"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Formatting Your Book For Kindle

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Formatting Your Book For Kindle

Dear Fellow Writer,

I was surprised to learn this week that the sale of books only makes up 7% of Amazon's total revenue.

That seems tiny, considering all the fuss the Big Five publishers make about Amazon.

Amazon's core business is in being an online Walmart, recently promising delivery of groceries within thirty minutes across America. That's impressive, even a little disturbing when you think about what must happen behind the scenes to achieve that result.

Clearly, Amazon is intent on taking over the world, if Google doesn't get there first.

We live in interesting times.

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern 

Formatting Your Book For Kindle
Formatting for Kindle
If you're the type of writer who's gotten used to all the rules for formatting manuscripts for publishers, you'll probably be completely confused by formatting for Kindle.

Whenever you have a book ready for publication on Amazon, you will need to think about what it will look like when it's converted to mobi format - which is the system that Kindles use.

Mobi is an HTML based platform, which means in theory it's simple: your book becomes, in effect, a series of little web pages that look right on a text reader. 

In reality, HTML may ignore seemingly basic commands and Kindle's final formatting may override some of your prettier stylistic suggestions in favor of a more basic look.

Although Amazon allows you to upload a Microsoft WORD document directly onto their server - which it will then convert to Kindle format for you - I wouldn't advise that you do this.

Mainly because WORD has a habit of 'hiding' lots of bad formatting from the naked eye - which confuses the heck out of the Kindle converter.

Often a WORD to Kindle conversion looks awful - with unexplained gaps, random changes in font and filled with all kinds of other messy side-effects.

What you have to remember about Kindle formatting (mobi format) is that it's HTML based. And if you've ever tried copying a WORD document directly onto a web page you'll know that as far as formatting is concerned, you often have to start all over again.

For this reason, it's best not to make your WORD document perfect before you copy and paste it into Kindle formatting software.

BTW: despite my having been an online 'guru' for almost fourteen years, I still loathe HTML and web page construction. There's a lot I don’t understand and don't get, no matter how many times it's explained to me.

For example, I've always believed that CSS files were specifically designed to confuse me. I've never gotten the hang of them because they seem to thwart my attempts to comprehend their purpose. But that's probably just me.

Technically-minded people appear to like complicated interfaces like Wordpress and Photoshop. I've always preferred simple, obvious, and intuitive software. I don't need to understand it, in other words, if it works.

Anyway, I would recommend that you don’t let Amazon Kindle format your book manuscripts for you. Better to use either Anthemion Jutoh or Kindle-Writer 2, both of which are free to download, but cost a little money to use the full programs.

I use Jutoh because, up to a point, the formatting changes you make in the Jutoh file usually make it to the mobi file. The other advantage of Jutoh being you can also use the Jutoh file to create epub, ipub, text and Smashword files for uploading to Kobo, iStore and any of the other online book sellers.

When polishing your Kindle file, you'll need to take extra care over consistent font size, title bolding and alignment, page breaks and inserting illustrations if you're using them.

One of the trickiest parts - and again, it might be just me - is making sure that each of your chapter headings is specifically marked as a Heading - so that you can create a Contents page that is clickable. It took me a while to master how to do this, which is why I didn't include clickable contents pages until about my fifth book on Kindle.

Asking the Jutoh Wizard to compile the content listing for you can be fraught with difficulty. Most times I have to override the default and construct it manually.  

The endless nuances of formatting a Kindle book would take a book in itself - and there are plenty of them around. It's not really that hard to master but there can be a steep learning curve if you're not familiar with HTML.

My advice would be to download Jutoh Anthemion (http://www.jutoh.com/download.htm) and then play with it.

That's what I did and, even though it left me cold for a couple of weeks, I eventually got the hang of it.

The interface is fairly intuitive, and deceptively basic-looking, and it does have a lot of functions that may be bewildering when you first encounter them. 

However, it's better in the long term that you persist in learning how to create your own master Kindle files - because this will give you lots of flexibility and control in the future.

The great thing about Kindle is that you can make changes to your ebook file at any time and upload your new and improved versions whenever you like - once a day if you want!

This is a great way to respond to customer feedback quickly - and fix those niggling typos that seem to hang around no matter how many times you - or anyone else for that matter - proofs your manuscript!

One world of caution. Don't think that your corrections will override ebooks customers have already bought. Kindle does not work like an App. It doesn't update the reader's copy of your book. Even if they re-download a purchase after you've made corrections, they still get the old version they bought with your typos in it.

All the more reason to make your manuscript as perfect as you can before you release it on Amazon Kindle!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell



Sherlock Holmes

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