Formatting for self-publishing: Tips and Tools to help you format your own manuscript

One of the aspects of self-publishing is the semi-odious task of formatting. You have to prepare your manuscript properly (just like when you’re sending your work into a traditional publisher) to upload properly to an ereader of some kind. The actual writing of your manuscript is a daunting task in and of itself, and then there comes the aftermath of formatting and preparation. 

But don’t worry, there are plenty of resources at your fingertips to help you find your way in this process. In this article we’ll cover: 

  • Basic formatting tips
  • Formatting tools
  • Self-publishing options and links to their formatting requirements

While Kindle Direct Publishing is one of the most popular options for self-publishing and the one HotGhostWriter most often recommends, it’s certainly not the only one. We’ll guide you through finding the platform that works for you and through helping you format according to their requirements! 

Basic Manuscript Formatting Tips

Unfortunately, you can’t just take your word document or Google doc and upload it directly to your publishing platform. There are some things that need to happen first, and this is where it can get a bit tricky, especially depending on your platform choice. 

Basically, an ereader can’t “read” certain documents, and you have to convert to the right file or do the proper formatting to your manuscript so it can look right on the ereader screen. 

There are two file types for ereaders: epub or mobi. Epub is read on most ereaders, while mobi can be read on Kindle. PDF is the file used mostly for print books. Your file will be converted through the platform’s system after you do your formatting first from your Microsoft Word doc or PDF file. You need to prepare a document properly, but you can upload it to their system, and it sorts it out for you. All you have to do is follow the instructions.  


Check out a basic overview of what the formatting process for an ebook through KDP will look like: 

  1. Set paragraph indentations as well as line spacing. KDP likes single space and indents at 0.2 inches. Everything is laid out on their ebook formatting page.   
  2. Select your chapter headings. KDP wants heading 1 and centered chapter titles. What you want is for everything to look clean and consistent. Format your chapter title pages. For example, you can decide if you want a drop cap to start off each chapter. 
  3. Format your section breaks. You want each of your chapters to start on a fresh page on the Kindle, not be squished in at the end of the previous chapter’s last paragraph. You’ll need to put page breaks after each chapter to ensure this. 
  4. Format your front matter. Front matter is things like book title, dedication, copyright, and table of contents. KDP for example explains everything and how to create it in your Word document just so. 
  5. Add images or hyperlinks if you have them. The KDP site explains how to do this in your Word doc, but Kindle Create can also help you do it a little bit easier. 
  6. Proof before you upload to the site! This will include things like looking for font consistency, spacing errors, and missing chapter and page breaks. Again, use a previewing tool to go through your book after you think you’ve fixed all the errors, so you can see if it’s looking nice on a Kindle or ereader screen. 
  7. Upload! For KDP, this site will show you how to upload your book to their bookshelf, once your manuscript is ready. If you just formatted in Word, then save it as a doc or docx. Go to your bookshelf and search for your document on your computer to upload. KDP converts automatically to a mobi file, and then within a few hours, it will be able to be viewed from a Kindle! *Other platforms don’t always convert their files to an epub file for you, but HotGhostWriter uses KDP because all we have to do is handle the formatting through Word or Kindle Create, and KDP handles the file conversion!

Manuscript Formatting Tools

So you can work on your own formatting by following the instructions and completing them in your word or PDF document, however it’s really beneficial to the process to see how your book looks laid out. One way to find that out is to use a writing software like Scrivener. This program helps you organize, sort out your formatting, and you can use its compile feature to get everything ready for upload. 

You can also use Vellum, which is another formatting software to help convert your Word doc to the file it needs to be for upload. Vellum is great because its files can be uploaded to Kindle and the other ereaders like Kobo and Nook. 

These options are great and very popular, but at HGW, we recommend using KDP’s formatting tool Kindle Create. This program is easy to download from Amazon, and it helps you format your document as well as prepare the theme, font, front and back matter, etc. You can also upload your ebook from Kindle Create if you formatted with this program as opposed to just using Word.

See how things are going with your formatting by using a specific tool to view your manuscript in an ereader format. For example, after you use Kindle Create for the project, you can download Kindle Previewer to see just what it looks like on the Kindle screen and if you’ve followed the formatting instructions properly. It’s such an amazing resource because you can easily spot the formatting problems and go and fix them through Kindle Create. 

The other platforms also have program options and suggestions for you to use to create the best ebook or print book possible!

Self-Publishing Platforms and Their Requirements

Barnes & Noble

  • Here is their overall process for self-publishing.
  • For B&N Press, you can format your word document yourself to prepare it for uploading into their system. They give you all the tips you need to do it properly. Like other platforms, you will have to work on things like indents, spacing, and more in order for your document to be read properly.  
  • This platform uses the Nook as their ereader. 


  • Take a look at IngramSpark’s overall self-publishing process
  • IngramSpark, like B&N, offers to help you self-publish a print or an ebook, and their steps are clear and simple. They prefer Microsoft PDF and do not work with word. Take a look at their requirements
  • Their prepared files can be read on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple, so this might be a great choice to get the most readers!


  • Kobo is another popular platform option for self-publishers. Their instructions are very clear, and they prefer you start with either OpenOffice or Microsoft Word. 
  • They have their own ereader, a Kobo, so their files will be uploaded to be read on a Kobo, and it will be an epub file. That doesn’t always convert to other platform’s ereaders, so take that into consideration. 


  • LuluPress offers both ebook and print book self-publishing options, and they have their requirements for each. Since ebooks are more popular with self-publishers, take a look at their ebook formatting requirements. Again, they like Microsoft Word, but you can also start with a PDF. 
  • LuluPress books will convert to an epub file, so they can be read on any readers besides Kindle. 


  • Kindle Direct Publishing is by far the most popular choice for self-publishing because their instructions are easy, simple, and everyone knows Amazon and Kindle. 
  • HotGhostWriter formats their books for KDP because it’s very convenient and easy to follow for self-publishing. If you hire HGW for your self-publishing work, then you’ll already have the formatting done for you! 
  • Take a look at their formatting requirements to get started. 
  • Their files convert to a mobi file type, so that will not be readable on other ereaders which could really limit your readers. 

Other Sites and Tools for Manuscript Formatting

However, there are ways to convert files to be read on all ereaders, but that could be a little tricky if you’re not that tech savvy. When preparing your manuscript to be uploaded, it’s a lot to take in. Formatting is not super fun, but if the instructions are clear and precise, then you can follow along and upload your document with ease! For even more information on the formatting for self-publishing process, click on these other informative sites: 

If you want to use HotGhostWriter’s services for ghostwriting or just editing and formatting your manuscript, then click on the facebook messenger icon at the bottom of the screen to get in touch. You’ll end up with a perfectly polished manuscript, formatted for KDP guidelines and ready for upload to the publishing platform!


Kerilee Nickles

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