PROJECT: Prepare a manuscript for conversion to an ebook

PROJECT: Prepare a manuscript for conversion to an ebook
Aldous Huxley manuscript

In this project, you’ll mark up a manuscript for conversion to an ebook. The project will help you learn the concepts and techniques we’ve covered in the course so far.

This project is in two parts:

  1. In Part 1 you’ll learn how to set up Microsoft Word to do simple ebook mark-up.
  2. In Part 2 you’ll prepare and mark up a sample book including text and images.

Later, in the Production module, we’ll take the marked-up document you prepare here and actually turn it into an ebook. You’ll then be able to use these techniques to produce your own ebooks.

So set aside some quiet time, turn off the distractions, and let’s get started.

Image Credit: The Paris Review


We’ve created tutorials to take you through each step. You’ll probably need a couple of hours and you can break it up over two or three sessions.

Some preparatory items:

  • We suggest that you keep these instructions open to refer to, or use the links at the bottom of this page to print them, create a PDF of them, or send them to your Kindle or Kindle app.
  • We’ve supplied the images and placeholder text files we use in the tutorials. You can download these demo files from the Resources link below and use them in your project, or you can use your own files if you prefer.
  • We’ve used the program most commonly-used for writing and ebook conversion, Microsoft Word 2010. All instructions relate to this. Most word processors will have equivalent functions which you’ll be able to access through their help files.
  • If you don’t have a suitable program, a very good free option is Open Office (


  • Download the project files from this link. You should then unzip them into a directory. You can also open the .zip folder by double-clicking on it. This package also includes some files that will be used in the next module when we actually convert the manuscript to an ebook.
  • Revision and reference. You might want to revise or refer to the topic of suitable formatting options for ebooks. If you plan to use your own manuscript, you’ll need to prepare any images as described in the two topics on images. Finally, you might want to revise or refer to the section on formatting the parts of an ebook.

Part 1. Prepare Microsoft Word for marking up a manuscript


We’re going to spend a few minutes getting MS Word in shape. In the process of doing this, you’ll also learn some handy things about styles, one of the core features to produce tidy, well-structured documents.


Here’s an outline of what you’ll be doing. The detailed steps are in the accordion sections (click to open them).

  1. Go to the options menu in Word and make some changes to Word’s set-up.
  2. Set up a small group of styles which you’ll use to mark-up your manuscript. These are the styles that will map to corresponding HTML tags when the manuscript is converted.
  3. Save this group of styles so that you can use them again.
  4. That’s it. You’re ready to start marking up your manuscript.


  • STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS: This will take you through setting up MS Word and creating a set of mark-up styles to apply to the manuscript.
INSTRUCTIONS: How to set up MS Word for ebook markup

Before we begin to markup a document for conversion, there are a couple of things we need to do to set up Word.

  1. We need to turn off some of Word’s auto-formatting features.
  2. We need to set up some styles for use in marking up the document.

This demonstration uses Microsoft Word 2010. If you’re using a different version or word processor, some things will vary so check your documentation.

First, let’s adjust Word’s auto-formatting and auto-correction features.

  1. Make sure the document you’ll be marking up is open on screen. The project example file is called hist_painting_MS–USE_THIS.doc
    (Note that you can skip this and do the set-up with a blank document provided that you save your set-up for re-use. We do this at end of this demonstration.)
  2. Go to File > Options menu
    Word-set-up Options

    Click to enlarge.

  3. Select Proofing > AutoCorrect Options
  4. Then choose AutoFormat As You Type. Uncheck options that you don’t need.
    Word set-up autoformat

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  5. Select the AutoFormat tab. Uncheck the four items under Apply. Then uncheck any other items that you don’t need.
    Word set-up - AutoFormat options

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  6. Click OK
  7. Next, make sure that the Show All Formatting button is selected to display formatting marks.
    Word-set-up - Show all formatting

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    You’ll see paragraph formatting marks appear and disappear from display as we click this button on and off. It’s important to have this turned on so that invisible formatting marks can be seen.

  8. We’ll now set up the styles that we will use to mark up the document for conversion to an ebook. We’ll start by formatting the style we will use for normal paragraphs.
  9. Right click on the Normal style, then select Modify to bring up a menu of formatting options.
    Word-set-up - Format Normal style

    Click to enlarge

  10. The first thing we will do is change the default font to one of the three ‘safe’ fonts that will work on any e-reader: Times New Roman, Arial or Garamond. We’ll use Garamond.
  11. We’ll then select Format and Paragraph to change some settings. We’ll format in block style. (You can refer to this topic if you prefer first line indent style.)
    Word-set-up - Format Normal style

    Click to enlarge

  12. Check under Indentation that there is no special indentation selected.
  13. We’ll select Single Line spacing.

  14. Finally, we will adjust the Spacing After to 6 points. This too is optional.
  15. Next, we’ll adjust the style for Heading 1. This is the style we will use for Chapter headings and for items that we want to appear in the top level of the Table of Contents.
  16. Right click on Heading 1 then select Modify.
    Word set-up - Heading 1 style

    Click to enlarge.

  17. Again, adjust the font to one of the three ‘safe’ fonts. In this case, we’ll choose Arial and we’ll center it.
  18. Select Format and change paragraph style settings to suit. We’ll leave them unchanged.

  19. Repeat with Heading 2.
  20. Next, we’ll create a new Captions style. We’ll use this style to format the figure captions.
  21. Click the Styles button to bring up a list of styles.  This is the small, gray diagonal arrow under the Change Styles icon. (Don’t confuse it with the black drop-down arrow next to Change Styles).
    Word set-up - Styles button

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  22. Then select the New Style button on the bottom left.
  23. Word set-up - Create new style

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    Give the style a Name. We’ll call the new style Figure.

  24. Select the style properties. We will select Style Type: Paragraph. Style based on: Quote so that it will inherit formats from this style. Style for the following paragraph: Normal.  We’ll format with Garamond type, and centre it.
  25. Click OK to save the new style when you’re finished with your formatting.
  26. That’s all we need to do. We’re ready to apply these styles to the document on screen.
  27. However, we can optionally save this style so that we can call it up and apply it to other documents. This is a handy feature and you can create as many style sets as you need.
  28. To do this, click Change Styles, then choose Style Set. A list of style sets appears.
    Word-set-up - Change styles

    Click to enlarge.

  29. Click Save as Quick Style Set then give the new set of styles a name. We’ll call ours book.
  30. To access this custom set in future, select it from the Change Styles > Style Set menu.

That’s it! We’re now ready to begin marking up our manuscript.

Part 2. Mark up a sample manuscript for conversion


Now we’re ready to start work on marking up our manuscript. You’re welcome to use your own manuscript, but for this exercise we’ve taken a few chapters from a public domain called, A Textbook of the History of Painting. The book includes both text and illustrations. The book’s Project Gutenberg link is

Note that the mark-up system we will use is a good, general-purpose method but different conversion processes may require variations on this scheme.


  1. Normalize your manuscript to remove old formatting.
  2. Apply styles to major elements like the title, chapter heading, sub-headings.
  3. Insert illustrations and style captions.
  4. Repeat for each chapter until complete.


  • STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS: These will take you through the manuscript markup process.
INSTRUCTIONS: How to mark up a manuscript
  1. Open the example document we used in the first part of our exercise. This will include the styles we formatted. (If your styles don’t appear and you saved them, go to Change Style > Style Set and select the style name you created.)
  2. Alternatively, open your own manuscript. Select the Style Set you created in Part 1 by going to Change Style > Style Set and selecting the style name. Then Normalize the text to remove prior formatting. Instructions for normalizing text are here.
  3. Make sure that the Show All Formatting button is selected to display formatting marks (see Part 1).
  4. Let’s start by formatting the front matter (title page, copyright page etc)
  5. Apply the Heading 1 style to the book’s title.
  6. Select the block of text that includes ‘By’, the author’s name and his title.
  7. Format it. In this case, we’ll center the text block, increase its type size to 14pt, then increase the the type size of the name to 16pt and apply bold type to it.
  8. Select the Copyright heading and apply the Heading 1 style to it. This will ensure that it appears in the Table of Contents AA a top level entry.
  9. Format the rest of the text in the Copyright page. In this case, we’ve chosen to center it.
    Here’s what it looks like so far.

    Word markup - front matter

    Click to enlarge.

  10. Next, select the Preface title and apply the Heading 1 style and format the text as required (remember, nothing too fancy!).
  11. Next, we come to the table of contents in the document. This is not required for the EPUB version of this ebook so we will delete it. A navigational Table of Contents will be produced automatically by the ebook conversion program, based on the Heading styles. (Retain a copy of this table of contents. It will be needed if you produce a Kindle version.)
  12. Select the Introduction title and apply Heading 1 style to it. Format the text in this section as required.
  13. Select the Chapter I heading and apply the Heading 1 style.
  14. Select the Egyptian Painting sub-head and apply the Heading 2 style. This will appear in the Table of Contents as a level 2 heading.
  15. Format the text as required (again, nothing too fancy).
    Here’s what it looks like so far.

    Word markup - Chapter 1

    Click to enlarge.

  16. We’re next going to insert an image ahead of the Fig 1 caption. Place the cursor just above the caption.
  17. Click the Picture button in the Insert ribbon toolbar.
  18. Locate the directory where you placed the images and select the image file for Figure 1.
  19. Insert the image into the document. (Note that, for the example images, names start the figure number to which they apply.)
    Word markup -insert image

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  20. Next, select the Format tab under the Picture Tools menu item (make sure the image is selected first).
  21. Select Wrap Text, then select Inline with Text from the menu.
    Word markup - format image

    Click to enlarge

  22. Click on the image, then go to the Home tab.
  23. Click the Center button.
  24. Click the Fig. 1 caption.
  25. Select the Figure style from the Styles menu. This will center the caption and format it in italics.
    (The illustration above shows how it looks when the format is applied.)
  26. Continue to format the text as required.
  27. Just before the Figure 2 caption, click Insert Picture and insert the image for Figure 2.
  28. Select the Format tab under the Picture Tools menu item.
  29. Repeat the formatting for image and caption as for Figure 1 above.
  30. Format text as required.
  31. Repeat insert images and format captions until you reach the end of Chapter 1.
  32. At Chapter II, select heading and apply Heading 1 style.
  33. Select Chalaeo – Assyrian Painting and apply the Heading 2 style.
  34. Repeat the same formatting used in Chapter 1 to the end of document.
  35. The book extract is now marked up and ready to convert to an ebook!

If you want to check your work, there is a partly-finished example file in the text folder of the zip file you downloaded for this project. Use this if you want to check your format settings.



Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.


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