November 1st, 2010

Formatting Your Text For Kindle – Revised

By Lyn Horner

I warned you I’m a newbie at this and you would be learning along with me. Well, I’ve learned a few things since originally publishing this post. Please note the revisions and additions.

Formatting your text for Kindle take some time but it doesn’t have to be painful. First, if you have not already done so, I suggest you read the formatting guidelines provided by Amazon on their Digital Text Platform support pages. Formats supported by DTP are Zipped HTML (.zip), Word (.doc), Adobe PDF (.pdf), ePub (.epub), Plain Text (.txt) and MobiPocket (.mobi and .prc). Since I use MS Word, I will refer to that application.

According to Amazon, “DTP converts all text formatting to HTML tags and processes images automatically.” They advise us to convert Word files to HTML within Word. Then we are to “make sure the formatting looks good” before we upload our converted HTML text to the DTP. In order to accomplish this, we need to do some prep work.

Formatting Steps:

  1. Make two backups of your book file, one on your computer and one on an external drive. I use a small, handy-to-carry thumb drive. Keep it in a safe place.

2.  Open one copy of your book file in MS Word. If you store your book as separate documents for each chapter as I do, you need to combine them into one big file. I work chapter by chapter, making the necessary format changes in each one before pasting it to the end of my combined document. If you prefer to combine all chapters first, that’s up to you. This might cause you some difficulty in removing page numbers and headers, although I’m not sure about that. Experiment and see what works best for you.

3.  Remove page numbers. Kindle books are reflowable (viewable with different font sizes); page numbers are unnecessary and would cause problems. Headers with the book title, chap. number and your last name, such as you would include on hard copy submissions to editors, are also unnecessary. Take them out.

4.  The Kindle DTP automatically indents each paragraph. If you use tabs to create paragraph indents, get rid of them. Otherwise, you will end up with uneven indents in your uploaded book. To remove all tabs, type one tab at the top of your document, select it and copy it to your clipboard. Open Find/Replace under the Edit menu. Paste the tab you copied into the Find box. (Word won’t let you type a tab in there.) Leave the replace box empty; click Replace All. This will remove all tabs from your document. Again, you can do this chapter by chapter, or you can combine all chapters first and then remove the tabs. The latter will be less time consuming. NOTE: You can change the width of indents if you wish. Go to the Advanced Formatting section on Amazon’s DTP guide and search for Paragraphs. There you will find detailed instructions for adjusting indent width.

Addition: I do not use tabs in my books. I use the indent feature in the WORD Style Formatting menu. WORD automatically indents each new paragraph for me. This does not cause problems with the Kindle formatting. My indents look perfect on the Kindle Previewer. The Previewer is used in combination with Kindlegen, a software app that converts html text into the Kindle format. Both Kindlegen & the Kindle Previewer can be downloaded from Amazon for free.

5.  Your font style must change sizes easily on a variety of readers. B.V. Larson, in his Kindle tutorial, advises us to use Times New Roman 12 pt.

Addition: The Kindle Previewer’s Font Menu allows you to view your book in six different font sizes. The Devices Menu shows how your book will read on several devices: Kindle, Kindle DX, Kindle for IPhone, Kindle for IPad, and Custom. Custom lets you freely resize the view, revealing how your book displays on various screen sizes. I followed Mr. Larson’s advice for font size and style and tested it with all font sizes and devices on the Kindle Previewer. It read fine every time!

6.  Get rid of all the double spacing we’ve always been told to use for editors and agents. This means double line spacing and double spacing after each sentence (also unnecessary for editor submissions nowadays.)

7.  Remove underlining if you use it to indicate italics. I tried to use the Find and Replace feature under the Edit menu, as B. V. Larson suggests, but could not make it work. So I searched each chapter as I worked and removed the underlining, replacing it with italics. Obviously this takes some time.

8.  Revision: When I first posted this blog I advised you to eliminate page breaks. Please disregard that. I gave you someone else’s advice before testing it. When I ran my book through Kindlegen and looked at it on the Previewer, all the chapters ran together. It looked awful! I checked the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines and low and behold, they say to “use the Page Break feature of Word” – meaning I had to replace all the page breaks between my chapters. That will teach me to do more careful research. Please do likewise, and don’t accept everything I or anyone else says. Check several sources.

9.  Indicate scene breaks, such as POV changes, with one blank line followed by a line with three or four asterisk (* * * *) signs centered, with a space between each. Then add another blank line.

10.  Use the Track Changes feature under the Tools menu to “accept” anything underlined in red in your document, such as slang or foreign words that Word doesn’t recognize. If you don’t do this the red lines will appear on your converted text – again as per Mr. Larson. Hiding them doesn’t work; you must use the “accept” feature. Addition: I could not make this work. Instead, I selected my whole document then went to the Spelling & Grammar feature under the Tools Menu and turned off the spell checking option. All the squiggly red lines disappeared.

11. Revision: Originally I advised you to add copyright data at the beginning of your book. Wrong! Publishing rights are to be entered on the DTP when uploading. Go to the Publishing Rights section on the DTP support pages for more info.

12.  Save your combined text file as a regular Word document first to be safe (in case you need to go in and make changes later.) Then choose “Save As” and save the file again, choosing “Web Page, Filtered” as your file type. You have now converted it to an .HTM file. No, I did not forget the “L”! HTM is the way it appears, why I have no clue. Another question for my computer geek son.  He says it means the same thing. Some apps just leave off the “L”.

That’s all for now. I promised to talk about book covers in my next blog, but that will come later. Instead, I’ll explain more about Kindlegen & the Kindle Previewer. ʼTil then, put your keister in the chair and write!

No comments yet to Formatting Your Text For Kindle – Revised

  • Benhoff

    Thanks. You did this the way I hope that I would.

  • BadgerWriter

    Wow, Lyn — great advice! I’ve been looking all over the web, and yours is the best-written and most comprehensive explanation I’ve come across. I can’t wait to try this. Your instructions make it seem do-able, not incomprehensible like some guides. Thanks also for updating various points when you discovered more about how they did or didn’t work.

  • To Benhoff and BadgerWriter,
    Sorry I never replied to your comments. I neglected to click the “Notify me of follow-up comments” button, thus never got your comments. I stopped by today to review my own instructions because I’m getting ready to upload another book to amazon and couldn’t remember all the little nitpicky things I need to do. By the way, these instructions need updating again. I will try to get to that soon — after the new book is up for sale. 🙂

  • Guin

    Thank you, thank you, just what I needed

  • You’re welcome, Guin. Glad to help.

  • Larkin Thompson

    Thanks! I haven’t tried the previewer yet but I’m not quite done with manuscript. Have this question: How about tables? I mean, my tables are like four rows of info that I separated with ‘tabs’ – will that work or will it all look like @#@#,

    • Larkin, sorry so slow to reply. Life gets in the way at times. Anyway, I can’t be of any help with tables. I’ve never worked on anything containing them. Yor best bet is to go to the KDP support pages. Amazon may have posted something that will help you. If not, check the community forums there. Many authors post there, and I expect some of them might have useful tips for you.

  • Cardboard Tube Knight

    Is there a way to make a certain type of text appear, like, let’s say you type your text messages in a kind of plain type writer font like courier new, could you create that effect?

    • Sorry, Knight, I can’t answer that because I’ve never tried it. I stick to Times New Roman for all my text. The best advice I can give is to contact KDP Support and ask them. Here’s a link to their home page:

      Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see a “Contact Us” button. You will need to have an Amazon account to sign in first. Did you know you can use the same account number to access the KDP platform and upload books, that you use for purchasing products? Makes it easier to remember.

      Good luck!