You’ve finished your wonderful manuscript in Word, complete with front matter and back matter. You may even have already uploaded the manuscript to CreateSpace … and been oh so careful with the overall formatting and layout for a professional appearance. But now you need to convert it to Kindle format, what do you do?
There are services that will do the conversion for you, and there is software available that will do a lot of the heavy lifting too, but it is an easy process to carry out directly within Word itself. However, there are some initial considerations you need to be mindful of prior to the conversion process itself.
Fluid Formatting and Fonts
Before going through the 5 steps (which I’ll do in Part 2 of this post), it’s important to remember that Kindle books are all basically HTML documents (the same stuff that web pages are made from). And, just like web pages, they are designed to have a “fluid” layout. This simply means the layout automatically changes according to the size of the device being used, the chosen font size, font face, and so on.
Kindle books also don’t really like that special, unusual font you chose specifically for your title page and, maybe, your headings or even the main body of text. This can be a hard pill to swallow when you’ve spent ages ensuring your print book is laid out just perfectly with just the right fonts!
Remember, Kindle allows the reader to chose from a set of fonts, as well as the size of the font, and even the color (which can be interesting when you’ve added an image with a white background to the document but it’s being read with the white-font-on-a-black-background option, for example).
Page Size and Page Breaks
Kindle books do not have a fixed page size. Though you can insert a page break at any point (e.g. between chapters, before each section of your front and back matter, etc.) every page you see while reading on a Kindle device is completely dependent on the size of your screen and the font you chose. This impacts title pages in particular, because it’s common to have text at the top and bottom of the page, but it’s true for any page that was designed in Word to have text appear at both the top and bottom and with, perhaps, white space or an image in between.
Without adjusting the layout of the print book, there is a possibility the author name will appear on the next page when read on a Kindle:
Page Size and Book Content
For most books, the fact that your Kindle book’s page size becomes the size of your reader’s screen isn’t a problem (though if you use a lot of really long words and it’s being read on a very small device it can be!). However, it can be a problem when your book contains more than just text, or even images. The first time I came across this problem was when I was converting a book that contained a pretty complex table with several columns.
I discovered that, when read on a tablet, it worked just fine. However, when viewed on a phone, the table was too wide to render well. In this particular case, the table looked OK on a phone when held sideways, so I simply added a note above the table: “(Best viewed in landscape orientation).” However, in some cases, it may be necessary to find an alternative method of presenting that tabular information.
Unlike print books, Kindle books can contain links within the book itself (e.g. the Table of Contents is just a set of internal hyperlinks) but can also contain links to external resources. This makes it much easier to direct your readers to your author web site, online sources within your Bibliography or References, etc. You can even link directly to the book’s page on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or christianbooks.com.
As the world is moving more and more online, this can be a great (and often overlooked) feature of your Kindle book. It’s even possible to create the links in such a way that you can tell how many people visited your web site (for example) directly from each of your Kindle books … but that’s a topic for another day!
In part 2 of this article we look at Steps 1-3, covering styling, headers and footers, and pagination.