Kindle Ebook Formatting Example



I just published a new Kindle e-book and it occurred to me that it might be helpful to show on my blog how I formatted it.

This way, you can see an actual example of the formatting in action. You can also check out the free sample if you have a Kindle to see how it turned out. (Or the whole book, free if you have Kindle Unlimited; just 99 cents to buy.)

It’s a fun little book (by fun, I mean it involves puzzles—word scrambles, but not the usual variety: these have a Romance theme). But even if you don’t like the book, you can still check out the free sample to explore the features and how they were made. After all, this article isn’t about word scrambles; it’s about formatting Kindle e-books.

Formatting a puzzle book or a workbook for Kindle poses several formatting challenges. We’ll explore some of these in this article.

If you’re self-publishing a novel or nonfiction book, even though it’s somewhat different from a word scramble book, it involves many of the same formatting features. So this article and the book itself serving as an example can help you see firsthand how to implement those features on Kindle.

It’s 2015 and publishing is dynamic. What worked well for Kindle in 2009 or 2012, for example, may not be quite the same in 2015. Some things have stayed the same, but much has changed.

Plus, the more books you design for Kindle, the more your eye for the design of digital books changes.

This book has a different look and style compared to my other e-books. It has some features that I feel are better. I’ll describe a few design choices along the way, and a few features of Kindle design that I’ve come to regard as ‘better.’ But remember, when it comes to style, ‘better’ is just an opinion. One designer’s ‘better’ is another designer’s ‘worse.’ 🙂


I’ll begin with some basic Word formatting for Kindle. If you already know how to format a Word document for Kindle, you can skip the first sections below (though you never know when you may learn something you didn’t know before).

Then I’ll introduce a book to serve as an example of my Kindle formatting, and I’ll discuss a few design issues. I’ll also describe a few improvements that can be made rather quickly beyond Word to Kindle formatting, showing my recent book as an example.

You’ll find specific directions for how to quickly implement some formatting tricks toward the end.


I began the Kindle formatting with a simple plain text version of the book. (It’s also available in paperback, so ultimately I needed one file for Kindle and a totally different file for print. Yet at the same time, it’s important to have identical content for both.)

I used the Replace tool in Word to remove:

  • two consecutive spaces. I put two spaces in the Find field and one space in the Replace field. I continued to hit Replace until there were no matches found.
  • blank lines. I typed ^p in the Find field and deleted everything from the Replace field. There isn’t a single blank line in the book, yet there is space between some lines which creates the same effect. More on this later. You may also want to put ^l (lowercase L) in the Find field in case you have another kind of line break.
  • tabs. Type ^t in the Find field and make sure that the Replace field is empty. (There were none to be found, of course, as I know not to use the tab key in the first place.)
  • page breaks. Put ^m in the Find field to remove ordinary page breaks. (If you have section breaks that are also page breaks, you want to remove those, too.) My book does have page breaks, but I make them a different way in the Kindle edition.

I don’t have headers, page numbers, or other print-only formatting features in my original Word file for Kindle.

You also have to be careful not to use any unsupported symbols.

What about the formatting? Don’t worry; we’ll get to that.


I even removed all of the images from the Word file. You can leave them in Word, but I like to apply a simple trick to improve the way that pictures are displayed (revealed later in this article), and as long as I’m doing that, I just save all the pictures for later. I just write things like “Pic1” or “Pic5” on their own lines where I want the pictures to go later. Well, I did put one figure in, just so that Word would recognize the file as containing images, which I replaced later. (If my trick is new to you, things will be simpler if you leave the images in Word.)

If you prefer to leave the images in Word, or if you intend to upload a Word document to KDP, here are a few things that you may wish to know:

  • Word may reduce the size of your image when you insert it. Word wants your picture to fit in the margins shown on the screen, so if necessary, it will reduce the width. Right-click on the image, choose Size and Position, find the Size tab, and enter 100 for the width (and height). This may cause your image to appear larger than the page in Word, but don’t worry about that, as that isn’t how it will look on a Kindle.
  • Setting the width to 100% in Word does NOT make the image appear full-screen on Kindle devices.
  • Right-click the image and change Wrap Text to In Line With Text. Place the image on its own line.
  • Use Insert > Picture to insert your images; don’t use copy/paste from outside of Word.
  • Crop, size, and format the picture with image-specific software before inserting into Word. If you do these things within Word, note that these features won’t be saved and propagated through to Kindle with Word’s default settings.
  • If you upload a Word file, sometimes a drop shadow appears along the edge of one or more images. If so, the simple solution is to upload a compressed zipped folder instead (described later in this article). If you opt to do this, it also gives you the flexibility to make your images display better.


The key to predictable and consistent formatting from Word is religious use of the paragraph styles.

In Word 2010 (and 2007 and 2013) for Windows, these appear on the top right half of the Home ribbon at the top of the screen.

It’s a mistake to highlight a paragraph and apply formatting directly to what’s highlighted. If you’ve already done that, you can find a Clear Formatting button on the Home tab.

The way to format a paragraph is to create a style, format the style just the way you want, and simply associate that style with the desired paragraph(s). Place your cursor within the paragraph and simply click the style button to apply that paragraph style to the paragraph.

You can highlight a word, phrase, or sentence that’s part of a paragraph and apply formatting, like italics or boldface, to that. But don’t do this for an entire paragraph. To format an entire paragraph (or a chapter heading, like Chapter 1, which is a paragraph), instead format a style and apply the style to the paragraph.

The Normal style is the default for body text. Once you’re typing body text with the Normal style, simply pressing the Enter key will let you type another paragraph with that same Normal style.

Right-click a style to modify it. Click the funny-looking little arrow-like icon in the bottom-right corner of the group of styles on the Home ribbon. This opens up a window of styles at the right side of the screen.

Styles Location

Styles Options

Find the three buttons at the bottom of this new window. The left button lets you create a new style. When you create the new style, give the style a name that will help you remember which style is which. Choose which current style the new style will be based on.


The Normal style is designed for the majority of your body text paragraphs, though you’ll want to modify the settings of this style before using it. You may need one or more variations of the Normal style, for example a similar style for the first paragraph of each chapter (e.g. if you don’t want to indent the first paragraph of each chapter, as is common among most traditionally published books).

Use Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc. styles to format headings that you’d like to be used in navigation. Kindle tends to automatically use your heading styles for built-in navigation (though it may take some time after publishing before this is done). You may want to use the Heading styles for chapter headings (like Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.) and some front or back matter sections (e.g. Introduction, Appendix), for example.

Think about other kinds of paragraphs that you may want to be formatted differently. For example, you might want a block of text for quotes that is indented from both the left or the right. Or you might want a centered line for figures or for text that you don’t want to be used in navigation.

Modify the Normal, Heading 1, and Heading 2 styles, and then create new styles—as described in the previous section. Once you have all the styles for the variety of paragraphs that are used in your book (including “paragraphs” that only consist of a few words or an image on one line, or lines from your table of contents, for example), then you just need to apply the appropriate style to each paragraph.

Except for the Normal style, you can check a box so that any changes you make to that style automatically apply to every paragraph of that style when you modify the style. Otherwise, and for the Normal style, if you want to update every paragraph of that style, open the style box on the right of the screen (see the instructions in the previous section), place your cursor on a paragraph of the style you want to modify and update, right-click the style in the box at the right (not the top), choose Select All, click Modify, and then update the style and the changes should propagate throughout.


For each style (Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, and variations of these that you use), you need to modify the style to adjust the font and paragraph settings.

Leave the color set to automatic, except where you need to create text a different color. For example, if you want a heading to appear in red or blue, you can change the color for that heading style. Don’t set the color to black for body text; leave it set to automatic. (Note that colored text may not appear as nice on black and white devices; for example, red stands out in color, but appears gray on black and white devices).

The default Word font style (Times New Roman or Calibri) is simplest. This will allow the user to choose a font to his or her liking. There is a better way to treat the fonts, as I’ll describe later.

Font size is something that you must set in Word if you intend to upload a Word doc, but which the user will ultimately take control over. So font size is relative. The points don’t translate perfectly from Word to Kindle. Kindle doesn’t discriminate between some close font sizes. If you use 12 pts for body text and want a heading to appear twice as large, you might try 24 pts, for example. Some trial and error is wise. If the font for a heading is too large, for example, a long word (like INTRODUCTION) might not fit on a single line on some devices (though when a user chooses a very large font on a cell phone, that’s virtually unavoidable), so it pays to test it out. There is a better way to set font size than by doing so within Word, as I’ll explain later.

To adjust the font in Word, don’t highlight an entire paragraph and change the font for that paragraph. Instead, right-click a style to modify it, click Format, choose Font, and modify the font for that style. Then simply associate that style with the desired paragraph(s).

You must similarly adjust the paragraph settings. Right-click a style, click Modify, choose Format, and select Paragraph.

This is where you can set Space Before (or After, but I prefer to use Before only), if you would like headings or the first paragraph of a chapter (only if you create a separate style for it) to have space above it. This is better than inserting blank lines with the Enter key. Why? Because it looks funny when a blank line happens to appear at the bottom or the top of a page, or a blank line that you’d like to serve as a section break may not be visible in such a case. (Using asterisks, * * *, centered on a line by themselves, or a glyph, provides a section break that won’t get lost. Pad your glyph with space on the sides so it doesn’t zoom to full-width on old devices, perhaps a clear background with a .gif, with black or sepia user options in mind.)

Instead of inserting manual page-breaks, you can include this in a style, too. You also find this in Modify > Format > Paragraph for a style, then choose the Line and Page Breaks tab, and check the box for Page Break Before (but note that most of the other options on that tab don’t propagate through to the Kindle; page-break works, though).

The paragraph setting is also what you need to use, within the style itself, to treat indents in a way that will work predictably and reliably.


The wrong ways to indent lead to inconsistent indents in Kindle e-books:

  • Don’t use the tab key at all.
  • Don’t use the spacebar to create indents.
  • Don’t rely on automatic indentation.
  • Don’t go to the paragraph dialog box and set First Line for a particular paragraph. Close, but no cigar. You need to do this for a style instead to achieve the most reliable and predictable indents across all devices and the challenging, yet all-important, Look Inside.

Right-click a style to modify it, click Format, Select Paragraph, change Special to First Line, and enter a value for the indent there.

  • Do this for all non-centered styles, including justified and left-aligned (ragged right) styles.
  • Do this for Normal and variations of Normal that will be justified or left-aligned.
  • Set the indent to 0.2″ or 0.3″ for indented paragraphs. The default value of 0.5″ appears too large, especially on small devices like a cell phone. (There is a better way, which I’ll describe later.)
  • Don’t choose (None) for paragraphs that you want non-indented (like the first paragraph of a chapter, if you have a special style just for those paragraphs, or the lines of your table of contents page). This won’t work. Instead, set First Line to 0.01″ to create non-indented paragraphs.
  • For centered paragraphs, do set First Line to (None). This only works for centered styles. (You don’t want centered styles, like Heading 1, to include indents, otherwise they’ll appear off-center.)


There are two different ways to format a table of contents in Word for Kindle. There is a table of contents tool, or you can create bookmark hyperlinks. There is yet a third way to do it if you wind up exporting Word’s HTML to create an epub or mobi file. On top of this, Kindle may build in navigation (after a lengthy delay once your book is published) based on h1, h2, etc. tags (Heading 1, Heading 2 in Word).

You can also create other bookmarks for built-in navigation. For example, if you type “See Section 4,” you can use bookmark hyperlinks so that when the reader clicks Section 4, it takes the reader directly to that section. If you have external hyperlinks, e.g. the url to a website, you can similarly activate these.

Footnotes and endnotes in Word also propagate to Kindle.


Below is a picture of how a portion of my sample e-book appears in Microsoft Word. If you look above Contents, you can see “pic 2” on a line by itself. Later, I turned that line into a picture. Remember, it’s not how the book appears in Word that matters, it’s how it appears in Kindle that counts. Later in this article, I’ll describe a few ways to improve the formatting from how it appears in Word.

Ebook Word

Here is how the beginning and introduction look in the actual Kindle e-book:

Ebook Kindle 3

I’ll discuss some design choices and a simple way to make further improvements. In case you may want to check out the free sample to see the example firsthand, click the image below:

Click the image to view at Amazon.



There are four decorative images in the front matter. The paperback edition includes some visual elements, so the hope was to incorporate a taste of that visual impression into the Kindle edition.

However, square images (like a heart), full-page images, or tall images take a great deal of room on a screen, which can impact the readability. For one, it serves as a long gap between the text that comes before and after the image. Also, you have limited control over where the paragraphs of text preceding and following the picture will appear. You can wind up with a lot of white space on the screen prior to the image, or you can have one line of text above or below the image, etc. When an image is a crucial part of the book, you do your best to work with it. But for decorative touches, I didn’t want to use an image that may cause such issues.

So I went with wide, short images. These don’t take up much space vertically. You can see one of these pictures in the previous section. (An alternative would be a glyph, padded on the sides so it doesn’t blow up to full-width on certain devices.)


Another design choice is which sections to include in the front matter. Some people move the copyright notice and table of contents to the back matter in order to maximize the potential of the Look Inside. A few cram extra stuff into the Look Inside, hoping to make it easier for customers to reach that 10% mark, so crucial for Kindle Unlimited. Neither of these reasons appealed to me.

I included a short, basic copyright notice in the front. I feel that customers generally expect to see this; it’s a standard part of a book; I didn’t want its absence to stand out, and I believe its inclusion, if done well, can help signify that professional touch. Virtually nobody will read the copyright page, but everyone will notice it briefly while passing by (except when they first open the book in a Kindle, where Amazon starts the book after this position; but I’m more worried about the customer on Amazon’s website, checking out the Look Inside).

I also opted to include the table of contents in the front. This book has 88 pages of puzzles. I didn’t want to include 88 entries in the table of contents. So I divided the table of contents up into Puzzles 1-8, 9-16, 17-24, etc.


Both the copyright notice and table of contents in this book are centered. For a multi-level table of contents, I would format it left aligned (ragged right) instead, and use indents (through styles) for the various levels. I might use left alignment for most tables of contents, in general, but if you look at this puzzle book, very much of it is centered (including the puzzles), so this kind of fits.

Many traditionally published books center the copyright page, while others are justified and yet others are left aligned (ragged right). In the past, I’ve often used justified or left alignment for the copyright page, and I’ve often noted formatting issues on one or more devices. For example, the last word (like the line with the title or subtitle) might wind up on a line all by itself, or when justified, there can be some large gaps (or one line might not even justify, in the extreme cases). These problems tend to occur more with many copyright pages, and if you include it in the Look Inside, you want this section to look good. Some of these issues can be avoided with proper centering. (Don’t center each sentence of your notice; put it all in one centered paragraph; but the title lines and copyright date lines need to be on their own lines.)


If you have any lengthy chapter titles, headings, or subheadings (for large fonts on small screens, it doesn’t have to really seem ‘lengthy’), you can run into similar issues, deciding between centered or left aligned. (Definitely, don’t justify the headings.) (Another thing to note is that left alignment, i.e. ragged right, can sometimes be a little tricky to pull off if you upload a Word document; it’s more reliable if you just go a quick step beyond Word, as shown later in this article.)


Sometimes, it pays to force a break to avoid a bad break. For example, the authors are listed as Carolyn Kivett & Chris McMullen. I spread this onto three lines (with the & on its own line). Why? Because on a smaller screen or with a larger font size selected by the user, we could wind up with Carolyn Kivett & Chris showing on one line and McMullen on the next line, which would look unnatural. Separated on three lines avoids that possibility. You can’t do such things with body text, but everywhere else you can keep such things in mind.

But be careful. If you take something too long and break it in half, you might get bad breaks in between. For example, suppose you have two short sentences and decide to place each on its own line. This sounds good until you see the last word of the first sentence wind up on the second line all by its lonesome on a smaller screen or with a larger font.

Remember, don’t try to force breaks in body text paragraphs. It will surely backfire on some devices.


Novels and most nonfiction should have indents, but no spaces between paragraphs, in the body text. (But the first chapter of each paragraph is ordinarily not indented.)

My example is a puzzle book. The puzzles themselves are centered, as is much of the front matter. I formatted the Introduction with block paragraphs, i.e. it has space between paragraphs, but no indents. This isn’t your standard nonfiction book, so these block paragraphs fit in with the design.

Definitely, don’t use indents and block paragraphs, or your book will stand out, probably not in a positive way; readers just aren’t accustomed to that.

Readers expect novels and most nonfiction to have indents, but no space between paragraphs. A few kinds of technical books, for example, tend to have block paragraphs (space between, but no indents). If you have a nonfiction book, see what’s common among very similar books.


One of the challenges in designing a puzzle book or a workbook is that in print, answers are usually collected in the back. That’s just incredibly inconvenient in an e-book.

It’s more convenient to use footnotes for the answers. Unfortunately, if you publish a workbook or puzzle book with answers in both print and digital editions, this would entail much restructuring. (But if you’re really handy with programming, you might be able to restructure your book efficiently that way. I actually went into Excel and efficiently restructured the book there to move the hints and answers from the back of the book into their respective puzzles, but let me warn you, it’s much more straightforward to restructure this with programming than to do it with Excel.)

Another challenge with puzzles and workbooks is that you can’t write in an e-book (well, maybe you could create an ‘app’ instead of a ‘book’). A crossword puzzle, word search, or Sudoku puzzle can’t be ‘read’ as a ‘book,’ for example. But you can do a word scramble in your head.

My biggest struggle with this book was that each puzzle contains 6 word scrambles plus a theme (also scrambled). Since all 7 words go together, it really makes sense for all 7 words to lie on a single page. That’s the way it looks in print (the print edition also includes nice visual decoration). But it’s a big problem for Kindle.

The only way to guarantee that all 7 word scrambles for each puzzle would appear on a single ‘screen’ in Kindle is to format the entire page as an image, but then it wouldn’t likely be readable on a great many devices. Unfortunately, one or more words for a puzzle will go onto the following screen on smaller devices, or any device with a large enough font size selected.

I could have tightened the space between puzzles, but I preferred to add space between the lines of each puzzle (using Space Before, in the styles, not with the Enter key), as readability is important to help focus on one word scramble at a time.

I made a draft without using page-breaks at all, and I rather liked how that looked and read, but in the final product, I included page-breaks. Since each puzzle has a theme, a page-break seemed the natural way to collect the themes together.


I took a few quick and simple steps to improve the Kindle formatting.

Below, I show you exactly what I did and how I did it.

You can follow the same steps. Really, there is nothing to learn. You just have to follow directions. 🙂

It will improve the formatting.


In Word, Save As a filtered webpage (don’t choose single-file webpage), then open the file in Notepad. (An alternative is Sigil, which can help you create an epub, but there is a learning curve for using Sigil.) I’ll describe minimal changes to look for in Notepad. Don’t open the filtered webpage in Word.

If your file has images, there is another step to take before you open the file in Notepad. Find the file on your computer (in My Documents, or wherever you saved the filtered webpage). Right-click on the file, click Send To > Compressed (zipped) folder. This creates two folders: one with images and one zipped folder. Find the image folder (you may have scroll to the top) and drag it into the zipped folder (both folders have the same name as the filtered webpage file).

When you want to edit the file in Notepad, open the filtered webpage, and after saving the filtered webpage, find it and drag it into the zipped folder to replace the old file.


When you open the filtered webpage in Notepad, you find the styles at the top.

I delete the font definitions: Everything beginning with /* Font Definitions */ and just before /* Style Definitions */.

I next improve the styles that you find under /* Style Definitions */.

Be careful to type everything exactly (or use copy/paste, as typos here can create havoc). Don’t forget the semi-colon (;) at the end of each line.

The top of each style (Normal, Heading 1, etc.) should include:


Exceptions: (1) When you want to include space before a paragraph, change margin-top from 0in to 2em, for example, where an ’em’ is a helpful unit in typography. (2) When you want to a create a block indent, e.g. for quotes, change margin-left and/or margin-right to 2em. This indents every line from the left (or right, or both), not just the first line.

For styles where you want a page-break before (perhaps a chapter heading style), include this line in the style definition:


Control paragraph alignment and indents with lines like these in the styles:


The word justify could also be left or center, depending on how you want that style to be aligned. Heading styles are often centered. Most body text is usually justified.

Set text-indent to 0 for any paragraph that you don’t want to be indented. While zero doesn’t work in Word, it does work here.

For the Normal style or any other styles that you do want indented, I recommend 2em (two em’s), as in


This way, your indent size will depend on the font size that the user selects. While a percentage seems like it would better match the screen size, it comes out way too big in the Look Inside, which is your main selling feature.

However, you should control the font size with a percentage, such as


Regular body text should be 100%. I used 150% for headings.

I remove all mention of font families by changing these lines to:


You should only have the closing brace } if this is the last line of the style’s definition.

There are other changes that I make, and other things I do to clean up my file; I’m taking a minimalist approach here to keep things simple.


Find the paragraphs that call your images. One way to format them better is like this:

<img style=”width: 100%; height: auto;” width=”2048″ height=”342″ alt=”” src=”Filename/Picname.jpg”>

Only include the “width: 100%; height: auto;” if you want the image to fill the width of the screen. (Note that older Kindles automatically fill the width anyway, so if you don’t want an image to zoom full screen, you should pad it instead.)

Don’t use 2048 and 342. Use whatever size the image is (most likely, if you have multiple images, they will differ in size; find the sizes of your images).

It may seem redundant to also include the width and height size if also setting the width to 100%, but this may speed things up on some devices.

Word can resize your images on you, so you should check the point values in the HTML and also in your compressed image folder. If it was resized, you can delete an image from the compressed image folder within the compressed zipped folder and copy/paste it back in (based on your original).

If the src= part at the end doesn’t specify your file location correctly, the image won’t display in the Kindle e-book. (So you should check every picture when you preview it.)

The img style should be part of a paragraph, like:

You’ll probably have a p class instead of a div class. I use the Replace tool in Notepad to change every <p into <div and every </p into </div throughout the file.


There are more things you can change, but again I’m trying to keep the changes to a minimum for simplicity.

If you want to see how clean your Word file is, try using the Find tool and looking for span, font, color, <br, clear all, and things like that. If you have a lot of spans (other than endnotes), it probably means you had a habit of highlighting text or paragraphs and applying formatting to what’s highlighted. The more you get in the habit of using styles for paragraph formatting, the more that will reduce those spans. Those breaks (br) and clear all’s can arise from manual page breaks, Enters, etc.; these come out cleaner when you build the page-break into the header style and when you use Space Before in the paragraph style instead of using the Enter key (don’t add these features to every style; just figure our which kinds of paragraphs should have space before and add it to paragraphs of those styles). If you find the word font (other than in your style definitions), it probably means that you highlighted text or paragraphs and selected a font style, size, or color. Try to break that habit (except when you need a portion of a paragraph, rather than the entire paragraph, to format differently).


It’s worth browsing through your p-tags. They begin <p class=, such as <p class=MsoNormal>, unless you changed all the p tags to div tags like I do, then you’ll have things like <div class=MsoNormal> or whatever you called the style.

Your HTML will tend to produce more consistent and predictable results if you don’t have overrides in your paragraph tags. Examples of overrides in your paragraph tags include <p class=MsoNormal align=center> or <p class=MsoNormal style=’text-indent:.3in’>. These are contradictions. The Normal style says to justify, while your p tag says to align center. Unfortunately, when you have contradictions like this, the Look Inside doesn’t always choose the way you’d like.

These contradictions come about when you don’t use the styles religiously. If you highlighted a paragraph and changed the alignment to center, you create a p tag like <p class=MsoNormal align=center>. What you should have done is create a centered style and simply associate that style with the paragraph to create a p tag like <p class=Center>. Similarly, don’t highlight a paragraph and change First Line for the highlighted text, as that creates a p tag like <p class=MsoNormal style=’text-indent:.3in’>. The better thing is to create a new style with the indent you need, then simply associate that style with the paragraph. If you see overrides in your paragraph tags, you want to change your habit of formatting highlighted paragraphs and use the styles instead. That will give you the most reliable formatting.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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A Kindle Facelift



I just finished updating my Kindle e-books on self-publishing. (The last one, Formatting Pages, won’t be live for at least 12 hours.)

Having spent much of the year testing out various ways to format Kindle e-books and researching subtleties of the craft (especially, tweaking the HTML), I was finally able to apply these goodies—some of them subtle—to my books. (I haven’t updated my science e-books yet, but they’re on my to-do list.)

Here are some of the changes that I’ve made:

  • Restyling the entire e-book for consistency across all devices (especially, that all-important Look Inside).
  • Updating the endnotes and bullets of my Detailed Guide (Vol. 1); it had been on my to-do list for far too long. (I put in a request for KDP to enable auto-updates for Vol. 1, but so far I haven’t heard back.)
  • Manually cleaning up the HTML. Actually, this turned out to be amazingly simple, using the Replace tool. (There are automatic cleaners out there, but I prefer to know exactly what’s going on. There are also some things you don’t want to clean.)
  • Setting the paragraph indents in em’s instead of inches so that it looks good on any device with any font size (this had already been done on most of my books). Also, certain values don’t translate well to older devices.
  • Defining font size as a percentage instead of a value in inches.
  • Using special HTML characters that wouldn’t work in Word (like spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs).
  • Padding certain images so that they don’t enlarge on older devices. This also controls the percentage for which smaller images fill the screen consistently across all devices. A glyph or small logo, for example, shouldn’t blow up to fill the screen of an older Kindle.
  • Applying 100% width for larger images to make them fill the screen.
  • Changing some images from jpeg to gif. Resizing a few images.
  • Removing contradictions where a “style” or “span” statement overrides the class definition. (This can be avoided with proper styling in Word. The big problem is highlighting paragraphs and formatting that highlighted selection, instead of using styles to do all formatting). This is important for perfecting the subtle touches for the Look Inside.
  • Content-wise, I also made some minor changes to my Detailed Guide.

Of course, I have a step-by-step guide coming out that explains exactly how to do this, like a cookbook, so there is no guesswork. It will be available for pre-order soon.

I sell over 10 times as many paperbacks each month as Kindle e-books, which is one reason my attention has been diverted toward paperback editions for quite some time. This year, I resolved to turn the tables somewhat. Eventually, I intend for my Kindle sales to better compete with my paperback sales (ideally, without the print sales sliding to do it).


I’ve been waiting to release my self-publishing boxed set until each Kindle edition had been updated.

It turns out that the easy way to create the Kindle edition of the boxed set was to first apply consistent styling to each of the e-books.

My boxed set is finally ready to hit the market. It will be available for pre-order shortly. A paperback will follow, hopefully later this month. It will be a mammoth paperback, instead of a boxed set of individual volumes (which I realize would be convenient; something to consider in the future).


Today’s publishing world is dynamic. I don’t think a book is ever finished. Especially, nonfiction, as the content itself must be updated periodically. In addition, formatting capabilities change as technology evolves. Then everyone, from top to bottom, learns new things or develops a different sense of style. Customers develop a different sense of style and develop new expectations, which also entails a response.

Do your best to perfect your book the first time. But what seemed perfect two years ago may cause you to smack your forehead now. Fortunately, your book isn’t chiseled in stone. Update it!

When sales aren’t so hot, another thing to consider updating is your blurb. A change freshens your product page, lets customer see your book with a new look, and helps you progress toward the ideal blurb that we strive for.


Of course, I provide a wealth of free articles about self-publishing here on my blog. That’s the purpose of my blog: to help.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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.


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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.


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Writing for Kindle and Paperback

Writing Kindle Print


The Challenge


Today’s indie author needs to format three different books:

  • one as an e-book, which functions more like a webpage than a physical book
  • one as a paperback, which formats like printed pages and not as a webpage
  • one draft ideally designed for revisions and editing

Visual authors with a good feel for what a printed page should look like tend to format a paperback book first with page headers and page numbers, then later try to remove all the page formatting and implement Word’s Styles to transform the paperback book into an e-book.

Others prefer the more text-oriented design of the e-book, then later try to add features that are relevant for printed pages.

Which method is better?

My answer is neither!


A Suggestion


Type the text and nothing but the text:

  • Don’t use page breaks, section breaks, columns, or any other kinds of breaks.
  • Don’t format the title page, headings, subheadings, or anything else. Just type plain text.
  • Make all the text (headings, body, everything) the same font style and size. For now, pick the font style and size that you want to read, not what you want in your book.
  • Don’t use italics or boldface. (Type something like #i# where you want to remember to add italics later to a word or phrase. Don’t do this where rich formatting will be obvious, like subheadings.)
  • Don’t indent any paragraphs. (Especially, don’t use the spacebar to create indents.) Don’t use the tab key. At this stage, don’t even use First Line indent from the paragraph menu.
  • Add Space After each paragraph from the paragraph menu options. This is just to create block paragraphs (even if you won’t be using block paragraphs) for reading now. Use whatever value helps you see the separation between paragraphs nicely. Remember to go back to the paragraph menu and change the value of Space After once you begin formatting later (using Select All, or modifying the Normal Style, this will be easy).
  • Don’t use any bullets. (You can type something like #dot# where you want to remember to make bullet points later. Just type this once where the list begins, not for each item of the list.)
  • Don’t use any drop caps. Don’t make the first words of the chapter UPPERCASE at this stage.
  • Don’t use the Enter key more than twice consecutively to create blank lines. It’s best at this stage to avoid using the Enter key more than once, and just to end the paragraph.
  • Avoid using special symbols, especially those that may be unsupported as e-books. Instead, just write the name consistently in a unique way, like #infinity# for the infinity symbol. It will be easy to find and replace these later (using the Find tool). It’s handy to use a symbol like # or something else you know you won’t be using otherwise to make little reminders for yourself (simply use the search function to find them all later).
  • Don’t insert any images now. Just make a little note where you wish to insert the image later.

There are some advantages of just writing plain text now:

  • You can focus solely on writing. Not diverting your attention to formatting allows your writing to flow freely while the ideas are coming.
  • Formatting takes memory. Your computer is far less likely to freeze or slow down while writing plain text. Your original plain text file is less likely to become corrupt. (Nevertheless, save new versions frequently with new file names, like Book1.doc, Book2.doc, etc. Also save your file in two different places, like jump drive and email.)
  • This plain text file will be convenient for editing and revisions. Just remove the Space After paragraphs and make the entire file double-spaced (or whatever you prefer). This will force you to edit your text first and check the formatting later. Trying to check both at once improves the chances of not catching mistakes.
  • You may find it advantageous to format both paperback and e-book editions from a plain text file than it is to change one format to the other.


It’s Magic!


Formatting is just like painting if you use Word’s built-in Styles. You can find these at the top of the Home tab.

It’s easy to modify any of the default Styles: Just right-click it and select Modify.

When you modify a Style, look for the box that you can check that says, “Automatically update.” This is a huge time-saver. If you use the Heading 1 Style to format your chapter headings, for example, and later decide that you’d like to change it, all you have to do is change the Heading 1 Style and all of the chapter headings will change immediately—no need to go one-by-one through your whole document and reformat the chapter headings.

Easy peasy!

It’s also easy to add a new style of your choosing: Click the funny-looking arrow-like icon in the bottom-right corner of the Styles list and the bottom-left button with A’s on it on the new window that comes up lets you create a new Style.

You’ll have one paragraph Style called Normal for your body text. You need to create a new Style similar to Normal, except for not indenting the paragraph. You might call this First Normal instead of Normal, for example. Just place your cursor in the first paragraph of each chapter and press the First Normal Style. You might also apply this style to lines of your copyright page, if you wish to have them left-aligned or justified without indents.

Use the Heading Styles for chapter headings and subheadings. Adopt other styles for other kinds of formatting that your book will need.

So many possibilities:

  • Modify the Heading 1 Style, click the Format button, choose Paragraph, go to the Line and Page Breaks tab, and check Page Break Before. This will automatically insert a page break at the start of every chapter (once you’ve applied the Heading 1 Style to your chapter headings). For your paperback, you may also want to add a Continuous section break from Page Layout (if you wish to have different page headers in each chapter, for example).
  • In the Paragraph menu within a Style, you can also add Space Before or Space After instead of using the Enter key to create blank lines. For example, you can add Space Before to drop the chapter heading down a certain amount instead of starting at the top when beginning a new chapter.
  • When you Modify each Style, select the font style, size, and color. If you change your mind, just Modify the Style and—presto, change-o—everywhere that Style has been applied, the changes will instantly be made (assuming you checked the Automatically Update box).
  • Choose left alignment, centered, right alignment, or justified for each Style.
  • Click the Format button when modifying a Style and select Paragraph. Set the value of the paragraph indents by changing Special to First Line and specifying a value in inches (unless your Word settings are in metric). This is the most reliable way to achieve consistent indenting throughout your document, and it’s the simplest way to change your mind about the value later. (For the e-book, set First Line to 0.01″ for First Normal—or whatever you called the Style for non-indented paragraphs—and set this to None in the paperback.)
  • Warning: For some of the preset Styles, you want to click Format, choose Font, and visit the Advanced tab. Some have values set for Spacing, Position, or Kerning, which may not suit your design tastes.

If you added Space After paragraphs, remember to remove this (e.g. using Select All) before you start formatting. It’s worth selecting your entire document and applying the Normal Style when you’re ready to begin formatting your document. Then go through your document and “paint” the formatting for First Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, and any other style you need.

Once you begin formatting, if you make any changes to the text, be sure to make the same changes to your plain text file, e-book file, and paperback file. Try to perfect the editing before you format so that these revisions are kept to a minimum.


Publishing Resources


I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

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

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