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Formatting for E-Readers

With the increasing availability and acceptance of e-readers, electronic self-publishing of fiction is a growing avenue for writers to pursue.

If you would like to offer your readers the option of downloading a PDF of your novel (or just an excerpt) you may want to format a version to suit e-readers. The most common screen display size is 6 inches diagonal (152mm). This equates to roughly 3 inches by 5 inches (82mm by 120mm).

Most e-readers are able to adjust, though, to suit a variety of page sizes and font and spacing options, so keep it straightforward and uncluttered.

Word 2007: Page Layout Tab, Size, More Page Sizes...

 Enter new width and height values under “Paper Size” in the Page Setup Dialog Box (Paper tab).

Word 2003: File, Page Setup, Paper Tab


With such a small page area you will need to adjust the margins to allow more room for the text.

Word 2007:

An easy option is to select Narrow Margins from the Margins drop-down menu.

Or select Custom Margins... and enter a smaller value for each of the options of Top, Bottom, Left, and Right margins in the Page Setup, Margins Dialog Box.

Word 2003: File, Page Setup, Margins Tab

Page Numbers

Another adjustment you may require is of the header and footer width if you add page numbers.

Double-click the page number.

Word 2007: Design Tab (under Header and Footer Tools). Reduce the value under “Header from Top” and “Footer from Bottom”.

Word 2003: File, Page Setup, Layout Tab

Ready, Set, Publish

If you have Word 2007 or 2010 you have a built-in PDF creator. Click Office Button (or File in Word 2010), Save As, PDF or XPS, Publish.

Most e-readers support PDF files, so there you have an easy way to share your writing with your readers right at your fingertips.

Elsa NealIs Word driving you crazy? Then Word 4 Writers is for you. Learn to tame the monster and save your time in front of the screen for writing not fighting. Elsa Neal has been strong-arming Word for 14 years and teaching others to do the same. She is based in Melbourne, Australia.

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  1. Ok, the only good this post will do is that some people will see this Comment and go to THIS post:

    Reference: Optimize PDFs For Sony Reader

    Note that there are also eInk devices with 5" screens out there, so create a version for that too.

    PDFs created on the basis of that guide will work on *all* 6" eInk devices -- Sony, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.

  2. Excellent post. It seems like every time you upgrade Word, it's a maze to find how to do things the new way. You've made it very clear. Even I might be able to do it!

  3. Interesting post. I've only offered first chapter reads from my website, and for the works I have on Smashwords and Kindle, the sample is taken care of on that end.

    (And Smashwords has a very detailed, step-by-step formatting guide for its site.)

    I just got a NOOKcolor that will read PDF files; I'll have to see what a 'regular' one looks like.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  4. This is a post that I will copy and save for a time when I want to learn how to do this. Really appreciate the step-by-step approach you take, Elle. That is what we non-techies need.

  5. Mike,

    Thanks for sharing that link; that's a great resource from Sony. Most of it deals with using Adobe Acrobat software to create a PDF, which I don't think very many people own. For those writers who use Word, five or six steps is probably easier to deal with than 43 pages and extra software.

    So, I'm not quite sure why you've taken issue with my post covering the basics for Word users.


    It does seem to involve a learning curve each time, doesn't it? For me the best way to learn is to teach ;-)


    Indeed, most e-pubs and POD sites do have good layout and formatting guidelines.


    You're welcome. I hope it comes in handy.

    Word 4 Writers on HearWriteNow
    Blood-Red Pencil

  6. I've been studying the Smashwords style sheet. It's very detailed and very good by the owner, Mark Coker. You can find it online for free if you're interested.

  7. The more we learn, the better off we are, even if we hire someone to do the conversions. Good post, Elle.

  8. Ann,

    Indeed, Smashwords has really opened up a whole avenue for writers wanting to e-pub.


    So true. And sometimes we know how to do something but just don't have the time.


    Thanks for dropping by.

    Word 4 Writers on HearWriteNow
    Blood-Red Pencil

  9. This is excellent information. I really don't know how small or big readers are because I haven't bought one. I'm still using my desktop pc.


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