Basic guidelines for self-publishing ebooks

About 75 percent of all books these days are sold as ebooks – meaning they’re read on Kindles, Nooks, and other electronic readers rather than in paper form. As most writers are lovers of paper books, they often need reminding that they should self-publish their volume in ebook as well as paper form. Likewise, almost no one should limit their book purely to ebook sales.

Developing the paper version of the book first then converting it to ebook form is traditional. This approach need not be followed, though. There is a lot of logic to going with the ebook first, as the paper version requires much more intensive formatting – such as adding page numbers, assigning typeface styles, and aligning margins (Indeed, because of this, most of this book focuses on self-publishing paper versions of your title, though much of what you do for a paper book, such as writing a cover blurb and designing a cover, are essential for an ebook.).

When creating your ebook, follow these basic guidelines:
• Strip it of styles – Other than using all caps and italics, typesetting styles used for chapter titles, section headers, drop caps and more can’t appear in most current ebooks. All wording should appear in one typeface and a couple of point sizes.
• Get rid of extra spacing – Your paperback version may place several lines of white space between chapter titles and the chapter’s first sentence, but that needs to disappear in your ebook. Single space the entire ebook.
• Dump tabs on paragraphs – Unlike a paper book, the first line of a paragraph isn’t indented. Like a business letter, all paragraph’s left margins are even or aligned. To indicate a new paragraph, an empty line is placed between paragraphs. This is done by hitting the ENTER key twice at the end of a paragraph.
• Delete page numbers – Page numbers are meaningless in ebooks as the reader can change the type size. That doesn’t mean you should dispense with the table of contents, though. Instead, each chapter or section title in the table of contents should be linked to where that chapter or section begins in the text. Indexes generally can be deleted, though.

When uploading an ebook to a specific self-publishing house, be sure to first read through their guidelines. Some have very specific rules and recommendations that will make your upload go much easier.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.