Self Publishing


This document discusses options for self-publishing e-books, covering both the technical options and some of the publishing providers.


This section contains notes that apply all publishing activities, regardless of a particular technology or publishing environment.

Document Formatting

Consider how you would like your book formatted. e.g.

  • Whether to indent the first line of each paragraph

  • Paragraph spacing

  • Margins

  • Page Breaks

  • Figures, tables and images

  • Colour, black & white and grey-shade rendering

  • Headers and footers

  • Fonts and size

Document Structure

When testing any conversion process, consider and test the behaviour of the following aspects of the document structure:

  • Cover image

  • Title page

  • Copyright notice

  • Dedication

  • Preface/Prologue

  • Table of Contents

  • Table of Figures

  • Tables

  • Bookmarks (Known as "Guide Items" on Kindle)

  • Cross-references

Character Conversion

When converting documents, errors may occur when characters outside the ASCII 7-bit range are encountered. This section lists a small selection of characters that more commonly cause issues, especially as many of them are automatically inserted as replacement characters by word-processing programs.

Note: Precisely because of such character conversion, these characters may not be displayed correctly for you in this article.


Some software applies automatic hyphenation rules when rendering text. The rules differ between languages.

Test how the conversion process handles automatic hyphenation. Experimentation will show whether or not it is best to turn off any automatic hyphenation in the word-processor that you are using. Not all e-book readers support hyphenation.

Other things to consider of a similar nature are soft-hyphens, hard (or non-breaking) spaces.

Quality Assurance

Consider the following to improve the quality of the published book:

  • Spell-checking

  • Grammar

  • Proofreading

  • Preview layout during publishing process

See also Editing and Proofreading Marks

Revision Control

It is important to use some kind of Revision control system to manage changes to your book, especially once you start releasing draft versions to others for review or publishing.

In it's simplest form, simply rename the file to reflect an incrementing version number, e.g.


You may also want to maintain a simple log for each version number with a description of changes and to whom which versions have been released. This makes it easier to locate references in the latest version of the document as a review will often refer to the location of a typo etc. by such things as page, chapter, section or paragraph numbers which may change in later versions.

Better still, is to use software to maintain a revision control system, such as Git which can be run on your local machine as it does not require a server to host the repository. There are many graphical user interfaces for git. Windows users might prefer using gitextensions or tortoisegit.


Sigil is a free and open-source program for editing EPUB e-books. It runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. It is currently not intended to be used to actually write the e-book, but as part of the formatting process, prior to publication. E.g. one could write the book using LibreOffice Writer (or Microsoft Word), save it as HTML, then import into into Sigil. After formatting it in Sigil, you could use Calibre (described below) to convert it to pretty well any other non-DRM format.

See also Wikipedia - EPUB


Calibre is a free and open-source program that can be used to convert and manage e-books, supporting a wide variety of formats. It runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon provide self-publishing services under the heading of "Kindle Direct Publishing" (KDP). There are primarily two facilities provided for publishing documents in the Kindle format.

  1. An on-line interface

  2. KindleGen command line program

Supported Formats

The following document formats are supported by the on-line interface:

  • Word (.doc, or DOC)
  • ePub (.epub, or EPUB)
  • Plain Text (.txt, or TXT)
  • MobiPocket (.mobi, or MOBI and .prc, or PRC)
  • Zipped HTML (.zip, or ZIP)
  • Adobe PDF (.pdf, or PDF)

Amazon recommend uploading in HTML format for best results. Word documents can be saved as "filtered" HTML.

The Amazon documentation also states that KDP handles un-encrypted .mobi file formatting any images very well. PDF files may not convert well.

The command-line program runs on Windows XP, Vista and 7, Mac OSX 10.5 and Linux 2.6 i386.

Amazon publishes the following short e-books in the Kindle store, which you should read before beginning to write your book, as correctly formatting your document as your write it can save hours of tedious and repetitive work attempting to fix formatting and layout issues:

"Building Your Book for Kindle"

"Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing"


When publishing on Amazon, you can choose whether the book is protected with DRM or not.


Whilst you can preview your e-book during the KDP publishing process, if you already own a Kindle, you may also be able to preview the document layout using Amazon's Kindle Personal Documents Service, which presumably uses similar, if not the same, software to convert documents to the Kindle format.

Creating Books with Microsoft Word

The Simplified Formatting Guide provides tips for creating books using Word.

  • Are there any predefined templates for Word documents?


-- Frank Dean - 20 Jul 2012

Related Topics: DocumentFormats, CreatingDocuments, LaTeX