Formatting a Novel for Amazon

So, your manuscript is ready to self-publish on Amazon.  Isn’t it just a case of uploading your Word file?  If only!  All the best advice says: don’t upload a Word file.  Especially don’t upload a PDF.

Amazon will convert whatever you send them into their azw (or is it kf8 now?) format.  This conversion is pretty terrible if you have any special formatting and you’re not using html.  By special formatting, I include the use of images.  What may look okay in Amazon’s “Preview” might look completely skew-whiff on the published sample.  (This is what has happened with my second upload of Snow White and I’m frantically prepping an html-version to fix it.)  You could make efforts to fix it again, without using html, but the publishing of your manuscript is never instantaneous, with each edit costing you twelve hours or more before you can try again.

So: use html and keep the following in mind.

Basic Kindle resolution is 600×800, that’s what most people will be reading your work in, so resize all your images to those boundaries.  Future-proof your work by keeping copies of your images in a higher resolution, say 1200×1600 (or even 2400×3200) but don’t submit those ones.  Submit the 600-width optimized versions.  Yes, save in colour.  It won’t be too long before all e-readers support that.  If you want to check that it looks okay in black and white, do that.

You need to save images as jpegs.  Keep them under 127KB or Amazon will reduce them further.  There are options in all decent software packages to specify the destination jpeg’s file size.

Don’t include your cover with your manuscript.  You upload that separately and Amazon will prepend it to your main document anyway.

Right, so: how do you convert your text to html?  Well, you could do a lot worse than follow this excellent guide, which is what I’ve been doing for Snow White.  Except I have strayed from it on a couple of points:

  • I used OpenOffice’s Save As html, rather than starting from scratch.  It requires a few extra steps of Find/Replace but the advantage is that I don’t forget about special formatting in the middle of my document.
  • I don’t necessarily agree with that point that you should not supply font names.  Certainly for special sections of my novels, I want another font to differentiate them from the main body of text.

I should add that I like a tab space between section-break asterisks, i.e.

*    *    *

  is a code for a single space.

One last thing, in case you’re using images and you haven’t read the guide: you need to zip up the images with the html file, then upload the zip file.


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