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WritersServices Self-publishing Guide 4

Help for writers

Ebooks: Formatting for Kindle

Joanne Phillips

Last time we looked at KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and how self-publishing authors can upload their books to Amazon directly. Now we're going to focus on one key thing: formatting your book for Kindle.

The mobi file

Once your book has been edited and proofread you need to have it formatted as an ebook. Remember, ebooks have fluid, or reflowable, text, which means there are no fixed pages, and the reader - using the e-reading device of their choice - can change things like font size, orientation and line spacing. The main types of ebook formats are epub and mobi - and mobi is the format necessary for reading on a Kindle device or app.

It is possible to turn your Word doc into a mobi file using software like Calibre or Mobipocket Creator, and many authors report good results with these free services. If you decide to go down this route, take your time reading through the various forums and how-to files - bad formatting is a turn-off for readers, and often the cause of a negative (1 star) reviews.

A word on bad formatting...

What does a badly formatted book look like? If you don't own a Kindle, or have been lucky enough to only read professionally formatted books, you might be skipping over this bit wondering what all the fuss is about. Here is an example of bad formatting - see how hard it is to read the following passage:

She relaxed back into her chair and laced her fingers together. ‘Look, I've not had the best of days. So why don't you just tell me what the problem is.' ‘It's Rockfords.'

                        Flora's stomach did a somersault for the third time that day.

‘What about them?'
They're coming. Here.'
She looked around the office. "Here?" she said. ‘To Shrewsbury.
                             They're opening a branch right on our doorstep. This is bad news, Flora, the worse kind. We can't compete with a multinational like that. No way.'

Bad formatting means incorrect or inconsistent indentations, lines of dialogue running into each other so you can't tell who's speaking, missing speech marks, inconsistent style ... anything, basically, that interferes with the readers' easy flow of reading.

Formatting software

Two popular software products for formatting ebooks are Scrivener and Jutoh. Scrivener has the benefit of being a writing tool as well, so you can write your book, organise your notes, and then produce an ePub or mobi file direct from the programme. Jutoh is a very clever file formatter and editor - simply put, what this means is whereas with conversion software like Calibre your text is converted and comes out the other end as a new file type, but you have no input into the way it looks - or at least, minimal input. Jutoh is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, so you can make changes to the text and see pretty much how the book will look when converted.

Buying in expertise

There are many ebook conversion or formatting services out there - just Google it and you'll be inundated. But it's often best to ask around for a recommendation. I mostly use Jutoh software to format my own books, but I also recommend, who are very professional and experienced. Expect to pay around £50 for formatting an average length novel, and slightly more if your book has photos or any kind of complicated typesetting, like tables and boxes.

WritersServices Self-publishing offers a well-established assisted self-publishing service, as well as its highly-regarded copy editing and proof-reading services.

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Joanne Phillips lives in Shropshire, England with her husband and young daughter. She divides her time between writing novels and freelance indexing. She's the author of commercial women's fiction Can't Live Without and The Family Trap, and the Flora Lively Investigates series of cosy mysteries. Can't Live Without was an Amazon top 100 bestseller in 2012 and her books regularly appear on category bestseller lists. Joanne blogs about writing and publishing at

Connect on:
Twitter: @joannegphillips

Other articles by Joanne Phillips on the WritersServices site:

The Business of Writing
The Ins and Outs of Indexing
How to Market Your Book Online