I published my first indie eBook by uploading a Word doc to my Kindle account. The preview looked okay, but when the eBook showed up online ~ it looked horrible with mismatched indents and wordsscrunchedtogether. Nook wasn’t better. Neither was Smashwords.

After much trial and error, I was able to upload passable eBooks to Kindle and Nook (but not Smashwords).

Fast forward to when I worked for a book publisher. There I learned the magic of “applied styles” in Word. This was the process that helped our layout designer know exactly how the books should look, and also to eliminate wingdings and spaces that somehow find their way into the average MS Word doc.

So I took all my eBooks down ~ I had several by then ~ reformatted them by “applying styles” in Word to the various sections of the manuscript, then resubmitted them to Kindle, Nook, and to Smashwords as well. This was a huge formatting upgrade for my eBooks ~ with nothing but time and sweat equity. And they looked SO much better.

These days I write and publish my stories in Scrivener or, if they are particularly image-heavy, I hire a professional formatter. But for straightforward simple text, try applying fixed styles to your manuscript in Word before uploading the file to Amazon. Doing this should eliminate wonky styles that often get embedded into Word docs.

To open Styles in MS Word, click on the small arrow at the bottom right hand corner of the styles box. (Yours may look different.)

After opening Styles, you should see a pop-up like the one below. You can modify each style according to your needs. That’s what I’ve done here. To do this, run your cursor over the paragraph symbol next to the style. The symbol will change to a drop-down arrow. Click on that and you can modify the style as you wish. For example, you can set paragraphs to .3 indent.

In order to “apply” the style, you’ll need to highlight the particular text with your cursor (the title, for example) and then click on the style in the box. That will fix your style. Do this throughout your entire manuscript in order to “fix” each section to stick to a particular style. This way you won’t have any tabs or weird spaces sneak in.

Below is a screen shot of a very simple template I created with the styles pictured in the style box. There are only four fixed styles: one for the title, one for the subtitle, one for the author, and the rest for the text. “Apply” styles to your entire manuscript, and then upload and check it in your preview window. Your eBook should look very clean!

One caveat: You will still need to manually create a TOC (table of contents) for your eBook. But that’s a lesson for another day!

How to Publish an eBook Fast: Applied Styles