How to format your novel for an ereader

How to format an Advance Review Copy (ARC)

If you’re planning to self publish, it’s a good idea to make an advance review copy (ARC) of your novel. Formatted to be read on an eReader, an ARC copy is a handy marketing tool, allowing you to get reviews in on Amazon to coincide with the launch of your novel. While some people use a print on demand service to get physical copies into the hands of their reviewers, it’s more common to send advance review copies in ePub or MOBI format. This is good news because it will only cost you a little bit of time to produce these copies. However, to do it right, you will need to closely follow the instructions below:

The basics

One of the reasons I love my Kobo, is that I can still read novels on it even if I’ve forgotten my glasses. By resetting the font to large, the text is reconfigured with lines containing far fewer words and pages far fewer lines. But that’s fine, because the eReader will accordingly reformat the larger text to fit the screen and recalculate the number of pages in the novel. In short, an eBook file has no fixed format, but works in the same way a webpage does, that is it flows to fit the screen in question, whether it be a smartphone or a PC. This is why it’s essential to get rid of all unnecessary formatting before converting your Word file into ePub or MOBI.

Images

If your eBook is image heavy, then I have bad news for those of you looking to self publish. It’s much harder to get images to flow properly on the page. To do this properly, it’s best to employ the services of someone who can code the CSS (cascading style script) to accommodate your images. If you think you’re up to some coding, however, this article contains the information you need to layout your book.

Preparing your advance review copy for conversion

If you’ve ever submitted your novel to an agent, you will have formatted your manuscript to be double spaced with all pages numbered. Now you’re self publishing, you have to think differently. For starters you want the text single spaced, so go to the Layout menu in Word and click on the little box to the right of Paragraph in the toolbar. Change your line spacing to single.

As pagination will be added automatically by the eReader itself, you need to remove your page numbers. Go to the Insert menu and, just above Header & Footer, click on Page Number, choose the last option in the dropdown menu to remove all pagination. Make sure you delete all headers and footers too as the eReader will add these for you.

The next step is to tell the eReader how to display all the text in your novel. What this boils down to is instructing it how to tell the difference between the title of the novel, the chapter headings and the main body of the text. Begin by selecting all your text and marking it as normal text. You do this by going to Styles in the Home menu and clicking on Normal. For the title, use Book Title from the same menu and for chapter headings use Heading 1. You should also make sure you have page breaks inserted between chapters.

Now you need to handle indentation of first lines. In your paragraph settings, you should already have the box checked for ‘indent first line’. However, as the eReader screen is quite small, you need to accordingly reduce that indentation to 1 centimeter, as opposed to the default 1.27 centimeters.

Advance review copy disclaimer

All advance review copies need to contain a disclaimer that clearly states that it’s an ARC. You ought to put the disclaimer at the beginning of the novel along with your title, estimated retail price, launch date, contact details and copyright terms. I’ve pasted my version below. Feel free to copy, paste and alter accordingly:

XXXXX
by
Felicity Hughes
(Advance Review Copy)

Disclaimer: This is an ARC (advanced review copy) and as such has been distributed for free. The price and launch date of this novel may be subject to change.
Estimated retail price: XXX
Proposed launch date: X/X/XX
Page numbers: XXX

Copyright © 2021 by Felicity Hughes
Published by XXX Press

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of quotations in a book review. For more information:
physical address / email
website

You should add another disclaimer to the end of the novel too. Again here’s mine:

Disclaimer: This is an ARC (advanced review copy) and as such has been distributed for free. The price and launch date of this novel may be subject to change.
Estimated retail price: XXX
Proposed launch date: 29 July 2022
Page numbers: 120
Author website:

Checklist

You should now be about ready to convert your .docx document, but before you do, run through the checklist below to make doubly certain you haven’t missed anything:

  • Single space the text
  • Remove page numbers
  • Remove headers and footers
  • Set your text styles: Book Title for the tile, Heading 1 for chapters, Normal for all other text
  • Make sure you have page breaks between chapters
  • Indent first line as 1 centimeter
  • Add advance review copy (ARC) disclaimer

Convert!

To convert your .docx file into an advance review copy you now need to download a program called Calibre. It’s available free for Windows, Linux and Mac. Once you’ve got it up and running, upload your .docx file by clicking on the Add icon at the top left of the screen. Your novel should now appear in the library. Right click on that file to edit metadata. This is the point at which you can add any cover art and, if you have one, the name of your imprint.

Once you’re satisfied with that, click OK and then right click again to Covert book. Your input at the top left should be .docx and your output at the top right should be ePub or MOBI, whichever you need. You can do the process again, of course, to create both.

A word of warning

You will probably find that you have to fiddle around for a while to get the ebook to come out as you want it to. So always check the file on your eReader before sending it out to reviewers. I’ve found that the best way to eliminate random formatting errors is to go back to Word and go to File, Options, Display and click on Show all Formatting.

You’re all set

Now you’re ready to get those ARCs out to reviewers. However, before you hit send, you need to be absolutely sure that your novel is ready to be self published. Has it been beta read? Has it been copyedited? More importantly, has it been proofread? While reviewers will be happy to tell you about the odd typo, if the text is riddled with them, they’re unlikely to want to finish the whole book. The same goes for plot holes and sloppy writing. To be sure the manuscript is the best it can be, it’s always a good idea to hire the services of a professional editor. If you are unsure whether you’re good to go, do get in touch and I can give you a free assessment of a sample.

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