There are a lot of guides on how to publish to Kindle (including Amazon’s own) with a lot of conflicting information and varying degrees of completeness. With many of them, it’s a case of piecing together a puzzle from disparate parts that overlap, supplement, or contradict one another.
There are definitely different paths people can take. Some guides recommend just doing the manuscript in HTML to be certain of formatting and cleanness in the document.
Most people aren’t gluttons for the punishment of steep learning curves and want something simpler – and some of the simple guides are often too simple.
I’ll take a middle approach. It’s still simple – because it relies upon the basic Word 97-2003 document. But what I also include are the nuances that make a Kindle effort better – by dealing with formatting issues that can inevitably arise when converting to the Kindle format.
A clean document is the first step. Ignore all the complex guides that tell you how to fix a potentially and randomly screwed up document. The effort in fixing an 85,000-125,000 word manuscript that was written over a period of four months with another four months of revisions and countless saves will sometimes take more time than just taking a fresh start.
A fresh start is copying the entire text to Notepad, and then copying back into a fresh, new Word document. And then applying formatting to get it ready.
Although this sounds daunting, it really is not.
The formatting required for most documents (we’re not talking House of Leaves here) is pretty basic for Kindle: Times New Roman font, page breaks after each page of front matter and after each chapter (so maybe a few dozen page breaks that take a few minutes to apply), paragraph style for the front matter, text, and Header styles for chapter headings, Bookmarks and Table of Contents, and re-applying any italics, underlined, and bolded text that the writer prefers. This might take half an hour to an hour for many people.
A heavily written and revised Word document that has gone through many months of iterations may end up with such a jumble of styles and hidden formatting code that it may be virtually impossible to ever get it consistent. The Word program delights in “guessing” formatting styles, as well as reinstating or balking at changing styles to “Normal” from whatever it decided fit at a particular time.
So let’s try the simple way.
I’m using Word 2010 for this guide. Word 2007 will be similar. Note that documents will be saved in Word 97-2003 format and not in DOCX format, per Kindle requirements.
Part 1 – Clean document
1) Copy the text from your manuscript into Notepad ( in Windows, this would be located in Start >> Accessories >> Notepad typically )
2) With Notepad open and your text now copied, close Microsoft Word completely.
3) Open Word again and highlight all the text in Notepad ( CTRL-A can do this ) and copy, then paste into a new Word document
Part 2 – Viewing document
1) Everyone likes to see their documents in a particular way. For this kind of work, I prefer Print Layout view. View >> Print Layout
2) If you have a 24″ widescreen monitor, you may like to see three pages displayed side by side at a time. Or only two with a smaller monitor. View >> Zoom and click on the Many Pages button, and click on the small “Monitor” icon directly below the Many Pages button and drag to the number of pages (usually two or three) you would like to see displayed on your screen at a time (click image for full-size).
3) Page Layout and Setup is up to you for making the document more readable for you to compare to the original for double-checking. For illustration purposes, I’ll use a CreateSpace Page Setup. Page Layout >> Page Setup (click image for full-size):
4) Select all the text in the document ( CTRL-A ) and make it “Normal” style (click image for full-size):
5) While all the text is still selected, set it to Time New Roman 11-point. Kindle devices allow a user to change font to a variety of styles and sizes, and Times New Roman 11 is a good neutral font for getting the file uploaded. Whatever fonts you may agonize over for a physical book fly out the window for eBooks.
6) While all the text is still selected, set the Paragraph style so first lines are indented automatically. An indent of 0.34″ works nicely. As long as you had hard-returns after every paragraph in your original document (and did not use manually inserted spaces to indent originally), your paragraphs should all now be nicely indented. Line spacing is for viewing purposes of the Word document. Kindle devices allow users to set custom spacing. The two line spacings I show below are similar and very readable when you are reviewing your Word document. Also be sure to de-select Widow/Orphan Control so pages remain with consistent lines for reviewing purposes. Page Layout >> Paragraph (click image for full-size):
Part 3 – Basic Formatting
1) Format your Front Matter however you wish. Normally, the text on your Copyright Page and Dedication Page will be centered-text. Do not create a Table of Contents yet. We will do that in Step 5 below
2) Insert Page Breaks after each piece of Front Matter and after each Chapter: Insert >> Page Break
3) Select each Chapter Number (or Chapter Title) and set their Style to Heading 1. Depending upon your default style setting (which may make Heading 1 in Cambria 14 Blue Bold font, for instance), you may need to then change the font to Times New Roman 14 Black (Bold or non-Bold – your choice) for consistency. And you may wish to set Line Spacing as well as Spacing Before / After since some Heading Styles may add a lot of extra space you don’t need.
Note 1: The reason you are setting Chapter Numbers (or Chapter Titles) to Heading 1 is for Table of Contents purposes which the Kindle will utilize so a user may click on a chapter heading in the Table of Contents to jump to a chapter. A Table of Contents is not required for a Kindle document although Amazon recommends one and some users may prefer the option of being able to jump to a chapter without scrolling through the book.
Note 2: Heading 1 for the Table of Contents can only be applied to either the Chapter Numbers or the Chapter Titles. So if you have both Chapter Numbers and Chapter Titles, with one of them above the other – such as:
Where It All Began
Then you should apply Heading 1 to whichever is first – in this case Chapter One since it’s above “Where It All Began” (click image for full-size):
4) Apply Heading 1 Style to any other places you would like in your Table of Contents. This may include a Foreword, Afterword, and Acknowledgements. Usually the Copyright and Dedication pages would not appear in a Table of Contents, but it’s up to you.
5) Now we can insert an automatic Table of Contents that will direct-link to anything with a Heading 1 Style. You can also manually create a Table of Contents and create your own hyperlinks, but the automatic way in Word 2007/2010 works perfectly for Kindle’s purposes.
Insert a Page Break to create a page where you want the Table of Contents to appear. This is often between the Dedication and Acknowledgements.
Type the words: Table of Contents (or Contents or whatever you wish).
References >> Table of Contents >> Insert Table of Contents (click images for full-size):
Note 1: Formats should be set to “from template” in order to be able to access the “Modify” button.
Note 2: Show Levels should be set to “1” (which will only pick up anything with a Heading 1 Style for the Table of Contents) and Show Page Numbers should be unchecked (since there are no page numbers in Kindle due to the ability to re-size fonts). Make these settings after you have modified the Font to Times New Roman 11 and modified the Format for the Paragraph Style to set Line Spacing to something appropriate (with or without Spacing Before / After). If you initially uncheck Show Page Numbers and set Show Levels to “1” and then modify the font, when you return to the initial screen Word kindly reverts some of these settings (usually showing page numbers) back to the default.
6) Set any remaining headers to Heading 2 (Two) Style. This would normally be Copyright Page, Table of Contents, Dedication, and possibly Acknowledgements, Foreword, and Afterword as well as any Chapter Titles that fell below Chapter Numbers (since the Chapter Numbers are in Heading 1 Style). As with when you set the Heading 1 Style in Steps 3 and 4 above, make any Font and Line Spacing corrections needed.
7) Kindle requires both a “Catalog” Cover (the thumbnail seen on the website) and an “Embedded” Cover (the cover seen when you view a book on your Kindle). We only want the Embedded Cover for this step. It can be no larger than 127k per Amazon Kindle requirements, and it should be a 600×800 JPEG in order to properly fit the Kindle screen. Normally, you should be able to save your cover at 150dpi at 600×800 at Medium, High, or sometimes Maximum Quality while remaining under 127k. Less often, you may be able to do a 300dpi 600×800 Embedded Cover, although that is very difficult to remain below the 127k limit, so I’ll advise 150dpi.
Insert a Page Break to create a page for the Cover. Obviously, this will be the first page.
Insert >> Picture to insert the Embedded Cover (under 127k in size, 600×800 JPEG at 150dpi and Medium, High, or Maximum Quality)
Click on the Picture and Center it on the page (Left to Right Center)
8 ) Insert Bookmarks for the Cover, Table of Contents, and Start of the book (where the actual story begins – either Chapter One or Preface typically). Kindle uses the Bookmarks along with the Chapter links in the Table of Contents so users can navigate.
Put your cursor to the Left of the Embedded Cover (it will probably be at the Bottom Left which is normal). Insert >> Bookmark and Type the word cover (all lowercase) and click Add
Put your cursor to the Left of the Name for the Table of Contents (however you titled it – either Table of Contents or Contents or whatever). Insert >> Bookmark and Type the word toc (all lowercase) and click Add
Put your cursor to the Right of the first Chapter Number or Title (this one is done to the Right because when you insert the bookmark to the Left, the link doesn’t work correctly). Insert >> Bookmark and Type the word start (all lowercase) and click Add
Part 4 – Kindle-Required Formatting
1) Eliminate multiple (three or more) hard-returns after Paragraphs or anywhere else they appear (including between Chapter Titles and text). Amazon doesn’t want multiple hard paragraph returns all over the place. You should have only two returns after each Chapter Number/Title so there is a single blank line between it and the following text. The same goes for Copyright Page, Acknowledgements, Foreword, Afterword, etc. You can scroll through the document manually and delete extra blank lines, or do it with an Edit-Replace, by searching for: ^p^p^p and replacing with ^p^p (which would replace triple returns and two blank lines with double returns and one blank line).
2) Make Scene Breaks easy for readers to discern. Since the Kindle allows users to change text size and style as well as line spacing, you will never know when a scene break will happen at the bottom of someone’s Kindle page. So when they turn the page, if there wasn’t an obvious flag that a scene change occurred, it may be confusing – particularly when a scene ends with dialogue and the next scene begins with dialogue. A blank line is NOT a good scene break for the Kindle. Go through the document and insert a good flag for scene changes. For instance, you may use Four Asterisks Centered with Spaces Between the Asterisks, like this:
* * * *
While you may search for Scene Breaks by using Edit-Find and searching for ^p^p (which would be double returns and one blank line), you unfortunately will have to manually replace the blank line with the Four Asterisks Centered with Spaces Between the Asterisks.
This is tedious, but it will make the document much easier for readers. Again – do not use Blank Lines for Scene Breaks. Manually replace those blank lines with a visual flag such as Four Asterisks Centered with Spaces Between the Asterisks.
3) Add Hyperlinks wherever you need them. If you list a website, or want clickable links to your other books mentioned in your bibliography, add the Hyperlinks now. Select the text that should be hyperlinked, right-click and select Hyperlink, enter the Hyperlink, and hit OK.
Part 5 – Final Formatting
1) Add back any text formatting you require. So if you have things that should be in Italics or Bold or Underline, now you have a slightly more tedious step than came before. The easiest way to do this is to open a copy of your original document (which had all the text formatting) and Edit-Replace searching for text that’s in the format you are looking for, and replacing it with Blue Font-Highlighted In Yellow for example. Something eye-catching in other words. And then you will need to go back and forth between the original document (with all its highlighted Italics/Bold/Underlined text) and your new Kindle document. This is a manual step, unfortunately. But unless you have tons of instances where you italicized, bolded, or underlined words, it really should not take long. For most fiction, it should be tedious but not too time-consuming.
2) Make sticky Em-Dashes. Em-Dashes need to be made “sticky” so they remain associated with the word preceding them (they cannot easily be made “sticky” to both words before and after). The reason you’re doing this is again – Kindle allows users to make all kinds of text customizations so you have no control where a line will wrap to the next line. Your text will look more professional by keeping your em-dashes sticky. And even if they were sticky when you originally wrote them, they lost that when you copied the document into Notepad and then into a new Word document. Fortunately, this can be done automatically using Edit-Replace and is fast. You probably have two possibilities – either two dashes (—) or an existing em-dash (—) that you will replace with ^+ which can also be found under Special in Edit-Replace (click image for full-size):
3) Make sticky Hyphens. Same as with em-Dashes, although sticky hyphens stick to both the word before and the word after. If you don’t make hyphens sticky, it’s possible a Kindle user may see a line that has an example of two connected words breaking with the hyphen at the beginning of the next line. Do an Edit-Replace and search for hyphens (-) and replace with ^~
Note: If you ever need to manually insert sticky hyphens, you can type this wherever one needs to occur: CTRL-SHIFT-Dash (don’t type the word “Dash” but use the hyphen symbol)
4) Make sticky non-breaking Ellipses. Ellipses are where you have those three little dots… There are all kinds of rules about ellipses as far as dot sizing or spacing (some style manuals prefer them to be a different sized dot than a following period, to distinguish them – because no way we could recognize a sentence that just ended…. ). This is Kindle, so keep it simple. If you do not make Ellipses Sticky and Non-Breaking, you will have instances where a user will see the three dots broken up onto separate lines when they come at the end of a line, or following punctuation (end-quote, question mark, or period) will end up on its own line.
You can Edit-Replace like before, but care must be taken because there are four variations. So do not do a “Replace All.” Also, depending on how your ellipses already appear in the document, you will probably first have to locate one and put it in the “Find what” field of the Edit-Replace box. This is because your Word template may originally have auto-corrected any instances of three dots into an ellipsis which technically is a single object (whereas three dots are three different objects). So searching for three dots (…) might not find anything in this Kindle document. So scroll through it to where you know you have an ellipsis, and copy it so you can put it in the “Find what” field of the Edit-Replace box.
- Ellipsis before end-quote (space-dot-space-dot-space-dot) ^s.^s.^s.
- Ellipsis between words (add another space ^s after last dot) ^s.^s.^s.^s
- Ellipsis before Question mark (add another space ^s after last dot) ^s.^s.^s.^s
- Ellipsis at end of plain sentence (add another space-dot ^s. to end sentence) ^s.^s.^s.^s.
- “I was thinking . . .”
- “I thought . . . you weren’t going to leave.”
- “So what exactly were you . . . ?”
- The sky was gray, and the snow began to fall . . . .
Note: You can create these manually by variations of the following:
CTRL-SHIFT-SPACE Period CTRL-SHIFT-SPACE Period CTRL-SHIFT-SPACE Period
5) Get rid of any instances of two spaces between sentences. Books only have one space between sentences, even though many of us were taught to use two spaces between sentences. Easy to do: Edit-Replace and search for however many spaces you think might have happened. If you feel you might have even done triple-spaces, start with those and replace with a single space before doing an Edit-Replace for double spaces.
6) Get rid of spaces that happen at the end of paragraphs. Sometimes you may have decided to break a longer paragraph into two smaller ones and there is a hanging space at the end of the first one. This can potentially cause an extra blank line between paragraphs if a user has configured their Kindle text such that the space makes a line a little too long.
There are four variations and you can automatically replace them with Edit-Replace. They’re easy to find because it will involve punctuation, a space, and a hard return:
7) Get rid of spaces that happen at the beginning of paragraphs. Same happenstance as above but two easy variations of Edit-Replace.
Don’t use the word SPACE or NOSPACE. Those are to show what is or isn’t there for this example. The second variant with quotes probably won’t be needed, but just in case:
8 ) Fix any instances where Word decided to use an end-quote rather than a begin-quote at the start of a paragraph:
|. ”||. “|
9) Fix any instances of straight-quotes with curly-quotes. Per this link:
Microsoft Word automatically changes straight quotation marks ( ‘ or ” ) to curly (smart or typographer’s) quotes ( or ) as you type.
To turn this feature on or off:
- On the Tools menu, click AutoCorrect Options, and then click the AutoFormat As You Type tab.
- Under Replace as you type, select or clear the “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” check box.
Note You can find and replace all instances of single or double curly quotes with straight quotes in your document. To do this, clear the “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” check box on the AutoFormat As You Type tab. On the Edit menu, click Replace. In both the Find what and Replace with boxes, type ‘ or “, and then click Find Next or Replace All.
To replace all straight quotes with curly quotes, select the “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” check box, and repeat the find and replace procedure.
10) Make sure you save the Kindle document as Word 97-2003 and not DOCX.
* * * Please read the comments – as I have added one that includes many links to more complex guides (including those that delve into HTML or utilizing tools like Sigil or Calibre) for those who enjoy digging under the hood. For Kindle it isn’t necessary to employ such extra effort if the Word 97-2003 document is pretty clean as I discuss in this guide and is a typical book that most people would be uploading to the Kindle platform. If it’s an extremely complex Word document with tables and embedded pictures and charts – anyone’s mileage may vary.
* * * When uploading to the Kindle platform, I highly recommend going to the section called “Enhanced Previewer” and downloading the “Book Preview File” which will be in MOBI format. This preview file is FAR SUPERIOR to the “Simple Previewer” and can be read on either a Kindle device – by attaching your Kindle device to your computer via its USB cable and copying the file into the “Documents” folder on the Kindle. When you open it on your Kindle, it should look exactly like it will when Amazon publishes the book in its compatible AZW format.
If you do not have a Kindle, you can still view the MOBI file of your eBook on any computer, tablet, or smartphone and see how it will actually perform on a Kindle by simply installing the *free* Kindle Previewer (which is the simplest way):
or by installing the *free* Kindle App which tends to connect itself to your existing Kindle device’s Library so may make it less fluid to review files quickly:
The reason I recommend downloading the MOBI file is because it will look and perform the way it will on the Kindle. The “Simple Previewer” is a decent emulator but does not usually handle the bookmark for the Cover, nor sometimes other bookmarks. It gives you a decent idea of how the book will look, but isn’t anywhere as good as utilizing the MOBI file with either a Kindle device or the Kindle Previewer or the Kindle Reading App.