Steps to format your WORD document for Kindle

© Anankkml | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Anankkml | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

When it comes to publishing on Kindle, I personally prefer to make a mobi to do the job. Mobi, being the Kindle’s format, allows me to do a bit more than if I’m formatting for Smashwords alone. And it helps prevent conversion disasters.

However, if you’re not someone who knows HTML, CSS, and doesn’t want to then you can still publish to Kindle by preparing your Word document. I’m going to list some steps here that should help. I must warn you: this is only written for people who are familiar with Word or can catch on quickly. And it doesn’t cover endnotes or anything like that. This is only for a basic book.

Step 1. Familiarize yourself with Styles work in your Word program. This is not an essential step, but it’s a very important one that will allow you to do pretty things in your book like control indentations on quotations, font sizes, and sometimes even color. You see, Mobi (and epub) are built on webpage technology and they use CSS. Well that’s what your styles essentially are: a CSS sheet inside your document that tells Word how to do the layout. Control these and you have the keys to your ebook city.

Also make sure your book is 100% ready before you begin. All spelling should be corrected, front matter such as name, title, and copyright page should be where they belong. Your cover should be finished. Little things like that.

Step 2. Prep work. You have to clean up your document. There are a number of ways to do it. There’s the “nuclear method” of copy and pasting your book to a simple notepad text, copying that, and pasting it into an empty Word document. Or you can simply highlight everything in your document and tell everything to be “normal” using the styles. One method I occasionally use is to open my styles editor and delete any unwanted style I see in the document list. It all depends on how much cleaning you want to do.

Step 3. Remove the following things from  your document: tabs, headers, footers, page numbers, fixed spaces, and tables. Use the search and replace function to change all of your ” (quotations) to ” (quotations). Also make sure you don’t have extra spaces between words or before a paragraph end. Make sure you don’t have extra spaces before a paragraph’s beginning. While you’re at it, make sure all of your italics and bold places are intact.

This is also a good place to see how your layout works. You can change your page size to 3.5 inches wide, 4 inches high, with 0.25 margins to emulate the size of the Kindle. This will give you an idea of how your book will look on older Kindle models. Also, in your “normal” paragraph page style set your “tab” set to .3 or so. (Right click the style, select modify style, then hit the format button, select paragraph, and edit.) You can also change paragraph indentations and a lot of important things doing this. Experiment – just be aware that putting numbers that are too high may make your book ugly.) As a matter of fact while your editing your styles and paragraph settings you want to go under paragraph, then the line and page breaks tab. Only have widow/orphan control selected. Those other options will only be trouble for you if you add them in.

Step 4. Go through your book, make it pretty how you like it using styles or just by editing your paragraph settings. Again, I recommend styles because other edits may not take. If you want your book to “page break” before something like a new chapter, you can do that in one of two ways. You can hit ctrl and enter together to create a page break, or you can put your chapter headings (chapter 1) into a heading 1 style which is edited under paragraph/line and page breaks to “page break before”.

  • Keep in mind: the largest recommended size for ebooks on any given font is 14. Don’t go too small or the book won’t be readable for many people. It may even chase them away.
  • If you’re putting in images, I recommend you check out my tutorial on the matter here on this website. I believe I have a link to it in the resources area.
  • Keep your normal paragraphs left aligned. And bear in mind Kindles automatically indent the first line of any paragraph slightly, so if you’re wanting that perfect block look you’re not likely to get it.

Step 5. Okay your book is pretty. But you’re not done! Now, if you want one in your book, you build your table of contents. You can use the auto function, which is found under references, table of contents in Word 2003. (I can’t vouch for that method.) Or you can do it by hand. If you do it by hand, you need to know how to insert bookmarks and use Word’s hyperlink function. Go to where you want your toc to be. You can type “contents” here if you want. Put your cursor before the “c” in contents and insert a bookmark labeled:  toc. (With Smashwords you type “ref_toc”. This is a Smashwords reference telling their system that this page is the table of contents. “Toc” also works for Kindle, so that their system can also find it.)

Now type your table of contents list: chapter 1, chapter 2, etc. Now you’re going to put a bookmark just like you did for contents at the start of every chapter or everywhere you want referenced in your table of contents. Once you have that, you will go back to your table of contents and link every line in the list to it’s proper spot. If you’re feeling really fancy you can add a “go back” link at the end of every chapter that will point to “ref_toc” so that your reader can go back to the table of contents at any point in time.

Test your table of contents. If it works properly, you now have to go into the insert bookmark dialogue and delete “hidden bookmarks” as these were created with the testing and can cause issues.

Okay, now go to where your book starts, which is not necessarily page one of chapter 1. You may want the reader to start on a prologue or a Forward. This is up to you. Put your cursor at the first letter of that page and insert a bookmark entitled “start”. This tells Kindle’s system where the book’s beginning is.

Step 6: Okay, NOW you are ready to upload! Just remember: DON’T embed your cover image into your Word file unless you really want it in there twice. Amazon’s system will automatically embed your cover for you, and it asks for it separately.

Happy publishing!