Self-Publish on Amazon: How to Format Your Book


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Howdy, y’all. Today I  begin a series about self-publishing on Amazon. It’s a revised version of an older series. This first post deals with formatting your book for the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.

First, let me give you some reading suggestions:

1. Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines This guide provides Amazon’s technical requirements. It’s especially useful if your book contains graphics, photos, charts, or is extremely large.

2. Kindle Direct Publishing Support offers links to Publisher Support, Ask The Community, and Voice of the Author/Publisher. Also check out the KDP Select link at the top of the page.

NOTE: You can use the same Amazon account ID and password you use to make purchases to log onto the Support Home page. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to set one up.

3. Building Your Book for Kindle. This is a printable pdf file available for PC and Mac users. It is designed for Microsoft Word 2010 but states, “. . . the steps are the same in nearly all versions of Word.” I am partial to my Word 2003 program, so the steps I follow refer to that version but can be adapted to later versions. Okay, let’s get started. 

Formatting Steps:

1. Make two backups of your book file, one on your computer and one on an external drive. I use a small, handy-to-carry thumb drive. Keep it in a safe place. Having these copies can be a life saver in case something goes wrong.

2. Combine your chapters. If you plan to submit your book to Amazon as a Word doc or html file, it must be one document. Therefore, if you normally save chapters separately as I do, you need to combine them into one big document.

Caveat: If you plan to set up an OPF file for submitting your book in mobi format (to be discussed in a later post) DON’T combine your chapters. They must be individually listed in the OPF. You will find instructions for creating an OPF in Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines. SEE ABOVE.

3. Remove page numbers. Kindle books are reflowable (viewable in different font sizes); page numbers are unnecessary and would cause problems. Headers with the book title, chap. number and your last name, such as you would include on hard copy submissions to editors, are also unnecessary. Take them out.

4. Never use your tab key to indent paragraphs. If you do, you will end up with uneven indents in your uploaded book. To remove tabs, type one tab at the top of your document, select and copy it to your clipboard. Open Find/Replace under the Edit menu. Paste the tab you copied into the Find box. (Word won’t let you type a tab in there.) Leave the Replace box empty; click Replace All. This will remove all tabs from your document. Replace the tabs using the following method.

Highlight one whole chapter at a time, except the chapter title. Open the Format dropdown menu, click paragraph and click the Indents and Spacing tab. Next, go to the Indentation area and set your first line indent width at 0.5″ (this is the default width). Click the okay button. WORD will now automatically indent each paragraph for you. This does not cause problems with the Kindle conversion.

5. Insert an empty line space between paragraphs. According to Build Your Book for Kindle, if you insert returns, this may cause uneven spaces between paragraphs on some Kindle platforms (reading devices.)

6. Your font style must change sizes easily on a variety of reading devices. Times New Roman 12 pt. seems to work well. That’s what I always use for my books.

7. Get rid of all the double spacing we’ve always been told to use for editors and agents. This means double line spacing and double spaces after each sentence (also unnecessary for editor submissions nowadays.)

8. Remove underlining if you use it to indicate italics. I tried to use the Find and Replace feature to do this as I did to remove tabs, but I couldn’t make it work. Instead, I searched each chapter as I worked and removed the underlining, replacing it with italics. Obviously this takes some time, but you want your book to look professional, so don’t scrimp on your prep work.

9. When combining chapters, add a page break at the end of each chapter. If you don’t, your chapters will all run together in the uploaded book. That doesn’t look good.

10. Indicate scene breaks within a chapter, and point of view (POV) changes if you wish, with one blank line followed by a line with three or four asterisks (* * * *) or pound signs (# # # #) centered, with a space between each. Then add another blank line. If you prefer some other symbol, that’s fine. Just be consistent.

11. If you use slang or foreign words in your book, they will be underlined with red zigzag lines by the Word spell checker tool — unless you add these words to your dictionary. I once read that such lines will show up when the text is converted to the KDP platform. I’m not sure this is true but to be safe, when I finish a chapter, I select the whole document, then go to the Spelling & Grammar feature under the Tools Menu and turn off the spell checking option. All the squiggly red lines disappear.

12. Create a title page. This should be the first page in your book. Center your title partway down the page and your author name beneath that.

13. If you want to add a copyright page, it should come right after the title page. You can add a dedication page next if you wish. You will also need to add a table of contents. I’ll discuss that in a later post.

14. Create an HTML copy. Save your combined text file as a regular Word document first to be safe (in case you need to go in and make changes later.) Then choose “Save As” and save the file again, choosing “Web Page, Filtered” as your file type. You have now converted it to an .HTML file.

That’s all for now. Watch for part two on Thursday, when I’ll talk about a valuable pair of FREE APS from Amazon: Kindlegen & the Kindle Previewer. ʼTil then, happy writing!

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14 thoughts on “Self-Publish on Amazon: How to Format Your Book

  1. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d
    like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Lulu: 10 Editing Checklist for Books | Self Publishing Advocate

    • Thank you for the valuable link! So far, I’ve used CreateSpace for the print version of my Texas Druid books, but I’m considering using Lulu in future. I understand it offers more international distributing.

      Like

  3. Excellent guidelines… I think with the red lines, you might be thinking of track changes. If it’s on and you’ve tracked or highlighted anything you need to click the track changes in the tool bar and accept all changes. Otherwise it will underline them and do funny things… have come a cropper on that one myself. I convert my files to something called a .prc which my kindle can read so I get to check them over before I upload them to KDP. I kept looking at it on my kindle and it took ages to work out what was wrong…

    Cheers

    MTM

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    • Hmm, I’ll check that out, MT. Thanks for the suggestion. I haven’t heard of .prc before, but it sounds like it serves the same purpose as the Kindle Previewer. It never fails to find a few format mistakes, no matter how hard I try to avoid them.

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    • Hey Suddenly, glad to hear from you! I’m glad you’ve found my guidelines helpful. I do try to keep things simple, sometimes not easy with a complicated subject.

      Happy writing and publishing!

      Like

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