Let’s get one thing straight — formatting your eBooks is important. Like, really, really important. If you have ever read a poorly-formatted book on Kindle then you’ll know just how distracting it can be. Horrible line indentations that take up a third of the screen. Wonky chapter headings that cross over two pages. It doesn’t look pretty and it’s far from professional. Can you imagine what a reader would think if they picked up a book like this?
Luckily, BookRoar is here to help. This guide aims to help you correctly and easily format your eBooks for Kindle, so that your book can look its very best. Please note that the content here is not applicable to paperback/hardback books published through KDP and it is written specifically for Microsoft Word.
Pro Tip: Create a copy of your book before attempting to format it, especially if it is your first time. Although mistakes made in formatting can always be fixed, creating a backup will give you peace of mind should things go terribly wrong. We suggest formatting a book chapter by chapter, or section by section if the text deviates in style in some way.
To format your manuscript, you will first need to select the text that you want to change. This is a case of clicking into the document and highlighting all the paragraphs within a section which you want to format.
Step 1: Paragraph Indentations
This is the most common problem we see amongst self-published books on Kindle. The normal way we start a new indented line on Microsoft Word is by pressing Enter and then the Tab key, however, this doesn’t translate well onto a Kindle. You’ll know if you’ve encountered it before — instead of there being a nice little indent, the first line shoots halfway across the screen.
There is an easy way to fix this. You’ll need to first highlight the text you want to format and then adjust your settings as follows:
1. Click the Home tab in the ribbon toolbar at the top of the screen and then navigate to the Styles section (somewhere in the middle). Right click where it says Normal and then select Modify. A new screen will appear.
2. At the bottom of this new screen will be the Format button and a drop- down list. From that list, select Paragraph.
3. In the new screen, find Indentation and then Special, which is just next to it. Select First line and then adjust the figure from the standard 1.27cm to 0.2 or 5mm (depending on which type of measurements you use).
You’ve done it! But don’t leave just yet. There is still Line Spacing to do.
Pro Tip: Once this is complete, every time you press Enter to start a new line, the indent will be completed for you. Any additional lines in this new paragraph will not have this indent and will return to the very left of the screen, just like a standard paragraph.
Step 2: Line Spacing
The second most common problem in self-published books is that the lines are spaced way too far apart. You’ll never see this in professionally edited eBooks. The fix for this goes hand-in-hand with paragraph indentations above, and, luckily, we start from exactly where we left off.
1. In the same screen as above, find Spacing, which is just below Indentation. Use the arrows to set both the Before and After values to 0 pt, and then change Line spacing to Single. You’ll see the Preview of how this should appear in the box below.
2. Click OK (and then OK again).
And that’s it! That’s the first two steps done. You should see a dramatic change in your manuscript’s appearance, which can feel a little unnerving at first. Don’t worry about that though, as you’ll soon get used to it.
Pro Tip: If you are formatting your manuscript chapter by chapter (or section by section), then use the Format Painter button (the little paint roller in the toolbar) to copy the formatting to other parts of a book. Simply click into a piece of text that is already formatted, click the Format Painter button, and then highlight anything else that you want to appear in the same format. It’s a great time saver!
Step 3: Chapter Headings
Chapter headings don’t need to be elaborate to be effective. Sometimes keeping things simple can work the best. It can depend on your genre and your audience’s expectations to some extent, but often it is best not to try and over-complicate things. Keeping it simple will do.
1. Select Home in the ribbon toolbar and then navigate to the Styles section (in exactly the same way as above). There you should see an option for Heading 1. Right-click and then select Modify. This should bring up a new window.
2. In this new window, use the Formatting section to select fonts, sizes and font styles (i.e. bold, italic, underline), as well as text direction (i.e. from left, from right, centred) and also line spacing/indentation. Play around to find the style that you think suits your book the best.
3. Once you are ready, select OK.
Now, go through your manuscript and highlight each heading in turn and then click Heading 1 to modify it. This will copy the settings you’ve just assigned to this heading, and the chapter title will now be correctly formatted.
Pro Tip: Always remain consistent when you format your manuscript. For example, if your chapter heading has four line breaks from the top, then so should all your subsequent chapter headings.
Step 4: Page Breaks
Page breaks are used to notify readers on where a section of a book ends. More often than not, they come at the end of a chapter. They are useful to notify your readers that some sort of change is happening and also to give them a convenient point to take a break.
To insert a page break, simply click the cursor into where your text is going to end, hold down the Control button (Ctrl) and then hit Enter (Return). You will see that any text below where you clicked will jump to the next page, creating the page break.
(Alternatively, on the Insert section of the toolbar ribbon there is a tab called Pages. You can click Page Break here to create exactly the same effect).
Step 5: Double-check your work.
While the above steps are fairly straightforward, there is always the possibility that your manuscript may not appear exactly how you expected after formatting. Start from the top and work your way down, double-checking everything is how it should be. It’s simple, quick, and can save you from embarrassing errors.
Pro Tip: You can use the Kindle Previewer to preview your book before you publish it. You can find this in your KDP Dashboard after you upload your book. Make sure everything is correct before you hit ‘Publish’. If you find an error, you can always amend your manuscript and upload it again.
Bonus Pro Tip: Spell-checkers are a writer’s best friend. The Microsoft spell checker does the job, however the one on Google Docs is much better (particular for grammar and syntax). Consider copying your book over to Google Docs and seeing what their spell-checker says. Google Docs also has a free Grammarly extension that can help you identify further errors.
Some More Useful Tips
- You do not need to format your manuscript until you are ready to upload it to KDP. If you like seeing your writing in the way your word processor is currently set up, then do not make these changes until the very end.
- Don’t forget to apply formatting to your manuscript’s front matter (title, dedication, copyright, list of other works etc.) and back matter (about the author, website links, extracts etc.). You want your work to look professional from start to finish.
- Stick to the standard fonts which you see in everyday books (Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial etc.). Fancy fonts don’t translate well to Kindle, and even if they did they can be distracting or frustrating to a reader.
- You can use Kindle Create to add bonus things, such as drop caps (where the first letter of a chapter is much larger than the rest of the text). It is not essential but can be useful if you want to really enhance your formatting.
We hope this guide gives you the confidence and know-how to format your books correctly on Kindle. You’ve worked hard on your manuscript and it is important that your professionalism and dedication is shown to your readers. For further writing tips and for help getting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, then please check out www.bookroar.com.
The BookRoar Team