Twelve Steps to a Digital Format

There’s lots of information out there about eBook format. But in converting my print books, I’ve streamlined this to a simple twelve steps. You can get fancier if you know what you’re doing. My choice is go to for a clean format. So, here’s the twelve easy steps.

Twelve Steps to a Digital Format

STEP 1 – Put your book into a single file in Microsoft Word. I had my chapters split into multiple files, so the first step was a lot of cut and paste. I did have electronic versions of my work, but not the same ones as in print. This meant either scanning the books or manually inputting my edits. I went with the latter and made this part of my editing process.

Other ways you can do this might include a search the Internet to see if someone’s done the work for you and you can grab an electronic version (yes, those pirate sites have a use). You can invest in a scanner and OCR software that converts the scanned image into text—the cost will be about $300 – $400 for a full setup. Or you can pay for a print book to electronic conversion: about two to three dollars a page to get all the work done for you. If you’re still going it on your own….

STEP 2 – With your book file open, use the SELECT function. Select ALL and set the font to Ariel or Times Roman. Electronic readers like consistency and these are about the most Web-safe fonts around. I use Times Roman for the bulk of the book, but I put the title and front copy into Ariel.

STEP 3 – Set the font to 12 or 14 point, no smaller and no larger.  I like to set the title and chapter headings to 14 point and use 12 point for everything else.

STEP 4 – Remove all TAB marks. To do this, use the REPLACE function, select MORE and SPECIAL CHARACTERS. Put the tab mark in the field to “find” and nothing in the replace area and that will remove them all.

STEP 5 – Use the REPLACE function to search and replace all double spaces with single spaces (do this a couple of times to catch all of them).

STEP 6 – Set your paragraph indents with the PARAGRAPH function. Set INDENTATION to SPECIAL, FIRST LINE, with LEFT set to .2″ or .3″ (you can go up to .5″ but I think the smaller option looks better in the electronic readers).

STEP 7 – Use the PARAGRAPH function to set spacing to single space.

STEP 8 – Remove all headers and footers—deleted them.

SEPT 9 – Remove any page breaks between chapters.

STEP 10 – Center your chapter headings and number chapters as in “Chapter One” – that’ll help to automatically generate a table of contents. Put only a single blank line space between chapter headings and the text – that’s both before and after.

STEP 11 – For breaks within a chapter, use a simple mark such as the asterisk (*) which electronic readers can handle.  Center this and put a single blank line space before and after.

STEP 12 – Put dedications and reviews up front since this is free preview content.

Your format should look something like this (without the blue text which is just here to make the book text stand out)…

Opening Page:


Shannon Donnelly

For Marsha —
may you always find the courage to choose happiness

Bookseller’s Best Finalist, Golden Quill Finalist, Orange Rose Finalist

“With its excellent characterization, polished prose, and humor, Donnelly’s latest Regency is a supremely satisfying, deftly plotted delight.” – Booklist, American Library Association, John Charles

“…delightfully offbeat romp with an engaging set of young lovers and a good cast of supporting players…highly enjoyable” — Romantic Times Top Pick – 4½ Stars

“I highly recommend A PROPER MISTRESS, and can’t wait for Ms. Donnelly’s next book….” — Five Roses – Escape To Romance, Marlene Breakfield



“Beauty ain’t required, but she’s got to catch the eye,” Theodore Winslow said, striding across the small salon, one hand fisted behind his back and the other gesturing in the air. “I mean, I’m supposed to be smitten. But she can’t be at all acceptable—only she can’t be too coarse, either,


A chapter break will look similar to this:

“Why, you’re hardly more than a boy yourself! Why ever do you want to go hiring a woman from this house to act as your bride?”


At the sight of a short, curvaceous redhead being thrust into the room, Theo started to smile. But those tempting, full lips parted and her words cut into him like a butcher’s knife. Hardly more than a boy!

And a scene break will look something like this:

“Well, you want to make sure you ain’t a trout with your mouth gapping open to be hooked by this flash gent, or any other. Remember that, or you’ll be agreeing to more than you think you will now. And just you remember, too, every woman may have her price, but every man has his limits. Most of ’em start with his purse. Now, let’s see how those dresses look. You’re going to have to be dazzlin’, ’cause it’s going to take us longer than a quarter hour to turn you out in style.”


By the time Sallie finished, Molly no longer recognized herself. Nell and Harriet, seeing the door open to Jane’s forsaken room, had poked their heads in—eyes sleepy and hair tumbled and still in their night wrappers. Sallie’s house kept late hours and late mornings. Sallie bustled them out, saying to Molly afterwards, “Never does to stir up jealousy, and you don’t want them thinking you’re stealing their trade.”


If you know what you’re doing, you can get fancier about the formatting. Or if you pay someone to do this for you, they can do the fancy stuff.

While this may sound like a lot of work, I found it to be not all that difficult, it just takes some time. I’m averaging two to three weeks to get a book formatted and that’s working only weekends and evenings and doing all the edits. It’s going faster the more I do this (I’m getting a process down). Basically, this requires patience and persistence, something every writer needs in buckets.

Save your file as both a standard word .DOC or .DOCX.  Also save the file as a PDF version (this will allow you to give away free PDF copies to readers, and you’ll need this format, too, if you set up an ISBN).

NOTE: Smashwords also requires specific text at the front of your book about being published at Smashwords, so you want to set up a separate file with this info:

Published by Shannon Donnelly at

Copyright 2010 Shannon Donnelly

Discover other works by Shannon Donnelly at


That’s it. Twelve steps. The part that really takes the work is getting the writing done in the first place.

One thought on “Twelve Steps to a Digital Format

  1. @JacqueDiamond tweeted about this post. It’s an amazing help. Thanks, Shannon. It was obviously a lot of work. I will use your tips! And I’ll retweet to other groups. @LouellaNelson

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