One of the factors that decides whether your book will be successful or a flop on Amazon Kindle is the formatting.
While reading a book, have you ever seen the text all run together, paragraphs with weird characters, or chunks of text that just seems to go on forever?
How did you feel about it?
You probably just ended up putting that book down.
You can have an astounding title, a spectacular cover design, and awe-inspiring content, but if you don’t format your book correctly, it will affect your readers’ overall experience.
Poor formatting makes it difficult to read your book. It also affects how your readers perceive the quality of your book. Readers have been unconsciously trained to read books designed in a particular format—and to expect that format every time. They pick up on the layout and arrangement more than they think. If the formatting of your book is not what they are used to, they may feel that it’s been cheaply made or done by an amateur.
Does this mean you have to hire a professional to format your book?
I’ve seen a lot of authors spend hundreds of dollars just to have someone format their book. They think they don’t have the knowledge or skill to do it themselves.
I’ve formatted my ebooks myself and I’ve mastered the techniques to do it quickly and efficiently. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars just to get your book looking professional and well-formatted. I can teach you how to format a Kindle book in just 30 minutes.
How to Format an Ebook for Kindle
In this free detailed guide, I’m going to show you how to format a book for Kindle for fiction and nonfiction (yes, there is a difference when it comes to formatting fiction and nonfiction, so you need to make sure you follow the right process for your genre).
All you need is to study the steps and implement them with the next book you publish.
Formatting Nonfiction Books for Amazon Kindle
Every book has standard parts, from the front matter and table of contents to the core matter and the back matter. It’s crucial that every part of the book appear in the right order with the right content.
I like making things simple, so I just think of the Kindle book format in eight sections. These are:
- Title page
- Why I wrote this book
- Why you should read this book
- Table of contents
- About the author
- Other books by author
- One last thing
What You Need to Start Kindle Formatting
You only need a few things to publish your ebook:
- Your book in digital format (.doc, docx, .txt, html, etc.)
- Microsoft Word
- 30 minutes of your time
You don’t need any special skills to format your book. If you know how to click buttons and highlight text, then you’re perfect for this job.
Steps Before Formatting Your Book
Before we discuss each section of the book, we need to ensure that our manuscript is clean. That means no prior formatting, no HTML codes, no bold, no italics, and so on.
This is important because if there are jumbled fonts from all the different programs you’ve used, or from leftover formatting from bits and pieces of the manuscript that might have come from different places, it can really mess up the formatting.
If you already have your manuscript in MS Word, select all the texts by pressing CTRL+A, then move your cursor over the headings section and click on Normal.
This step removes all the stray formatting, and it’ll end up with your manuscript looking like this:
If you have copied and pasted your manuscript from a different place or a program other than MS Word, you might have some weird fonts or characters in your manuscript. In this case, what you want to do is to clear it by using a TEXT format.
If you’re using a PC, you can use Notepad and copy and paste your manuscript into the Notepad before transferring it to MS Word. If you are using a Mac or another operating system, then you can go to http://www.editpad.org/ to remove all formatting. Just copy all the text.
After you’re done clearing all the formatting, you can now start to lay out your manuscript for Amazon Kindle.
One point that I want to make is that the series of steps that I’m going to show you offers a guide to formatting your manuscript. You can still choose to make changes to the basic template! You can change how big your title is going to be, customize the subtitle, alter chapter headings, and all that. You can also change the alignment to centered or justified.
However, there are some things that I think you don’t have to bother with.
An example is the font. If you have a special font that you want to use, that’s fine.
But truth is, the font doesn’t really matter because 99% of readers choose their own fonts on their device. They can make the font bigger, smaller, or fancier as they wish. To make this process quick, I just utilize the style set on MS Word and set it to “Simple.”
“Style set” basically tells MS Word what kind of fonts to use for your title, headings ,and paragraphs. I use “Simple” because it’s the easiest and most straightforward style.
To change the style set in your document, just click on Change Styles, scroll over to Style Set, and select the option Simple.
Formatting the Title Page
The first page of your manuscript is the title page. The title page should only contain the title, author name and subtitle, copyright, and a call to action. Each element should be formatted appropriately.
1. Change the style of the book title using the Title style.
Sometimes the Title style doesn’t appear on the first row of the styles list. If you can’t see Title, click on the drop-down arrow button to show the all styles.
Change the alignment of the title to center. Select the title and click on the Center Text button.
2. Change the subtitle and author style to Subtitle and make them centered.
3. The next section is our copyright section and the call to action. Now, this section will also be centered, but it will just be regular text. For the regular text, you select the Normal style.
4. Create a call to action. A call to action (or CTA) is essentially asking your readers to join your newsletter, check out your blog, get your free training courses, or whatever offer you have to connect your readers to you online.
This is not intended to interrupt your readers, but it’s placed in the beginning because it’s convenient. This is a non-traditional way to build your platform inside your manuscript.
To create a call-to-action link, you must insert a hyperlink to your call-to-action text. Select the call-to-action text, click on the Insert tab and click Hyperlink.
Add the address on the Address box and click OK.
Your call-to-action text will appear in blue. You can check to see if the link is working by hovering over the text, holding down the CTRL button, and clicking on the text. If this link is working in MS Word, it will also work in Amazon Kindle.
Note: It’s super important to test every hyperlink in your manuscript because if you have a link that’s not working, you’ll lose on opportunity to engage with your reader and possibly tick them off. Make sure you include the “http://” part of the address to ensure that the link will work.
5. End this section by inserting a page break. What this will do is ensure that your readers won’t see the next section or chapter of your book until they click on the Next button and scroll to the next page on their Kindle device. So, at the end of title page, every section, and every chapter, you’re going to insert a page break to make it nice and neat.
Click on the Insert tab and click on Page Break.
The page break is not visible on your document within Word, so you’ll need to make sure that the page break is inserted properly on your manuscript. To do this, there’s a tool in MS Word that I like to use called the pilcrow. Let me show you how this works.
Go to the Home tab and click on the Show/Hide Pilcrow button.
This will show a pilcrow at the end of each paragraph. The tool is going to show you symbols like page breaks, where you’ve hit “enter” to go to a new line, and if there are spaces (those will show up like dots). This technique helps you see hidden characters that you don’t see with your naked eye in the final document, but which will ultimately affect how your manuscript will appear on the Kindle device.
Why I Wrote This Book
This is the introduction or foreword part of your book, and the first section where we’ll use the chapter heading.
1. Highlight the heading of this page and click on Heading 1.
You can change the alignment of your heading, add extra spacing, use a different font, or leave it as-is—it’s really all up to you. What you are trying to do at this point is tailor the Heading 1 settings as you are imagining the chapter heading will appear on every section of your book.
Let’s quickly go through the steps to adjust the spacing using the Paragraph options in MS Word, just in case you want that extra spacing.
Select the text that you want to change the spacing for, then right-click and select Paragraph.
In the Paragraph settings, you’ll find that there is an option to change the Spacing. You can add more space before and after the paragraph.
After you’ve finished formatting the heading, highlight the text, right-click on Heading 1, and select Update Heading 1 to Match the Selection.
What you just did is make a custom Heading 1 style in MS Word. This means that the formatting that you just set in the heading of this section will automatically translate across the book by simply clicking on Heading 1 where you want it to appear. You’ll see more of how this works as we go on.
2. The text below the heading is just a regular text; this has to be set to Normal style.
In the image above, you’ll see that there is a pilcrow just above the chapter heading. That means there is an extra paragraph on top of the page. Whether to keep or to remove this extra space is optional.
If this is an unwanted space, simply delete it. If you want to have an extra space at the beginning of every section and every chapter, that’s okay, as long as you make it uniform throughout the manuscript.
3. Like you did with the title page, insert a Page Break at the end of this section.
Why You Should Read This Book
This section is about telling readers why they should read your book. This section is optional.
1. Highlight the heading of this page and click on Heading 1.
As you’ll notice, you don’t have to change anything on this heading to match the “why I wrote this book” heading. It’s mimicking the properties and attributes of the first heading and will materialize on every text you set to the Heading 1 style.
2. The text below the heading is just a regular text; set this to Normal style.
3. Insert a Page Break at the end of this section.
The next section of your book is actually the table of contents. But because you cannot create a clickable table of contents without finishing your book first, we’ll skip to formatting the chapters first.
Note: Make sure you have a table of contents page before Chapter 1. Add a page break at the end of it and work on your chapters.
Now, the chapters of a nonfiction book may contain a heading, a subheading, a sub-subheading, and so forth.
1. For the chapter title, you’ll use Heading 1.
2. The text after the first heading should be a regular paragraph. Select the Normal style.
3. The style of subheadings of the chapter is set to Heading 2.
Since this is the first time that you’ll be using Heading 2, customize the formatting of your subheading and update the attributes for Heading 2 to have it translate throughout the book.
You can change the alignment to center, add spacing, change font, and so on. It’s up to you.
After you’ve formatted the subheading, highlight the text, right-click on Heading 2, and select Update Heading 2 to Match Selection.
3. The text under each subheading should be set in Normal style.
4. If your subheading contains a sub-subheading, then this will be set to Heading 3.
You’re going to repeat the same process that you did for Heading 2 for Heading 3. After you’ve formatted the sub-subheading, highlight the text, right-click on Heading 3, and select Update Heading 3 to Match Selection.
5. The text under the sub-subheadings is also going to be set in Normal style.
6. At the end of the chapter, insert a Page Break.
7. For the second chapter, you’ll start with the Chapter 2 title. Set it to Heading 1.
8. The text after the first heading should be a regular paragraph. Select the Normal style.
9. The style of subheadings of the chapter is set to Heading 2.
No need to change the settings for Heading 2—all the settings that you have previously chosen and used to update Heading will reflect on all the Heading 2 selections in your book.
10. The text under each subheadings should be set in Normal style.
11. If your subheading contains a sub-subheading, then this will be set to Heading 3.
12. The text under the sub subheadings is also going to be set in Normal style.
13. At the end of the chapter, insert a Page Break.
14. Repeat steps 7–13 for the rest of the chapters.
About the Author
After you have inserted the last page break after formatting all the chapters of your book, you’re going to format the end materials, starting with the “about the author” page.
1. Set the heading to Heading 1.
2. The text under the heading is a regular paragraph. Set the style to Normal.
If you want, you can add your picture here. If you want to do that, just click on Insert tab and the Picture icon.
3. Insert the hyperlinks on your author bio. You might want to add information here like your author website or your company’s page.
Make sure the address is correct before you click on OK.
4. At the end of this section, insert a Page Break.
Other Books by the Author
This section is only for authors who have published several books. You want this section to make it very convenient for readers to buy your next book on Amazon.
1. Change the heading style to Heading 1.
2. List all your books on this page using the Normal style.
3. Go to the Amazon page of each of your books and copy the URL of the page. Highlight the address, right-click, and select Copy.
4. Highlight your book title on the list, go to the Insert tab, and click Hyperlink.
5. Paste the URL into the address box.
6. Repeat steps 3–5 for all your books on the list; at the end of the section, insert a Page Break.
One Last Thing
This page is for you to make any requests that you may have (like a call to action) or to include a simple letter to ask your readers to read your other books.
Remember: if you are going to invite your readers to review your book, you cannot offer gifts in return. That would be a violation of Amazon’s terms of service. If Amazon finds out you’re doing that, you can actually lose the reviews of your books; they may remove the books or, in extreme cases, your entire account might be banned.
1. Set the heading style for this section to Heading 2 to avoid being indexed in the table of contents. You’ll find out more about it when you create your table of contents.
2. Set the text under the heading to Normal style.
Note: You don’t have to include a link directly to the “create a review” page because Amazon now automatically asks readers to review your book when they click to the next page at the end of your book. But in this section, you can definitely write a personal note to your readers and ask them to review it!
Formatting the Table of Contents
Now that your entire book is formatted for Kindle, the final thing you need to do is to create your table of contents (TOC).
It’s very important that you follow these steps to create a clickable table of contents that will work on all eBook readers and devices.
1. Go back to your table of contents page. Set the heading to Heading 2.
2. Erase all the text on the table of contents except for the page break.
3. Add a space between the title and the page break. Once you have that, come up to the References tab, click Table of Contents, and select Insert Table of Contents…
4. On the Table of Contents screen, you’ll need to select some very important settings.
The first thing you’ll do is to de-select page numbers. Click on Show page numbers to uncheck it.
Page numbers, technically, do not exist for Kindle books. They measure lines instead, because settings for the book will vary from device to device. So what we want is to select Use hyperlinks instead of page numbers.
5. Set the Formats to From template and the Show levels to 1.
If you compare the images from step 4 and step 5, you’ll see the difference in the Web Preview section. From originally showing Headings 1–3, it’s now only showing Heading 1. This is why I recommended that you select Heading 2 for the table of contents and “one last thing” headings. It’s because you don’t really want those sections to appear on the table of contents.
If you want all the headings for a technical menu, that’s fine—just set the Show levels back to 3. However, I find that it clutters the page; that’s why I only want the major sections to appear on this list.
Test all the links by holding down CTRL and clicking on the text. If it all works in Word, then it will work on Amazon Kindle.
Congratulations! Your nonfiction book is now ready to publish on Kindle.
Formatting Fiction Books for Amazon Kindle
But what if you’re a fiction author?
You’ll still have to do everything we discussed when formatting nonfiction books. There are just a few extra steps that you need to do to make sure the layout is that of a fiction book.
1. The first thing that you need to do is to change the look of your chapter text. Highlight a portion of your chapter text, then right-click to select Paragraph.
2. On the Paragraph screen, under Indentation > Special: select First Line, and indent it by 0.38”
3. The spacing also has to be removed. The paragraph Spacing Before and After is set to 0 to give it the general feel of a professional novel. Click OK.
4. This is how it would look like on the Kindle device.
Now, after making that change, highlight the text, right-click on Normal, and click Update Normal to Match Selection. This will change all the Normal text in your book to match the settings that you just updated.
5. The “normal” style type is the base of all the other heading types. What happened when I updated the Normal text is that it also updated Headings 1–3, the titles, and the subtitles.
So if you highlight the title, right-click on it, and select Paragraph, you’ll see that it’s now indented. This causes the headings, titles, and subtitles to be off-center.
Change the paragraph settings for each of the styles by following two simple steps. Start with Title style.
Highlight the title, right-click on it, and select Paragraph. On the Paragraph screen, under Indentation > Special: select None and click OK.
While the text is highlighted, right-click on the Title and select Update Title to Match Selection. Once that’s done, repeat these two steps for the Subtitle, Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 styles. Add spacing where you see fit.
6. After you’re done updating all the style settings on your book, you might want to change the spacing and indentation for some sections. For instance, the author’s bio and the other books section might look better with a different style.
I recommend removing the indentation on the first line of the paragraph and adding more spaces.
All done. You’ve just formatted both nonfiction and fiction books for Amazon Kindle.
Now I would like to challenge you to really study this concept, master it and implement it.
Kindle Formatting Made Easy
Still feel like you need a little more help?
Check out this video walk-through showing you how I format a book for Kindle right on my computer screen!
For this and more amazing training videos, head on over to eBook Publishing School.
Have you tried formatting your own Kindle books? What’s your biggest challenge? Tell us in the comments!
For more on publishing on Kindle, read on:
- What Is an eBook? And 8 Reasons You Should Read Them
- How to Publish an Ebook on Amazon Kindle in 10 Simple Steps
- List of Sites To Promote Your Free Amazon Kindle Books
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!