How to Write an eBook

Nook HD+

Source: Barnes & Noble

So, you want to write a book for the digital age? You’re in luck, because getting an eBook all set up isn’t terribly difficult, and we’ll explain how to do just that right here. There are a few considerations you’re going to have to make before you go ahead though: what you want to do with your eBook, and where you want it to go.

What not to do

No matter what you’re planning to do with your writing, the easiest way to go ahead with making it into an eBook is to ensure that all of the formatting is very simple. Amazon and eBookPartnership have a number of things they suggest avoiding when writing an eBook:

  • Page numbers: Because reading devices’ page sizes vary, and devices may format their own page numbers.
  • Headers and footers: These may not get saved into the eBook, so if they’re vital, that’s a problem.
  • Borders, backgrounds, and fancy letters to start a paragraph: Remember, keep it simple.
  • Different colors and fonts for text: Not all devices support all fonts, and some don’t support color, so your style choices could be lost. Again, if those styles are important, then you’re in trouble.
  • Multi-column page formats: These will probably get messed up when a device tries to fit them onto a page.
  • Text boxes: Depending on where these land on the page for a given device, they might get broken and split between pages.
  • Advertisements and references to other retailers: If you’re trying to publish this eBook, these kinds of things will likely not be allowed.
  • Bullet points like these ones: eBook formats or devices might not support them.

Complicated formats

If you really need to include a lot of these features, you can try creating a PDF of your writing. But this may not be ideal. In some cases, each page may be viewed like an image, in which case it could be too small to read on devices. Otherwise the device reading the PDF might have a way of controlling the format of the PDF, in which case those features could still get mangled in translation. For help with documents the need very specific formatting, you can see eBookPartnership’s guide on how to prepare such a document. It’s quite a bit more complicated though, so unless it’s absolutely necessary, it would be a lot easier to keep your document simple.

waterproof kindle case

Source: Amazon

What to do

A standard word document (generally “.doc” or “.docx”), such as one in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, will be the starting point. You don’t have to worry about page sizes or page margins, as those will all be controlled by the device reading your ebook. Play it safe with standard fonts like Arial, Georgia, or Times New Roman, and average font sizes from 9 to 12 — because, again, the device will likely take control of fonts and font sizes.

If you have chapters, you can use the text style “Heading 1″ to format them, and for sub-titles or section headings you can use “Heading 2.” At the end of a chapter, insert a page break to ensure your next chapter starts on a new page in the eBook. To get your paragraphs indented properly, do not use the tab key or a series of spaces. Instead, ensure that the paragraph style of your word document automatically indents the first line of each paragraph. You can also load images into your file. Choose JPEGs, as they’re a widely accepted format, and don’t wrap text around them. Also, ensure the actual image file is loaded into the document, and that you haven’t just copied and pasted the image.

With the document already, you can move ahead.


If you want to create a “.mobi” file for to distribute on Amazon, you can take your word document over to Amazon and follow the instructions it gives here. This has extra instructions for how to add title and copyright pages and the like as well as a table of contents.


If you want to create an “.epub” file for Nook eReaders and many other device types, you can look for a standalone application or Web service that converts word documents to ePub files. A simple Web search of “Doc to ePub” should turn up a handful of results. Another option is to use OpenOffice Writer — part of a free, open-source software suite — which can be downloaded here. Then install the Writer2ePub extension, found here, or another extension like it. For Writer2ePub, you’ll first need to save your document as an “.odt” file, which is OpenOffices standard format. Then you can simply click the Writer2ePub button (it will be added to your OpenOffice toolbar when the extension is properly installed), add any details about the eBook you want, and — voila — your ePub file will appear in the same folder where your document is saved. If you’re looking to submit your ePub book to Barnes & Noble’s Nook bookstore, check here.

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