Sunday, 23 March 2014

FORMATTING YOUR BOOK FOR KINDLE For Those Who Are Not Whizz-kids On The Computer

With the difficulty of landing a publishing contract, many writers are going it alone on the self-publishing trail. I'm one of them. And I have to say that when I had finished the writing and needed to find a way of getting it 'out there' it was like hitting a wall. I had no idea how to get up and over it, or round it, or through it. It seemed impenetrable.

But bit by bit, I managed it, as many others have. But not without tears and tantrums a-plenty. How the computer is still in one piece I do not know!

To save others the trauma of fighting their way through this wall, I thought I would explain what I have learned.

The following applies to Amazon Kindle and is for those who are not computer buffs. That probably means the older ones among us, because the kids can all make a computer whistle 'Dixie' as it dances up the street! So this is the guide for those who don't know how to do hardly anything!

The work starts as you write your book. Already written it? Well, you'll no doubt have to make some changes.

Kindle does not recognise the tab key. So if you have used it for your paragraph indentations, each and every one of them will have to be re-done. I use Word 2003, so the instructions here are for that. No doubt other versions of Word will not be too different.

Go to the start of the word which begins the paragraph and backspace so that it is now on the margin. Go into Format > Paragraph > Indents and Spacing and on the bit which says 'Indentation' go onto 'left'. Change the figure in the box to whatever you want - I use 1.0 cm for indents. Click OK. Your paragraph will be indented. All of it. Do not panic. You have a hanging paragraph. Now click unhang. If you do not have that on your toolbar, you need to put it there. (Tools > Customise > Format and on the right hand column scroll down until you reach 'unhang'. Click and drag it to your toolbar.)

Sadly you will have to go through this palaver for all the paragraphs in your book. But if the book is not already written, doing it once for the first indented paragraph will do. You will notice that every paragraph will automatically indent when you hit the 'enter' key.

While you are in the 'paragraph' box, right at the top click 'Line and Page Breaks' and make sure everything is unchecked. You do not want 'orphans and widows' messing up your formatting, which it does; likewise 'keep lines together'. You may need to do this for every section of your document. You cannot rely on highlighting All (ctrl+A) and then doing it. If you haven't yet typed anything, do it as you indent your first paragraph.

Note: The first paragraph of a chapter or a new scene is not indented.

To remove the paragraph indent again, Format > Paragraph > Special and in the drop down box click 'none'.

A word about spacing. It's got to be single line spacing, even between paragraphs. Use double line spacing only when there is a change of scene, and you may want to put in then a few asterisks, or dashes or whatever takes your fancy. Up to you. But if that bit ends up at the bottom of a page, the reader will not be alerted to the change of scene without some indication.

Only one space between words, please. And British writers, especially those who have been taught to type and put two spaces after full-stops, question marks, exclamation marks, colons and so on, DON'T. I know it's a bind, but you have to learn not to do it. A bit of retraining needed here. The reason is that when you justify the right hand margin, the computer automatically shuffles the words along and you have these huge great gaps in the line where your extra space is. You might be able to find them all by using Find/Replace. I went through it several times using this method putting a full-stop and two spaces in the 'Find' box and a full-stop and one space in the 'Replace' box. Ditto for question marks etc. And don't forget after speech marks.

For Kindle, do not put in page numbers as the pages adjust automatically on a Kindle as the reader adjusts the font size. That is also why you do not want 'orphans and widows'.

Start each chapter on a new page. At the end of each chapter Insert > Break.

There is a way of inserting a 'Table of Contents' whereby the reader can click on a chapter heading in a list at the beginning of the book and go straight to that chapter. I haven't figured that out yet, but there are on-line tutorials for that.

When you are happy with your work, justify the RH margin. For those who do not know, the command looks like this:
Click the one on the right.

Don't forget to proof-read your book.

Don't forget to add the title page and copyright page etc.

At the point where you want the book to start, (normally at the place where it says Chapter 1) Insert > Bookmark and add the word START.

Right, now you are almost ready to go. Now you have to change your document to an HTML Filtered file. To do this, open your book file. Click 'Save As'. Now at the bottom of the box, beneath the bit which says 'File_name', there is a drop-down box which is labelled 'save as type' and beside it it will say 'Word document' in a drop-down box. Click the arrow. Click 'Web Page, Filtered', because that is what you want. (It took me three days to find this. I know, I know, but I just couldn't figure it out! Trial and error got me there in the end!) Click 'Save'. You'll get a warning about 'office specific tabs', but just click 'Yes'. You will still have your original Word document, and now you will have a new one next to it with a symbol which tells you it is your HTML Filtered file.

Now go to KDP Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) and if you have not already signed up etc. do it now.

As you fill in the on-line form you will upload your cover file. And when you are asked to submit your interior file on the form, it is already there on your computer and waiting for you to upload it. Go through it on the proof-reader to make sure it looks OK.

Fill in the rest of the form. Click 'Publish'. But don't panic, because you can change your file at any time - such as if you suddenly discover some glaring error! (I found to my horror that I'd left the T out of GENTLEMAN OF FORTUNE on the title page! I looked on Amazon, and there it was(n't)! I soon got that rectified.)

Have a glass of wine (or cup of coffee if you prefer) and a large slice of cake. You deserve it!

Evelyn Tidman is the author of GENTLEMAN OF FORTUNE The Adventures of Bartholomew Roberts, Pirate and ONE SMALL CANDLE The Story of William Bradford and the Pilgrim Fathers -


  1. Wow, Evelyn! Thanks for braving that scary world and reporting back from the front line. I've bookmarked this for future reference!

    P.S. Love your name--it was my grandmother's name and is now my daughter's middle name.

    1. Thank you Kelly. After my experiences, I thought I would help others not to be tearing their hair out! It's all easy when you know how.
      My mother's middle name was Evelyn, and now it is my granddaughter's middle name.

  2. Thank you Evelyn. I appreciate this post because I think that formatting is one of the hardest parts of the entire process!

  3. Great post Evelyn...thank you for taking the time to do this and sharing. I've just started my second novel, so I'm just in time to implement this. I have saved this post for future reference. Bravo, my friend!!!

  4. This kindle experience is scaring the life out of me already and all I've done is signed up for it. Thanks for making it seem less confusing.

  5. I'm pleased to help, Janet. Don't panic, take it steady, and if you are struggling, leave it, and come back to it tomorrow. You can keep on changing things if you want.