Friday, June 22, 2012

Formatting for Kindle

Well, here is what I have (hopefully) established in post #1:

To publish on Kindle you need: a book, a cover, and a blurb. And all of these can be created at no cost at all.

Right now, we are looking at the book -- the manuscript, which might be original, or might be a revision of a published novel. Whatever the origin of the word document, it has to be cleaned up of manual formatting.

I mentioned getting rid of tabs, but didn't describe the easy way of doing it on word. This tip comes from writer Rachel Abbott, who wrote two very useful posts, introducing formatting for eBooks, on her blog.

So, to get rid of tabs throughout your manuscript, go to find/replace. In the "find" line, type ^t (You will find ^ above the number 6). In the "replace" line make sure there is absolutely nothing. Then hit "replace all." Lo, your tabs have all gone.

She also gives a method for getting rid of unnecessary spaces, for people who habitually hit the return key at the end of every sentence. It's complicated: the best advice is avoid doing it. The return key should only be hit at the end of a paragraph.

Indentation. This should be done automatically, via the paragraph formatting screen in your "normal" style sheet. Let's look at that screen again: right-click the "normal" style sheet, go to "modify" and click "paragraph" to bring it up.

The alignment should be left. DON'T JUSTIFY. There is a big temptation to do this, because on eReaders, as in print books, the right margin is justified. On Kindle, however, the reader is in charge of font size, and every time the font size is changed the righthand margin changes, too. So Kindle won't be able to cope if you justify your document.

First line should be by 0.5 cm -- or 0.4 cm if you prefer. Not more than 0.5 cm, though.

Spacing should have zero in both boxes. Nothing before, and nothing after. This is contrary to the advice given by the Kindle builder (which you can download for free as a Kindle book from Amazon). The builder tells you to put something like 10 pts. in one of the boxes. Don't do it. I followed instructions, and had to fix it fast. Believe me, it looked awful. So, I repeat, have 0 in both the before and after boxes. Also, the spacing should be single. Kindle automatically puts a good space between lines, for easy reading, so you don't have to worry about it.

Hit OK and close that screen, hit OK again, and go back to your manuscript.

Now, get rid of all manual page breaks. I did this by running quickly through the document and deleting them. This will make your document look messy, with all the chapters running together, but another style sheet will fix that.

Chapter headings

Go back to your style sheet ribbon. Choose "Heading 1" and right-click to get the drop-down menu. Hit "modify"

Keep the font as Times New Roman, but change the font size to 16.

Then go to "format" in the bottom lefthand corner, bring up the menu, and hit "paragraph."

Change the alignment to "centered."

Change the special to "none"

Spacing -- put 42 pt in the "before" line and 18pt in the "after" line. But keep the line spacing single.

Now, go to the top and hit "line and page breaks," bringing up this screen:

In the screen that comes up, click the box by the fourth option "page break before."

(You don't have to click the widow and orphan box or the keep with next boxes; I prefer to do it as it saves having the last line of a paragraph leaking onto the next page.)

Hit OK and then OK on the modify screen to close it.

This makes "heading 1" your style sheet for your chapter headings. Now, go to each chapter head -- easy to do if you have prefaced each one with the word "chapter" by using your "find" facility; if not, you will just have to hunt. Highlight your chapter head -- even if it is just your chapter number -- and click "heading 1" in your style sheet ribbon. And lo, you will find that chapter heading set off from the rest.

Now then, if you write as I do, there are sub-sections within your chapters, which you might have separated with a double hit of the return key, to make a line space. This can be done very neatly by using symbols such as ### or ()()() or <><><>; I used the last one, by hitting return three times, and inserting <><><> after the second return. Then I formatted it with yet another style sheet -- the "subtitle" one this time.

Again, go to "modify" and then hit "paragraph."

Make alignment "centered"
Make special "(none)"
Put 3 pt in the "After" box at "spacing."

Hit OK and the OK again to close the style sheet. Now, go to all those triple returns (easily found with the find facility, if you have used a symbol), highlight all three and click "subtitle."


I had an extra problem, because I quoted from a lot of sea chanties in the book, and I wanted these quotes to be set off from the rest of the book. So I adapted the "quote" style sheet:

Right-click that style sheet in your ribbon, bringing up the "modify" screen. Click "format" in the lower lefthand corner, and click "paragraph" in the menu.

This time, you are allowed to justify. I don't know that it is necessary, but it seems to help set it off on Kindle. The important thing is to adjust the indentation: after some experimentation I found that 1.5 cm was best. Make sure that the special is "(none)"

Click OK and OK to close the screen, and go to all those quotes. Highlight them, click the "quote" style sheet, and lo, the chantey is indented the way your want it. I also set the quotes off with a double hit of the enter key both before and after.

If your quotes are not poetry, but are items from letters or newspapers, you can fix this by putting 6 in the before and after boxes -- not only will this set off your quote from the rest of the manuscript, but it will put spaces between the paragraphs within your quote.

Front matter

Insert two blank pages at the front of your document. The first will be your title page, and the second your copyright claim.

Title page

And guess what, you do it with yet another style sheet -- the one called "Title."

At this stage, I decided to change the title of my book. I had always hated the title "Abigail" as I thought it limited my audience, but all the publishers (save the Germans, who called the book Abigail's Legacy) insisted on using the name of the major female character. I wanted to call it "A Love of Adventure," as not only is it the first line of the chantey that is quoted the most, but whaling was one of the ultimate adventures, particularly for a young woman. And the book was revised, so I thought, Why not? As long as I made it plain that the title had been changed, to make it fair to people who might have already read it ...

Right-click it in your style sheet ribbon, and click on "modify"

Don't play around with your font face -- believe me, it doesn't work, as Kindle won't take a blind bit of notice. Keep it Times New Roman, but click on "bold" and change the font size to 28.

Now go to "format" and click on "paragraph"

Make your alignment "centered" then make sure that special is "(none)". Go to spacing and put 42 pt in the "before" box.

Hit OK and OK, and bring up the first of the two blank pages you have created at the start of your document. Type the title of your book, and then the author's name underneath (Kindle is strict about this). Highlight both, and click the "title" style sheet box.


This is the page that gives legal credit to the people behind the book. This is what I wrote:

A LOVE OF ADVENTURE text © 2012 Joan Druett

Cover Photograph © 2012 Ron Druett
All Rights Reserved

Adapt it for your own book, and then create a style sheet for it by going up to "Heading 2" in your stylesheet ribbon. Right-click for "modify." Bring up "paragraph" in the format menu

Alignment centered, special none, and 6 pt both before and after.

Click OK and OK. Highlight your credit, and click on heading 2.

That's your document. Next time, we will look at making a jacket.  Hit THIS LINK to get there.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing. I SO appreciate your lessons. They were easy to understand and worked! I almost gave up on doing my own formatting because it never looked good on the previewer, but I followed your suggestions for one more attempt and my book now looks great.Styles are my new 'best friend.'

  2. I am so pleased the hints were helpful. Good luck with your book.

  3. Just found your blog and these instructions as I'm formatting my second novel long enough after the first that I needed step-by-step instructions again. These are so clear and helpful. Thank you!

  4. Joan, may your novel never languish in the doldrums. You have done something rather splendid - you have demystified formatting. Even I, techno bimbo that I am, can understand it; found to my astonishment - and pleasure - that not only could I follow your instructions, they worked! My gratitude and best wishes - Peter.

    1. That you! What a nice post. I am so glad that the instructions worked. And the very best of luck with the result(s)

  5. In order to understand our selves, we must first understand How to publish a book. Many an afternoon has been enjoyed by a family, bonding over the discussion of How to publish a book. While much has been written on its influence on contemporary living, How to publish a book is not given the credit if deserves for inspiring many of the worlds famous painters. Inevitably feelings run deep amongst so called 'babies', who are yet to grow accustomed to its disombobulating nature.

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    I recommend listening to the wisdom and recommendations here.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. And good luck with your books!

  7. Joan, I very much appreciate this blog for all that it has done. I am currently trying to format my book for kindle. I don't add spaces to the conversation but whenever Kindle coverts the book, it automatically adds spaces between my conversation and my paragraphs which makes my formatting on the previewer looks awful. Is there any help please? Thank you for your anticipated reply. I will wait for your Elly and comment to this request for help. Thank you once more. Time

    1. That's puzzling! Do you mean the kind of space you get when you hit the space bar, or the space when you hit enter?

      Have a look at your normal style sheet, the one for your body text that I explain first. Click it, and hit "modify" in the menu. Then in the next menu, hit "paragraph." In the paragraph page that comes up, both "before" and "after" should be zero pt. And the spacing should be single. Then go to the top of the paragraph page and hit the tab that says "line and page breaks" and make sure that none of the boxes are checked. Let me know if that helps!

  8. Okay thank you so much Joan for your help. I followed the instructions that you gave me. It looks better than before however I don't know whether this can still be considered good formatting. Can send you screen shots or pictures of it so that you can see it???

  9. Something else you can do before we look at your style sheets is check your font size in normal, as the bigger the font, the bigger the spacing. Try reducing it to 10 pt and see if that is better. Let me know if it works!

    There might also be a problem with your previewer. Make sure it is set to "Kindle Fire" and not any of the phone or tablet options.

    1. Thank you Joan, you are such a blessing. I overcame the challenges and finally a able to publish book on Kindle

  10. Hi Joan,
    I am on my first time trying to format a kindle book, and so appreciate your blog! I am lost though on this: I have a lot of hyphenated words in my text, ex: Gidget-cute face. I am using Word 2007 to format. I read that hyphens will not show up or read right on Kindle. So, do I have to remove all my hyphens? If so, how do I make the word look right?
    As well, I have dashes in my text. Are these acceptable?
    Thanks so!

    1. Hi Tina

      I'm so glad the tutorial has been helpful. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who use it, and many, like you, are kind enough to thank me.

      Now for your questions. It is probably not a good idea to hyphenate for kindle, as the robot that processes your manuscript has a facility for inserting hyphens when needed -- and as people use different text sizes, many being sight-impaired, the places where they are needed have to be flexible. You could remove your hyphens with a simple search for - Deleting them one at a time is tedious, but also another chance to do a bit of proofreading. You could try search and replace replacing - with a blank, but that could be risky. I would go for the long route myself.

      Dashes are fine, except when they are at the end of a sentence. When you end a sentence on a cliffhanger -- or with a row of dots ... it is a good idea to close the gap between the cliffhanger-- and the dash (as shown), or row of dots... as otherwise the dash or the dots could leak onto the next line.

      Good luck, and don't hesitate to ask if you think I can solve a problem.

    2. Thank you, Joan! I so appreciate it!!

  11. Hi Joan,
    I have one more question I cannot seem to find the answer to. :) In my book I want to leave the first paragraphs under each chapter heading non-indented with no space between the following paragraphs. Then I want all the following paragraphs to be indented. A lot of printed books do this. I have it looking right on Word after I highlighted the first paragraph and put first line indent to none and put 12 before and 0 after in spacing (single spaced). Then I highlighted the rest of the paragraphs with the first line indented. Is this the correct way to format? I want to make sure it will convert properly. I thought about doing the first paragraph as a subheading (not TOC, but not sure.
    Thanks so AGAIN for your time!

  12. Hi again Tina -- It's great that you are so at home with style sheets now. Well done! However, removing the indent for the first paragraph of each chapter is really easy without messing about with the style sheet. Just click your cursor hard up against the first word in the paragraph you do not want indent, and hit backspace. It will close up without affecting the rest. Good luck with your book!

  13. Thank you so much, Joan! I am about done formatting. Yahoo.

  14. Oh my, Joan, my preview is bad news! I downloaded the kindle previewer and my format is a slight mess. I have worked all day to try and fix it, but to no avail. I hope I can pick your brain a bit more. :)
    So, first problem, there are spaces between every paragraph, even though it is formatted to indent the first line. No matter what I do to modify this in the paragraph formatting section, I cannot resolve this problem. I went back, too, and took that first non-dented line in the first paragraphs and indented them, but the preview still shows spaces between every paragraph in the entire book. Any idea what I am doing wrong here?

    Secondly, on the TOC page,the first header (Introduction) is indenting, and will not line up with the rest of the chapters/headers. All are Header 1. (I have no subheadings showing on the TOC). Every Header 1 is formatted the same. I have added another space before the header on the TOC page, but it is not taking care of the problem. Ugh.

    And thirdly, all of my subheadings are not staying close to the previous paragraph. A page break is happening right before the subheading, causing huge gaps in my writing. No matter what I do it will not correct, either.

    The text looks great, though, and the size of the headings! Once I can get these glitches out it will be ready to upload!
    Truly, I will need a tranquilizer after today's craziness. I feel like I have been playing with a Rubik Cube for eight hours. ha ha.

  15. I am so glad you downloaded the previewer, Tina -- though you can preview online as well, it is more rushed.

    Spaces between paragraphs. Go to home, then your stylesheet (which I assume is "normal") and right-click "modify" -- then "format" then go to "Paragraph." Check your "before" and "after" spacing (bottom left) and make sure the figures are all set at zero -- "0".

    The TOC is puzzling. Check that the entries are all set to lefthand, not centered or justified. Then check your Header 1 stylesheet and make sure the "special" is set to lefthand.

    With the sub-headings you must have inadvertently put a page-break either before or after in your style sheet. Go to the stylesheet, hit "modify" then "paragraph". When that comes up, click "line and page breaks" and make sure you don't have the "page break before" box checked. If it is not checked, then the fault must lie in the before and after spacing, so go back to check how many spaces you have set in the "indents and spacing" page.

    Let me know how you get on. Good luck!

  16. Joan, I figured out the space problem with the paragraphs! I did nothing wrong...I downloaded Calibre to convert my file to MOBI, and Calibre automatically puts spaces between paragraphs!! I was lucky to run across that fact online while searching for answers. I had to manually change this on their program. So when I went to the Kindle previewer, the issue was solved, which means I will not have those spaces when I upload to Kindle. I am not going to use Calibre to convert my file to MOBI when I upload. I worry it will screw up my format.

    I still cannot get the TOC first header to line up left. I have done everything. I suspect maybe the Calibre is causing this? As well, my subheadings will not fix either, and continue to show huge gaps between the last paragraph and the subheading. I have it all done right. I guess from here I just need to go online and preview and hope it will be fine when I upload. much to learn. What a challenge.
    Thank you so very much for your time! I so appreciate it. Have a great day!

  17. Well, I'm glad you told me that, Tina. What a saga! I've never heard of Calibre before, and had to look it up. How strange (and arrogant) to adapt one's client's stylesheet to add spaces between paragraphs. It would make dialogue in novels look very awkward and amateurish. I definitely recommend that you drop it. KDP has a very efficient converter to .mobi -- it had a few glitches in the early days, but those have all been ironed out. So you definitely don't need an alternative.

    (I must add a warning that this is not the case with their new KDP print service. It has bugs, some of which I have pointed out to them, and if you are publishing in print as well, I strongly recommend CreateSpace, instead. It's an Amazon subsidiary, and does an excellent job.)

    I'm sorry your TOC still won't format. I suggest that you make a new document, shift your TOC into it, and start from scratch, by removing all formatting, then making a stylesheet. Then copy and paste it into your book (after deleting the faulty TOC, of course) and see if that works.

    Good luck!

  18. I believe the Calibre software was also screwing up the layout of my TOC! I stopped using that software and instead saved my doc file to html (web, filtered), and it showed everything lining up correctly, the TOC and the subheadings. I will upload it to KDP today to preview and pray it converts properly. I am crossing my fingers. If not, I will take your advice and start a new document over. Thank you for the advice on the print service. I will use CreateSpace for the print. :)

  19. You are having a real adventure. Good luck with this new attack! Let me know if you have any problems with CreateSpace. There is a range of templates for creating your interior, meaning you have to choose your trim size before starting. But they are easy to use.

  20. My Kindle book is uploaded and looks GREAT! I am working on the printed format now. Thanks for all your kindness in helping me get through the nightmare. Here is the link or you can go to Amazon and the book is: Inheritance Theft, Coping with Family Betrayal, by Callie Winters (pen):

    1. Congratulations! A very pertinent topic in this age of greed. And good luck with the print edition, which can be tricky.

  21. Thanks for your helpful tips. I have additional challenges because I'm working in Word for Mac. For example, I cannot convert entire 200-page manuscript to HTML without Word aborting half way through. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  22. Why do you want to covert the ms to HTML? Let me know, because it sounds as if you would be better working with Adobe -- a program that has its own glitches, but which will handle it better than Word. KDP works perfectly well with a word doc -- either .doc or .docx Then, once the document is converted, they send it back to you so you can view it with the previewer. Or you can review it online, which is just as good. If you want your ms in other formats, like .epub, there is a publishing site called Draft to Digital that does it very smoothly. Like KDP, they charge commission on each sale, but they have a different market -- Kobo and a whole host of other digital stores.

  23. Dear Joan,

    The styles part really reduced my job. But I got struck at normal text alignment. It's clearly mentioned in KDP not to use left align for whatever the reason.
    Please comment. Again I am going to change it to justified just to avoid issues while uploading to KDP.

    Thanks and regards

  24. No, you must definitely set your page to left aligned. If you set in justified the result will be awful. How strange that KDP should say otherwise! Perhaps you are reading the instructions for submitting the print version?

  25. Thank you - these step by step instructions are awesome

  26. Joan, Thank you so much for these step-by-step instructions. I had no idea even where to start until I found your information. I have a problem though. I inserted the two blank pages for the Title. The title will absolutely NOT print on the page. There's a page break on both those blank pages, and when I type the title in, it immediately goes down to my text. Was I supposed to click on something on the Line & Page Breaks to get rid of a page break on the Title page? I've gone over and over this about 150 million times. I'm stuck! D.V. Lorensen

    1. Did you manage to fix this? If not, delete the page breaks, and start again. Type your title, and THEN insert the page break.

  27. Dear Joan, The 151st millionth time worked! I did it!!! Thank you so much for all your details and patience in writing those details. On with the cover!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. Good luck with your book.

  28. Your detailed instructions are the best ever! Thank you so much!

  29. Thank you so much for these detailed instructions!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. Good luck with your book.

  30. Thank you so much! Your website was just the information I needed and was given in an easy to understand manner. You must be a teacher!

  31. I'm formating a print book and the margins and paper size are very specific. I'm also doing an ebook for Kindle and I can't find anywhere that tells me what size paper on which I should be typing my manuscript. Help please!
    I meant to mention on my thank you that your information is the best I seen on the web or books I've bought!

  32. THANKS so much Joan for this valuable info. I have spent two weeks struggling to format my MS. Have done trial runs of Scriviner, another word template (limited) and Vellum. But this sounds like the way to go. I have uploaded ebooks but am struggling with paperback formatting. Fingers crossed this does the trick. THANKYOU!!

    1. Createspace is now run by KDP, but I don't think you will find problems with publishing in paperback. When you have you .doc book the way you want, print it to pdf with your adobe program, and then check the manuscript. I really should add a page on how to format for paperback. Would this be useful??

  33. Very Nice Article it's very Informative i have learnt lot.Thanks for sharing.Such Informative Article How to set margins in word

  34. Thank you for your kind comment. Good luck with your book.