Self-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.
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).
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.
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.