ. Check out my Amazon page at to see my collections. Feel free to friend me on Facebook too at (there is another one of me out there apparently). Outside of writing, I work in business development and am considered an expert in all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thanks for stopping by and looking forward to talking to you soon!
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