Although here at EDBOK we handle everything for aspiring authors once they send in their manuscript, we are active in the indie publishing community. We know that many aspiring authors wish to set out on their own and submit their books directly to Amazon’s Kindle store.
Such efforts may be particularly confusing when it comes to proper formatting, even for someone with experience in html. What looks good in first draft, when converted to Kindle format, may end up looking odd. The Kindle format is designed to be displayed in different font and screen sizes, and has more than a few quirks, rendering a plain Word file quite differently than other formats.
Therefore, we’ll offer a few tips here, ten to be exact, for success in formatting e-books for the Kindle. Coding is placed in quotes, which wouldn’t be used in actual code.
1. Work in Word and save as Web Page, Filtered when you’re through editing.
Don’t bother with other word processors. Start and finish major text editing in Word. Saving in Web Page, Filtered format will eliminate much of the clutter Word ordinarily puts into html documents. It won’t take out all the clutter, but it will make for cleaner html code, which is something you are going to want for converting to the Kindle format later.
2. For tables of content, code your own chapter headings.
Once you have your manuscript in html format, you can add tags to the code using the html editor of your choice. For each chapter, go into your html source and manually code the chapter titles with the h1 tag. It will look like this: “<h1>Title</h1>”, where Title is the name of the chapter.
3. Use MobiPocket Creator to make your .prc file, but don’t use its Table of Contents Generator.
MobiPocket Creator is fabulous for generating .prc files from Word (.prc is the format required by Amazon to translate into the Kindle format). But its Table of Contents Generator is lacking. For one thing, it will place all your chapter titles in an unordered list, with few easy ways to edit the look and feel. For another, it automatically places the table of contents at the start of your book, where you might prefer to have other matter such as a title page.
4. For tables of content, create your own using chapter headings you coded.
You can create a table of contents using Word, but if it’s a simple table of contents, you can just as easily make one in an html editor and place it in the text wherever you desire. Most likely this will be near the top of your document, but after the title page and maybe after the dedication, if you have one.
These will be internal links, so they point to places in your document rather than to other files out on the web. To get an idea of how these look, if you’re unfamiliar with them, use the TOC generator in MobiPocket Creator or Word and take a look at the output file with a text editor. Then discard it and make your own.
Here’s a sample of how a table of contents code looks like for one built in Word:
“<a href=”#_Toc172224758″>Introduction</a>” The reference is local, so there’s a pound sign to indicate it’s in the document. “Toc172224758” is a random placeholder generated by Word. “Introduction” is what users see that is hyperlinked to the place in your book they go to when they click.
When you create your own table of contents, which is really just a series of internal links, you gain more control over how it looks and where it is placed within your e-book.
5. Place the TOC tag in the html of your book near where your table of contents begins.
The coding for the TOC tag is “<a name=”toc”></a>”. This will need to go at the top of the page on which your table of contents begins, or in other words, right after the page break in your code for that page.
The TOC tag tells Kindle where your table of contents start. Readers will then be able to jump to your table of contents from anywhere in the book. Without the TOC tag, readers can still jump back to the start of the book then page forward to the table of contents, but it’s awkward.
6. Place the Start tag where you want readers to first open your book.
The coding for the START tag looks like this: “<a name=”start”></a>”. When readers first open the book, they’ll go straight there. You can put it at your preface, your title page, wherever.
7. Use appropriate coding to prevent automatic indentation.
Kindle automatically indents paragraphs, but you may not want some paragraphs to be indented. Break right is your friend in html when you don’t want a new paragraph to indent. Paragraphs, of course, are coded with the “<p>” tag. But when you break right, you are putting a soft break, or soft return, in the code. It looks like this: “<br>” and Kindle’s html will not process the lines after it as a new paragraph.
Another technique is to use paragraph width coding to prevent Kindle from automatically indenting a paragraph. This is “<p width=”0″>”. You can insert that at the beginning code of any paragraph you do not wish to be indented.
8. Use Shift Enter in Word for soft line breaks.
You can pre-code your text directly in Word and skip a bunch of manual coding later if you wish. For instance, holding the shift key down then hitting the enter key in Word will place a soft break, or break right, in your text. If you have a lot of coding with line breaks you do not wish to be indented, say in a book of poetry for instance, the shift-enter key combination will be your friend in Word and save you time later.
9. Use Ctrl Enter in Word for page breaks.
All the chapters in your Kindle book will need to be started with a page break. While creating your book in Word, a quick and easy way to make a page break is to hold the control, or Ctrl, key down then press the enter key. This shortcut will place a page break in your text and underlying code.
10. Check out these helpful formatting sites and books.
When you’re starting out learning how to format for the Kindle, a variety of helpful sites can help bootstrap your efforts. Here’s a few of my favorite to get you started:
Amazon’s Simplified Formatting Guide for Kindle – the best place to start.
Boogie Jack’s HTML Anchor Tag Tutorial – clear and concise definitions and overview of anchor tags.
MobiPocket Development Center, paragraph rendering and hyphenation – here’s a great tutorial on the quirky nature of displaying paragraphs exactly as you want them to appear. It’s one of many helpful articles at the MPDC.
Kindle Formatting for Web Geeks – useful info for people with a strong grasp of html who need some additional pointers regarding Kindle’s peccadilloes.
There are some good books out there on formatting for Kindle using Word. Here’s promo pages for a couple of them:
Kindleformatting.com’s formatting page – some nice tips here that should help convince you to buy the e-book.
Aaron Shepard’s Word to Kindle page – more nice tips on creating and editing your e-book using Word.
Brian Hogan’s The Bible on Word to Kindle – two books, actually, that go over formatting for Kindle using Word in great detail.