Create a Text-Heavy Novel eBook in InDesign


This tutorial teaches authors, designers, and book publishers how to set up a text-heavy (novel) ebook using InDesign.

Many eBooks are created by XML coders that raw-code everything. Well, that's great for people who know how to write XML code, but for the rest of us designers, we prefer to work in a visual format (wysiwyg) to create our ePub eBooks. This tutorial focuses on the visual approach.

InDesign does a great job allowing designers to set up a book and export it to ePub format. ePub format is currently the most widely used and accepted format for eBooks. Apple and Barnes and Noble prefer ePub eBooks.

Let's get started.


Setting up the file in InDesign

  1. Launch InDesign and chose File > New
    Here, I used InDesign's presets for the Nook:
    epub ebook
    InDesign does a nice job offering presets for different eReaders.
  2. I have to say, the page presets really don't seem to matter for the ebooks I've created. I also tested letter size paper (8.5 x 11) and it worked just fine. You'll see in the next few steps that I run the text frames right up to the full page size. The eReaders tend to reformat the text frame to their preferred size anyway.

  3. Create a text box the same size as your page and copy and paste the text for chapter one. Only do chapter one for now.
    - Download body copy here
    - I have invisibles showing in the pic below.
    - Change the hard return to a soft return after "Chapter 1"
    • Note that I have three spaces after Chapter 1, and a soft return (shift + return). (This will be important when we set up our paragraph styles later.)
    epub ebook
  4. Create a paragraph style sheet and assign it to your chapter title.
    - I used these setting to style my chapter titles:
    ebook epub

    ebook epub

  5. This is what my chapter title looks
    epub ebook
  6. I am only setting up 6 chapters for this tutorial. An actual book will, of course, vary in length.
  7. Next, duplicate your first page five times. This will create 5 additional pages.
  8. Next, copy and paste the text from each additional chapter onto the appropriate pages.
  9. Style the chapter titles accordingly. I do not style my text copy. It usually defaults to times, and I'm fine with that. I prefer to leave that control to the reader. Most eReaders allow the user to change typefaces and sizes.

    - Note: Each page contains its own text box. I do not link the text boxes between pages. You'll see why when we use the Articles pallet later.
    - Each page should start with a new text box and chapter.
  10. Next, insert a new page before page one. This will be your TOC (table of Contents). I use this acronym because InDesign does, you should be aware of this term.
  11. Select Layout > Table of Contents
    epub ebook

  12. The pallet below will pop up. In the TOC pallet, move your 'chapter titles' style sheet from Other Styles: to Include Paragraphs Styles:
    epub ebook

    This is a cool feature. What you are doing here is creating a TOC using the paragraph style sheet you created earlier. Since the 'chapter titles' style sheet is only assigned to your chapter titles, only they will appear in your ebook's TOC.
  13. Click OK.
  14. Click on the page to insert the text box. The TOC is now created in the text box. It looks like this:
    epub ebook

    I may overflow the text box--don't worry about it. Mine worked just fine.
  15. Note: If at any time you change the chapter titles in your book, you need to update your TOC before exporting to ePub. To do this, select the TOC (table of contents) text box and go to and select Layout > Update Table of Contents. This will update the TOC page.
  16. Now we're ready to use the Articles pallet to prepare our ebook for export.
  17. Select Window > Articles to open the pallet. This is where we'll build our book's page sequencing. We'll also "turn off" the TOC's visibility.
  18. With the Article pallet open, select the text box on the TOC page and drag it over the Article pallet and release. A dialog box will pop up and ask you to name the new article. Do this for all pages.
    epub ebook
  19. Once all pages are loaded into the Articles pallet it will look like this:
    epub ebook

  20. In order to make the TOC invisible in your ebook, but still be used by the eReader's TOC generator, uncheck the blue box next to TOC. Like this:
    epub ebook

  21. By the way, you may have noticed that I created a title page for my book. All I did was insert a new page after the TOC page, type in the title and author, style each with separate paragraph style sheets, and add the text box to the Articles pallet.
  22. We're almost done! Let's name our ebook, assign an author, and copyright if you have one, using a meta data tag.
  23. Select File > File Info…
  24. This pallet will open. There is a lot of info you can enter here. I choose to enter the basic info shown here:
    epub ebook

  25. …two more things before we create our final epub file.
  26. The first: If you have art to add to your ebook pages, it's a fairly simple process to add it. I just click inside the text where I want to insert my art. Type two returns, select File > Place… choose your art, click okay to place the art, then type another two returns. that's it. I also highlighted my art with the cursor and center aligned it. It looks like this:
    epub ebook

    - Use this photo for your sample
  27. To add space before and space after my photos/art, I created a new paragraph style sheet that applied 20px of each. Then I highlighted my art with the type tool and applied the style sheet.
    Note: Do not click on it with the selection tool. You have to highlight it with the type tool to apply a style sheet.

  28. The second: Create cover art. I find it best to create my cover art in Photoshop, RGB color mode, 72ppi, 768 x 1024 (iPad screen size). When I'm done designing the cover in Photoshop, I select File > Save for Web… and create a JPEG file with HIGH image quality. Save the file to a folder on your computer--we'll use it when we export your epub file.

    - You may use my cover art for now if you'd like: ebook_novel_cover.jpg
  29. Onward… let's export and make the EPUB file...
  30. Choose File > Export. Choose EPUB from the format menu. Name your file and click OK.
  31. The EPUB dialog box will pop up. I set up my instructions to look like this:
    epub ebook
    • Note: Under Setup > Cover--this is where I choose my cover art (JPEG file).

    epub ebook

    epub ebook
    • Note: Next to Split Document: I choose 'chapter titles.' This creates page breaks in your ebook based on the chapter titles style sheet--ensuring each chapter will begin at the top of a new page.
    • Note: The Unique ID: is loaded automatically. When I create my own real ebooks I usually type my book's 13 digit ISBN number here.
  32. Click OK. This will create your EPUB file.
  33. To test my EPUB file I email it to myself and open the email on my iPad. (I also upload it and test it on a Nook, Kindle, and other eReaders people may use.)
  34. On my iPad, once the email window is open, touch the EPUB file in the email and touch to open it iBooks.
  35. Well Done! Apple iBooks makes a cover for the bookshelf in iBooks.
    epub ebook
  36. Touch your new book to open. (It usually opens automatically).
  37. It opens to your cover art:
    epub ebook

  38. Touch the Table of Contents icon next to the Library tab to preview it:
    epub ebook

  39. The title page and Chapter 1:
    epub ebooks

  40. Artwork inserted into the text (it flows with the text if the font size increases):
    epub ebooks

  41. This shows how the chapters end and new chapters begin on a new page:
    epub ebooks

  42. Here's how it looks on the Nook (simple touch b/w):
    epub ebook

  43. Congratulations on your new novel's epub ebook!