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Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Publish on Kindle Part Two

The Kindle only accepts a completed manuscript, not a partial, so you need to have finished your book. If you've done this, the next step is to format your manuscript for the Kindle. Amazon has now installed a Digital Text Platform (DTP) that converts a Word file into the HTML-formatted thingy that gets downloaded. If you use this (easy method) you'll need to preview your manuscript before pubbing it, since the DTP can be glitchy. If you find your preview ISN'T right, just reformat the problem in your manuscript, reload your manuscript onto the site, re-preview it, and you should be OK.

BTW Amazon also has an application for computer geeks that works directly with the HTML, but I didn't use it so can't comment on it. I imagine it gives you a little more control and allows you to do fancier things, but really the DTP worked just fine to give me a totally satisfactory kindle book.

Today I'll be covering formatting of the body of your manuscript. The fancy doodahs -- cover image, front matter and back matter we'll do on Wednesday. Remember that your formatting should look like the formatting for a book, not a manuscript to be evaluated by an editor or agent. Also, BTW this IS considered publishing, so if you're trying to submit this manuscript to editors and/or agents for traditional pubbing, you shouldn't put it on kindle.

OK, so open your Word document and save a new copy in an RTF format. This needs to be a single document with all of your chapters, not a single chapter document. The first thing I did was reformat the margins to give me an approximation of what the text might look like on kindle, although of course this won't show once it's downloaded. I used an "A5" paper size which is 5.83" x 8.27" (check your page layout options), then made the margins 3/4 inch on the sides and 1 inch top and bottom.

NOTE: Although it's helpful, you DO NOT HAVE TO reformat your margins! This is only to give you a better visual idea of what your text may look like on the Kindle.

Once you have your margins, remove all hard (tab) indents, and all hard returns except at the ends of paragraphs. If you want to visualize where they are in your manuscript to make it easier to find them, turn on the "view formatting marks" option. If you don't know where this option is, hit the F1 key and type in "format symbols" or "format marks" to find out how to display them. Do the indents through the ruler at the top of the page -- move the top triangle over about half an inch.

Next, select all the text in your document and make it 12 point single spaced. (We'll dress up selected aspects in a few moments). Also, use the same boring serif font for all of your text -- Times New Roman or Garamond. These are the fonts that do best in a book anyway, so don't feel like this is a second-rate choice with the DTP. Don't try tricky fonts, symbols, or fancy formatting (anything beyond bold, italics, and centering text), since the DTP may not be able to convert these. Well, you can try them and then see how they come out on your preview, but don't hold your breath that they'll work. Sad, I know.

Also, make sure that you don't have a blank line between paragraphs, either through two hard returns or through the automatic formatting if you have the new Word (like I do). To take these out of the new Word, first make sure all your text is still selected, then under the Home key at the top, look under the "Paragraph" section. The fifth box with lines shows a box with two arrows pointing up and down. Hit that one. At the bottom of this arrow hit the "remove space from..." tab.

You will not need headers and footers either. Eliminate these from your document. (NOTE: just leaving in blank lines in the header or footer is not sufficient -- get rid of these in the formatting).
Justify all of your text in the document instead of using the ragged right edges.

Next, you'll need to format each chapter. For each chapter heading line, remove that indent on the ruler above the document so that it is flush with the left side. Then, center "Chapter One" or "1" or whatever you're using for your chapter headings, and make it "20 point" and "bold" (or other formatting if you desire). Do a hard return after this. Your text starts on the next line. (NOTE: for all centering, including in your text body, always eliminate the indent on the ruler so that the line is flush left).

At the end of chapter one, insert a page break. Do this even if your text ends on the last line of the page and this adds a blank page to your manuscript. Remember, the formatting YOU see is not the formatting the Kindle sees.

Go through your manuscript to finish all of the chapter headings. At the end of the final chapter, put in a hard return, then center ~THE END~ in 16 point text.

If you have offset passages of your text -- for example a letter that your heroine reads -- center this text and italicize it, or otherwise format it so that it looks good to you. Again, no fancy fonts.
I think this should do it for today. If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I'll answer it if I can.


HollyMag said...

Thanks for sharing this! I will be writing a research paper this semester and I'm doing it on worship, structured for a 5 or 6 week small group study. I had been toying with the idea of figuring out how I could publish it on the kindle. (Which I have a kindle and LOVE IT!)
Thanks again for sharing your insights. Blessings, Holly

Amy Deardon said...

Holly, I'm thrilled that this is useful to you! Your study sounds like a great help to people, and I hope you get an "A" :-)

John in Brisbane said...

A very helpful guide thank you. I will probably also purchase one of you kindle books just to see how your instructions turn out :)

Amy Deardon said...

John, I had some trouble with my TOC with posting -- am wondering if this is because the ms is longer. I need to fiddle with this to work it out. SCRIVENER converts files to mobi form, haven't tried this yet either.

Glad this was helpful!

John S Donnelly said...

One small question in regards to formatting, you suggest removing hard tabs. Do you mean from the beginning of each paragraph?

If so how is a new paragraph indicated on the page? Does the kindle automatically add a tab at the start of a paragraph?

Thanks again for the great guide - I already recommended it to a couple of friends.

Amy Deardon said...

Hi John, Yes, you must remove all hard tabs. The Kindle is glitchy in how it displays formatting, so the less you include in your document the better. I'm assuming you're using Word? To put in tabs, select all of your text, then use the ruler at the top of the page to indent the top triangle about half an inch. This should show an indent for every paragraph.

I've written an article that updates the Kindle directions -- not too different from the blog posts, but more info, and in a more organized format. Feel free to write to me at amydeardon at yahoo dot com if you'd like me to send it to you.

Another possibility to convert files that I haven't tried yet (since I'm in the middle of deadlines for a book) is to use Scrivener. This would give you the advantage of seeing your file on your Kindle or computer before sending it off. Scrivener is a writing program that is in a free beta form right now at You may wish to try this. This will put your files directly into mobi format, that you can directly load onto the amazon site.

A third way to convert files is to use your Kindle addy to use amazon's auto-converter for documents: send to youremail at The file comes back to your email, and then you can transfer it where you wish. If you don't have a Kindle you can find an app at amazon to open a free account on your computer. (It only costs money if you purchase books or other items). You could check your file through this to make sure it looks right before downloading it.

For Lever, my file was too big to go through the auto-converter, and I'm anxious to use the Scrivener to see if it fixes my TOC. Always something.

And of course, I haven't even mentioned HTML -- I've been playing with that a little too, but I'm learning strictly through tactile methods, and as I mentioned am squeezed for time :-) HTML is probably the *best* way to convert files, but not necessary unless you have tricky stuff. I was able to put in fancy chapter headings and so forth using the Word technique.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck with your book!

Amy Deardon said...

Oh, one other thing with Scrivener. It also converts files into ePub format. (I really need to start using this). The mobi and ePub are the two basic formats for ebooks -- mobi is used by Kindle, and ePub is used for everything else. I was playing with converting to ePub on my own but it's trickier because each document is made of multiple zipped files.

There is a conversion site for B&N Nook at This puts the file into ePub format for the Nook. Again, haven't tried it yet. Will do soon.

My impression is that there are many methods to prepare ebooks, ranging from quick-and-dirty to pricey with hiring an HTML formatter.

Good luck :-)