What Formatting Should I Set?
Much of the formatting for your eBook is out of your control. KDP will convert font style to its own defaults and readers will then adjust the size and layout of the text. Given this, the best strategy is to keep your formatting as simple as possible so the text converts smoothly to whatever size and shape is required. I suggest the following:
- Font: Times New Roman
- Size: 12pt for the main body of your book (we’ll talk about headings later).
- Line Spacing: Single
- Text Alignment: There’s some debate amongst eBook formatters about whether text should be fully justified (with a straight right margin) or left aligned (with a ragged right margin). In reality, there’s little point fretting over the decision because KDP imposes a straight right margin whatever formatting you set. So, for Kindle, I’d fully justify the text to begin with. Be aware, though, that Smashwords prefers a ragged right margin. If you’re also uploading to Smashwords, you’ll create a separate file, anyway, so it’s simply a case of using full justification in your Kindle eBook and left aligning your Smashwords’ one.
- Font Colour: Set to Automatic rather than Black. Word’s default is Automatic so, unless you’ve been messing around with the settings, you shouldn’t need to worry about it. The problem with using black is that it disappears against the black background of night time mode on certain Kindles devices.
- Paragraph Style: Here, you choose between Indented and Block Style:
Indented suits most text based books, particularly novels. A small indent of 0.4/0.5cm is added to the first line of each paragraph. There are certain additional formatting rules to follow with this style:
– No space between paragraphs
– The indent is omitted on the first paragraph of every chapter. The text of the first line should sit flush against the left margin as shown below:
Block Style is an alternative to first line indents often used for nonfiction books, such as manuals/instructionals. Here, a space is added between each paragraph instead of a first line indent so all text sits flush against the left hand margin. The gap between paragraphs should be achieved by instructing Word to add a space of 8- 10pt after each paragraph rather than pressing Enter twice.
Paragraph Style for Poetry is based on block style, with a space between each stanza and no first line indent. Set Word to add a space after each paragraph as you would for block style (10pt is fine). However, you then have the problem that 10pt is also added when you press enter at the end of each line. To avoid this, do a hard return (shift + enter) between lines. Between stanzas, however, do a normal enter.
How to Set Formatting
To set the above, you could select all text (ctrl + A) and work your way along the Home tab, changing font, size, colour and justification. Then, open the Paragraph dialogue box to set indents and space after paragraph. This is called direct formatting and might work fine, particularly if your book doesn’t contain any complex elements. However, the best method to ensure successful eBook conversion, is to use a feature called Styles.
Styles is located in the Home tab. It contains a whole host of different preformatted styles: Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2 etc:
Right click on Normal and select modify:
The Modify Style pop-up box will appear. Use it to set your desired formatting:
- Font and size
- Check bold, italic and underline aren’t highlighted (you can add these later to selected parts of your text)
- Ensure font colour is set to Automatic, not Black
- Fully justify text
- Select single line spacing
To set indents and space after paragraph, click on Format (bottom-left of pop-up box) and select Paragraph from the drop down menu:
If you’ve chosen first line indents as your paragraph style:
- Set Left and Right Indentation is set to 0
- Under Special, select First line and set it to 0.4cm
- Set Before and After Spacing to 0
If you’ve opted for block paragraphs:
- Set Left and Right Indentation to 0
- Set Before Spacing to 0
- Set After Spacing to 10pt. This will add a space after each paragraph. If, when you see your book on Kindle previewer, you think it’s too big or too small, you can alter it. I wouldn’t, however, go above 10pt.
- Technically, Special (in the Indentation section) should be set to none since you don’t want a first line indent. However, as none is the default setting, Word doesn’t pass on the right instructions to KDP for conversion. The result is that older Kindles will revert to their default of a large first line indent. The best way round this is to select First line but set it to just 0.01cm. This is so small, it will look like there isn’t an indent but will give KDP an instruction it can follow.
Whichever paragraph style you use, the final step is to click on the Line and Page Breaks tab and ensure Widow/Orphan control is unticked:
Now, press OK in the Paragraph box and then, OK again in the Modify Style box.
You now need to instruct Word to bring your entire book into line with the formatting you’ve set for Normal style. To do this, select all text (ctrl + A) and left click on Normal in the Styles menu:
Your book is now set to a basic formatting style suitable for eBook conversion.
Now turn to the next section of this instructional: Tidy Your Text