4 Tips for Formatting Your MS Word Document for Kindle

Reading YodaSelf-publishing is a daunting career choice, isn’t it? Not only do you have to be the creative muse, the grunt and the marketing and promotion expert all at once, you have to be a formatting expert, too. Unfortunately, formatting is one of the most important parts of your job as a self-published author. It doesn’t matter how good your story is, or how well-written or how well-marketed, if the formatting makes your ebook unreadable, readers will bemoan this fact in their Amazon reviews.

Kindle is a reader-friendly device. It lets readers choose the font size they wish to see as well as the width of their reading plane (affecting the number of words per line). If you’re a KDP beginner, and you haven’t paid attention to some basic formatting rules when crafting your manuscript in MS Word, then Kindle will override your formatting in favour of the reader’s device settings. This could result in your ebook becoming difficult to read.

I’ve been self-publishing for three years now, and in that time I’ve learned a thing or two about how to format. It was not easy to find the information I was looking for, though, because so many “How To Format for Kindle” blog posts and help sites are geared towards doing it through HTML and complicated, computer-savvy methods that I have no desire to master.My First Novel

Fortunately, Kindle Direct Publishing is also selfpub author friendly. If you’re publishing a manuscript that is mostly text (as in the case of fiction), it doesn’t need to be so complicated. Here are a few tips for basic formatting options to ensure that your settings remain true once your document is uploated to Amazon KDP.

A disclaimer: I am not an expert. These are just a few hints I’ve picked up over the years that work exceedingly well for me. I hope you find them useful.

Font Size and Style

Font is important for readability. Note that when your document is converted to a .mobi file by KDP when you upload it, not all font choices are supported. The best font choices are Times New Roman, Garamond and Arial. There are other popular font types that are perfectly acceptable, but depending on the version of the reader’s Kindle device, the font you choose may be converted. As for size, Kindle allows readers to choose font size, so it’s best to stick with 12 point for text, and 14 point for chapter headings (in my experience).

IndentationPre-Set Your Indentation

Kindle has a default indentation setting. If you do not specify the length of your indentation for each new paragraph, Kindle will default to its own length. This may not be a problem for you if all your paragraphs are indented homogeneously. In this case, it is likely you won’t notice much (if any) difference once the document is uploaded. However, if you’re like me, I like my first paragraph of each chapter, and each sub-section in each chapter, to have no apparent indentation. To do this, go to “Paragraph” in your MS Word document and set the indentation to .01 (inches or centimetres makes no difference). Once your manuscript is uploaded, Kindle devices will keep true to this pre-set indentation.

SpacingPre-set your paragraph spacing

In my manuscripts, my paragraphs do not have spaces between them. However, my chapter titles, and the last paragraph of a section break do. In Kindle, this should not be done by inserting a blank space between paragraphs, as KDP will remove them upon conversion of your file to .mobi. To represent increased spacing between paragraphs, highlight only the paragraph to be affected, go to “Paragraphs” in your MS Word document, and specify how many points by which you want to increase your spacing either “After” the paragraph or “Before” it. Like with indentation, once your manuscript is uploaded, Kindle devices will keep true to this pre-set spacing.

Use Page Breaks

Traditionally published and formatted books usually have chapters start on a new page. To ensure that a fresh chapter begins on its own page in your ebook, insert a page break at the beginning of your chapter title. Kindle will respond as you direct once your book is opened on a device.

You may be a self-published author, but that does not mean you can’t emulate the look of a professionally published ebook. These basic formatting steps will make your document readable for Kindle device users – so readable, they won’t even notice the formatting. And if they’re not thinking about the formatting, they’re thinking about your story.


21 thoughts on “4 Tips for Formatting Your MS Word Document for Kindle

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      1. Hope it helps Kylie – BTW – Chris McMullen and Lorinda J Taylor also have helpful articles on their blogs for this (some of which I reblogged earlier in the year – check under Informative and Publishing Tips in my category cloud) 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much! I need to go back and reread those. I remember the category cloud one. That was helpful. I’m a little confused about the steps right before publishing and my cover artist needs to know how many pages my book will be so she can factor the spine.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great tips! I always struggle with the table of contents. It baffles me and my MS Word doesn’t play nice. 😦


  2. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m getting ready to publish and wanted to know if I had to pay someone to do this. So, I don’t have to?

    I do have a question about page margins in Word. What should those be? And is there a special rule for drop caps?


    1. Hi Kylie, thanks for your comments. To be honest, I haven’t ever paid anyone to format my books, I just did a lot of digging to find out how I could do it myself. With these basic formatting tricks, my converted files have always translated true on Kindle devices. Great question about the page margins – I always stick with the default “Normal” setting, which is 2.54 cm for me, and I think that would be 1″ on the imperial system. When you upload your files to KDP, it will convert fine. I also right justify my text and it converts true (more or less) that way as well.

      For drop caps, I wish I could help there, but I don’t quite know that one. What I will say, though, is that a lot of the small-press ebooks being released nowadays stick to a simple formatting system as well. I’m with you in that drop caps are absolutely lovely, and if you can find a way to figure it out, good on ya. But they don’t seem to significantly impact the reader experience. You might want to try capitalizing the first three or so words of a new chapter or subsection to give it a little flair, or bolding them, or upping the font size to 14, or something like that. I capsed in my latest, A Noble Deception, and I think it looks pretty neat (IMO, anwyway …)

      Best of luck to you, and let me know if you figure out that drop caps thing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much. You’ve been very helpful . . . what about the paperback version? Do you have to format it differently? I’m publishing through Amazon and have no idea what I’m doing.

        My cover artist is waiting on measurements before she designs the back cover and spine. She wants to know how thick to make the spine. How do I figure that out?


      2. Actually, I have never put my books out on CreateSpace, though I have thought about it, and even formatted one of my manuscripts before deciding against publishing in print. There’s actually a really great article from CreateSpace on how to format your Word doc for upload to the site. Once you’re done formatting your book by that guideline, you will know exactly how many pages to tell your cover designer. I found it helpful, hope you do, too!



      3. Thank you so much for the link. You have been so helpful and generous with your info:)

        I thought you used CreateSpace to create the book you are going to put out on Amazon. Maybe I’m confused.


      4. I have only published ebooks through Kindle Direct Publishing – so far, anyway. Looking forward to that next step: CreateSpace 🙂 But I’m glad you found my info helpful. I always love to share whatever I’ve learned with my fellow authors. We’re all in this together, right? 🙂 Best of luck to you!

        Liked by 1 person

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