Monday, February 4, 2013

What Not to Do When Formatting E-Books for Kindle

Do not use tabs, use indentations. In Word, click Show paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols. This will show you the tab mark at the beginning of your sentence. If you don’t see one, you’re good.

 The easiest way to get rid of the tab is to Replace all. After you’ve clicked Replace (control H) make sure your curser is in the Find what line, click More>>, click Special, then click Tab Character or you can just put ^t in the Find what line. Leave the Replace with box blank. Click Replace All
That should remove all of the tabs. But now all of your paragraphs are even with your margin. 

You’ll need to show the ruler at the top of your page. To show or hide the horizontal and vertical rulers, click View Ruler at the top of the vertical scroll bar (right corner of page). NOTE: The vertical ruler will not appear if it is turned off. To turn on the vertical ruler, do the following: Google “turn on vertical ruler in Word”. Go to the sites from those results. Follow those instructions.  Now that you have the ruler,  you will want to Select All (control A). Put the curser over the top left part of where zero would be on the ruler. It should come up as First Line Indent. Use your mouse to drag that upside down arrow to the right a few spaces. Look at your manuscript to see if the indent looks right. I generally indent just past 3 letters.

 If you see a little dot in front of each paragraph, that means you have a space there.  Use Replace All by putting ^p plus add a space. Replace with just ^p, and no space.  That should just get rid of those spaces and not any spaces you need.

Do not use headers and footers. If your manuscript has them, remove them by clicking inside the space where the header and footer is and deleting.

There shouldn’t be too much space between the top of the screen and the chapter heading, it’s better to start just a couple of lines down and no more than 5 lines.

Do not hit the enter key several times to break up chapters. Insert a page break at the end of every chapter to prevent the text from running together.

Do not use Add space before or after paragraphs. E-books should look like a novel, not an email.

Do not use that interesting font you found. Simple is better. While you can use a more interesting font on a header, you never know how it’s going to look on the various e-readers. It’s better to stick with simple.
Fonts that work well are:
Bookman Old Style
Times New Roman

Do not use unnecessary images. Larger files get charged extra fees at Amazon.

Do not use a blank line for a section break. Use something like *** or * * * centered on the line.

Do not double space. Use single space or 1.15.

Do not use special characters.  The copyright symbol is okay, but avoid all others.

Do not have blank pages.  To insure there won't be blank pages, turn on Show paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols (looks like a backward P) make sure your page breaks at the end of the chapters have no more than one paragraph symbol showing before the break. If your text is justified, you'll want one paragraph break before the page break so the last sentence doesn't end up with some major spacing issues. On some manuscripts, I have been known to use find and replace, putting ^p^p in Find and ^p in Replace, hit Replace All, and keep hitting Replace All until none are found.

Do not put one space between sentences on ebooks. If you've retrained yourself to change to the one space  after every sentence, use find and replace to fix the manuscript. Put a period and one space in the Find line and two in Replace, then click Replace all. You'll have to do this with all punctuation and quotation marks. Jacquie Rogers pointed out that the text-to-speech on a Kindle pauses a little longer with 2 spaces. Otherwise, there's no pause at all if a sentence ends in a question mark or exclamation point. For some mystifying reason, Amazon has programmed it so the longest pause is with a comma or space.

Jacquie also pointed out to never use tabs or spaces for centering.  Always use Center for this. Tabs are not recognized on the Kindle.  Anyway, logic tells you that how it looks on your computer is not how it's going to look on a e-reader.  Even if it was recognized, you would never be able to center it properly for the different sized Kindles with different size fonts.

Because of the nature of word processors, some of the fancy touches you include to make the book look better can actually corrupt the e-book. You will end up with strange spaces and wonky looking text, which in the end just distracts the reader from the story. The less you do the better the e-book, so if it's not necessary, don't do it. Keep it simple.


  1. Thank you, Livia! I'm sharing this post absolutely everywhere. You've done an exceptional job of spelling out everything in extremely clear language, and those of us who consume e-books like a prairie fire consumes dry brush are more grateful than you may realize. :-)

  2. Thanks so much for these tips, Livia! Always good to know. :-D

  3. Thanks Kathleen and Meg. I tried to be clear, but since I was up at 3 a.m. working on this I wasn't sure. I realize the photos are a little fuzzy, but light wasn't great.

  4. Livia, thanks so much for this. I think you are like the Oracle--you know all! LOL Great post. (As always!)

  5. Cheryl, you're making me blush. To be honest, I've made a lot of mistakes in the past and have found ways of fixing them. I have gotten manuscripts with so many formatting problems I've had to save them as a text file and go back and add italics, bolds, and page breaks.

  6. This is good stuff, Livia. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

  7. Thanks Marc. I may add to it from time to time.

  8. Thanks for giving us all this information, Livia. You make it seem a bit less daunting now.

  9. You're my hero(ine), Livia! Down with the Tab key!!!

    Did you mention centering? Centering should be done by highlighting a selection and clicking "Center," not with tabs or spaces. Grrrr.

    I have informed one author friend that I was coming over to his house with a hammer to destroy every Tab key in the place. He's getting better. :)

    Another author wasn't aware of word-wrap and hit enter at the end of every line.

    I do leave two spaces at the end of sentences, though. The text-to-speech on a Kindle pauses a little longer that way. Otherwise, there's no pause at all if a sentence ends in a question mark or exclamation point. For some mystifying reason, Amazon has programmed it so the longest pause is with a comma or space.

  10. Glad to help any writer, Keith.

    Jacquie, I did forget to mention about the tab, spaces, for centering. Never do that! I did not know about the spaces for text to speech. I'll need to revise that one.

  11. This is great. You covered lots of things I wouldn't have thought of. Thanks.

  12. Thank you, I'm just beginning and that is very educational.

  13. Thank you. That is very educational. I'm just beginning and still flying by the seat of my pants and have so much to learn. Rod

  14. Thanks guys. I enjoy publishing. Once you've done it a time or two, it becomes easier. That first one was a bear, however, and I've gone back and redone it several times. Nice thing about e-books. You can replace the file as many times as you need to and check to see how the finished product looks before publishing.

  15. Livia, thanks for sharing your knowledge. I don't have trouble self-publishing--except finding the right cover photo. Hours and hours spent going through photos, and still don't like several of my covers.

  16. I know what you mean Caroline. I look at images until I can't see straight, but isn't it grand when you find the perfect one?

  17. These are all great things to remember when formatting for ebook. I have formatted several books so I can say that I also had struggles when I started. You just have to learn how to use MS Word's formatting functions like centering, indent, etc. Learning the functions of Word and the guidelines of KDP will make ebook formatting a lot easier.