News room: Be prepared! How to avoid common manuscript mistakes when publishing your eBook

Be prepared! How to avoid common manuscript mistakes when publishing your eBook by Sarah Juckes

As part of the CompletelyNovel eBook month, we asked Diana Horner from eBook conversion and distribution specialists, eBook Partnership, for her advice on preparing your manuscript for eBook publishing. Here’s what she said!

When you decided to write a book, did you find yourself daydreaming about the fun you would have tackling html and ePubs? Probably not. However, creating an eBook can be a straightforward exercise, and some authors are keen to master the process, and take control of this aspect of self publishing. If your manuscript is mostly text, or you relish the challenge of adding conversion to your author toolkit, it is worth investigating the DIY options.

There are two broad approaches to creating eBook files; standard flowing eBooks and fixed-layout eBooks.

The standard eBook file formats (ePUB and Mobi) are compatible with most e-reading devices and offer the widest distribution opportunities, but do not offer a great deal in terms of layout and styling. Generally, content is delivered in a single column and all images are positioned inline rather than floating to the left or right of text copy. In standard formats, you would not be able to maintain layout styles such as the ruled background and text positioned around the outline of an image.

Fixed-layout formats offer significantly more styling and layout options than standard eBooks, and can be created to closely replicate the print layout of a book. If your book is fully illustrated or contains diagrams or tables, this is often the best format to use. Fixed-layout eBooks can generally be viewed in portrait (one page) or landscape with double-page (side by side) viewing.

Preparation is key, so the first priority is to make sure that your manuscript is in good shape to give yourself the best possible chance of producing a good eBook file. Your eBook file/s will need to validate when you submit it to the retailer websites, and you want it to look good on all types of e-reading devices.

There are some tips here to help, and I strongly recommend that you take a look at Joshua Tallent’s book Kindle Formatting: The Complete Guide to Formatting Books for the Amazon Kindle and Liz Castro’s ePub bible EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating eBooks for the Apple iPad and other eReaders.

Before you convert your file, make sure you have a good input file:

  • Keep it simple. Font choice, use bold or italic for emphasis, avoid right margin – NO TEXT BOXES
  • Consistent formatting: headings, sub-headings, list styles, body fonts
  • Error free content: checked, edited, checked, checked, checked…

No need to include:

  • Page numbers
  • Headers and Footers
  • Borders, background colours or background images
  • Fancy drop-caps at the start of each chapter
  • Different colour text
  • Multi-column layouts – just use a single column
  • Text Boxes – do not use text boxes to position text
  • References to specific eBook retailers such as Amazon or Apple
  • Advertising – although you can of course, mention other titles or your website or Facebook page.

Top 5 Formatting Tips

  • Use Word Quick Styles
  • Do not use multiple blank lines to separate content
  • Do not use tabs or spaces to indent content
  • Separate Section/Chapters with a page break
  • Use a glyph to indicate scene changes/sub-chapter breaks, e.g. * * *

Some of the many conversion tools available:

Mobi Conversion Tools

  • Calibre will convert ePUB or Word (saved as HTML) to Mobi (Recommended)
  • InDesign will convert to Mobi
  • Scrivener will export to Mobi
  • Amazon provide two free tools: KindleGen and Kindle Previewer (Recommended)

ePUB conversion tools – The ones above, except for Amazon, and:

  • Sigil
  • Pages
  • Kobo Writing Life
  • Smashwords


  • In Word export your input doc as HTML “Save as Web Page, Filtered”
  • Add HTML file to Calibre
  • Add meta data and cover
  • Convert to chosen format

Of course, there are non DIY options available, and we work with many authors and publishers who do not wish to tackle conversion themselves. Make sure you research carefully before entrusting your manuscript with any conversion company. Recommendation from other authors is the best way to find the fit for you and your book. Make sure you see Terms and Conditions before going ahead with anything, and ask as many questions as you need to.

Next step is Distribution. Making your eBook available to a worldwide audience is possible for all independent authors, and this takes careful planning too. After that, promotion!

You can find more advice about the options eBook Partnership offer authors, over on
Have your own tips on preparing your manuscript for eBook publishing? Share them below!
You can also check out our eBook advice page.

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Written by
Sarah Juckes
Published on
Common, Manuscript, Mistakes, Publishing, Ebooks, and Tools