Buying an eBook requires a leap of faith for the average person. That’s why it’s important to flank any objection possible for your reader to make that leap. Just about everyone has an Amazon account already, and the company is well-regarded for its friendly return policy. By making your book available through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, you lower the barrier necessary for making a sale.Combined with the fact that Amazon is the biggest marketplace for eBooks, and Kindle is the most popular eReader, the aspiring self-published author would almost be crazy not to get their work on Amazon.
But that means getting the book formatted precisely for Kindle. The best set of instructions that I’ve found is in The Smashwords Style Guide. It’s thorough and detailed and a bit long to slog through, but if you take the time to read through and follow along, it will do you right.
Below though is an abbreviated version based on MS Word:
- Remove all formatting from your manuscript. Often when we write up a document, little bits of funky formatting shows up that we don’t notice but will be picked up when the document ends up in Kindle format, causing it to display oddly. You want to get rid of all of these invisible elements and start fresh. The most thorough way is to copy everything in your source document and paste it in a new document. Save the original document and close it. Then highlight it all and click ‘Remove Formatting’ n the new document. Then copy that text and paste it in a new third document, save that as your working file, and start from there.
- Become friends with Styles. Modify your ‘Normal’ Style to one of the widely recognized fonts. I like to go with Times New Roman, 12pt, single-spaced, left aligned. Your goal with eBook formatting is to make it as regular as possible, keeping formatting changes to a minimum. This is because eBooks and eReaders utilize what’s called ‘reflowable text.’ That means that, whatever decision the end-user makes about how they want to read the text, they can do so with ease. Whether they want the smallest available black font with tight margins and single spacing between paragraphs, or 72pt font in purple with wide margins and ultimately only enough room for twenty words a page, the choice is theirs. The text needs to be able to flow across any of these eReader options, and to do that, you want to minimize the specifications you make in the source text.
- Assign Headings. The web-based conversion software that Amazon uses recognizes up to three headings. Heading 1 is for your title, the very first words in the book. After that, don’t use it anymore. Heading 2 is for your chapters. Heading 3 is for sub-chapters. Modify these styles as well so that they look how you want them to. I like to keep it classic, with the same font as my ‘Normal’ style, but maybe 1.5 times the size, double spaced, bolded and centered for Heading 2, the chapter titles. Heading 3 I might just make bold and centered, but in the same font size and type as ‘Normal.’ Use your discretion here and make some style choices based on your content and imagined audience and how you want them to experience the book. Because these Headings are presumably fewer in number, there’s not so much of a concern about “over-formatting” and disrupting the re-flowable text. The nice thing about assigning headings here, rather than just changing the specific blocks of text to the format you like, is that it makes it easier for creating a Table of Contents using internal hyperlinks, as outlined below.
- Re-apply lost formatting. Now you’ve assigned all your headings, and have it looking good. Go back through your document line by line and re-apply any of the formatting you may have lost before, things like bold or italicized sections, lists or bullets.
- Insert Page Breaks. Between chapters, or any section that you want to begin on a new page, don’t use multiple paragraph breaks, but Page Breaks instead. Why? Because depending on the choices the reader makes, the new chapter that began two paragraph breaks later on your source document might be on the middle of the eReader page. Designating a page break allows you to tell the eReader to begin on a fresh page, whatever the eReader settings are and wherever your page ends. Multiple paragraph breaks also may not show up as intended on eReaders, so avoid them to avoid unexpected errors.
- Build Internal Hyperlinks. eBooks allow readers to click on a section of the book and immediately redirect to another section of the book. So when you mention that great lobster recipe in Chapter 10’s seafood section in your Chapter 1 Introduction, you can offer a link right to it for the curious reader, rather than a direction to page 371, like you’d have to in a hard copy book. Internal hyperlinks are also great for the Table of Contents. Make a list of your chapter (and possibly sub-chapter) headings, then highlight them, and Insert Hyperlink. Then select Document in the dialog box that comes up, and beside Anchor, select Locate, and you should see a list of your Headings and Bookmarks. If you’ve marked all your chapters as Heading 2, they should be there, ready for you to apply an internal hyperlink to. You can also apply bookmarks to non-Heading sections and link to these (like that lobster recipe). One other thing I like to add right beneath the chapter heading is a hyperlink entitled ‘back to top’ that sends the reader back to the Table of Contents. That way, they can quickly go back if they accidentally choose the wrong chapter.
Those are the basics of the eBook conversion process for Kindle. I do recommend reading through that Smashwords guide and taking some time to learn this and really get it right. There are some dodgy eBooks out there and you don’t want yours to be among them. If you want someone to do the conversion for you, or if you just have some questions about the process, Archangel Ink can help. You can contact us HERE.
Good luck with your writing!
Rob Archangel is the behind the scenes guru and co-founder of Archangel Ink. His goal is to help authors put their best foot forward and bring their ideas to market in the most polished and easily accessible formats possible.