How To: From Word to Book

Hello SErs! Harmony here. When I posted about using Calibre to convert and edit your ePub, a couple of you asked about formatting Word ready for that conversion, and also for print. Today, I attempt to walk you through the main pitfalls that Word can throw at you, which mess up your lovely book. You can find my original post HERE.

So, you’ve written that book and had it edited and proofread, and now you’re ready to turn it into an ebook and PDF for publishing. Before you do that, however, you need to take a deeper look, one that goes behind the scenes in Word, to check on any gremlins hiding in the formatting code.

Tip: Once you’ve got the formatting down, you can set up a template on which to base your every book. And at the end of each chapter, instead of a page break, insert a section break (next page) instead. This makes your life a lot easier in the long run!

So, in the last post, I mentioned a little button on Word’s top menu bar, which shows hidden formatting. Here it is again …

So, now you’ve got that turned on, you need to go through line by line and page by page looking for those gremlins. The main two are indents or tabs and funny little return arrows that don’t want to be there. What you want to see at the end of a sentence are the little blue symbols you see all over the page above. These are paragraph markers.

If you see any of the arrows as shown below, you need to take them out … seriously, kill the little suckers!

This is because, during conversion, Word steals extra spaces and shifts stuff around. As mentioned in my other post, at least Calibre now has an editing program to help you edit out such dirty moves. The best alternative is to use your ruler to ‘drag’ your text where you want it. Either that, or connect your chapter number with the title using dots. I show the drag method below …


Apologies for blanking out the text, but the best MS to use as an example came from one of my clients, and I need to protect their privacy and copyright. Here, you can see that instead of using tabs, I dragged the bottom marker on the ruler across to create the same gap but not giving Word the opportunity to steal any spaces. For any alignment work, using these markers and dragging is the way to go.

The other big gremlin is that funny little return arrow I mentioned above. Here it is …

Here you see that arrow, which denotes a return, and the paragraph symbol. These returns mess up your line spacing. The solution is to delete them and hit return again, this will give you the paragraph symbol, which works fine in conversions.

The image below shows you a selection of hidden formatting symbols …

Now that you’ve gone through the whole of your manuscript … phew! … it is time to go through and put in those section breaks. Whether you are formatting for print or ebook, you need to get this bit right. And, please, never ever ever use hard returns to set your next page position. Never! Don’t do it. You don’t want to see a page full of those paragraph marks at all. Use your section breaks instead (or, at the very least, your page breaks).

The reason that I recommend section breaks instead of page breaks is that this makes the insertion of headers/footers and page numbering much more straightforward. This is more so for print. However, taking care of this now, means that you can use the same document for both print (PDF) and ebook (converting to ePub) if you wish.

Below, you will see how to find the ‘insert section break (next page)’ …

This will differ slightly depending upon which version of Word you have, but the menus follow the same basic format, so have a play until you find it. The simplest and easiest section break to insert is the ‘next page’ one.

With the hidden formatting turned on, it looks something like this …

Tip: If your page numbering messes up when you insert page numbers (such as showing on the front pages or title header pages, etc.), then click on the blue lined ‘section break’ as shown above, and this will bring up a dialogue box where you can set where your numbers go. You might have to do this for every single section break if Word decides to let the gremlins have a tea party. See below …

Here, you can see that I have set a different odd and even page and a different first page. This prevents your headers/footers and page numbers from appearing on the page immediately following a section end, such as new chapters, etc. For this reason, it is a good idea to set a section break at the bottom of each of your front pages, where you don’t want anything but the text or a blank page.

The different odd/even allows you to put your name on one page and the book title on the facing page if you want to do it this way. In this example, I have my name and book title on the same header, at other times, I alternate. This standard set-up gave me the choice when I worked in Word. These days, I do all this in Scrivener instead.

Okay, so now you’ve got your page headers and numbers where you want them. Right, then, time to start on your table of contents (TOC). Why have I put this last? This is because, once you set bookmarks, they live in a specific place in your MS. If you alter anything, even just a word or two, this can render your bookmarks useless, as they now point to a place other than where your chapter title header actually is.

For print books and converting to PDF, you can if you wish, use Word’s automated TOC. To use this, you will have needed to use a ‘title’ font selection for your chapter titles so that Word can identify them. Please be aware, though, that this does not work for ebook conversion. Once again, those gremlins hide in code that messes up in the conversion process. Because of this, for an ebook, you need to insert the TOC manually. It takes time, but is well worth it in the end. At this point, you may decide to save two versions: one for PDF for print and one for ebook conversion. Or you may want to do this before adding headers/numbering. Ebooks for Kindle don’t show any numbers or headers/footers, so don’t worry too much if your intended finished ebook will be for Kindle. Personally, I like to save two versions before doing the TOC and Headers/Footers … one for ebook and one for print. This also gives me a backup copy if the worst happens!

Tip: Don’t rely on a PDF to convert to ebook, as converting from a PDF to ebook usually doesn’t give the best results. I always convert to ebook from Word or Scrivener and keep PDFs strictly for print editions. If you want your book to look its best, then it’s worth the bit of extra work.

To make your TOC, add a page at the front of the book and list your chapters.

Then go to Chapter One’s title on the first page of your first chapter, highlight the chapter title, and insert a bookmark …

The following dialogue opens …

Type in your title name or number and click on ‘Add’.

Tip: You cannot use spaces in between words, but you can use underline … like so …


Once you’ve inserted all your bookmarks, go to your TOC list at the front of the book. Highlight the number/title for chapter one and insert a link. (On a Mac, this can be done by pressing cmd and K.) The following dialogue opens …


Ensure ‘Document’ is highlighted as above. Then click on ‘locate’.

Then click on ‘Bookmarks’ and find Chapter_1 on the drop-down list. Click ‘OK’.

Do this for each chapter line. Eventually, you will have a TOC linked to your chapters like so …

When you click on ‘Chapter One’, Word will take you to the chapter start, like so …

You can see that the cursor is at the edge of ‘Chapter 1’. When you convert, this will link throughout the ePub for you.

Okay, folks! That’s it all done. Now, you’re ready to convert to ePub or PDF. For ePub, see my earlier post HERE.

I hope you’ve found this helpful and best of luck with your writing and formatting! πŸ™‚

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A walk through how to convert from Word to PDF for Print, and ePub for ebook


Harmony Kent


31 thoughts on “How To: From Word to Book

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

  2. That is an extensive tutorial. Confession time: Table of Contents is what started me hiring this stuff out. I did it once, and found it frustrating. I’m sure authors are bookmarking this all over the internet. Do you think those of us who grew up with typewriters have a harder time abandoning those returns and such?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Harmony! This is invaluable to me! I did use Calibre to do the conversion of my short stories, but now I can see what else I could have done. I never got a TOC and now I know why. I am pinning for future reference. It helps so much to see practical examples!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: How To: From Word to Book | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

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