Posted On November 4, 2016 by Print This Post

Formatting Tips for Indie Authors Who Want to Do it All Without Learning HTML by Ann Warner

Please welcome back ANN WARNER, with a special post aimed at those who are dealing with the challenges of self-publishing. Scroll to “the Question” below for details of Ann’s giveaway.


While creating MOBI files is relatively easy, although not without its particularities and peculiarities, EPUB is a much harder nut for many Indie writers to crack.


I speak from experience, having tried several EPUB creation programs. I’ve always ended up with error messages I couldn’t even begin to translate.


But, now I’ve found a single program that takes the frustration out of both MOBI and EPUB file creation. That program is Jutoh.


What is Jutoh?


Jutoh is a program which takes DOCX or HTML files and transforms them into MOBI, EPUB, and several other file types. My experience is with the PC version, but Mac and Linux versions are also available.


Written by Julian Smart to help address his wife’s needs (Harriet Smart is a novelist), Jutoh is one of the most user friendly programs I’ve encountered. The learning curve was more stroll than climb, although that may due be in part to the expertise I gained from struggles with Word.


Jutoh is available as a free demo. Full functionality costs a one-time licensing fee, currently $39US. During the download, Jutoh will ask permission to also download Kindlegen which is needed to produce MOBI files.


Your Word Document


In order to have a relaxed experience with Jutoh you need to start with a clean Word document. The best way to I’ve found to produce a document without random formatting commands and miscellaneous font changes is to follow the steps outlined in Mark Coker’s Style Guide, available as a free download.


While it might be tedious the first time you apply all Mark’s suggestions to your document, you’ll also be learning the steps needed to produce future Word documents that will translate into properly formatted e-editions.


Here are a few of the most common corrections you would have applied while using the Style Guide.


Tabs and Spaces


Upon opening your document in Word, click on the show/hide ( ¶ ) symbol on your menu bar. This will show you page, line, paragraph, and section breaks as well as spacing. Two things you’ll want to check: whether you have any double spaces between words or sentences and whether you’ve used any “tabs.”


Replacing double spaces with a single space can be easily accomplished using the Search/Replace function. Just add two spaces (click the space bar twice) to the Search line and one space to the Replace line…both lines will appear empty…then click replace all.


The next thing to check for is tabs. They will need to be removed because they will cause error messages in Jutoh.  Go to the beginning of a paragraph in your manuscript. Click the tab key. This will show you what a tab looks like (←). To remove tabs, again use the Find and Replace function: Simply copy the tab arrow onto the ‘Find What’ line and leave the ‘Replace With’ line empty. (Both lines will appear to be empty). If you then click ‘Replace All’, tabs will be removed.


In place of tabs, you will need to use a “style” to control your paragraph formats. Styles can be accessed through the AA icon (Word 2002) or one of the style families on the menu bar (Word 2007).


I’ve included links below to a couple of tutorials that explain the use of styles. You can also access information on styles through the Help menu on Jutoh.


At a minimum, the styles you’ll need are these:


Normal: this style includes font and paragraph formatting which will apply to most of your text.


Header: use this is for chapter headings and other book section headers, e.g. About the Author


Centered Style: use this for scene breaks.


First lines of chapters and the first line following a scene break should not be indented. One way to address this is to use a modified “Normal” style with an 0.001 first line indent (using ‘none’ doesn’t always work) and apply it to these paragraphs. The other way, which will absolutely guarantee the line will shift all the way to the left margin when you want it to, is to hold down the “shift” key and then hit the “enter” (aka “return”) key.


If you still have ‘show/hide’ toggled on, you’ll be able to see the difference between this type of return and the usual return: ¶ vs. a tiny arrow like this ← but with a right angle on the end.


I find, even if I have used a style with no indent, my Kindle will still show all lines as indented. However, any line following a Shift-Return will not be indented.


Bookmarks and Hyperlinks


Another key technique you’ll need to master is linking sections/chapters of your book to your Table of Contents through the use of bookmarks and hyperlinks. If not set up properly, you’ll have Jutoh errors, and the table of contents may not work properly. Coker’s Style Guide is an excellent source of information about this key step. I’ve also listed a couple of links to additional tutorials by Coker, addressing this issue.


I’ve found what works well is to insert Bookmarks into my Word document but wait to insert hyperlinks after it is uploaded to Jutoh. In Jutoh, hyperlinks can be added by highlighting each chapter or book section name in the table of contents then using a CTRL-Shift-G command to link it to the appropriate bookmark that subsequently appears in a menu list.


Dividing Your Book Into Sections


The last step before uploading your manuscript to Jutoh is to remove any section breaks and instead add page breaks at the end of each section or chapter of the book.


In Jutoh as you create your book you will then choose the option to separate your book into sections at page breaks. This will build a table of contents with appropriate labels: Chapter One, About the Author, etc.


Trying Jutoh


You’re now ready to do a test upload of your book to Jutoh. The program will walk you through a stepwise process that might seem complicated the first time you do it, but is actually easy if you mostly accept the suggested defaults. During this step, you will upload your book’s cover (if you have one) as a JPEG file and your text file as a DOCX or HTML file. Personal note: I’ve had better luck with DOCX files.


A word about the cover file. If you don’t use a large enough file (~1600 x 2500 pixels), your MOBI document will give you an error message, although your EPUB might not.


Choose the line break method for separating your book into chapters and sections.


After uploading, you need to look through all the sections of your book to make sure everything looks the way you want it. Add your hyperlinks if they aren’t already in place.


Did it Work?


Once your novel is uploaded, checked, and hyperlinked you can click on compile to either EPUB or MOBI.


If your Word file is in good shape, you won’t get any error messages, and you’re home free. If you do get error messages, you have two choices. You can either go back to your Word file and make corrections and then reload (Main Menu>Reload), or you can play with the Jutoh menu options and apply edits directly.


A word or warning: You can create an “error free” file that still has subtle formatting problems, so be sure to click through and look at all the sections of the book.


Jutoh allows you to easily edit any additional issues you happen to see. If you can’t figure out how to make corrections either directly or through a menu option, accessing the Jutoh Help menu should be your next step.


Once you’ve corrected any errors or formatting problems, re-compile. If any errors appear, click on them for more information. With a couple of iterations and a relaxed attitude, you should quickly be able to produce error-free MOBI and EPUB files.


A Last Resort


We are, however, talking technology here, and not everyone will be equally adept. So if, after several attempts, you are still getting errors and are having difficulty tracking them down, and you have gone through the process of cleaning your Word file as detailed in Coker’s Style Guide, then your final option is to contact Julian directly (through the Jutoh home page). I’ve found him to be very responsive.


Checking Your Electronic Files


You can double-check the validity of your EPUB files with an EPUB checker such as this one.


You can also look at your EPUB output either by forwarding it to your reading device or by using a program like Calibre or Adobe Digital Editions, both free.


You can check the appearance of MOBI files using Kindle Previewer available as a free download or by sending the MOBI file to your Kindle’s email address.


An Alternative Way to Produce a Kindle File


The free program MobiPocket Creator is available for download from Amazon and is easy to use. It requires a Word file saved as a web page and produces something called a PRC file which behaves like a MOBI file and can be read on any Kindle device.


MobiPocket Creator does have one peculiarity. When you begin the book creation process, the program creates a new folder on your computer under Documents, labeling it with the book’s title. If you don’t move your book file and any images it contains into that folder, you will get error messages when you “build” the book.


Summary of Links Mentioned in the Article


Mark Coker’s Style Guide:


Styles Tutorials


Bookmark and Hyperlink Tutorials (both by Mark Coker)


File Creator Programs

Jutoh –

Mobipocket Creator


Viewing Your Electronic Output

Adobe Digital Editions


Kindle Previewer



What has been your greatest formatting challenge and how did you address it?

GIVEAWAY: A Kindle copy of The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club – Book Two (Book One is available for free download).




A former clinical chemist, toxicologist, and university professor, Ann took a turn down a different road when she began writing fiction. After publishing two books with Samhain Publishing, Ann has subsequently self-published eight additional novels. Her latest, The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club series, is a humorous exploration of life in a retirement community.


Ann’s Links:


Facebook: Ann Warner – Author of Emotionally Engaging Fiction


Mailing List:



The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club – Book One

This novel is available as a free download

A painting worth millions, valuables gone missing, a game that is more than a game. And that’s only the beginning as an elderly widow befriends a young woman and tries to prevent her from making the mistakes she has made. The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club books prove there’s more to life in a retirement community than bingo and bus trips to Walmart.




The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club – Book Two


Josephine, Devi, and Mac’s story continues. Devi and Mac are falling in love, but a complication comes along in the form of Mac’s pregnant ex-wife. As for Josephine, with the excitement of unmasking the Brookside thief and Devi’s being shot now over, she’s finding Brookside Retirement Community (aka Babbling Brook) as dull as she initially expected it to be. Until, that is, she gets involved with a man who suspects her of being a criminal mastermind. Finding love at this late date is something Josephine never expected, and it’s her Edward Hopper painting that plays matchmaker.

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13 Responses to “Formatting Tips for Indie Authors Who Want to Do it All Without Learning HTML by Ann Warner”

  1. I have wanted to learn how to format my own books (my formatter recently retired), and this article might just be my answer! Thank you!

    One question: Can I upload already formatted mobi & ebubs to Jutoh for small edits (while keeping the rest of the formatting in place)?

    Posted by Christina Mercer | November 4, 2016, 11:12 am
    • Not knowing the answer to this, I opened Jutoh and played with it for a few minutes, and the answer is, yes. Just click on “Convert File” on the menu bar and then choose the type of file e.g. MOBI, then browse for the file and click on it. Jutoh will upload it and you can then make your corrections and recompile.

      You can download the program for free to try it out, then if you find it works well for you, you can consider purchasing it, using the coupon code RU for the 25% discount Julian is currently offering.

      Posted by Ann Warner | November 4, 2016, 11:35 am
  2. Ann – Thanks so much for this informative post! It’s a little over my head, but I’m a techno-klutz. I know this will be really useful for anyone who has struggled with these details.

    I’m looking forward to reading your new books – they sound really fun!

    P.S. As I write this, I’m looking at the little stone you gave me at a booksigning for DREAMS FOR STONES many years ago. How time flies! (I have to move it when the girls are here – Adaline has a rock collection!)

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 4, 2016, 11:14 am
  3. Julian read the post and offered the following comment on preparing a TOC (Table of Contents).

    It might be easier for your readers, rather than creating links themselves, to instead delete their Word TOC and let Jutoh create the TOC. You can either let Jutoh take care of it completely based on the sections in the project, or generate an in-project TOC page using the Build Table of Contents command on the Book menu. There’s more on TOCs in the Jutoh book and online help (search for table of contents in the Jutoh toolbar).

    Julian is also offering a 25% off coupon to Romance University readers: Simply use the coupon code: RU when making your purchase. The coupon will be good for all of November. Thanks, Julian!!

    Posted by Ann Warner | November 4, 2016, 11:16 am
  4. Hi Ann,

    I’ve never attempted to format anything, but I’m very intrigued by the premise of your books. My parents live in a retirement community, and some of the stories they’ve shared made me think they belong in a book. Heading to Amazon now!

    Thanks for joining us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 4, 2016, 10:03 pm
  5. I’m still leaning towards traditional publishing, but am getting closer to the middle these days. Still, I wonder if I should take more consideration of the indie way. This program looks like it would take some of the ifs, ands, and buts out of my arguments. I’ve bookmarked this post and the site for Jutoh.

    Posted by Glynis Jolly | November 5, 2016, 6:50 am
    • Glynis,

      Lean away, but if the traditional route doesn’t work out, definitely consider going Indie. I did have a publisher for my first two books and although that was a good experience, I was thrilled when my rights reverted.

      My suggestion is that as you continue to think, you also educate yourself about the pros and cons. A blog like this one or The Passive Voice are excellent ways to do that.


      Posted by Ann Warner | November 5, 2016, 9:08 am
  6. Thanks for this great post, Ann, and for responding to our commenters!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 6, 2016, 9:43 pm
  7. Your cranium must be prnttceiog some very valuable brains.

    Posted by Carrie | November 16, 2016, 3:49 am

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