How To Format A Kindle Document – A Quick Guide For Writers Like Me

cartoon inside writer mind kindle TOC joke

A TOC is a Table of Contents – but I did not know that the first time I tried making a Kindle document. I didn’t know anything about it except for the information provided by Amazon at the KDP website. Amazon want you to produce professional Kindle books – but finding the information on their website is not as straight forward as reading a simple guide that explains everything in chronological order.

Instead, the information is all over the place – like treasure scattered in a dragon’s cave – requiring a lot of effort to work out how to find it. I made many mistakes learning how to make a Kindle document because the information I needed was not easily found.

Ten Things I wish I’d Known Before My First Attempt At Making A Kindle Book

1) Everything is much harder than it looks.
2) Your word processor is your greatest enemy.
3) You will have to learn a little bit of hypertext language.
4) Don’t publish anything unless you’ve checked it out on Preview – thoroughly.
5) Inserting a cover image into a document is harder than Quantum Mechanics.
6) Creating a Table of Contents is only easy if someone nice tells you how to do it in a simple step-by-step way.
7) Always check a document looks okay in an eReader before uploading it because it will always have something wrong with it.
8) Never use tabs.
9) Indenting paragraphs properly is so difficult nobody does it.
10) Everything Amazon tells you only works in Word.

The first time I tried publishing with KDP, I made an awful mess of the formatting. I use LibreOffice instead of Word because I’m on a tight budget. It is an excellent free word processor – but it does have some quirks that made things a little complicated. My document looked great in my word processor, but it transformed into gibberish after Kindle processing. It had no paragraph indentations because I used tabs to indent, the line-spacing was random, the font style was unreadable, my cover image did not appear inside the document, there was no Table of Contents, and the text justification was unjustifiable.

To get around those problems, I had to ask many people in the KDP community forum questions. I also had to search for the information in the various threads. I discovered most formatting questions had already been answered a thousand times because so many writers find using KDP not as simple as expected. The answers are usually simple – after you have them explained in normal English.

How To Format For Kindle in Normal English

Write your document without worrying about the format. (Worry about that once I have your final draft ready to upload.) You can format as you go – but it is often easier to fix afterwards.

When you have your final draft completed, save a copy of your work before doing anything to it. Work on the copy so don’t make any irreversible errors.
Start the formatting by pressing “Control” and “A” to grab the entire contents of your document.

Format the entire document to your own style preferences – text size, justification, font, line-spacing – but remember that it should have a line spacing of one and use a readable font such as Times New Roman. (This is not important for the Kindle document as the user will choose the font – but it will effect the “look inside” feature.)

Use the ruler function to make tab indentations. This will effect the entire document – including the first line of each paragraph – but that can be fixed later. (0.75cm is often used.)

Make a new folder for your document called “Kindle Book Title”

Save the document inside this folder in as a .htm file – not a .doc or .odt or whatever format your word processor usually uses. (This will strip out any complex formatting unique to your word processor, which is why it was not worth doing that in the first place.)

Open the new file booktitle.htm

Change the format of text in chapter headings. A font size above 20 won’t work – so keep chapter titles to that maximum size. Also insert bookmarks entitled “chapter 1” etc. (These will be useful later when creating the Table of Contents.) Add bookmarks called “TOC” for the Table of Contents and “Start” for the beginning of the story.
If you want the first paragraph of a chapter to have different indentation, like in a real book, go through the document looking for them. Use “backspace” to remove the first tab or apply a style with no text indentation. There are problems with doing that in LibreOffice – so I will come back to that later.

Justify paragraphs requiring “centre” now.

Save the document. (And make a copy in case the next bit goes wrong.)

Now add your Table of Contents after the title page.

Insert hyperlinks to the bookmarks you already created. These hyperlinks are inside the document, connected to the chapters. (I didn’t know you could do that until someone told me.)

To add a cover inside – insert a jpg file at the beginning of your document using the “insert file” menu. Ideal size is 1200 pixels by 1600 pixels, the size Amazon recommends.

Make sure this picture has no wrap. Also make sure it is centred and anchored to the page. Insert a page break after it.

Save the file again. This will save a copy of the .jpg under another name in the same folder as your document. If this does not appear, something has gone wrong. You could have inserted the picture into your document the wrong way via the “insert picture” instead of “insert file”.

This next part is the bit that is scary for people like me afraid of hypertext language. Skip it if you can find an easier way of making your first paragraphs have zero indentation or don’t care about it. Open a text editor such as Word Pad that displays your document without any formatting. You’ll see your document looks like a foreign language – but don’t panic. Look for any lines that have the following in them STYLE=”margin and STYLE=”text-ident: because these are the lines that change how your Kindle document appears. The Kindle doesn’t save paragraph information if the text-indentation is zero – so I have to fix that by using the search and replace function. By searching for STYLE=”margin and replacing it with STYLE=”text-indent: -0.0cm; margin the entire document will then have no indentations for the first paragraphs of each chapter, just like in a normal book.

Save the document in its original .htm format.

Breathe a sigh of relief.

Have some coffee and a break.

Treat yourself to some biscuits.

Now all (ALL?) you have to do it create a zip folder containing your document folder. Click on your folder and zip it. That zip can be uploaded to Amazon and you will hopefully have a nice Kindle book.

It does seems like a lot of effort for something supposedly simple, doesn’t it?

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