eBook Edition Guide: From Manuscript to eBook

Transform Your Manuscript into an eBook Ready to be Sold


To create an eBook is tricky. It’s tough to do it the first time, but it gets easier with experience and practice, and finally, it becomes a snap to do it.

I’ll dissect the process of creating an eBook from a manuscript to a finished eBook with EPUB, PDF and Mobi versions.

All the tools used to create an eBook with this guide are free and available for download. They work with the manuscript in HTML form, but no HTML knowledge is required.


1 — The Manuscript

If you want to create an eBook with minimal hassle, the ideal is to begin writing it (and keep writing it until finished) directly in the eBook software itself. Use either Sigil or Blue Griffon EPUB Edition. If you wrote your book in Word or a compatible word processor, take advantage of the spell checker and any other automated correction tools the word processor may have.

Don't use many fonts. Use two or three at most. Use common (preferably core) fonts. A sans serif for titles and a serif one for the content.

If you want to use different correction tools, the best way is to write the first draft using minimal formatting. Then, once you parsed the first draft with correction tools, corrected all the errors, and cleaned the formatting errors, apply the final formatting.

Manually import the manuscript into either Blue Griffon or Sigil. These two eBook creation software are very similar, but neither has an import function.

Just copy your whole manuscript and paste it into the eBook creator software.

If formatting gets messed up in the transition, then experiment with the word processor:

  • Save a copy of the manuscript as HTML first, and then transplant it to the eBook software, using copy and paste can work
  • If copy and paste give bad results, then try saving or exporting the manuscript in a format that the eBook software can load. (EPUB, HTML or plain text)
  • Last, but not least, save the manuscript in plain text, and when asked to pick up an encoding scheme, choose UTG-8, this one never fails

Saving a manuscript in plain text is a great way to spot formatting errors. Once it's saved in plain text, the whole manuscript must be checked with a text viewer that can do word-wrapping.

Once you have the manuscript in the eBook writing software, check for typography discrepancies. You want to use a sans serif font for the chapter titles, and a serif one for the chapter’s gloss.

If you’ve been lucky and the formatting is preserved, or if you wrote the whole manuscript in the eBook software, then is time to prepare the formatting for the table of contents. It's not required but can be generated to check for chapter title errors.

Check that each chapter title has a header HTML tag assigned, and use that tag only for the titles of the chapters. The h1 tag is too big and we need it for sections of the eBook like title page. Each chapter title should use h2, and each subsection of a chapter h3. Online ebook sales portals accept a reduced quantity of header levels. Lulu for instance accepts only h1, h2 and h3. 


Creating an ebook directly in an ebook creator like Sigil or BlueGriffon has a great disadvantage. You can't see formatting marks with them. They are great for those with knowledge of CSS and HTML. But for others that lack that knowledge all the cleaning up of the formatting has to be done in a text processor that can show them.

The important marks that the word processor must show to check the formatting are:

  1. Soft Line Break (new line mark)
  2. Hard Line Break (new paragraph mark)
  3. Spaces

The eBook can have indented or block paragraph formatting. Block paragraphs is the method with more chances of working in any text processor.

Guide for Block Paragraphs Formatting:

  • Lines of the front and end matters: can have combination of hard soft breaks and use headers
  • Chapter Titles: hard break, h2
  • Chapter Section: hard break, h3
  • Paragraph: hard break, normal
  • Empty line between paragraphs: soft break

A good and free text processor that can show the editing marks is Kingsoft Writer. It's a button in the home ribbon that looks like two enter signs.

Other than fonts, headers, page breaks, italics, emphasis and paragraph style your manuscript shouldn't have any formatting.


Formatting No-Nos

Page numbers
Linked (or page-numbered) Table of Contents
Bullet lists
Numbered lists
Page sizes
Direct formatting (creating blank space or page breaks with, hard breaks, tabs and/or spaces)

Once the manuscript is clean and tight, it can be copied to a program like Sigil and saved as EPUB.


2 — The Creation of The Table of Contents (optional)

If you are planning to create an EPUB that you can upload to eBook market portals like Lulu and SmashWords, then the eBook shouldn't have a ToC. It can have one, but it must not have links or page numbers.

First off, auto-generate a table of contents to spot any errors. The ToC has to have the same quantity of items as the book has chapters. If it has more, you used your chosen title h tag for something else other than chapter titles, and if it has less or none, it’s because you haven’t tagged all your chapter’s titles with the same h tag. Goes without saying that any piece of content that comes before the chapters must have a different h tag.

The auto-generated table of contents may have links or page numbers. In that case, copy to a plain text editor to remove all the formatting. Delete page numbers if any. Replace the ToC in the manuscript.


3 —The Placing of Front and End Matters

As you may know by now, EPUB, the contemporary eBook standard, doesn’t carry embedded fonts like PDF did. Every formatting niceties and emphasis must be achieved by header tags, font size, italics, and bold emphasis.

Read a guide on the web on how to write the front matter of your eBook, it’s all the content that comes before the main content.

If you think it’s too much work or you can’t find one, then get five paper books and study the first pages, you’ll see a more or less rigid pattern to it. Follow it as it is, don’t get creative with the front matter. Copy it, changing the content of the title of the book, the author’s name, and the rest of the front matter content.

The same goes for any additional content that is not the manuscript but the supplementary matter that you decided to put in the last pages, like bibliography, notes, appendixes.


4 — The Cover, The Spine and The Back Cover

Since this is just an eBook, we aren’t concerned with creating a spine cover. Also, I’ve seen many eBooks to have a cover but lack a back cover, I personally won’t go that far. It’s nice for an eBook to have a back cover, even if only for aesthetic reasons. Like the unlinked ToC.

Use a vectors program like Inkscape to design the cover. But first, you need a picture and the typography. Source an image by either designing it, shooting it yourself, buying it from a stock photography silo or getting it from Creative Commons (if you want a free image), and resize it to at least 1400 pixels wide to comply with most of the eBook markets.

Conventional book cover fonts to use are:

  • Baskerville
  • Bodoni
  • Calibri
  • Dings
  • Futura
  • Garamond
  • Helvetica

There are free imitations of these fonts that you can use without having to buy them.

Create also the back cover (generally a summary of the book and/or the writer’s bio) in the vector design program.

Export the images from the vector design software in a high definition format like .TIFF.

Embed the cover and back cover in the eBook. Save as EPUB.

Presto! You created an eBook!

It’s time to go to Amazon, Lulu and Smaswords and begin selling it!


© 2018 Wensley Evolo
Photo Credit: Javier Candeira


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