I’ve noticed there are many authors out there who don’t know how to format their own manuscripts. This is a shame as it’s very straightforward as long as you follow the rules step by step and don’t try to ‘be clever’ with it. There are far too many authors paying good money for a service they really don’t need, so this post is for them.
First of all, let’s lay down a few ground rules to get us off on a footing of complete understanding.
1 This is for those wishing to format for Amazon Kindle.
2 This formatting is achieved using Word. I have no knowledge of other word processing systems, so those using anything else, you may find this system either doesn’t work or needs tweaking according to your own system.
3 This is the system for formatting text only books/stories. If you’re including pictures in your work, this is not for you.
There are a few steps you will be working through. They are, front matter, body text, end papers, and tables of contents. We will go through them one at a time and I will try to explain as simply as possible. Feel free to ask questions if I don’t make things clear.
A few notes about Amazon
Amazon has fairly strict rules pertaining to the formatting of its Kindle books and if you fail to adhere to them, it will spit it back at you and close down until you fix it. I have found struggling to correct a mistake in formatting frustrating in the extreme, so it is always preferable to take the time to do it right first time.
A Kindle book is very different from a physical book. It has no separate pages you need to turn and is simply one long document. The Kindle device arranges it into pages to fit its own perameters, you don’t need to do it yourself. For the same reason, you don’t have to add page numbers, headers, footers, or anything of that nature. Kindle devices allow the user to enlarge the print if they wish and the device will automatically rearrange the size of its ‘pages’ to fit as the user makes their own adjustments.
You can add clickable links within your text so that users can go back to the beginning, or go straight to a particular chapter or place within the book that they wish without having to scroll all the way through. This will be covered when we come to inserting a table of contents.
In regard to links, Amazon does not allow any clickable links that advertise non Amazon web pages or competitors websites. You can, if you wish, add a line saying, “Find me on Facebook” or words to that effect but a direct link might very well have Amazon spitting your work back at you with a frown of disgust.
So let’s get on with it shall we?
This is an umbrella term used to encompass all that stuff you tend to find right at the front of a book. The title page, copyright stuff, dedication, and sometimes, the acknowledgements. With the exception of the title page and copyright page, also known as the verso, the rest is not compulsory. You must have a title page and you should have the copyright stuff.
This is the actual chapters of your book, from chapter one through to ‘The End.’
End papers are the opposite to the front matter and consist of stuff you often find at the end of a book, and sometimes at the front of a physical book. With a Kindle book, some of the stuff that might usually make up part of the front matter is better as end papers. Readers don’t want to wade through pages of stuff to get to the story, so leave it to the end and give them the choice of continuing to read after ‘The End’ or not. If they enjoyed your story, they might very well explore the end papers with real interest.
I always put the ‘other works by,’ ‘about the author,’ and ‘coming soon’ as end papers. You could put acknowledgements here too, a list of resources perhaps if you wish to show how and where you did your research.
Table of Contents (TOC)
This is a list of chapters, either chapter one/two/three etc, or chapter names if you’ve used them. All your end papers will be on the table of contents too.
Each of the entries on your TOC will take the form of a clickable link which allows users to zip straight to the place of their choice without having to scroll all the way through. At the end of each chapter, and each page you’ve included in your TOC, you will insert another clickable link that takes the reader back to the beginning of the book.
A note on fonts and style
This is one of those areas where simplicity rules supreme. Avoid the temptation to go wild with crazy fonts, cutsie little glyphs between paragraphs, stylish (?) line breaks, or dropped capitals. A dropped capital is where each chapter begins with the first capital letter blown up huge with the lines of text wrapped around it. Leave that to physical books, and then only in the very highest class of literary work. Anywhere else it just looks naff. Readers will find it annoying and distracting and will think less of you because of this interruption to the flow of the story. Remember, you are trying to please readers so their wishes and desires take precedence over your own.
For the very same reason, keep your font simple and please, I beg of you on bended knee, do not use Comic Sans or Papyrus. I always use Garamond in both Kindle and paperback and not once have I had any complaints. Fancy fonts will make people wonder why you’re trying to distract your readers away from the story and may think it might be because the story is lacking somewhat. Let the story speak for itself, don’t try to entertain with silly fonts.
The same goes for those cutsie little swirls and whorls some folks stick between paragraphs and other illustrative naffiosity. Leave it out, it’s silly and lacks class.
Sometimes, when changing scenes, characters, or points of view, it helps to have a blank line between one paragraph and the next. It helps to let the reader know a subtle change is happening, a different character, a change of scene or time etc. With Kindle manuscripts, simply adding an extra blank line can cause problems with the digital stuff that converts the file into a Kindle book. To avoid this, you use paragraph spacing to add that extra space. It’s called Hanging Paragraphs and I’ll explain the process when we get there.
It is accepted that your chapter headings; Chapter one, two, three, etc, will be in a slightly larger font size than the body text. Resist the temptation to make them over large, a couple of sizes bigger is all that is necessary. I always bold them too. I usually do my body text in Garamond size 11 and the chapter headings in size 14.
Now we need to actually do all that. First, we put the various bits together into a single document, after which we do the actual formatting.
STEP 1 – WRITE FRONT MATTER
You will need the title page, copyright (verso), and dedication if using one. Unlike with a physical book, there is no need to worry about where on the page your text will go.
The first part of your file is the title page and consists of the book title, with author name beneath. Use the biggest font size for the title, I use size 16, and have the author name in the same size as your chapter headings.
Next comes the verso, in which you claim your rights over your work. This is the one I always use.
Published by (Name of publisher, yourself if you’re self publishing)
© Merita King (insert year) all rights reserved
Cover art by (insert name if applicable). Copyright (insert year)
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this e-book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this e-book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
If you’re in any doubt as to what to say in your verso page, take a look at several other ebooks and see what they say. You can use the above as a starting point and change it to suit as necessary.
The dedication page comes next, if you’re using one. The word Dedication goes on a line by itself, with the names and any explanations underneath.
STEP 2 – BODY TEXT
Next comes your chapters. You can do a global cut and paste by using ctrl + A to highlight the entire document, then paste it onto the end, after your dedication, or verso if you’re not using a dedication.
STEP 3 – END PAPERS
Now is the time to write your, ‘about the author’ bio, your list of ‘other works by’ and a blurb for your ‘coming soon’ if you have one planned.
Keep your bio short, just a few lines is all that is required. A little about yourself to let readers know you’re a real person will do. Tell them how you love making Yak hair quilts in your spare time, that you hold the work record for the longest nose hair in the western hemisphere, or that you’re a crazy cat lady with a penchant for strong cheese. Don’t bother to list all your writing credentials, but do start with a line or two explaining why you write in your chosen genre and end with the personal stuff. A small paragraph in total will suffice.
If you have written other works, list them as ‘Other works by (insert your name here). Just include those that you have written and published, not those that may have been published in magazines, e-zines, the parish magazine, or the Women’s Institute Quarterly.
If you have a follow up book planned, or have one already written and awaiting editing, this is where you can give it a plug. Under the title, Coming Soon, write a short blurb for this up coming work. If readers really enjoyed your story, they might look out for the next one if they know one is on the way.
Tack all of this onto the end of your body text and you now have your completed single document ready for formatting proper.
In part two – time to do the real formatting work.