Formatting Your Word Document for Kindle

Formatting your Word document is easy. Don’t pay someone to do this. Look at the inside of 1700, and tell me if you think I did a good job. My file is full-justified, I don’t have any wonky spaces between paragraphs. My line spacing looks good. It is so easy to make such a quality product that I’ve become a bit of a snob. If I see in the “Look Inside” on Amazon that the sample is a mess, I won’t buy it. I get too distracted by bad formatting to enjoy a story, no matter how good it is.  Poor formatting could lose you a sale from a customer.

Formatting for an e-reader is different from a paperback. There are no page numbers because the device will hold your “page.” Therefore there are no headers or footers. For a fiction book, I advise you not to put in a table of contents because you are going to assume your reader is going to read it from front to back. It’s not like a nonfiction book where your reader may only want to read chapters that interest them.

A while back it used to be advised that you don’t put your acknowledgments, dedication, or copyright page in the front of your Kindle file because Amazon lets a potential customer read 20% of the content as a sample. This was based on the idea you didn’t want to waste your customer’s 20% on pages they didn’t care about. This isn’t true anymore. Yeah, they still can read 20%, but they can now look inside the paperback, and if they are looking inside the paperback, they are still going to see all that front matter. I don’t even think you’d realize if you’re looking inside the paperback or the Kindle when you want to read a sample. (I have passed on paperback books with bad formatting too, so I like looking in the front of paperbacks.)

I still keep all my front matter limited anyway. I’m not going to put in three pages of reviews, or tons of pages of acknowledgments. When I get my backlist going, I may put in a page with a list of my other books. But that won’t be for a while. So, for now, I would stick with my copyright page, my book’s title page, acknowledgments, and dedication page (not necessarily in that order.)

Anyway, so here’s how to format your Word Document for Kindle so when KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) converts it into .mobi or azw, or azw3 it looks good. If you want to get really confused, you can read about all the files here. The only one we care about is Kindle for this blog post, and KDP will convert your Word file for you. It will do it perfectly if you have it formatted correctly. Remember in my past blog post that CreateSpace offers to convert your manuscript and send it to KDP for you. 1700 didn’t convert well, and I formatted my own Kindle file.

First, make a copy of your manuscript. You should have copied and pasted it into the CS template if you published a paperback, now make a copy of that just so you have it on hand in case something goes wrong. This one shouldn’t have any headers or footers or page numbers, so we’ll leave it like that.

The biggest thing with e-readers is they don’t take Tabs. If you use the Tab key to make your indents for your paragraphs, you’re going to have one messed up converted file. Here are the steps to take out your Tabs:

Removing Tabs

  1. Save your Document so you have the original just in case something gets messed up.
  2. Press the Paragraph Show/Hide button in the Paragraph section of the Home tab so you can see the formatting marks.
  3. Highlight (select) your whole document.
  4. At the far right of the Home tab in the Editing section, click on the Replace button.
  5. Click the More and/or Special button in the bottom left corner of the box.
  6. Select the Tab Character.
  7. Leave the Replace with field empty and click Replace All. This removes all the Tabs.

This should have taken them out. If, for some reason, you used the Spacebar to make a tab, go into Replace, in Find hit the number of times you used the Spacebar to make the Tab (maybe five? Six?), leave the Replace line empty and hopefully Word will find all the Spacebar tabs and pull them out.

But now you have a whole book that doesn’t have any indentations. I’ve seen books like this. Don’t do it. You want your book to look as professional as possible so put them back in:

Putting your Tabs Back In

  1. Again, select or highlight your whole document.
  2. Click the little arrow at the bottom right of the Paragraph menu in the Home tab. Or right-click your mouse and select Paragraph from the menu.
  3. In the Indentation section of the box change Special to First Line and enter 0.25. This is how long your Tab is going to be. If you want it shorter you can do 0.23 or something. I use 0.25.
  4. Click OK.

This puts all the Tabs back into your document, but you don’t want the first paragraph of your Chapters and scenes to be indented (traditionally published books usually do not have the first paragraph of Chapters or scenes indented) so you will have to go through your whole novel(la), look for the Chapter starts and scene breaks and take the tab out of the first paragraph. When you find those, put your cursor in front of the first letter of the first word, right click your mouse, select Paragraph and in the Indentation section, change By to 0. This will take the Tab out.

When you start a new document, it’s easier to go into Paragraph, change First Line to 0.25 from the beginning, then you don’t have to do this after you’re done. It will take a little getting used to, to not have to hit the Tab button at the beginning of every new paragraph, but it will be worth it in the long run.

As you write, take the Tab out of every new Chapter or scene break, then half your formatting is done when you’re finished.

Instructions at a glance: 

  1. Take out all the Tabs, put them back in with the instructions above. Don’t indent Chapter starts or first paragraphs after scene breaks.
  2. If there is any in your document, remove headers, footers, and page numbers
  3. Use a common font. I actually just found a font for dyslexics. @scifikate tweeted about it. Supposedly it’s easy on the eyes and dyslexics have an easier time reading it. I haven’t tried it, but I’m going to explore it the next time I publish. You can read about it here.
  4. Drop caps are not e-reader friendly. Remove those as they will mess up your paragraph.
  5.  Set your margins to .5 all around.
  6. Set your line spacing to 1.5. Not single, not double.
  7. If you have spaces between your paragraphs, you’ll need to select your file again, go into Paragraph and change After in Spacing to 0 pt. This takes out all the unnecessary spacing between paragraphs.
  8. To add your website or author page in the back, say, on your author page, use https:// with the rest of the website in the hyperlink.

What you’ve done is made your file as simple as possible. If you have graphics or formulas or are publishing a nonfiction book with all the bells and whistles, then I would suggest buying a book or researching how to format a complicated document. These instructions are for a fiction book with the general front matter and back matter only. Anything else, and unfortunately, you are on your own.

Kindle will give you a chance to look at your book on the online previewer, similar to CS when you looked at your book online. Go through every page, yeah, this takes a long time, but you’re hoping people buy the darn thing, so you might as well. Especially flip to the end and make sure your author picture and bio turned out.

Publishing to Kindle is the easiest way to publish, and I understand not everyone cares about a paperback. But Goodreads won’t let you give away an e-reader, and signed copies of books are good for other giveaways and promotions. I wouldn’t discount doing CreateSpace. I like holding my book in my hand, and I’ve given several copies away in giveaways.

Here’s the first page of 1700 on Kindle Voyage. It looks okay. 🙂

1700 kindle

Good luck to you and congratulations!

4 thoughts on “Formatting Your Word Document for Kindle

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