Wow! I put together a no-frills document template for Kindle publishing that I’m sharing for free! (I’m adding the link to the template below.) So today, I plan to share what I learned from several authors about formatting publications for the Kindle, as well as look at Amazon’s free guide, Building Your Book for Kindle (Mac version: Building Your Book for Kindle for Mac). Of course, there is more complete information in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) guide , which also gives information for publishing from mobile word processors and other formats, mostly via links to Amazon’s KDP site. It also has direct links to various parts of the book as well as to KDP sites on Amazon.com. Clearly, it’s more extensive than the Building guide. For now, I’ll stick with the simpler guide. It’s easier for me, as a first-timer, to follow.
The Body of Text
A glance at the table of contents (TOC) of the Building book shows the first thing after the introductory material is information on formatting the document that is your book. The title of this section is “Before You Write,” and I think this is funny because I would much rather format the document before than after. Interestingly, this format deals primarily with Microsoft Word 2010 documents. The KDP guide gives information and/or online links for formatting for almost any other word processing type, from plain text to mobile-specific applications. That’s good to know. I guess the assumption is that most people use Word on their computers.
So, what’s the most important information to be had? Let the template control things like paragraph spacing, first-line indentation on paragraphs, headings, tabs, and page breaks. Clear all headers, footers, and page numbers from the document. Use “Heading 1” for chapter names (even if you call them Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.), and set or modify the Heading 1 properties to page-break before the title. It is also important to use the document’s “Insert” command (under the Insert Tab) for photos and art instead of copying a graphic from another source, because “insert” makes sure the graphic is uploaded, while a copy may not contain all the formatting information Kindle needs.
Rather than re-write War and Peace here, I simply created a bare bones Microsoft template to be used for my Kindle creations. It works best if I use the template right from the start. There are two templates—one for documents with no paragraph indentation, and one set to indent the first line of a new paragraph. I kept the format simple in terms of color and font: the font is Calibri, the color is black throughout. I put them here, in a downloadable folder. Both templates are downloaded together. (To the reader: The templates are FREE. The folder is password protected, but I will send the password to anyone who emails me here or comments on this post. I won’t keep, share, or sell your email address; I just want to protect my documents while allowing you to download. Feel free to modify your downloaded copy until you get the effect you desire!) The only thing missing from the templates is graphics inclusion. I’ll have to remind myself to use the Insert command when including graphics. Hmmm. Maybe I should have put a note into the templates about photos. Oh, well. Maybe at a later time…
Diary, you may be wondering why, in my templates, I kept all the headings black instead of letting the default “normal template” make some headings and the title in color. Well, although I own a Kindle Fire with its beautiful color display, I also have a “4th generation” Kindle reader that shows everything in black and white. What shows up as blue on the Fire is a comparable shade of gray on the non-color screen. The lighter the color used, the fainter the type on this other device. Because so many of the Kindles in use are still non-color, I’m erring on the side of universal access.
“The Front Matter”
The next thing about formatting a document for publication relates to the Front Matter—the title page, copyright page, dedication page, table of contents (TOC), etc. The KDP, both guide and site, suggest placing this material (logically) before the body. The KDP states that following this sequence gives your publication a “professionally sequenced opening portion for your book.” Some e-book authors disagree with using this format for the Kindle, but more on that later.
The first page should be the title page—just like inside a physical book. On this page are a title and the author’s name—nothing else. This is not the cover. That is uploaded separately, or I can use Kindle’s plain vanilla default cover, which is sooooo boring. (I’ll tell you more about the cover below.)
Back to the title page, though. The page title should be centered on the page. In my template, the title heading is at the top of the first page. I can remove all the other stuff, as it just displays the rest of the non-page-breaking fonts. So I substitute my title for the top line of text in the template, and get rid of the other information. On the next line, also centered, I type in “By” and my name. (I guess this should be in Title heading format, too.) After my name, I insert a page break by clicking on the Insert Tab and selecting “Page Break.” OK. One page done.
The new page is the copyright page. Making sure the text is centered, I can follow the suggested wording in the book and key in the following.
Text copyright © 2012 My Name
All Rights Reserved
And Page Break. To get the copyright symbol, I click on the Insert tab, pan over to the “Symbols” area (on the far right, on my computer), and click on “Symbols.” When I find the © symbol, I click on it. Then I can continue typing.
The next suggested page is the dedication page. The text here is also centered and followed by a page break. A sample dedication might read
To my readers, without whom this book would go unread…
Next, if I have a preface or prologue, this is where it would go. No matter how short or long it is, it is followed by a page break.
Between the preface/prologue and Chapter 1 (or the body of the book, if I don’t use chapters) is the Table of Contents, or TOC, if I want to include one. (Of course, if the preface is actually part of the publication, it may be a good idea to put it after the TOC.) For the TOC, Building Your Book for Kindle suggests using Microsoft Word’s TOC builder. (This information is entirely too complex to write up here, so I’ll tell you all about it another day.)
Some authors suggest placing the Front Matter at the end of the book. In fact, a lot of books now include the Front Matter at the end instead of the beginning—everything except the TOC. That seems to generally stay up front. The reason for this is that Amazon allows a preview of the first 10% of the book. If I have a long book—say 250 printed pages—the buyer may actually see 15 or more pages of the actual body of my book, along with all the Front Matter. But if my publication is only about 50 printed pages, the Front Matter at the beginning may not even show the TOC! That is why these authors suggest putting the Front Matter at the back. Everything is still referenced in the TOC, if you have one—but the free preview for potential customers contains more meat and less fluff.
Alternate Front “Matter”
Author Kate Harper, in How to Publish and Sell Your Article on the Kindle: 12 Beginner Tips for Short Documents , does more than tell you a great way to have “front matter” all on one page—specifically for articles and other short materials. Her first page has the title, subtitle, the byline, a list of links to the important parts of the publication that serves as a TOC and a topic summary, and the copyright information. Here’s a facsimile of the first page of her book:
How to Publish and Sell Your Article on the Kindle
12 Beginner Tips for Short Documents
By Kate Harper
First Page * Cover * Word Processors * Formatting * Links * Images * Beginnings and Endings * Lists * Uploading * Pricing * Store Description * Selling * Table of Contents * Inserting Images * Blank Space Problems * Nook Publishing * Previewing * Converting * Resources
All Rights Reserved © Kate Harper
Although the “links” above are not active in this facsimile, the simple page serves several purposes:
- It gives a clear idea of the contents of the publication via descriptive link names.
- It’s an easy-to-find item, as the Kindle reader “go to” function has a “beginning” default.
- It has all the “Front Matter” on a single page; the prospective buyer sees it as part of the 10% of real content.
The other authors I’ve talked about give similar advice.
- File format should be .jpg or .tif(f)
- Ideal height/width ratio is 1.6, such as 1000 X 1600; longer side must be at least 1000 pixels.
- Eye-catching cover image, with only title and author text displayed.
The KDP also suggests getting feedback from colleagues and friends, checking text for legibility, keeping the font and color scheme appropriate for the subject matter of the publication, reviewing covers of top-selling books on the Amazon Kindle Store.
The cover should be a separate file and not included as post of the manuscript, as the book and the cover will be uploaded separately when I go to publish.
Wow! This post is getting too long. I think I’ll talk about finishing the book tomorrow, as well as uploading and checking quality. More tomorrow, Diary!
Link to Templates to copy and paste (remember: you need to get the password!):