Tag Archives: Formatting eBooks

Create a Hyperlinked Table of Contents

TOC 1One great convenience that an indie author can place in their Kindle, Nook or Smashwords e-book is a Hyperlinked Table of Contents. This is something I use all the time –it allows me to easily page back and forth.

The one I am using for this is an ancient file for the book that spawned Huw the Bard,  so ignore the page numbers. In those days I didn’t know that page numbers are like prisoners—they just weigh you down!  If you have seen my previous post on this subject you can quit now and I won’t hold it against you.  However, if you are in the middle of formatting your first manuscript, this post may be of use to you!

For print versions, I keep costs down by not wasting precious pages on something the reader won’t use. However, printed technical manuals, textbooks, and cookbooks must include a TOC. In print books, every page you can do without when publishing your novel in paper form will keep the final cost down and make your paperback more affordable for your prospective reader. Very few people will pay $18.99 for a book by an unknown author.

The first thing you want to do is create a bookmark.  First highlight the words  “Table of Contents” and then go to your ‘Insert’ tab.  Click on ‘Bookmark’in that ribbon. Type in the words ref_TOC


Then click “Add”.  In every ms it is important to name the Table of Contents bookmark exactly that, including the underscore, because that’s what Smashwords looks for and it is simply a good practice to have a uniform system for naming files.

Now it’s time to bookmark  the prologue. Scroll down to your prologue and do it exactly the same way as you bookmarked the TOC, but for this ms let’s name it BR_prologue. You will name yours with your ms initials and the word prologue. If you have no prologue, skip this step.  See the picture below:


As long as you are there, with the chapter title highlighted, click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left, you want to ‘Link to:’  “Place in this Document”.  That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘ref_TOC’  and click OK.  This will turn your heading blue, which is called a ‘hyperlinky’. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the table of contents. Once you have used the hyperlinky it will turn purple. How cool is that! This is how that screen looks:


Now that you are back at the Table of Contents, highlight “Prologue and click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left, you want to ‘Link to:’  “Place in this Document”. That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘BR_prologue’  and click OK.  That will turn it blue. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the heading of your prologue.

Do this for the entire table of contents, always remembering to link your chapter heading back to “ref_TOC”, and test each link as you go.  Four more pictures just to help you remember:









I hope this helps you in formatting your eBook manuscript. All my books have Smart TOCs. I build the TOC into my final formatted manuscripts when I am assembling the final proofed chapters and inserting maps.

On a side note, a hyperlinked TOC is an incredibly useful tool to help you navigate within any long manuscript whether you intend to publish it or not. Although I had used bookmarks before in the course of my work, when I first began this journey I had no  idea that the fancy TOCs I admired so in other people’s e-books were such a simple thing to create.

But that’s the way it always goes–things that seem like they should be hard are often the most simple, while something that should be easy turns into a drama of epic proportions.

Here’s to less drama and more simplicity! Learning how to format an e-book isn’t really that hard, and the wonderful people at both Smashwords and at Amazon have a lot of information freely available to you. Remember, as an indie, you are your own publisher, and what you put out there has to be the best you can make it.

Making use of the free information that is out there on the internet can only help you in this regard!


Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, writer, writing

Formatting or The Shape of the Beast

Anne_Anderson05 - Beauty sat down to dinner with the Beast illustration PDArt - Wikimedia CommonsThis is the 2nd post in the series on using Microsoft WORD, “WORD—A Shifty Beast”.  The first post covered naming files and version control.  This post focuses on using the tools WORD gives you to format paragraphs and line spacing, making your manuscript ready for submission to an editor.

Often, an inexperienced author will submit a manuscript rife with the most bizarre formatting. He is terribly surprised and hurt when it is rejected and returned with a bland form letter that tells him nothing of why it was not acceptable. Rejections are rarely returned with an explanation of why, so the author is left to guess what they did wrong.

Most editors don’t have time to deal with badly formatted manuscripts and these submissions are not even considered.  All agents, editors and publishing companies have specific, standardized formatting they want you to use, and these guidelines are posted on their websites.

For the most part this formatting is basically the same from company to company, so once you know what the industry standard is, it’s easy to make your manuscript submission-ready, at least in the area of formatting.

First of all, running across the top of the page is something called the ribbon, and this is your toolbox. Everything you need to create a manuscript is right there, waiting for you to learn to use it. On the right hand side, by the question mark is a tiny arrow for expanding or hiding the ribbon – and we are going to expand it so we have access to all the tools we will need.

Ribbon 2 - formatting for editors and submissions

First, we must select the font. Microsoft WORD has many fancy fonts you can choose from and also has many sizes.

You don’t want fancy.

Stick with the industry standard fonts: Times New Roman or Courier in 10, 11 or 12 pt.  Most say .11 is fine – for me, in a printout .10 is too small for my elderly eyes, I prefer .12.


These are called ‘Serif’ fonts, because they have little extensions that make them easier to read when in a wall of words.

To change your fonts, open your manuscript document, and Click on the tab marked ‘Home’.  In the upper right-hand corner of the ribbon across the top of the page in the editing group, click:

select> select all. This will highlight the entire manuscript.

With the ms still highlighted, go to the font group, on the left-hand end of the ribbon. The default font, or predesigned value or setting, will probably say ‘Calibri (Body)’ and the size will be .11.

fonts post 2 of word series

You can change this by clicking on the menu and accessing the menu. Scroll down to Times New Roman, as it is the easiest on the eyes. Click on that and the font for the entire ms will be that font. Any errors can be undone by clicking the back-arrow.  Once you are satisfied with your changes, click save.

Now we are going to format our paragraphs and line spacing. Standard manuscript format means margins of 1 inch all the way around; indented paragraphs; double-spaced text. Do not justify the text. In justified text, the spaces between words, and, to a far lesser extent, between glyphs or letters (known as “tracking”), are stretched or sometimes compressed in order to make the text align with both the left and right margins. This gives you straight margins on both sides, but this is not the time or place for this type of alignment.

Do NOT ever use the tab key or the space bar to indent your paragraphs. You have no idea what a crapped-up mess that makes out of a manuscript. (That’s editor-speak for a stinking disaster.)  You may have to go in and remove these tabs by hand and it’s a tedious job, but do it now, if you have been using the tab key.

Instead of the tab key, a professional author uses the simple formatting tool:

Locating the formatting tool:

The ribbon- formatting tool

Still on the home tab, look in the group labeled ‘Paragraph’. On the lower right-hand side of that group is a small grey square. Click on it .  A pop-out menu will appear, and this is where you format your paragraphs.

  1. On the indents and spacing tab of the menu: Use standard alignment, align LEFT. The reason we use this format is we are not looking at a finished product here.  We are looking at a rough draft that will be sliced, diced and otherwise mutilated many times before we get to the final product.

The picture below has it all clearly marked out:

paragraph formatting for editors and submissions

1.  Indentation: leave that alone or reset both numbers to ‘0’ if you have inadvertently altered it.

2.  Where it says ‘Special’: on drop-down menu select ‘first line’. On the ‘By’ menu, select ‘0.5’

3. ‘Spacing’: set both before and after to ‘0’.

4. ‘Line Spacing’: set to ‘double’

The editor needs to receive his version double-spaced so he can insert comments as needed in the reviewing pane, which will be on the right side of the page when you receive your work back for revisions. Having it double-spaced allows for longer comments.

doublespaced, aligned lft with comments prnt scrn for lirf

Now we need to make the “Header.”  This is the heading at the top of each page of a word-processed or faxed document, usually automatically inserted and, in this case, consisting of the title of the book and your name.


We insert this by opening the “insert” tab, and clicking on “header.”  This opens up a new menu:

 header menu

Next we add the page numbers. We put these at the bottom right of the page, using this menu:

page number

This is how it looks:

footer page number

SO once we have all these things done, we will have a manuscript that looks like this:

Full ms ready for submission

This manuscript is submission ready, and is:

  1. Aligned left
  2. Has 1 in. margins
  3. Is double-spaced
  4. Has indented paragraphs
  5. Header contains title and author name
  6. Footer has page number
  7. First page contains the author’s mailing address and contact information in upper left hand corner

This may seem like overkill to you, but I assure you, if you are really serious about submitting your work to agents, editors, or publishers, it must be in as professional a format as is possible.

One fun way to become more fluent with WORD is to open a new document, and save it as “WORD practice file”

Type a paragraph, and then go through the above steps, practicing formatting your work.  Use this document to get to know where everything is on the ribbon, and keep playing with it until you have developed your self-confidence on a document that won’t matter if you mess it up.  It’s actually kind of fun, seeing what options WORD has for making pretty documents as well as simple ones.

Just don’t get too fancy with formatting your novel before you submit it to an editor because no matter how pretty you make that manuscript, if it doesn’t follow the submission guidelines for the place you are submitting it, you have simply wasted your time.

The next post in this series will examine the review tab, and take us through the editing process, showing you how your editor uses WORD during the editing process to guide you to a better manuscript, and what your editor expects from you when you send back revisions.

Ohh…the agony….


Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Madcap Moments of Literary Mayhem

My Coffee Cup © cjjasp 2013This weekend I saw a hilarious post on Facebook, one pointing to an article at NYDaily.com that details the fatal-flaws in the eBook version of George R.R. Martin’s  book,  A Feast for Crows.

Now, I just want to say at the outset, the only book of his I’ve read was the book, A Game of Thrones. But that was a long time ago, when it first came out as a Science Fiction Book Club book of the month. I was not really that impressed with it. I found the book distinctly hard to follow, and nearly quit reading it several times.

But just because I don’t find his work to my taste does not mean I consider him to be a hack! On the contrary, Mr. Martin deserves every one of his many awards and good for him! This is a rough business, and I love it when people succeed as authors. There are many fine, popular authors out there whose books don’t ring my bells. My own work is certainly not to everyone’s taste, although I am sure it should be. (Insert Shameless Plug Here: buy my books, please.) (The buy-links are to the right, clearly labeled.) (Just sayin’.)

Needless to say, Mr. Martin’s publisher is one of the Big Boys (Bantam Books) and one would think  SOMEONE would have caught these wonderful bloopers.  The  author put his faith in the publisher, and the publisher let him down.

George R.R.Martin formatting issue 3 via book blog page views, margaret eby


George R.R.Martin formatting issue 1 via book blog page views, margaret eby

There is the remote possibility these moments of literary mayhem could have been caused by a last-minute global change to the manuscript. If so, it is a good example of why we should never click “Replace All” when we discover a particular word we need to change. Instead we should take the time to see each appearance of the word, and determine whether or not to make that change individually.

But in this case, I don’t think that is the problem. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the words the blooper replaces.  I think it is an OCR error (see number 5 below.)

George R.R.Martin bormatting issue 2 via book blog page views, margaret eby


George R.R.Martin bormatting issue 4 via book blog page views, margaret eby

What these images of the book from the NY Daily tell me is that formatting issues are common and are a hurdle the indie must overcome. If the big boys have problems with this, then formatting is a real skill set that we must develop, because we all compete on the same field, only we indies have fewer advantages.

There are a few simple ways we can avoid some of the more common issues:

1. Do not put extra empty spaces between your paragraphs. If it is a section break, make sure to put something there to indicate it:  ***  centered in the empty space will do the task of indicating the section break, and will not look ugly.

2. Make sure your page breaks are “hard” i.e. NOT made by repeatedly hitting the “enter” key. You must limit those empty spaces to less than three, preferably only one. Go to the ribbon at the top of your WORD page and use the “Insert” tab. With the cursor next to your chapter heading, click on “Insert Page Break”.

3. Do Not Use Drop Caps to begin your first paragraph, no matter how pretty they look in the print edition. They screw the heck out of eBook formatting, causing all the paragraph indents to go away, making the book nothing but a WALL of words.

4. Stick to standard serif fonts like Times New Roman, and make it a decent size, like 11 pt. Use NOTHING larger than 16 pt. and use that only for chapter headings.

5. Random inexplicable letter changes can be caused by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) errors when the uploader for Kindle or Smashwords converts the manuscript to PDF format. Converting it to PDF yourself first does not help, because the errors are hidden in the PDF. Thus you may find  all the “p”s converted to ‘bl’s. (people becomes bleople.)  I am not very knowledgeable about the WHY of this, but I have learned how to avoid it:

I always save my eBook ms in Rich Text Format (.rtf) and I NEVER upload a manuscript to eBook  format that contains headers or footers. Remove the headers and footer BEFORE you upload to Kindle, Nook or Smashwords. I think this is what happened to A Feast of Crows. Headers and footers use OCR elements and this confuses the uploader program. My theory is: someone at Bantam forgot to remove the header before it was uploaded. But I could be wrong– this whole formatting thing is magic after all, and magic is an iffy science at best.

6. Comb your eBook ms for extra spaces at the end of paragraphs and remove them. I’ve been told this will eliminate the random “Words     Spread     Across     The    Page”  problem.

7. DO NOT USE THE TAB key to indent your paragraphs!!!  DON’T DO IT!  Go to the ribbon at the top of the page and use the paragraph formatting option. Set the indent to 3 or 5 pt.  But 3 is the optimal for me as a frequent eBook reader.

The bottom line is this:  the indie must spend many long hours combing the ms for the random extra spaces, removing all the possible error producing elements before we upload it. THEN you must use the option Kindle and Nook both provide and spend more time seeing what the book actually looks like BEFORE you hit the publish button.

Unlike George R.R. Martin, you won’t be able to blame the big-name publisher if your book looks like the dog’s dinner when your friends buy their downloads. This is our curse. We indies only have ourselves to blame for our less than perfect efforts.


Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Literature, Uncategorized, Vegan, writer, writing