Monday, February 1, 2016

How to Make Your Manuscript a Kindle E-Book on Amazon (for Free) - Part 1: Formatting Your Kindle Document

My binder with Amazon's
for making Kindle e-books.
You may already know about my "Getting Published" series of e-books for writers on Amazon’s Kindle. The first book, "How to Get Published…" came out in February 2014. The second, "Cutting the Passive Voice," released in December 2014. The third, "Book Signings," appeared in May 2015.

What you don’t know is that I actually have twelve books planned in that series. My original intention was to release a new Kindle e-book every two or three months until done. I'm sure this never happens to you, but "life" intervened, I got inundated with other projects, etc., and I my schedule didn’t allow me keep that goal.

I also have a short three-book series from my blog on Bible prophecies. I released two of those e-books but the third is still waiting for my attention.

So with this New Year I'm again working that "Getting Published" Kindle e-book series as well as my "Best of Bible Prophecies Fulfilled" e-book series. I hope to release these e-books regularly – one per month or every other month – until both series are finished. (At least that’s my plan. Unless life intervenes…)

Meanwhile, I’ve had friends who want to make their manuscript(s) into a Kindle e-book(s) and they’ve ask me how to do it. (Tweet that!) It’s not that hard. Really. If I can do it… you know how to finish that sentence.

So I thought while I'm creating all these e-books, I would take notes and post the "how to" on this blog so that you, too, can create your own e-books for Amazon’s Kindle. (Tweet that!)

Honestly, every time I create a Kindle e-book I have to go through the instructions again. (Tweet that!) It’s a multi-step process and it has been a while since I did it last so I need the instructions to walk me though it too. So hopefully these instructions will make it easier and quicker for both of us as we create our next Kindle e-book.

Originally I planned three posts on this topic, but as I’m writing out the notes I think it’s going to take more. So we’ll just go until we get done – however many posts that turns out to be.

Please note this tackles how to make an Amazon Kindle e-book. There are other e-book platforms, but I’ve never made any others so this applies only to Kindle.

You don’t need any special software. (Tweet that!) Use Word. I’m on a PC. If you have a Mac with Word, then there are equivalent commands – I’ll let you figure them out (it shouldn’t be hard).

This post we’ll start by formatting the bulk of your book manuscript as it needs to be to upload it to Kindle. Let’s get started.


Go to Amazon’s Kindle web site to get the instructions. "KDP" stands for Kindle Direct Publishing.

Find the Kindle web site here:

You may need to open your own account to access the directions I want you to print. Sign in with your Amazon account.

Here is a direct link to those instructions: Building Your Book for Kindle

There are the instructions (these are for PCs) and a different document for Mac. So click the link you want. These are printable PDFs. I recommend you go ahead and print it! Without the cover page, it’s only 19 pages and will be well worth it to have this at your fingertips so you don’t have to log in and find it every time you need to look up how to do something.
If you want to see what you're printing, it's all on this Kindle Help Page. In the left-hand column called "Help Topics." Under "Publishing Process"
  • Click the second item: "Before You Start Publishing" and a sub-menu opens. 
  • The first item is "Getting Started." 
  • Under that is "Building Your Book for Kindle." That’s what you want and that’s what I asked you to print out.
After you print the document, write the page numbers on each page so I can refer to them with you. Not counting the cover page, there should be 19 pages, so number them 1 through 19. Then either 3-hole punch the pages or put them in page protectors and then put them in a binder.

I’m not going to go over all of them with you because there’s no need. I’m going to touch on the highlights and share with you tips I’ve learned along the way that make formatting your manuscript for Kindle quicker and easier.

I will be writing these posts from the first document. If you printed the Mac instructions they might vary slightly in commands but I’m sure you can figure that out.


In this first post we’re going to tackle how to format your Word doc to be a Kindle book. So go ahead and open it up in Word.

If you don’t yet have a manuscript, create a short Word document that mimics a couple short chapters to learn with -- just a chapter title and a partial page for each chapter will do.

Keep your printed "Building Your Book for Kindle" instructions handy.


Amazon requires a Table of Contents (TOC) and that each chapter title in the TOC link to the chapter itself so your reader can click and go immediately to where he or she wants to be in your book. Sounds complicated, right? No worries! Word is so cool it will do all this work for you! It’s incredible. I’ll show you how but that comes later. For now we just want to leave a page for it.

Go to the appropriate place in your manuscript. If you have a title page, etc., you want to be below that. If not, just go to the top of your manuscript and type "Table of Contents" then add one line space (hit "enter" once).

Then insert a page break: On the Insert menu on Word click "Page Break." If you have pages before your TOC, also insert a page break before your TOC. We just want it on its own page.

That’s all. We’ll come back to your Table of Contents, but probably not until the next post.


Now go to the first section of your book. This may be your Introduction if you’re writing nonfiction, Prologue if you’re writing fiction, or simply your Chapter 1. For ease of reference, no matter what it is in your manuscript I’m going to call it "Chapter 1."

Now we’re going format your first chapter (or section) for Kindle.

You can scroll through your manuscript and format every chapter title, every subtitle, and all the rest of your chapter text separately. Then you can create your TOC by hand, creating internal links between chapter titles and your TOC. OR you can use "Styles" and let Word do all that work for you, including the links! In other words, you definitely want to use Styles. (Tweet that!)

I learned to use "Styles" in Word in a workshop on formatting e-books at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I had never used them before because I really didn’t know what they were. But they have made life making Kindle e-books so incredibly easy!

Just a bit of a warning here: I went home from that conference and created my styles right away. That was several years ago, so now I’m trying to remember just how to do it. You may have to help me out a little bit. I think I used the existing Styles for Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3. Then I think I created one Style myself, which I called "StyleKindle" for the body of my chapters.

Look at your Word document on your screen. At the top of the screen you have your header with your Word menus. You should be on your Home menu (or click Home to get there.)

Now you can see the submenus on the Home menu. They may vary from mine depending on which version of Word you’re using, but they should be similar enough for you to find your way around. You should see submenus for Font and Paragraph and Styles and probably more. Styles has all those boxes, a whole variety of them. They all have AaBbCc at the top. Then different names at the bottom. For example, my first one is named "Emphasis" and I can see that the AaBbCc is in italics. There may be other coding involved in that Emphasis Style (That’s a good thing. You’ll see why in a moment.) – it’s hard to tell unless you use it and see what it does.

To use a Style, highlight the text on your page that you want to apply that Style to, then click the box of the Style you want. It’s that easy.

So, here we go. Highlight (hold your mouse key and swipe all you want highlighted) the title of your first chapter. Don’t grab the line before or after – only the title. Then choose the "Heading 1" Style.

Your chapter title probably changed. It probably went to a larger font, possibly a different font. Mine changes to New Times Roman in 16 point font.

It may have also centered your title also. Your chapter titles probably should be centered.

But more happened that you can’t see: Word also put in coding to put that chapter title in your Table of Contents including the link between your TOC and your actual chapter title. You can’t see it yet because we haven’t inserted your TOC yet. We’ll get to that.

Here’s the thing: If you’ll use the "Header 1" Style for all your book’s section titles, meaning every chapter plus anything else like forewords, epilogues, appendices, etc., then all of those will show up in your Table of Contents. Automatically! Cool, huh?

So all you need to do is scroll through your manuscript (or use Search for the word "chapter" to move immediately to each new chapter), highlight your chapter title, and click "Heading 1." Easy peasy.


Okay, now let’s say you’re writing a nonfiction book and you have a few subheadings within your chapters. And let’s say you want those subheadings to also show up in your TOC but indented under the chapter’s title. Then use the "Heading 2" Style.

"Heading 2" should make whatever you highlight a larger font than your chapter text, but a smaller font than your chapter title formatted with "Heading 1." But it also adds the invisible coding that will add it to your TOC and add the links.

So scroll through your manuscript to each subheading that you want to show up in your TOC. Highlight the subheading. Click "Heading 2."

You can go another level if you want to. For sub-subheadings that you want to appear in your TOC, use the "Heading 3" Style.


Okay, that’s great for your chapter titles and the subheadings in your chapters that you want to appear in your TOC. But what about the rest of your text in your book?

You need to know, if you don’t already, that you cannot do a lot of fancy schmancy stuff for Kindle, such as fancy fonts for your chapter titles, different fonts in your text, etc. I learned this the hard way with my book Deliver Me, which I put on Kindle years ago. Deliver Me is a book of short true stories with my commentary in between. Normally in a print book these would be set off by different fonts. I went to the trouble of doing all that, only to have all the fonts stripped away when I uploaded it to Kindle.

 Kindle likes things "plain Jane." That’s because there are so many different devices (Kindle readers and other electronic devices that read Kindle e-books) that it keeps things simple so they work right across all these different readers.

Kindle devices allow readers to make the font as large or small as they want for their own easy reading, so changing fonts sizes really doesn’t work.  Larger fonts for chapter titles and subtitles works well, but not different sizes within the text.

Also, you don’t want large indents because they’ll look like they go half way across the page. (Some people don’t use indents at all on their Kindle books.)

You also don’t want too much or too little space between each line.

At this point it might be good if you reviewed "Tips for Formatting" in your printed instructions on pages 2-3.

On my Styles menu on Word, I use "Style 1" for the text of my chapters.

Now I can’t remember if "Styles 1" is set up with the following specification or if I had to create it. Nor can I remember if I got this information from the workshop I took at CCWC or from the Kindle instructions in the "Building Your Book for Kindle." But my notes that I use for building my e-books state this:

Use Style 1 for paragraphs. Set:

  • Indents at .3
  • Line space at 1.5
  • .10 after Paragraph

If your Style 1 doesn’t look like it has those specifications, create your own Style. (I think that’s what I did to get my StyleKindle mentioned above.) On your Home menu on Word, look to the right of all the Style boxes. You should see a scroll bar. (Not "Change Styles.") At the bottom there a little box that looks like a dash with an arrow beneath it pointing down. That’s a dropdown menu. Click that little box and when the menu opens you should see the command "Save Selection as a New Quick Style."

Format a paragraph with the font, font size, indent, line space, and .10 after Paragraph as you want it. (I recommend you follow the specifications I gave above.) Then highlight that paragraph and use that command to create your new Style. If I remember right, you’ll get to name it so pick a name that reminds you to use this for the general text in your e-book.


Now all you have to do is highlight the big chunks of your manuscript – your whole chapters or the chunks in between your subheadings, and click that Style. Word will do all that formatting for you.

Easy peasy pumkin pie.

Don’t highlight over your chapter titles and subheadings or you’ll wipe out the work you did above.

Okay, don’t hate me, but it’s probably easier / quicker to do this step first. But it seemed easier to explain how all this worked first. So you may want to consider, in the future (or now), highlight your entire manuscript and apply your new Kindle style for your chapter text to everything. Then go back through and do all your chapter titles with Heading 1 Style, subheadings with Heading 2 Style, etc.

It may be tedious work. And yes, it will take you some time. But you’re creating your new Kindle e-book! (Tweet that!) Once you have it for sale on Kindle, you’ll be sharing your work and you’ll have a new income stream. Isn’t that exciting? (Tweet that!) Just do the work. You’ll be glad you did.


When you are done, return to your Table of Contents page and place your cursor there.

The instructions for this in your "Building Your Book for Kindle" instructions are on page 8 but I’ll walk you thought it.

On your Word menu, click the References menu. At the left-hand side find "Table of Contents." Click the little arrow in the lower left corner to open the dropdown menu.

Click the command "Insert Table of Contents" which opens another dropdown menu.

Un-check the box that says "Show Page Numbers." (E-books don’t use page numbers so you don’t want it to put in the page numbers of your Word document.)

Set the Levels to "Heading 1" unless you have more layers of subheadings, and then set it only to the level of subheadings you want to show in your TOC.

Click "OK." Your Table of Contents should magically appear. Whenever you make changes that affect your TOC, just repeat these steps to refresh and update it.

There’s one more step: Follow the "Set a bookmark..." instructions on page 8 of your "Building Your Book for Kindle" printout.


Once you have all this in place and your document saved, I recommend you make yourself a Template for future Kindle E-books. Do this:

Make sure you have saved your document. Then re-save the same document with a new file name, like Kindle Template.

When you have time, you can go through and deleted most of the content of your first chapter, leaving only a little as a place holder with all your formatting. You can delete the rest of the document if you want to.

The next time you want to make a Kindle E-book, just open this document, re-save it with the title of your new e-book, and then replace your chapter title with your new chapter title. All the needed formatting is already there.

Then just start typing your new book into the chapter (deleting that place holder text).

End all chapters with a "Page Break" from the "Insert" Menu.

When you start a new chapter, simply copy and paste the chapter title and place holder text, delete the text and replace with your new chapter title, reserving all the codes for each Style, and carry on.

Thats' more than enough for this post. Please join me for the next post and we’ll talk about creating your front matter, back matter, and inserting images.

If you can’t wait and want to finish creating your Kindle e-book now, you have all the instructions printed out in your binder. You can do it! If you do, let us know how it goes in the comment section below. You can leave a link to your book if you want to, however I request that you only include G-rated content. I reserve the right to remove any content I find objectionable. Thanks.


(Tweet this!)

No one has seen these yet, so I’d be pleased to share with you the two e-books I’m working on now and hoping to release soon. For the first time, here’s my cover reveal! Drum roll please!

Query Letters:
How to Write the Query (and Cover)
Letter You Dread to Magazine
Editors and Book Publishers

I will be teaching a workshop on writing Query Letters at the Writers on the Rock conference on Saturday, February 27th, 2016. (Use the discount code "Pueblo" for 10% off.) This workshop as well as this e-book are based on my most popular pamphlet, "Conquering the Dreaded Query Letter." I'm working to get this e-book ready for its release to coincide with that workshop.

Update February 5, 2016:

Pre-Order your copy now!
The 7 Feasts of the LORD
Bible Prophecies Fulfilled Blog Series

The 7 Feasts of the LORD is now available for pre-order on Kindle.
Currently sent for release on April 21, this date will likely move up to a sooner release date.
Get it as soon as it releases. Pre-Order yours today here: The 7 Feasts of the LORD.

This is the third book in my "Best of Bible Prophecies Fulfilled" blog. I'm working to get this book out well before the first annual Feast of the Lord 2016, which is Passover. I hope to have it out before Easter. Interestingly there is nearly a month between those two holy days, which usually correspond. This e-book will help you understand why.

Want to know when I release a new Kindle e-book? To be notified by e-mail, visit my Amazon Author Page at and click the big yellow "Follow" button under my photo.

Which manuscript are you going to work on this month to make into a Kindle e-book on Amazon?