Formatting the Look Inside

Look Inside

Amazon’s Look Inside

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers previews for how your e-book may look on the Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Paperwhite, iPad, iPhone… but not the Look Inside.

Yet prospective customers checking out your book on Amazon see your book’s Look Inside before making the purchase.

The Look Inside can significantly impact sales.

At the same time, Kindle authors tend to experience more formatting issues with the Look Inside than on the Kindle, Kindle Fire, and most other devices.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for a book to look great on a Kindle device, but format incorrectly in the Look Inside.

This problem plagues indie authors self-publishing their books on Kindle. Once they finally master Kindle formatting, the Look Inside is the last big hurdle.

In this article, we’ll explore how to format for the Look Inside. One example we’ll examine in detail is how to create non-indented paragraphs that don’t indent in the Look Inside.

Why Doesn’t the Look Inside Format Right?

Well, the technical answer involves a discussion about what is “right.” The Look inside is ultimately generated by a program following instructions. In the end, the Look Inside is “right.”

It often seems like the formatting is wrong when the author compares the original Word file with the Look Inside.

Some of the formatting that may look right in Word can get lost in translation on the way to the Look Inside.

The Look Inside sees a set of HTML instructions generated from the Word file.

Note: Even though you may submit a Word document to KDP, what the device reads is a set of HTML instructions that tell it what to display—ultimately, your submitted file is converted into a mobi file, which essentially contains a set of HTML instructions based on the Word file that you submit.

Often, what the Look Inside displays from reading those instructions differs from what Word displays on the screen.

What a Kindle, Kindle Fire, iPhone, iPad, Kindle for PC, and the Look Inside display on the screen can vary from the same set of HTML instructions generated from a Word file.

The Look Inside interprets the HTML more strictly, which is why the formatting is hardest to get right for the Look Inside.

From Word to Kindle

Kindle doesn’t see the Word document the way you do. It sees a set of HTML instructions.

The beginning of the HTML defines a set of styles used in your Word file. For example, there is a style for heading, subheading, titles, and a Normal style for the paragraphs of your body text.

Kindle (or iPad, or whatever device is being used) displays the different parts of your book according to these different styles.

If you highlight all or part of a paragraph and change the formatting of that text in Word, this carries over into the HTML.

Then the HTML says something to the effect, “Use the normal style, but change the indent size and add italics.”

This is where the Look Inside problems can begin. The Look Inside may format according to the style, and disregard some of those exceptions created by highlighting selected paragraphs. Other issues can arise from unclosed HTML tags.

The HTML generated from a Word file can get pretty messy, with all sorts of style exceptions built into the HTML, with <span> tags dispersed throughout, and with font settings redefined within the paragraph blocks. (You don’t want the file to define font size or style within the paragraph blocks. Not only can this cause formatting problems, but the device user expects to have control over these settings.)

Microsoft Word’s Styles

Much of the problem can be resolved by using Microsoft Word’s built-in style functions religiously. Modify the heading, subheading, title, and Normal styles to suit your needs.

Then make a new style that’s essentially a copy of the Normal style for paragraphs that need to be non-indented. I’m going to call this the NoIndent style just to give it a name.

When you’re modifying the styles, click on the Format button and adjust the Paragraph settings, too. Set the First Line indent for the Normal Style. It might be something like 0.2″ (since the common 0.5″ would be really large on a device with a small screen, especially an iPhone or the basic Kindle). Don’t use the tab key at all (and don’t use the spacebar to create indents). For the NoIndent style, set First Line to 0.01″.


  • I specifically have Microsoft Word 2010 for Windows in mind. (Other versions may function similarly, though they can lead to important differences.)
  • If you set First Line to “none” or zero, it won’t work. Use 0.01″. (If you try to make it too small, it won’t take.)
  • Go to Special in the paragraph menu to find First Line, then set the By value next to it.
  • You see all the styles at the top of the screen, on the right side of the toolbar, in the home tab.
  • Right-click a style to modify it. When modifying the style, click the Format button to find the font and paragraph menus.
  • You can even build pagebreaks into the styles. Click Format, select Paragraph, then click the Line and Page Breaks tab. There is an option to pagebreak before. If you have pagebreaks that aren’t respected, try this (but realize that a Look Inside displayed as a single, scrolling page isn’t going to implement this).
  • To create a new style (for NoIndent, for example), click on the funny icon in the bottom-right corner of the styles menu on the home tab (the little icon is below the A’s where it says “Change Styles”). This will pull up a new window on the right side of the screen. Find the three buttons at the bottom of this window. Click the left button.

Apply the styles to sections of your document one by one. You can highlight a section and click the style, or you can place your cursor in a paragraph and click a paragraph style from the menu.

You want every block of text in your file to be associated with a particular style.

Except when you have to have different styles in the same paragraph (e.g. you wish to italicize, boldface, or underline specific text, or create subscripts or superscripts), you want the style to dictate the formatting. Go into the Font and Paragraph menus when modifying each style to create the formatting you want there. Don’t use the font and paragraph tools on the menu at the top of the screen to make these adjustments (except to adjust specific text, with something like italics, within the paragraph).

For example, set the linespacing in the paragraph menu by adjusting the style itself and applying the style to the text. Don’t do it by highlighting text and setting the linespacing.

Be sure to check the font menu when modifying each style (from the Format button). If you go into Advanced, you may find that Word’s defaults have adjusted the kerning for selected styles (you may or may not agree with these settings, so you should check them out). The font color should be automatic except when you need to apply a specific color to selected text.

You want to have a larger font size for headings and subheadings than the normal text, but you want to achieve this by setting the font size within each style. If you select text and apply a font size or style to the selected text, this causes problems when an e-reader interprets the HTML instructions for your file.

Check the “Automatically Update” box when modifying each style if you want changes to that style to be applied to text that has already been set to that style.

Word’s styles can get mixed up. What you want to do is start with a document as clean as possible (in the worst-case scenario, this can be achieved by cutting and pasting your document into Notepad and then back into Word). Then apply one style to every section to avoid any mix-ups.

Don’t select text and set specific font styles (e.g. Georgia). Don’t select whole paragraphs and set linespacing, indents, or other paragraph options. Instead, apply a specific style to those paragraphs. Make the paragraph adjustments in the style (for every paragraph of that style in your document), and apply the style to the paragraphs rather than modifying the paragraphs through the toolbar at the top of the screen (except by clicking the styles, like Title or Normal, found on that toolbar).

How to Create Non-Indented Paragraphs

Let’s work through a concrete example that plagues the Look Insides of many Kindle e-books.

Most traditionally published books don’t indent the first paragraph of each chapter. Popular novels do indent paragraphs, but not usually the first paragraph of the chapter. Check out several popular traditionally published print books. If you understand what I mean by “not indenting the first paragraph of the chapter” (see the two pictures below) you should observe that this is very common among those books.

Examine the two examples that follow. The first example has all of the paragraphs indented. The second example doesn’t indent the first paragraph of the chapter. The second example is very common among traditionally published books. However, it can be a challenge to implement this on the Look Inside. (Many traditionally published books put the first few words in CAPS in e-books, instead of using drop caps, as drop caps can format improperly on some devices. Tip: If you write fiction where this is common, try putting the first few words of your blurb in CAPS, too. I’ve seen this done effectively in the blurbs of some popular traditionally published books.)

IndentedNot Indented

Even if the first paragraph appears non-indented on the Kindle device, it may still appear indented on the Look Inside. But there are ways to get this right.

Let me illustrate the wrong ways first. Definitely, don’t use the tab key to indent some paragraphs, thinking this will correctly distinguish between which paragraphs are or aren’t indented. This might seem intuitive, but it doesn’t work (there will be inconsistencies). Similarly, don’t use the spacebar to create indents; it doesn’t work either.

Here is another wrong way. Better, but still wrong. If you highlight the first paragraph, click on the funny little icon in the bottom-right corner of the paragraph group on the home tab, change Special to First Line, and set By to 0.01″, it might not work. It will work on the screen and may work on most devices, but may not work on the Look Inside.

Here’s the problem. You can see the problem firsthand by looking at the HTML. You don’t need to know anything about HTML to peek at it and learn what’s going on. If you want to see Word’s HTML, Save As a filtered webpage (you want the one called Webpage, Filtered). Click Yes to the question that pops up. Find this new file on your computer (e.g. it might be in My Documents; it will be wherever you just saved it to). Right-click this HTML file and Open With Notepad.

When I adjusted the first paragraph’s indent the wrong way, as I outlined two paragraphs ago, the paragraph tag for the first paragraph looks like this:

<p class=MsoNormal style=’text-indent:.7pt’>

Compare this with the second paragraph:

<p class=MsoNormal>

You don’t have to know HTML to see the difference. Each paragraph sets the style to Normal. The first paragraph says to indent 7 points (0.01 inches).

The style=’text-indent:7pt’ setting will tell some devices to ignore the Normal style and indent the first paragraph 7 points (very little).

But the Look Inside may not accept this override. The Look Inside sees that you’re using the Normal style, which was previously defined to indent 0.2″. There are two different sets of instructions.

The better way is to provide a single set of instructions. That leaves less to interpretation.

This time, instead of highlighting the first paragraph and changing First Line from the home tab, I’m going to define a NoIndent style. I’ll do this by creating a new style based on the Normal style, and give it the name NoIndent (the last bullet in the section above called Microsoft Word’s Styles explains how). Then I’ll modify the NoIndent style (again, look for the bullets in the previous section for instructions). While modifying the NoIndent style, click Format, choose Paragraph, and set First Line there.

Now I simply place my cursor anywhere in the first paragraph and click the NoIndent style from the home tab. Prest-o, Change-o!

This time, the paragraph tag for the first paragraph looks like this:

<p class=MsoNoIndent>

Now this paragraph only has one set of instructions. When Amazon’s Look Inside reads the Kindle e-book, the class=MsoNoIndent statement will tell it to indent the paragraph according to the previously defined NoIndent style, which says to indent just 0.01 inches.

You can improve on this. Find the style definition for the NoIndent style in the beginning of the HTML file. Change 7pt or 0.01in (whichever it says) to 0 (that’s the number zero, not the letter O). This doesn’t work in Word, but it does work in the HTML file.


  • Don’t open the HTML file in Word. Use Notepad to examine and modify the HTML.
  • If you have images in your file, you want to create a compressed zipped folder as explained in Amazon’s free guide, Building Your Book for Kindle.
  • Also look for span tags that include font definitions. If you remove these, be sure to remove the closing tags, too, which look like </span>. The Find tool can help you locate these.
  • Search for text-indent with the Find tool to see if any paragraphs are indenting through this setting instead of through a style definition.
  • Seemingly endless italics, boldface, or underline that’s not intended to be there may be caused by unclosed <i>, <b>, or <u> tags. For example, <i>italics</i> makes the word “italics” appear italicized. If the closing tag, </i> is missing (or typed incorrectly), the italics will keep going and going and going…
  • Other things you might look for are images. For example, instead of specifying the width and height in pixels, for large pictures that you’d like to fill the screen, you might remove the current width and height statements and replace them with width=”100%” (don’t set both the width and height this way; just set the width; however, if you have really skinny pictures, i.e. skinnier than the Kindle Fire, you might prefer to set the height instead of the width).

Chris McMullen

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


Click here to jump to the comments section:

A Look Inside that Sells

Copyright Design Pic

A fantastic cover grabs the attention of the target audience. A killer blurb arouses the curiosity of the target audience. But it’s the Look Inside that decides whether or not the shopper will buy now or pass on it.

There are two components to a stellar look inside:

  • Formatting, design marks, and imagery that suit the content and impress the reader, without distracting from the reading. Thus, many traditional publishers include designs in the front matter and first page of the chapter, but often have very plain pages where they want readers to focus on reading.
  • A sample, prologue, prelude, and first chapter that grab the interest of the target audience and compel them to keep reading. A slow beginning is for your existing fan base; only they will exercise patience, trusting that the best is yet to come. If you hope to attract browsers, you want to come out with your best stuff. (Of course, if there are spelling, grammatical, or other mistakes in the Look Inside, these often tend to have the opposite effect.)

Spend time studying the Look Insides of top selling books. You can get several great ideas this way. You don’t want to copy those ideas; just use them to see the possibilities and inspire your own design.

Following are a few examples.

Wool by Hugh Howey

  • I’m looking at the specific book from the link above and checking out the Look Inside of the paperback edition. I encourage you to also check it out and follow along.
  • It starts out with quotes about how awesome the book is. You can do this to by sending out advance review copies. If other authors or book reviewers have good things to say, get permission to use their quotes (there is also a section for editorial reviews at AuthorCentral).
  • One page has just the publisher logo.
  • Note that this author succeeded very well as an indie without Simon & Schuster.
  • The pages with the white-above-black torn image provide a wow factor. The cover wasn’t so hot; but if you Look Inside, now you might be impressed.
  • The copyright page begins with the logo and publisher info.
  • Part of the copyright page comes from stating that the book is a work of fiction and that any similarity to actual people, places, or events is coincidental; and this is separate from the copyright notice and trademark notice.
  • One line specifies the edition. The printer number won’t be relevant for eBooks or print-on-demand books, though. There is also manufacturing info.
  • Most professional books do not have the cover designer mentioned on the front cover. Instead, this information is placed on the copyright page and sometimes in fine print on the back cover.
  • A couple of notices are taking advantage of a marketing opportunity, though not for book sales.
  • Of course, there is the 13-digit ISBN.
  • Note that the copyright page is filled to the brim. Compare the copyright page of a book published by any big publisher to that of the vast majority of indie authors and there is a world of difference. It’s not that people will study your copyright page; it’s that they will see it in passing and it will make an impression – professional or amateurish.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  • Subtle stars decorate the first two pages.
  • Check out the design on the title page.
  • The next two pages are also decorative. You have to check out the designs used in this book to appreciate their effect and to help generate your own ideas.
  • This copyright page is centered.
  • See the matching designs at the beginning of each chapter and with the page numbering.

All-American Girl by Meg Cabot

  • A sample from the content is placed on the first page to attract the attention of the target audience. If you have a lot of front matter and want to move some good stuff to the beginning, this is one way to do it.
  • Note the font of the first line of the sample.
  • If you have other books, you also can list them in the front matter.
  • The title page matches the cover but in black and white, yet not exactly the same as the cover.
  • The first word of each chapter has a special font.
  • This book begins with a numbered list to try to grab attention.
  • Look at the stars with the chapter header, which match the cover design.

Bombshell by Catherine Coulter

  • Note that the cover looks like a bomb blast, not a female “bombshell.”
  • I’m looking at the Kindle edition.
  • There is a second image much different from the cover, in black and white.
  • Notice the horizontal black bars for headers.
  • There are logos on the copyright page.
  • Many traditionally published books include Library of Congress info.
  • Observe the Pearson division line at end of the page on this eBook.
  • See the image at the beginning of each chapter.

You can find many other examples of ways to make a professional look inside. Little design touches can make a huge difference (but they need to fit the genre and content – e.g. you don’t want romantic swirls on a suspenseful detective story).

Border Thin JPEG

Here are a couple of other things that you can include on the copyright page, to make up for things like the printer number or Library of Congress info that an indie book may be lacking:

  • Author information, such as your website, blog, a special email that you will check (but not your main email account), social media info, etc. One advantage self-publishing has is more potential for personal interaction with the author.
  • Information and/or website for your editor, cover designer, etc.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Kindle Pitfalls

Anyone can publish an eBook on Amazon using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), but there are many pitfalls to navigate in order to produce a professional-looking product. The main problem is that the eBook layout works like a web page, whereas most writers are experienced with word processing.

So what are the pitfalls, and how do you avoid them? Hold onto that thought (or just skip ahead).

To make matters worse, Amazon’s free resources – the KDP help pages (, Building Your Book for Kindle (, and Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing ( – are largely geared toward the basic use of Word to prepare an eBook, while not revealing the subtleties entailed in achieving a professional design.

Word is designed for creating pages with writing and drawings, whereas eBooks format like a reflowable web page. When a Word document is uploaded to KDP, what Kindle is interested in are HTML instructions. Unfortunately, the HTML that Word generates does not translate as well as could be desired into eBook format. Even if you convert the document to HTML before submitting the file to KDP, unless you clean it and tweak it, there can still be undesirable and sometimes even unpredictable behavior in the converted eBook.

KDP provides a previewer to help catch the mistakes. Actually, there are two previewers, and both are available in Step 6 of the publishing process. The online previewer is tempting because it’s so convenient and also much more aesthetic – it mimics each device visually. But the downloadable previewer is more reliable – you can catch errors with it that you might not find on the online previewer. Once you install it, find it after it’s installed, and figure out how to download and view your book with it, you must inspect it carefully to find mistakes on all of the devices (like the different eInks, the different Fires, and the iPad and iPhone). Not uncommonly, an eBook sometimes looks perfect on all but one device, which makes it important to check each device.

Nonetheless, the indie author who researches the basics of Kindle formatting with Word and invests the time to properly check the formatting across all devices is likely to encounter unforeseen, yet very important, problems: the confounding Look Inside. Many customers will judge the professionalism of the eBook based on this Look Inside. Unfortunately, KDP’s previewers don’t offer a preview of the Look Inside feature. The Look Inside adopts the strictest interpretation of the HTML, and often formats Word-originated HTML instructions differently than indie authors intend. For example, it’s very common to see the first paragraph of the chapter indented on the Look Inside even when First Line is set to 0.01” in Word. What do you get when you cross the challenge of properly formatting the Look Inside with the lack of a Look Inside preview and indie authors who have spent months or years writing, editing, and formatting their work? F.r.u.s.t.r.a.t.i.o.n.

Amazon does get into some of the subtleties in a publication that’s not nearly as easy to find as the resources mentioned above. They have a technical guide designed for professional publishers – and that’s how it’s written, too. When you visit the KDP help pages (first link above), click “Announcements” on the left, select “Introducing Kindle Format 8,” and look for the “click here” link toward the end of the article. This 79-page PDF reveals technical details about text and image guidelines and which HTML code is supported.

But most writers want to be able to publish a high-quality Kindle eBook without having to learn HTML. The self-published author who has a gift for storytelling and has spent years perfecting his or her craft has a disadvantage compared to a webmaster experienced in HTML. The webmaster can easily create a very professional-looking eBook, and even use HTML to make the description pop out with headings and figures. The poor writer who has mastered Word, but who doesn’t want to learn HTML, will suffer a few flaws in the finished product.

Here’s the thing: You don’t actually have to learn any HTML in order to perfect the appearance and functionality of the eBook, and you can even make a fancy description without knowing any HTML (see my other blog post called “Eye-popping Blurbs”).

That’s right! It’s a thousand times easier than it seems. You don’t need to be able to read and understand the HTML. You don’t need to be able to write HTML. You just need to know which lines to look for and how to change them. You just need a concise, handy resource that says to look for A, B, and C in the HTML, and change them to X, Y, and Z. It is as simple as it sounds.

Why don’t we do it? Because we didn’t see a convenient table of what-to-look-for-and-what-to-change-in-the-HTML guide when we visited KDP’s help pages and read KDP’s free formatting guides.

The first step is to format the Word document in such a way as to produce HTML with as few issues as possible. To this end, many basic Kindle formatting guides – and even Amazon’s free guides, to some extent – emphasize steps such as these (this list is not intended to be comprehensive, but does provide a healthy sample):

  • Not using page numbers, setting page margins, inserting headers or footers, making bulleted lists, and many other features that we like to use in printed books.
  • Using the Styles to format normal, first paragraph, heading, and title text.
  • Going into the Paragraph dialog box to set First Line to 0.5” (or 0.3” may work better, in general, but not as well as tweaking the HTML) for the normal Style and 0.01” for non-indented, justified styles (as you can’t make the eBook left-aligned by pressing the Align Text Left button) in order to avoid automatic indents.
  • Eliminating all use of the tab key (use the normal Style instead to create indented paragraphs).
  • Removing most special symbols.
  • Replacing some special symbols with other symbols. For example, Word’s AutoFormat tool can make en (–) and em (—) dashes by replacing consecutive hyphens (like –) as you type, but they may not be supported by every device (especially, the older Kindles). If instead you manually hold down Alt while typing 0150 and 0151, you can create these dashes as supported symbols.
  • Using a single space after a period and before the next sentence instead of two spaces (otherwise, when a sentence happens to end at the margin edge, the extra space causes one of the lines to appear mis-aligned). (I have another blog article about this, which is called “A Silly Little Space.”)
  • Formatting pictures centered on their own line and wrapped In Line With Text, with the size set to 100% (by right-clicking the picture, selecting Size and Position, and setting Width and Height in the Size tab) – even if the picture looks bigger than the page shown on the screen (just worry about how it looks in the downloadable previewer).
  • Creating a table of contents using bookmark hyperlinks.
  • Changing font size through Styles instead of using the Font tool on the Home tab.
  • Holding down Shift while pressing Enter instead of just using the Enter key at the end of a paragraph where a blank linespace is desired between paragraphs (in order to produce more reliable results); just ignore the strange spacing that it creates because the eReaders will ignore it, too.

We then save the Word document as a filtered webpage (not a single file webpage). If there are pictures, we right-click the file, choose Send To, and pick Compressed (Zipped) Folder. Then we find the newly created folder with the images and copy/paste it into the compressed zipped folder. This step is needed, for example, to avoid black lines from appearing on one or more edges of the pictures.

All of this work, all by itself, still doesn’t result in a perfectly formatted eBook. First, it is desirable to clean the HTML – i.e. to remove bloated instructions in order to help make the HTML more reliable and less ambiguous. Fortunately, there are some programs that can help do much of this automatically (you can find a list, for example, in the Kindle Tutorial that I recommend in the next-to-last paragraph – but not in Volume 1 of the book listed on the signature line; I’m trying my best to avoid possible confusion). It takes very clean HTML code to make the Look Inside appear professional.

Next, you need to open the HTML in Notepad and learn what to look for and how to change it. Here are a few things worth looking for (sometimes there may be more than one way to do it, and exactly how to change it depends on how the HTML looks on your device):

  • Change the indents from 0.5” (or 0.3” or whatever you used for First Line in the normal Style) in terms of the em (like 2 ems) – or set it as a percentage of the paragraph width (like 8% across). In the former case, the size of the indent is based on the size of the text (this is the technical specification that publishers use in print, and often in eBooks, too); in the latter case, the size of the indent is based on the width of the paragraph (visually, this may be appealing so that the indent is the same percentage on an iPhone or a PC). You want your normal paragraph styles to look like <p style=”text-indent: 8%;”> (or a value like 2em instead of 8%) at the beginning of the paragraph followed by <p> at the end of the paragraph. You can do this with the Find and Replace option. Examine the body text in the HTML in Notepad to see what the begin paragraph code looks like, copy it into the Find field, and type the Replace text carefully. Be sure to only edit the normal paragraph styles this way.
  • Manually change the paragraph style to 0% instead of 8% (or whatever you set for the indented paragraphs) to create any non-indented paragraphs (or stand-alone, non-centered lines) – like the first paragraph of the chapter (which you would have set as a first paragraph style in Word). In Word, you had to set First Line to 0.01”, which is slightly noticeable, because (none) doesn’t work; yet this doesn’t always show up in the Look Inside if the HTML isn’t tweaked. But as long as you’re tweaking the HTML, you may as well set it exactly to 0%. And if your HTML is super clean, you’ll have zero indents to begin each chapter in the Look Inside, and on paragraphs of the copyright page and table of contents, and any other non-centered paragraphs that you don’t want indented (provided that your HTML is very clean and you simply apply this code to each such paragraph).
  • Remove spacing between paragraphs. Modify the above suggestion with <p style=”text-indent: 8%; margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0″> at the beginning of the paragraph.
  • Use special symbols not normally supported. Kindle supports Unicode symbols 32 thru 255 (first link below), whereas a larger set of Unicode symbols is available using HTML (second link below). You just have to look up the HTML name of the symbol and write it after the ampersand (&) symbol. For example, &hearts makes the heart symbol (♥) when converted to Kindle’s mobi format. In your original Word document, you could write “insertheart” where you would like to include the symbol, use the Find tool to find it in the HTML with Notepad, and then change it to &hearts to make this symbol, and you can do something similar for other supported HTML symbols.

  • Prevent two words or a number and units (for example) from breaking onto separate lines. For example, if you would like 6 ft. to stay together (i.e. remove the possibility having the 6 at the right end of one line and ft. at the left end of the next line), replace the space with &nbsp; (as in 6&nbsp;ft.).
  • Improve the formatting of pictures. For example, if you already have a Word-generated HTML file with pictures set to absolute values (i.e. specified the number of pixels in the width or height), you can use Replace to change the width to =”100%” instead of the absolute measure and to delete the height specifications (just leave the Replace field blank).

After you publish your eBook on Kindle, you should view the Look Inside to see how it looks on the PC. Then go to the product page and download the free sample to your computer. This way, you can use the downloadable previewer to see what the Look Inside looks like on each device. If you have a Kindle (or maybe you can borrow one), you can view the Look Inside that way, too. (You should also view the entire book that way, just to see for yourself.)

I recommend a book called Formatting of Kindle Books: A Brief Tutorial by Charles Spender (to which I have no affiliation whatsoever; I simply found this book very useful for my own endeavors), which explains many of the details for how to properly format a Kindle eBook using Word, with a separate chapter on how to clean and edit the HTML. (My own publishing guide, listed below, covers both paperbacks and eBooks, but doesn’t get into the professional eBook details – like those discussed in this blog article – until Volume 2. Volume 1 is available now, while Volume 2 will be released sometime in the spring of 2013. Charles Spender’s tutorial is focused on the Kindle, and is very detailed regarding Word and HTML formatting, while explaining HTML so that those of us who don’t like HTML can figure out how to properly tweak it.)

Let me admit that I’m currently in the process of improving my own eBooks. For the past few years, I’ve been personally investigating the limitations of Word and seeing firsthand how well Word can yield a Kindle eBook, along with what does or doesn’t work, and have just begun the process of tweaking my own HTML. I still haven’t quite implemented all of my own suggestions in all of my own eBooks yet (some still even feature those dreaded double spaces; and I also need to update the formatting of some of my earlier paperback books), but I’m getting there. May you instead embrace the HTML tweaking from the beginning and perfect it the first time. 🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers