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How to Format an eBook for Kindle

This post is part of a series called Profiting with Business eBooks.
Using Scrivener to Write and Publish an eBook
How to Write Fast (A Short Introduction to Speed Writing)

Planning to write an ebook? Good job! Ebooks are a fantastic way for freelancers to demonstrate their expertise. They're also good lead generators, as people who read your ebook are likely to need your services.

Ask me the easiest way to write and format an ebook, and I'll point you to Scrivener. Scrivener makes everything easy, from composing a draft, to giving your book a structure, to exporting your final manuscript as a Kindle compatible ebook.

But Scrivener's not for everyone. Maybe you don't have the cash to splash on yet another piece of writing software. Or perhaps you've already written your ebook, and just want to know how to format it ready for Kindle publishing.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to format your eBook using Microsoft Word, plus free online tools provided by Amazon. It's a little more complicated than using Scrivener, but nothing to be intimidated by.

Having your book properly formatted is essential. If you have formatting errors in your book, readers will assume your work is below par in all areas of your business, no matter how good the content of your book is.


Tutorial Assets

To complete this tutorial, you will need a laptop computer plus:

  • Microsoft Word (2003 or higher)
  • an internet Connection
  • an Amazon account
  • a web browser

1. Pre-format Your Document

You'll save yourself a ton of work and formatting headaches if you set up your formatting before you start writing. You do this using the Styles and Formatting options in Word to tell Kindle how you want it to display your ebook.

For your ebook to display correctly on the Kindle, you must format your document using the Styles and Formatting settings. If you create headings yourself by bolding text or changing the font size, you'll end up with a mess on the Kindle.

For those who've already written their book, don't panic! Just apply the proper formatting structure now.

Step 1: Set Up Your Headings

The most easy to read books are well-structured with chapters and sub-headings. To include headings in your book, you must use the headings provided in Word, namely:

  • Heading 1 for Chapter titles
  • Heading 2 for Section titles
  • Heading 3 for Sub-Section titles

You can leave this as the default setting if you like, which in Word 2003 is the Arial font in various sizes. For standard ereader Kindles, Amazon converts the headings into a standard Kindle font, so from that perspective it's perfectly okay to leave the font as Arial.

However, the Kindle Fire, which is the tablet Kindle, there are a range of font options. These include:

  • Arial
  • Caecilia
  • Courier
  • Georgia
  • Lucida
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet
  • Verdana

If you'd like your headings to display in a font other than Arial on the Kindle Fire, it's easiest to choose your font now.

In Word, bring up the Styles and Formatting menu in Format>Styles and Formatting. Click the down arrow beside each heading title, then click Modify, as here:

You'll be given a menu where you can select your font of choice for the headings. For consistency, it's best to choose the same font in progressively smaller sizes for Headings 1, 2 and 3.

Step 2: Set up Paragraph Indents

To give your readers the best possible reading experience on the Kindle, you should indent all your paragraphs. Doing this manually for a whole book takes a lot of time and effort. Instead, set up your indents ahead of time.

In the Styles and Formatting menu click the down arrow beside Normal, then select Modify, as here:

Then click, Format>Paragraph, as here:

Under the Indentation menu, look for the Special option, and select First Line in the drop down menu. In the form next to the drop down menu, type a value of 0.5 inches, or 1.27 cm, as here:

Step 3: Choose Your Line Spacing

Different versions of Word come with different default settings for line spacing. For a good reading experience on Kindle, a line spacing of around 120% is ideal.

To set this up, go to the Modify menu for the Normal style, as in Step 2. Again, go to the Format>Paragraph menu.

Under the Spacing menu, look for the Line spacing option, and select Multiple in the drop down menu. In the form next to the drop down menu, type a value of 1.2, as here:

Step 4: Choose Your Standard Font

As with the headings, you can leave the font for your body text at the default setting. However, if you'd like to choose your own font, do it now.

In the Styles and Formatting menu, click the down arrow beside Normal, then select your font.

2. Write Your eBook

Now the hard work of writing begins! From a formatting perspective, while you're writing you must remember two things.

First, only use the formatting styles you've already set up. That is, for chapter headings, section headings, and sub-section headings, use headings 1, 2 and 3. For your body text, use the Normal style.

Second, when you start a new chapter, insert a pagebreak. You can do this in one of two ways. In the main menu, you can select Insert>Break, then choose the option to insert a page break. Alternatively, you can hold down the Control key, and hit enter. I find remembering the second option keeps me in the flow of writing.

3. Upload to Kindle

Step 1: Save as Filtered html

For Amazon to convert your ebook to the Kindle format, you have to upload your book as filtered html. This isn't as complicated as it sounds; it simply involves saving your document as a different file format.

In the main menu, go to File>Save As.

Under "Save as Type" select Web Page, Filtered, as here:

You'll be asked to confirm, and you'll be told that you document will lose some formatting. Click Yes.

Take a note of where you saved your file, as next we'll be uploading it to Amazon.

Step 2: Upload to KDP

In your web browser, head over to the KDP hub at kdp.amazon.com. Sign in with your Amazon account.

You'll be taken to your Bookshelf, which is a list of the books you've published on Amazon. Select "Add New Title".

On the next page, you'll be asked for details of your book, including title, author, book description, etc. You can fill these out if you want to, but they're not necessary to complete your formatting.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to Step 5.

Here you can upload your book file. Before you upload, you must select whether to add Digital Rights Management to your book. It's up to you whether you want this or not, and until you finally publish your book, you can change your selection.

Click "Browse for book", and select the html file you created earlier. Then click "Upload book". Amazon will spend several seconds converting your book to the Kindle format.

Cross your fingers so that it works! If the upload fails, try it again.

Once your book is uploaded, Amazon says "Upload and conversion successful!"

Good job!

Step 3: Preview Your Book

When your book is uploaded, a Step 6 magically appears in the KDP dashboard.

Click "Preview Book" to see how it will look on the Kindle. Be sure to try it on the different Kindle types, and to scroll through every page.

Take note of any formatting errors, including where they come up. No errors? Then you're ready to publish! If you find any errors, move on to the next step.

4. Perfect the Formatting

You only need to do this if you found formatting errors. Reopen your filtered html document in Word, then click the button in the menu bar to show the formatting marks. The button looks like this: ¶.

(Note: You can also show the formatting marks by heading to Tools>Options>View, then checking the "All" box under "Formatting marks".)

Go through your document looking for any unusual formatting. If you took note of formatting errors in the previous step, you'll know exactly where to look.

In particular, look out for rogue spaces (which show up as small dots), and any out-of-place paragraph breaks (which show up as the ¶ symbol). Both of these can wreak havoc during the conversion to Kindle. Also be aware of any nonbreaking spaces which show up as a raised circle: ◦. Again, these can cause problems, and you're best to delete them.

Page breaks appear as a dotted line across the page, and should only appear between chapters.

Once you've sorted the formatting, rinse and repeat by uploading your book to KDP and looking for formatting errors.

Job Done!

When you've make the formatting perfect, you're ready to fill out your book details on KDP and go ahead with publishing. Good job!


Graphic Credit: Iconochki Set by Brave475 Vector Icons by talrevivo.

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