Kindle Formatting

POD (print on demand) printing has become a very popular alternative for self-published authors.  Many of those same self-published authors are now turning their print-ready Word manuscripts into to Kindle books and ebooks of various formats.  Once they start in on the process of converting a print-ready file into an ebook format, they begin to discover how much difference there is in between print and ebook formatting.  They quickly (and sometimes painfully) discover that formatting a manuscript for print is totally different from formatting for ebook production.

I need to make some adjustments to my novel, Dark Justice, just to add some blurbs and a preview of another book.  While I’m at it, I figured I would record all the steps so that others can benefit from what I have learned so far.

So, if you find yourself with a Word document that you have painstakingly perfected for a print version of a book, and you now want that same file formatted for an ebook, here are some basics;

Before you do anything to your perfected print manuscript, make sure you save a copy that you will modify for a Kindle or other ebook formats.  A good idea is to put the word “ebook” or “Kindle” in the title.  Something like “My Novel_ Kindle Version” should work fine.  From Word, just open your print manuscript, then “Save As” and give it the new file name.   Once that is done, you are ready to begin making changes.

One note to make everything easier in Word – click on the “Show/Hide” button on the Home tab of Word.  This toggle button shows all formatting that is in your Word document, like spaces, returns, section breaks, etc.  The button has a “pilcrow” symbol on it – looks like this:  pilcrow


Blank pages and large blank spaces– Many books have blank pages in the beginning of the book to make sure the title page is on the right side of the open book.  Some pages often have only small sections of print, as in the case of a dedication page.  People reading ebooks do not want to see blank pages – it’s not the same effect as in print.  Make sure you remove all blank pages, and large blank spaces.  A good rule of thumb for ebook formatting is to only have two or three blank lines between sections of text.

Section Breaks – Many manuscripts created for print in Word will contain Section Breaks.  These breaks allow a manuscript to have several pages before the page numbering begins.  A section break will likely be found between all of the “Up Front” information in your book, such as Title page, Dedication page, legal statements, etc., and the actual “first” page of the story which is likely “Page One.”
Another place you will likely have section breaks is at the end of each chapter.  If the chapter ends in the middle of a page, a section break will start the next chapter at the top of the next page.  These section breaks are not necessary for ebooks, as you will be removing page numbering and do not want large blank sections between chapters.  Remove all section breaks. They are normally invisible, but can be seen with the Show/Hide button toggled on.

Headers – are totally unacceptable for an ebook.  Many documents formatted for print include a header where the title of the book, the author name, or both show up on even or odd pages.   You will want to remove these headers, as they are incompatible with ebooks.  In Word (2007) click on the “Insert” tab, go to “Header” and then select “Remove Header.”
Footers – usually contain the page numbering and sometimes other information.  Footers are also incompatible with ebook formats.  Follow the same steps as in Headers to remove all Footers.

Large Fonts and Fancy Fonts – Another big difference between print and ebooks.  In a print book, you can lovingly select a font that you like, make it the size that you want, and the readers can do nothing about it.  Not so in ebooks!  Most ereader devices like the Kindle, iPod and iPhone, Nook, and others, allow the reader to select the font that they like, and in a size that they like.  When readers have that ability, all of your careful spacing and formatting go right out the window!  Get rid of fancy fonts, as most conversions are limited to a few basic fonts.
Because of that, this is a good place to discuss ebook “Pages.”  Ebooks do not have “pages” in the general sense.  Because ebook readers can change the size of the font, and in most cases the orientation of the page from portrait to landscape, the ebook text needs the ability to flow.
When you read an ebook, you do not get “page” numbers for that very reason.  If a reader increases the font size, the ebook gets longer!  Larger fonts means fewer lines per “page.”  Fewer lines per page means more “pages.”  In an ebook, it is easier to think of a page as a “pageview,” or a dynamic “window” looking into the content.
That brings us back to fonts.  I suggest you select the entire text of your document, and then choose Times New Roman in 12 point size.  Yes, you will lose the special text sizing you have on your title page, and your name will no longer be in 40 point text.  Another rule of thumb for Kindle and ebooks is to NOT have a wide range of text sizes.  10 point for the smallest, 14 point for the largest.  You can still have bold and italics.
Now that the text size of the entire document is the same, go back and adjust the size of each chapter heading to 14 point, bold.  Use Word’s “find” feature to find the word “chapter” and you can quickly adjust each chapter heading.  Don’t forget Prologue and Epilogue if you have them.

Drop Caps – the vastly oversized first letter of each new chapter – are not going to work in an ebook, and really cause some formatting and conversion problems if you attempt them.  If you have used drop caps in your document, you can convert them back to normal text by clicking on the drop-cap letter (which will place a rectangle around it) and then on the “Insert” tab in Word, then select the “Drop Cap” button, then select “None” from the options.  The single letter will become normal sized.

Drop Cap

example Drop Cap

drop cap control

drop cap control box.

Word Styles – the use of predetermined “Styles” in Word can cause some unforeseen problems in converting the file for use in ebooks.  Some authors may use these “styles” to differentiate between normal body text and chapter headings, and subtitles, etc.  If a style is used in Word, and then you override that style with a different font and size and color, that underlying “style” selection does not go away!  It stays in the meta data that often goes with the text, even when cut and pasting it between documents!  If you have used Word’s “Styles” selections in your document, you may want to take a look at that particular style, then change it to match the way you have your document formatted.  For instance, if you have set all of your text to Times New Roman, but the Style selection is set to Arial, then change the style settings to match.

style selection

style selection

Word 2007 does offer a couple of easy ways to accomplish a match between the Style and what you have manually selected as your default font on the screen.  If you right-click on the style, you then get a couple of handy options.  One is to modify the style itself, and the other is to match the style to text that you have selected.  So, if you want Times New Roman to be your default font, then select a portion that has that font, then select the “match selection” option.

At this point, you should have a document that will allow for easy transition over to the Kindle format.  Still just a bit more work to be done, but changes to your Word document should be done at this point.

From this point you can either upload the Word file, or “save as” an HTML file in Word and upload that.  If there are any images in the work, HTML will work better.  Make sure you ZIP the HTML file and the resulting folder by the same name into one file and upload the zip.  The folder will contain the images.