eBook Formatting

I’ve decided to follow my friend Laura‘s path of publishing my e-book (and, hopefully soon) paperback with Amazon. I discovered that it wasn’t as simple as uploading a Microsoft Word document and thinking that it would be good to go. Below are a few tips for the would-be nonfiction writer to get your book ready for the big, bad world of e-publishing.

Getting Your Manuscript Ready for Publishing

While you CAN just upload a Word document (they recommend against PDFs) and hope for the best, it’s better to take the time to download Amazon’s Kindle Create app to get your app formatted and optimized for Kindle.


Because I’m writing a semi-textbook, the manuscript includes footnotes and references to other chapters (e.g., “See Chapter 5 for additional details on X”). While I didn’t use any end notes, Amazon warns you that Kindle Create does not currently support them.

I had originally included page numbers in my cross-references, but that’s a futile gesture when page lengths in Kindle can vary by device type and font size, so I removed the page number references and just made certain I had a link that went directly to the section(s) in question.

Another important thing to do is make certain you’re using styles for headings correctly and consistently (e.g., Heading 1 for your highest-level heading, Heading 2 for the next-lower level of organization, and so forth). Amazon’s Kindle Create app uses your heading styles to format your chapters. If you have subsection headings within each chapter, the app will treat those as hyperlinks in the table of contents and will make them appear as a non-hyperlinked list under the opening of each chapter.

After some research and some back-and-forth discussion with my editor, I decided not to include an index, partially because my chapter headings/names are pretty straightforward for helping the reader find a topic of interest, but also because other nonfiction books have managed to do just fine without them.

Amazon asks you to upload a separate cover image; however, I also had a book cover included in my manuscript file. Apparently you’re supposed to upload the cover image separately from the manuscript. Who knew?

The Kindle Create app allows you to preview your document in a variety of formats (table, Kindle, iPhone) so you can see if anything is awry. It also allows you to ignore format styles that don’t need to appear in the table of contents.

Formatting for Paperback

I’ll have additional formatting to worry about for the paperback version. Unlike a Kindle document, a paperback document will only need to be one size. However, you’ll need to make certain your page references are correct if you make any (see above).

Also, your graphic designer will need to know how many pages your manuscript will be so that they make the binder graphic the right size.

Amazon has a standard set of sizes you can select from. I’m developing a nonfiction textbook, so a trade paperback format (6 X 9 inches/15.24 X 22.86 centimeters) is more appropriate than a standard mass market paperback like you might use for a novel. You also have your choice of finish on the cover (matte vs. glossy). And, again, you need to provide your cover file–front, binding, and back.

The paperback also means you have the opportunity to obtain endorsements from reviewers you trust. Two or three ought to do it–and maybe try to find people who are well known in their own right and have some connection to your audience or whose endorsement would make an impact on your readers. At present, I’ve signed up a NASA customer, a non-profit customer, and an STC member for endorsements. The back cover also should have some room for a blurb describing what your book is about and who you are. There should also be some space for the book’s price and a bar code.

If you’re uploading both e-book and paperback versions and have purchased your own International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), don’t forget to include the correct numbers in each manuscript!

One thing I noticed was that Amazon bases your paperback publication date upon your electronic publishing date…and you can’t input a date for your paperback release until your ebook is already out there. I guess I’ll have to move up the e-publishing date…if they’ll let me.

The excitement continues. I’m looking forward to seeing the book in print–electronically and on paper!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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1 Response to eBook Formatting

  1. robinscott631 says:

    Bart you more than care about because you share with your profession and other professionals. You are awesome in communicating necessary information to simplify future professional works.
    I know that your book will be a great read.

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