Using Word Headings and calibre to Format ebooks

I see discussion on the writers loops about formatting ebooks, so I thought I’d put in my two cents. Here’s how I format my  ebooks using the free program calibre. And, by the way, I’ll be using a PC and Word throughout.

I am not particularly tech savvy, and this was one of the easiest things I  had to learn.You can give it a try at no cost and preview the results on your kindle or the calibre ebook viewer.

I do a straightforward ebook, with consistent chapter headings but no flourishes. When I’m reading, I find fancy chapter headings distracting once I’m into the book. You could probably figure out how to make your ebooks fancier in calibre too, but I have never bothered. I do put a page with images of my other books and links in the back, though.

This post is in two parts: Headings, and calibre.

Using Headings

Headings are a Word function that many ebook formatting programs use to identify chapters. It is also a useful editing tool while working on picture of an open word documentyour manuscript (ms). The first thing to do is to open the Navigation Pane in your document, (the column on the left in this image. Called Document Map in older versions of Word and, confusingly, is still called that if you try to Customize the Ribbon, as I have done here.)

If your open window does not show the Navigation Pane like this, go to the VIEW tab and click on Navigation Pane. This also opens your search/Find bar. I use the navigation Pane to jump between sections of my document and, with headings and subheadings, it makes an outline of the story as I go.

To set up your manuscript in Word with Headings, go to Headings in the HOME tab, usually on the far right.

headings
Find Headings in the HOME tab

The body of your ms will show as Normal. If you want to setup a chapter heading or Part One, Part Two type of division (as I’ve done here using the days of the week) and chapters as sub-divisions, you can do that in headings.

  • in my case I highlighted, “Saturday, Day 1”, at the beginning of my ms, clicked on Heading 1, and my highlighted words showed up in the Navigating Pane
  • then I highlighted “Chapter 1”, clicked on Heading  2, and Chapter 1 showed up as a sub-heading. I always put chapters as Heading 2. 
  • when I’m working on a ms, I also label the scenes and call them Heading 3 (Rocky apologizes.) for my Nav. Pane outline.

I also put word counts in the headings, and often label structural points, “End of Act 1”, “Mid-point”, etc., as Heading 1. You can add anything you want to keep track of or find again to the Headings. You end up with a brief outline in the Navigating Pane, and as a bonus, you can drag headings around in the Nav. Pane and the whole section moves within the document but your can’t copy the Navigation Pane to use as an freestanding outline.

When I’m ready to format the ms as a book, I save the document with a different name and, in the new ebook version, take out all of these headings notes-to -self and scene headings and just leaving the headings as I want them to appear in the book. Chapter One, etc.

To reformat the look of the headings, change one to how you want them all to look, font, size, bold, italics centered, whatever. Then highlight it and go to that heading tab, right click, and click Update Heading 2 to Match Selection. All parts set in Heading 2 (all chapter headings)  should change to match.

Using Calibre

calibre icon on my desktop
calibre icon on my desktop
  • Download calibre, install on desktop and open.
  • click Add books (top left, red icon)

    calibre open on my desktop
    calibre open on my desktop
  • click on ms file you want to format and it appears in the blue line at the top of your list.
  • Click Convert books and open this panel.
  • set Output format to MOBI for kindle or EPUB for everything else.convert-books
  • I fill in title, author, author sort, publisher, tags, series, and book #, and up load my cover image.
  • DO NOT CLICK OK AT THIS POINT
  • I click on Look & Feel in the left menu, it opens to the Font tab. Choose a font
  • click on the Text tab, click on Justify
  • click on Layout, Insert blank line between paragaphs, change  Line size: to  0.2 em I find this a pleasant spacing to read,
  • go to the left hand menu and click on Table of Contents and click on Force use of auto-generated Table of Contents. This is where your Headings will be picked up on calibre (and other programs) to make your Table of Contents.
  • NOW CLICK OK AND CALIBRE WILL FORMAT YOUR EBOOK AND MAKE A NEW FILE CALLED “CALIBRE” ON YOUR COMPUTER TO STORE YOUR EBOOK FILES .
  • At this point you can go back and change the Output format and it will have saved all your settings and format the new ebook. If you change the output format before clicking OK you will lose all your settings and have to start from square one.
  • If you saved a MOBI file, you can email it to your kindle. Find your kindle’s email address in the settings of your device. This way you can see exactly what your readers will see when you upload your file to their kindle. For EPUB files, I open them on Calibre’s e-book viewer by double clicking on the name in the blue line.

Piece o’ cake! Any questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them, but this is really all I  know. Works for me.

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