When is the best time to start formatting your Kindle ebook? Ideally, before you begin to write. You are most likely using MS Word but the formatting you see on your screen will not translate exactly to Kindle display. If you skip proper MS Word set up, you will guarantee yourself a frustrating time involving much back-tracking, fixing and confusion.
Forget the “normal” way you may be used to working – formatting-as-you-go, when writing. For a Kindle-intended manuscript, set your format options up ahead of time and observe the tips in this guide.
Kindle itself has published a free guide, “Building Your Book for Kindle”, which you can download to your Kindle reader. It is an excellent guide, but this one adds screen shots, clarifies steps and includes a few other juicy tips that one normally only finds out about the hard way.
Step 1. Before You Write
Performing the actions in this section should take you less than five minutes, and it can eliminate hours of frustrated hassling with Kindle .mobi formatting later.
- Click the File tab and select Options from the drop-down menu.
In the “Word Options” pop-up window that opens, select the Proofing hyperlink.
Select the Autocorrect button to the right, which appears after you’ve pressed “Proofing”.
When the “Autocorrect: English (U.S.)” popup opens up, uncheck all the check marks within it. Click OK.
Click OK again in the “Word Options” pop up. This will return you to your blank manuscript page.
- Now set up your Indents. It is absolutely vital you set them up this way, and not by using your Tab key or anything else. You are setting indents for the first line of every paragraph.
Click on your Page Layout tab, go to the Paragraph section and click on the little downward arrow button in the bottom, right-hand corner of that section (highlighted below in green, with the orange arrow pointing to it).
Clicking on the little downward arrow will open up the Special drop-down menu: Select “First line”.
Set your indent to the standard publishing-industry 0.5” indent (or whatever custom indent you want to create).
Click OK to close the “Paragraph” popup.
- Next, set up your Spacing. This is for the spacing between paragraphs, so you don’t have to manually insert these.
Press your Page Layout menu tab again if you need to, and glance over until you find the Spacing section. Reset the After option to the standard publishing industry 10 point spacing (or your preferred setting).
(There will be nothing to close – just return to your manuscript.)
Step 2. What to Do With Images
Images don’t have to give you a nervous breakdown – as long as you observe the basic rules.
1. Place your cursor at the point you want to insert an image. Do not leave extra spaces.
To add images to your manuscript, press the Insert menu tab and click on Picture. Then select the .jpg filename you want from the correct folder and press the “Insert” button.
2. All images should be center-aligned.
3. If you have used indents, remove the indent on that paragraph alone (the “paragraph” being your image).
4. Remember that images will display in black and white, so pick ones with clear detail, a minimum of clutter or blur and good contrast
5. Your cover photo should have a minimum size of 600 pixels wide and 1,000 pixels deep. Stick to that ratio.
Step 3. What Not to do…
It helps prevent costly errors if you know the following Kindle formatting prohibitions in advance.
1. Do not copy-paste images into your manuscript. Stick to the Insert menu.
2. Do not include your Cover photo in your manuscript. It needs to be uploaded separately.
3. Do not use headers, footers or page numbers (especially in your Table of Contents). Kindle will insert these itself. If you want to type a chapter heading, click on your Home menu tab. Then simply highlight your chapter heading and apply your pre-set “Heading 1” from the Styles menu.
4. Do not use three periods at the end of a line. Instead, use a proper ellipsis (CTRL+ALT+period).
5. Do not use Upper Case characters while cleaning up your formatting with Find and Replace.
6. Do not insert extra spaces, tab indents or paragraph returns. Use the Styles menu.
To reset a Style (e.g. “Heading 1” to your own custom format:
- Highlight your desired element (e.g. “Chapter One”)
- Right-click on the Style in the Styles menu that you are selecting (e.g. “Heading 1”)
- When the drop-down menu appears, select “Modify”
- When the “Modify” popup appears, select your new font and size. Click OK.
7. Do not use CTRL+C or the “Enter” key to create a page break at the end of each chapter!
Instead, press the Insert menu tab: Then select Page Break.
Your end of chapter will then automatically be inserted.
Step 4. Clean Up Your Manuscript Before Uploading
Once your manuscript is finished and the final draft saved…
- Proof for readability
- Proof again at least two more times
Use your spell checker one last time, if you’ve made any corrections.
Now it’s time to eliminate hidden formatting – and prevent those glitches on upload you hear people complaining about.
Step 5. Clean Out Your Formatting
Before you can correct hidden formatting, you need to see it.
The easy way to see your formatting instantly is to press CTRL+SHIFT+8. You will instantly see formatting marks. (Repeating CTRL+SHIFT+8 switches them off again.)
In the example below, extra spaces that could mess up your Kindle formatting show up as dots: Here, they are highlighted in green.
The most unfamiliar symbol you will see is called a pilcrow. It signifies a paragraph return.
Remember, we only want a single paragraph return at the end of each paragraph: Any extra spacing between paragraphs has to be set with your Style before writing – not inserted manually with the Enter key.
Use Find and Replace to replace unwanted characters.
Here is the routine you should follow…
Go to your Home menu; then select Replace for the following actions:
- To remove extra paragraph returns (pilcrows): Find ^p^p – Replace with: ^p
- To remove a tab (caret):
Find ^t – Replace with: [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][input nothing].
- To replace three periods at end of line (like this…) with a proper ellipsis (…)
Find … – Replace with: CTRL+ALT+. (Yes, that was ALT, plus a period.)
Both three dots and an ellipsis may look identical in your MS Word file – but they can really screw up your Kindle formatting, so make sure you use ellipses.
- To replace two spaces with one space:
Find [input two spaces] Replace with: [input one space].
- To remove manual page breaks:
Find ^m – Replace with [input nothing]
One final thing to always keep in mind…
Finished Kindle text on a Kindle device is fluid, constantly adjusting itself from individual reading device to individual reading device. You will never, ever get your formatting to look exactly the same for every single Kindle device version, so keep your formatting as simple as possible to allow for variations.
(Remember also that Kindle readers can choose to adjust their own font sizes!)
Step 6. Adding Front Pages
But what about those “extra” pages that always precede the body of the book? If you haven’t already included them, insert them into your MS Word file before the main body of your text, separating each one with a Page Break.
You can choose from:
- A Title Page – Centered. Title of book, followed by Author name.
- Copyright Page – Centered.
Copyright © 2013 [Your Name]
All Rights Reserved
- Dedication – Also centered.
Formatting: For the previous pages, use your Home tab, and select Center. After each page, click your Insert tab; then click Page Break
The following pages should not be centered. Instead, use justified left, ragged margin (the same as your Text body).
- Legal Disclaimers – If needed
- Foreword or Preface
- Table of Contents (TOC)
- Prologue – Think of this as an introduction, including any explanations that are necessary on what’s about to follow; and background, if relevant.
At the very least, you need a Title Page. (Remember, your finished Cover Page will be uploaded separately.)
Also remember: Don’t include page numbers in your TOC: Kindle inserts them automatically, and they will change from physical Kindle viewer model to model.
To create a Table of Contents:
Creating a Kindle-correct TOC is easy, if you follow these simple steps. (Remember, you shouldn’t attempt to do this until after you have completed your manuscript.)
- On your new page, type “Table of Contents” at the left margin. Press Enter.
- Copy-select what you just typed.
- Go to your References tab and select Table of Contents. From the drop-down menu, click on “Insert Table of Contents”.
- Uncheck Show page numbers. Set Show levels: to 1. Press OK.
You’ve created your TOC – but there’s one more vital step you have to take!
Set a Bookmark:
- Copy-select the words “Table of Contents again
- Go to your Insert tab. Select Bookmark.
- A popup will open. In the Bookmark name box, type “TOC”.
- Click the Add button.
Step 7. Saving Your File
For your very last Save before proceeding to previewing and upload, save your file as a Web page, filtered. (Press the down arrow that appears in the Save as popup and select that option from the drop-down menu.)
If it asks about “removing office tags”, check the box as a “Yes”.
And finally we arrive at the most important step…
Step 8. Compressing Your File
The very last step you have to take: Creating a compressed file. This couldn’t be easier.
- Find your HTML file.
- Right-click on it, and select “Send to”
- Choose Compressed File.
And you’re ready to preview!