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)

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    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