A Quick Guide to Formatting Your Microsoft Word Manuscript for Amazon’s Kindle

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One daunting task for many self-publishing authors is how to get their finished book up for sale on Amazon as an ebook. It’s not as simple as just uploading your manuscript … right?

Well, it can be!

Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) service gets easier to use every year. If you have a fairly straightforward manuscript – like a novel, collection of short stories, or text-only non-fiction book – you can upload your Microsoft Word document, preview it, and have a finished ebook in minutes.

In this post, I’ll explain how.

Quick note to Writers’ Huddle members – you have a much fuller version of this now available as a video seminar, with detailed step-by-step instructions. There’s also a transcript with screenshots.

Setting Up Your Paragraph and Chapter Title Styles

Many writers don’t know what styles are in Word – or why they’re so important.

Styles let you quickly format a specific type of text: a “normal” paragraph, a chapter title, or anything else that you’ll be using more than once.

Instead of going through each and every paragraph, manually adding an indent, and instead of painstakingly highlighting each chapter title to make it large and bold … use styles! They’re quicker for you … and they mean that Amazon’s KDP uploader can understand your document.

Here’s how to set up the three most important styles for your document:

#1: “Normal” Paragraphs

The default Word format is “Normal”. Word documents default to business style: each new paragraph starts flush with the left-hand margin, and there’s a blank line between paragraphs … just like there is in this blog post.

normal-space-between-paragraphs

For an ebook, though, you’ll want to indent your paragraphs and remove the space between them. Here’s how:

Step #1: Click the “Home” tab on the Microsoft Office ribbon: you should see a Styles pane with “Normal” as (usually) the first style. Right-click on Normal and click “Modify”

modify-normal-style

Step #2: You should see a pop-up window. On this, click the “Format” dropdown at the bottom and select “Paragraph”:

normal-format-paragraph

Step #3: Another window will appear. Now:

  • Under “Indentation”, set the “Special” indent to “First line” and “By” to 0.5 cm. (The default, 1.27 cm, is much too large on the Kindle.)
  • In “Spacing”, set the “After” dropdown to “0”.
  • (Optional) Increase the line spacing: I find that 1.15 comes out quite cramped on the Kindle and prefer to use 1.6.

adding-first-line-indent

Click OK on both windows.

All your paragraphs should now have changed to look like this:

new-normal-style

#2: Non-Indented Paragraphs

Pick up any book and you’ll see that the very first paragraph of each chapter or section, and any paragraphs after a break, are not indented.

Here’s how to do this for your manuscript:

Step #1: Click anywhere on a normal paragraph in your document. Then, click the “More” dropdown on the Styles pane and select “Save Selection as a New Quick Style”.

styles-more-dropdown

save-new-style

Step #2: Enter a name for the new style. I call mine “Normal firstline”:

normal-firstline-naming

Step #3: Find your new style in the Styles pane, then right-click it and select “Modify”:

normal-firstline-modify

Step #4: Select Format then Paragraph. On the next screen, set the “Special” indent to “None”:

firstline-formatting

Step #5: Click on the first paragraph in your manuscript that comes after a chapter heading, subheading or blank line between sections. Click the “Normal firstline” button in the Styles pane.

apply-normal-firstline

Repeat this step for every applicable paragraph in your manuscript. (It can be fiddly to spot them all, so you may want to make a note to watch out for any you missed when you proofread.)

 

#3: Chapter Titles

For the Kindle to recognise that your chapter titles are, in fact, chapter titles, you need to format them correctly.

This means applying the Heading 1 or Heading 2 style. Either will work: I normally use Heading 1, but if you’ve divided your book into several parts, you could use Heading 1 for the part titles and heading 2 for the chapter titles.

Here’s how to make it work.

Step #1: (If you’ve already formatted chapter titles manually, e.g. by applying bold or resizing them). Click on the first chapter title in your document.

On the Styles pane, click the “More” dropdown and then “Clear Formatting”.

clear-formatting

Step #2: Click on the chapter title (if you didn’t already do so for Step #1), then click “Heading 1” in the Styles pane.

heading-1

Repeat this for every chapter title in your manuscript.

You can, if you want, modify the Heading 1 style to make it a different colour, font, etc. from the default. The Kindle has its own defaults, though, and readers can customise font settings on their devices – so your changes won’t be reflected in the finished ebook.

Adding a Table of Contents

Once you’ve set up your chapter titles as “Heading 1”, you can then use Word to create a Table of Contents with just a couple of clicks.

Step #1: Go to the start of your document (or the end, if you prefer to have the Table of Contents there) and click in a blank space.

Step #2: Click on the “References” tab on the Word ribbon and click the “Table of Contents” dropdown.

table-of-contents-button

Step #3: Select “Automatic Table 1” by clicking on it.

automatic-table-1

Step #4: You should see a table of contents at the start of your manuscript. The page numbers are automatically filled in for you.

table-of-contents-example

Note: Even if you don’t need a Table of Contents for your manuscript, this is a good way to check you’ve not missed out any chapter titles when formatting – if they’re not “Heading 1”, “Heading 2” or “Heading 3”, they won’t appear in the table.

 

And that’s it! If you get stuck with Styles or have any questions, just pop a comment below.

Thanks for commenting! I read all comments, and reply to as many as I can. Please keep the discussion constructive and friendly. Thank you!

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5 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to Formatting Your Microsoft Word Manuscript for Amazon’s Kindle

  1. Amazing post. Thanks for the effort of sharing this tutorial with us. I really like reading this kind of posts since I learn more this way. I love teaching myself with computer staff over the internet. It really amazes me. Word is one of the most used apps and knowing how to maximize its use is really good. By the way, do you have any video blog post for this?

    • Thanks Michael, glad to help! I don’t have a video version of this one … but I’ll let you know if I create one in the future. 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness I am beyond thrilled that your wonderful post has sorted out some of my formatting issues! I had reached a stand still but you have saved the day 🙂

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!