How to Format an Ebook


Formatting has a subliminal effect on readers. When it’s great, it’s invisible to them. And that’s the goal to strive for. The formatting should serve your story if you’re a fiction writer. And should enhance your authority if non-fiction is your thing. It should never distract the reader from the text.

In this article, I’ll share simple and effective tips on how to format an ebook. We’ll focus on using Scrivener, draft2digital, kindlecreate, or vellum. Let’s get started.

How to use Scrivener to Format an Ebook

We’ll cover three simple phases. They include:

  • Setting up your chapters
  • Laying out your front matter
  • Compiling your ebook

Chapters are known as folders in Scrivener. So, set up each chapter in your ebook as folders in Scrivener. Give each the titles you’d like (and number them, if that’s a format you like).  Label and lay out each chapter exactly the way you’d want it to appear in the ebook. If you’ve used Scrivener to write the book in the first place, you’d only need to clean the text up a bit before you compile the ebook. You should also treat the back matter similarly. That is to say each should be a folder.

On the left-hand side of the screen, below chapters, you’ll find front matter. Add each front matter content. Your prologue, title page, dedication, copyright page… are what makes up the front matter. You’d also need to add your cover page. What of the TOC (Table of Contents)? Scrivener would automatically generate that for you.

After you’ve completed the steps above, click on the file menu, near the “Format as” menu. You’ll be presented with a window in the middle or the right. It shows “contents” click on “Format as” and select “original.” Then at the bottom, you’ll see “compile for” select the drop-down menu and select “Kindle (Mobi).”

At the bottom, you’ll see “add front matter,” select it, and also select “ebook.” This will make sure that your front matter is included in the compiled file. In the middle or the right part of the screen, a window would present a list of all the content you want to compile. Make sure that all the content you want to be compiled has “include” beside them.

Click on Cover and also on the cover image you uploaded.

Click on Formatting to edit chapter titles if there’s a need to. Also check the transformations, references, and footnotes tab, if they are relevant. In the section for metadata, include the copyright statement, author name, and title, and add your ISBN as your “custom unique identifier.”

For KindleGen. You’ll need this link to convert to Mobi format. On the page, you’d find Amazon’s stance on Mobi format. It’s no longer encouraged. Epub is preferred. For Mobi, download the software, extract it, and direct Scrivener to where you have saved it. Scrivener will install it. You’ll need this link to access Kindle Previewer 3 to check your Mobi files.

Save Preset, and it would save all the settings for your book. Click on the “compile” button and wait. That’s it. You’d have your ebook in Mobi format. If it’s ePub you prefer, from the “compile for” select epub book, then click the “compile button, and you’re done.

How to use Draft2Digital to Format an Ebook

Draft2digital is a much more automated system. So, it’d do most of the work for you.

You’d want your chapter headings larger and bolder than the rest of the text, so that draft2digital can recognize them. Ideally, just use H1 for them. Use heading style only for what you want in the TOC.

To differentiate font size, use 4 points. If the regular text is 12 points, use 16 points for the larger text. But you can’t change the font face or family. As draft2digital uses a default Serif font. All the lines are automatically set to a single space. And they can’t be changed. You can use three empty lines to insert scene breaks. Draft2digital will automatically create your front and end matter for you.

For your images in Word, don’t copy and paste them. Make sure they’re embedded in the document. Simply use the insert function.

How to use KindleCreate

KC is simple and straightforward to use. It’s probably the easiest to use for beginners. If you have never formatted an ebook before, then KC might be a good option to format an ebook.

Download Kindlecreate and install it. Then import your manuscript into it. To do this, start Kindle create (KC) and click Create new. Find the file of your manuscript. KC will automatically find and format the chapter titles. Check that the chapters that KC found are correct. Then click on Accept Selected.

KC displays your book in three facets: Front matter, Body, and Back matter. It’s very easy to add front matter. Say you’d like to add the title page. Click the + sign next to the front matter section and select the title page. If it’s the copyright page, click the + sign and select copyright page. The formatted pages would be automatically generated for you. That’s it.

What of the TOC? KC would automatically update it for you. That’s to say when you add or remove, it reflects the changes. But how do you set it up in the first place? Click your first chapter in the contents panel, click Insert, and choose Table of contents. A list of detected chapter titles will be displayed.

Check what’s shown. If it looks okay, then click Ok. The TOC will be added. It’d help you style your titles. Check what’s shown. If it looks okay, then click Ok. The TOC will be added. It’d help you style your titles. And, if you’d like to apply drop caps and spacing between the title and the first paragraph, click next to the first word on the page, then go to the text properties pane and click the Chapter First Paragraph button.

There’s a default theme that comes with KC, but you can update your book with other themes. To insert an image, right-click where you’d like to insert it, click Insert Image. Then find the image on your computer and open it. The image is inserted for you. If you’d like to insert hyperlinks, highlight the word. Right-click it, and click insert hyperlink. Enter the URL and click insert hyperlink.

To control the headers and footers, click Print settings. Preview the file and click Publish on the upper right-hand corner of KC, and a KPF file is ready for you to upload to KDP.

How to use Vellum

Vellum is currently available for Mac users only. But, it’s a simple and intuitive software. You can start with a trial version. The first thing to do is to import your manuscript. It accepts all documents with .docx extension. Alternatively, you could create a new project in Vellum and then copy and paste your manuscript piecemeal. Click File, then New.

Vellum’s interface has three facets: right, center, and right-hand side. The left-side is the navigator, that’s where you can access and organize the content and the formatting styles of your manuscript. The center is your workspace, that’s where you make changes, while the right side is where you preview changes made.

After you’ve imported your MS, vellum would prompt you to enter author info, title, and subtitle Select the ebook cover tab on top, and you’d easily upload your ebook. During the import, vellum auto-recognizes your chapters. Check the navigator, to ensure it’s done correctly.

If you’d prefer to split your chapters yourself, click on your manuscript in the navigator. Place your cursor before the start of a new chapter in the text in the panel at the middle, then select chapter, select Split chapter. To view files at the center, just select them in the navigator. Vellum would also generate your TOC for you. To add a new chapter: Select chapter, then add chapter. And to add an element that’s not a chapter: Select element, then add element. At the top of the navigator, you’ll find styles, you can use it to change the style of your ebook.

Check the navigator to make sure that your files are arranged the way you’d like them to appear in your ebook. If there’s a need to rearrange them, simply click and drag them to the appropriate location.

The right panel allows you to preview your ebook as it’d appear in Kindle Fire. To see how it’d be displayed in other formats, select the phone icon and choose your preference. Once you’re happy, click on Generate and your ebook is ready!

In this article, we explored how to format an ebook using different softwares.

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