At a Glance: Ebook Formatting for Lulu

by Corina Koch MacLeod
@CKmacleodwriter

There are lots of ways to publish an ebook, and some methods require more technical knowledge than others. Distributors like Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu are trying to make the process as simple as possible by allowing authors to upload ebooks using the word processing software they are already using (often, Microsoft Word). That makes good sense to me.

Each distributor has its own guidelines for uploading an ebook, and they often provide self-publishing authors with some sort of formatting guide. To ensure a smooth conversion from manuscript to ebook, it’s important to follow your distributor’s formatting guide to the letter:

Formatting for Kindle
Smashwords Style Guide, by Mark Coker
Lulu Ebook Creator Guide

Often, these formatting guides can be lengthy and fairly involved, requiring you to “read a book to format a book” (Kawasaki & Welch). Sometimes, as is the case with Lulu, the information changes quickly and the downloadable guide’s instructions are different from the advice given on the website. Digging through these details can be a bit like playing hide and seek.

This week, I’ve prepared a cheat sheet for formatting your Word document for Lulu. If there is anything on this cheat sheet that doesn’t make sense to you, read the Lulu Ebook Creator Guide to get your bearings. You can then use the cheat sheet below as a checklist, or memory tool, when it comes time to format your ebook file.

Lulu Cheat Sheet

Software

  • Lulu allows you to upload a Microsoft Word doc file, and most recently, a docx file. There are reasons why you might want to upload a docx file instead a doc file.

Document Clean-Up

  • Be sure that you’ve removed any typewriter formatting from your Word document before you begin to format it. Extra spaces between words and paragraphs, as well as “illegal” fonts lurking invisibly in the background, can cause the Lulu converter to reject your manuscript.

  • Don’t include page breaks, headers, footers, page numbers, columns, or audio or video files.

Table of Contents

  • If you have an internally hyperlinked table of contents (TOC) in your Word file, remove it. Lulu will create an external TOC for you.
  • Use Word Styles to style headings. Lulu’s conversion software uses styled headings to create an external TOC, or NCX, that readers can use to navigate your ebook. Tip: to see if you’ve used Word Styles to style your headings, open your Word document and then open the navigation pane (Ctrl + F in Word 2010). Click on the Outline tab on the left. If you’ve styled your headings using Word styles, the headings will be listed in the navigation pane. You can click on these headings to navigate your document.
Navigation pane in Word 2010

Headings

  • Lulu is sticky about heading levels. The Guide says you can only use three levels of headings, though I managed four levels without dire consequences. Heading 4s didn’t show up in the TOC/NCX, but that’s okay. 
  • Book sectionsTitle Page, Copyright, Preface, Epiloguemust be Heading 1s. Be sure to include a separate Copyright page.
  • Chapter headings must be Heading 2s.
  • Subsections/subchapters must be Heading 3s. 
  • You must begin your ebook with a Heading 1. No exceptions.
  • Headings must appear in order. For example, don’t have an H3 follow an H1. An H3 must follow an H2.

Fonts

  • Use Times New Roman, Garamond or Arial fonts.
  • Avoid using special characters that don’t appear on your keyboard.
  • Apply boldface and italics using the buttons on the ribbon.

Paragraphs

  • Set paragraph styles to Normal in Word Styles.
  • Set first-line indents and spacing after paragraphs using Word Styles.
  • Left-justify your paragraphs.
  • Avoid using too many paragraph returns: they’ll get stripped out in the conversion process.

Lists

  • Style bulleted and numbered lists using direct formatting from the ribbon.
  • Avoid using square bullets; use round bullets instead.

Hyperlinks

  • To create an off-book hyperlink, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Address and type in the URL. Don’t link to other online bookstores.
  • For within-book hyperlinks, go to Insert > Hyperlink > Place in this document.

Images

  • Save images as a JPG, GIF or PNG, with a resolution of 96150 DPI. 
  • Make sure they’re in RGB (red, blue, green) format.
  • Images should be less than 500 x 500 pixels.
  • Insert images inline and centre them.
  • An image’s size must be less than 250 KB.

Diagrams and Tables

  • Save as images and insert them inline.

Footnotes

  • The Lulu converter produces epub files, and epubs support footnotes and endnotes. Go to Insert > Footnote.

Other

Lulu has strict rules about advertising in your ebook (don’t do it). You must also fill out the metadata for your book in a very specific way. This isn’t a suggestion. Lulu will only convert your ebook if you attend to the details in each if their requirements.

Each distributor’s conversion software has its quirks. Their formatting guides are designed to help you to prepare a Word document that works with their conversion software. If your file doesn’t convert the first time, don’t give up! Go back to the formatting guide to see if you missed anything. Check support forums, like Lulu’s Knowledge Base. It often takes a few tries to get it right.

Related Posts

4 thoughts on “At a Glance: Ebook Formatting for Lulu

  1. Excellent article, as always! I’ve included this and the related posts in my Guidelines for New Authors. The advice to keep trying if the conversion fails the first time really struck home with me. While I’ve not yet used Lulu, I’ve experienced glitches with files for Smashwords — perseverance, along with diligent attention to a style guide’s requirements, really does pay off.

    1. Thanks, Louise! Every distributor’s conversion software has its quirks, and those quirks will be alluded to in the style guide. As you’ve pointed out, it’s important to attend to the details in the style guide, even if they seem rather silly or inefficient to you.

  2. Thank you, BPE team, for this wonderful resource!

    I was poking around online and found this Lulu video which says that you can soft-return before a title so it meets the “Must begin ebook with H1 heading” requirement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb8ZSf5s0BY&t=2m31s.

    I uploaded a little test to Lulu to see which bullet style works best: (1) Word Styles > List Bullet, (2) bullet button on ribbon, and (3) Opt+8 bullets. They all converted just fine and look like their versions in Word, even though officially Lulu accepts #2. This is great to know, because sometimes bulleted items are too complex and/or wrapping text doesn’t need to align with the text which appears after the bullet.

    Thanks for spurring me on to new ebook adventures!

  3. Thanks for the video link, Karen, and for sharing your tests on bullet styles. In Word, there’s always more than one way to do something, but as you’ve demonstrated, it’s important to look at the converted files to see what the features in question look like after conversion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *