You’re so close—can’t you just taste it? You only have a few steps left, and soon you’ll be a published author on Amazon. How does it feel? Are you proud of yourself?
You should be.
Writing and publishing a book on Amazon isn’t easy, but if you’ve come this far the hardest part is behind you. Now you get to attend to the more creative design aspects of your project, and I don’t know about you, but for me, this is where it gets fun.
So, let’s talk about formatting. At first glance, you might think this will be a tedious and boring part of the project, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be downright fun.
And there are a few reasons why you may want to consider formatting your book yourself. (Don’t worry, for those of you who would rather eat dirt, I’ll give you the contact information for reliable and affordable formatters in a minute.) But for now, here are three reasons why you may want to complete this easy task yourself.
- You’ll save money. When you’re publishing your book, you should try and do it as inexpensively as you can. After all, isn’t your hope to be able to make an income from it? That will only happen if you learn to publish books inexpensively.
- You can make changes. I know you think you caught every typo in your manuscript, but I promise you, you didn’t. If the professional editors at traditional publishers can’t catch every error, chances are you can’t either. But what happens when a reader points one out, and you’ve had the manuscript formatted by someone else? You’ll have to resubmit it, pay them again, and wait for them to fit you into their busy schedule. Or, you could do it yourself in about 10 minutes for free.
- You can add important back-matter. Every time I release a new book, I add information about it to the back matter of every book I have published. As of now, that’s five books, but in a few months, it will be even more. If I weren’t able to add the new back matter myself, I would have to rely on someone to update all of my books every time I came out with a new one. No, thank you. I’d much rather do it myself in under an hour.
So, let’s get to it and talk about how to format your book.
Let’s start with the basics of your manuscript. To format your manuscript to achieve the best layout, you should ensure that all of the following conditions have been met:
- When you upload your manuscript to Amazon, it will be converted to a Mobi file. And to get the best results, Amazon recommends that you upload a Word file, either DOC or DOCX. If you created your file in another word processor, you should convert it to one of these to get the best results.
- Don’t use any special characters, header or footers, or special fonts in the file. These will not translate well into the Kindle format. However, you can use italics, bold characters, and the default paragraph indentations, and headings, which are found in the “home” tab of the Word menu.
- Don’t add your cover image to the file because Amazon will do it for you.
- If you want to use pictures in your manuscript, it’s important that you don’t copy and paste them in. Instead, you’ll need to save a jpg image to your computer, and then in the “insert” tab on your menu, select “pictures.” This will enable you to select the file you want to use. Remember, you should always center the pictures in your file.
- Likewise, if you want to use tables, use the “Insert” tab, and select the proper table. Center these on the page as well.
- Special Note: If you are writing a children’s book, download the free version of Kindle Kids Book Creator from Amazon. It will allow you to add illustrations easily. And if you write comic books or graphic novels, Amazon offers the Kindle Comic Creator. Finally, Amazon also offers special software for those who write books with a lot of images such as textbooks. Download the Kindle Edu for those types of books.
How to Create Your Front Matter
The front matter in your book consists of your title page, copyright page, a list of other books you’ve written, a dedication if you choose to have one, and if you’re smart, a call to action that asks readers to sign up for your mailing list.
How to Format Chapters
Now that you understand the basic requirements for your manuscript let’s talk about how to set up each chapter of your file so it will look good on a Kindle. Here are the steps I take when I format my books:
- The font you use is a matter of personal choice, but some fonts look better than others in the Kindle format. I use Georgia, size 12 in the body of my manuscript, and Georgia, size 14 for my chapter titles. I also use bold for my chapter titles.
- After each chapter title, I double space before beginning the first paragraph. You can’t do this with the enter key because it won’t convert to the Kindle format. Instead, under the “home” tab on the Word menu, look for the up and down arrows next to “Paragraph.” Click on that and select 2.0. Then once you begin typing, change it to 1.5, which is how I space the rest of the text in my books.
- If you use lists, images, tables, or anything else you want to stand out, you can also use the “Paragraph” function mentioned above and add space before and after it.
- At the end of each chapter, you should insert a page break after the last word to ensure the chapters don’t run together. To do this, select “insert” from the menu, and then select “page break,” which is on the far left side of the menu.
- You have the option to use indentions in your manuscript, and again this is a personal choice. I don’t use them for my non-fiction books, but do use them for my fiction titles. If you want to use indentions, go to the “Page Layout” tab in your menu, and then adjust the indention you want in the “indent” option. Whatever you do, don’t use the tab key because it will not convert in the Kindle version.
How to Create Back Matter
After you’ve formatted each chapter, you’ll need to decide what, if any, back matter to include in your book. If you have other books published, you should include the first chapter of each one, or at least a page describing it with a link to the Amazon product page. Also, you can include a note to readers asking them to leave a review for your book (with a link), and another opportunity for them to sign up to your mailing list. You’ll need to add a page break after each page. To see an example of back matter click to the end of this book to look at mine.
After you’ve ensured your manuscript has all of the basic formatting done right, and you’ve formatted each chapter to the specs above, it’s time to create your clickable Table of Contents.
How to Create a Clickable Table of Contents
If you’ve been dreading this part of formatting, you can take a deep breath and relax—it’s really not that difficult. In fact, you can complete this step in about ten minutes. Here are the simple steps you’ll need to take:
- Highlight the chapter headings one by one in your book and select a “Style” on the “Home” tab of the menu. It doesn’t matter which style you select, but you have to use the same one for each chapter so they’ll all be included in the table of contents. I use “Heading 1” for my chapter titles. After your table of contents is created, you can go back and change the font and bold it.
- Create a blank page before the beginning of your book. It should be placed after the front matter and before the book begins. Word will insert the table of contents here.
- On the menu bar, click “References,” then “Table of Contents,” then “Automatic Table 2.” (You can use any of the styles you like, but that’s the one I use.)
- Highlight the dots (…) and cut them since Kindle books do not use page numbers.
- Save your file as a webpage, filtered.
That’s it. Seriously. You can format your book in under an hour. Now, I know you’ve probably read that you need to take some additional steps for your book to look its best. I’ve read the same stuff, but honestly, I just don’t think it’s necessary. But I couldn’t call this a complete book unless I presented you with all of your options, so if you don’t like the way I format my books, or you want other options, I’ve given you some other methods of formatting below.
Alternative Ways to Format Your Book
If you want to format your book another way, there are alternatives to the one I outlined above. But please note that I haven’t used these methods (although many people do), so I can’t directly speak to their effectiveness.
- Scrivener. Many authors rely heavily on this software to both write and format their books. I understand that there is quite a learning curve to the program, so I’ve chosen to use the simplified method I listed above. But if you want to test it out, you can purchase it for about $4o. The software is available for both PCs and Macs.
- Jutoh. This is another well-loved program that works on both Macs and Windows. For a lifetime subscription that includes updates, you’ll pay only $39.
- Other Programs. While it’s easy to go online and find files that convert DOC files to Mobi files, they don’t produce the best results. That’s because when you use a conversion tool that doesn’t use Kindlegen, Amazon doesn’t support it. The above two programs I listed do use it, so they convert well to Kindles.
How to Format Your Book Without Lifting a Finger
I know you’re out there. Some of you only skimmed through the above sections and couldn’t wait to get to the part where I tell you how to hire someone to format your book. I’m not mad at you; in fact, I’ve hired people to format some of my more complicated books myself. For instance, both How to Build a Writing Empire in 30 Days or Less, and How to Start a Home-Based Food Business have custom images and charts in them that I didn’t want to do myself
So don’t feel bad—not everyone is cut out to format their own books. But, and I don’t mean to harp, if you want to make this a career, you really should learn how to do it. I promise you that after you do it the first time, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
But I’m still going to provide you with the names of some great formatters, some of who I’ve used and others that I’ve heard about through the grapevine. Here are some formatters who are considered reputable.
- Nat Mara. If you haven’t heard of Bookaholic, you don’t know what you’re missing. She was my go-to person for many things, including formatting the two complicated books I told you about. She can do anything, and I would trust her with any of my books. But there’s a slight problem. As of now, her Fiverr account shows that she’s on an extended vacation. She has a website, which you can find at marraii.com, but it doesn’t appear to be active either. I hesitated to include her information because I don’t know when she’ll be up and running again, but she’s so good that I thought it was worth it. Keep checking, and if she goes live again, you absolutely won’t find anyone better. (She charges $5 on Fiverr, but please tip her well!)
- BookDesignTemplates.com. This site offers an amazing array of specialty pre-designed templates for fiction and non-fiction alike. They even offer templates for hard to format books such as poetry and image- laden books. You can use them to format your Kindle book, as well as your paperback (which we will discuss soon.) You’ll pay $37 for a one time use and $97 for unlimited use of the template.
- EBooklaunch.com. This company has a great reputation and formats eBooks affordably. Prices start at $19 per file, but the website states that the average price is $59.
- Kindle Create. Once you’ve formatted your book with the correct font, paragraphs, spacing, and photos, you can use the free Kindle Create app to produce a professional-looking manuscript. Go to the site, and download the app for a PC or Mac, and then open your book file in the app. The process is fairly straightforward. Hint: Use the showcased Table of Contents (the app picks up any headers in your book to automatically create it), and make sure that the chapters are presented in the order that you want them. You can insert page numbers for books and take them out for your Kindle book. This is overall the best (and easiest!) way to format your eBooks and paperback books for Kindle.
Well, what do you think? Will you format your book yourself or will you pay someone to do it? Either way, you’ll come out with a professional-looking book that you can be proud of and your readers will love.
And speaking of professionalism, it’s time we talked about one of the most controversial subjects in Indie publishing. Whether or not you should design your own cover. Come on, let’s tackle this hotly debated subject.