Step by Step Self Publishing – Formating Your Manuscript for Amazon Kindle

Step by Step Self Publishing is a feature section of Jason M. Brooks' blog and website. Jason M. Brooks is the author of the Wild Space series.

I started self publishing back in 2008 when all of the self publishing options really started to take off. At the time, I was one of the few who did it. Now, I’m lost in a sea of many who self publish – and that’s a good thing. While almost every blog out there will tell you how to get rich off self publishing your books, I would rather take a different approach. I want to teach you easy, effective ways to get your book out of your mind and into someones hand.

We start with today’s blog: a step by step self publishing process for formatting your manuscript and making it ready for self publishing on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing website.

Some people like to go in and code their manuscript by hand. I will tell you first hand, I do it, it’s not terribly difficult, but it’s time consuming and not an efficient¬†use of your valuable time. If you’re like me, you want to write your book, edit it, and then get it on the market and move on to the next book. Coding takes time and can get tricky if you’re not familiar with the process or make a mistake and have to go back and find it. My process takes all of the coding out of it and leaves you with a very nice product that is ready for Amazon on day one. Rarely will you have to go back and do more work.

If you haven’t already done so, visit my last post on the tools I use to self publish. You will be needing some of those to do this project. The only thing we need for part one in today’s post, is a finished manuscript and a word processing program. I personally use Microsoft Office 365.

So let’s begin.

Identify Page Breaks

  1. The first thing we want to do is insert page breaks at the end of our title pages and chapters. To do this, we begin by scrolling to the bottom of our desired content. In the image below, I like to add a title page to my book with graphics and whatnot. I’ve already inserted the image. Now I’ll scroll down below the cursor and insert my cursor. Now I go up into the tool bar and select “Insert Page Break”.

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2. Now I’ll repeat that process on the copyright information page (also commonly called a title page). I’ll scroll just to the end of the title page information and insert my cursor. Then I’ll select “Insert a Page Break” and the computer will do its thing.

It’s important to note that you want to put that page break right at the very end of the content that you are trying to separate. If you put that cursor five, ten or more spaces down, it will create blank pages in your ebook. That is not a good thing. Blank pages leave people scratching their heads – wondering if something is wrong with their ebook file. You want the content to end and then when you turn the page, new content begins. So place that cursor right after the text you want to separate as I show in the next image.

3. Now we’ll repeat this process with the remainder of our book. We will add page breaks at the end of each chapter. Remember to place that cursor after the last sentence of the chapter. Don’t go down a bunch of spaces before inserting that page break or you get dead space. Insert your cursor under the last line of the chapter and select “Insert Page Break”.

Continue this process through the rest of the book. Do the same with your “About the Author” page, “Other Books By Author” and any other back matter content you might add. It looks professional to separate all of this back matter with clean page breaks.

Once you have completed inserting those page breaks, zip back up to the first chapter of your book and lets assign levels to your book.

Identify Chapter Headings for the Table of Contents

Now we need to identify the chapters themselves. We will be doing this by assigning “levels” to them. If you’re familiar with blogs, examples of levels are “Heading 1”, “Heading 2”, “Heading 3” and so forth. These levels will help Calibre (the program that will convert our manuscript into a Kindle file), understand what is a chapter heading and what is not.

  1. Highlight the chapter heading. Then in the formatting toolbox at the top of the page, select “Heading 1” or “Heading 2”. In my example below, I selected “Heading 2” because I reformatted “Heading 1” into a preset format of “Centered”. There is no wrong way to do it as long as you are consistent with every chapter heading. Be sure to remember which heading format you chose because we will need to put that information into Calibre to build our Kindle file.

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A note about heading formats. By default, your word processing program will already have a preset style for your heading to appear in. You can edit these presets to reflect the style you desire. For me, I wanted the font to be Cambria, at a font size of 20, bolded and italicized, and justified to the right. I changed these settings myself so that every time I select “Heading 2” I get the same look.

2. Now go through and assign levels to every chapter heading. When we get to our back matter, we will follow the same process to identify our “About the Author” page, “Other Titles By” page and any other back matter you might have added. The process is the same as we did with the chapter headings. There’s one more screenshot below as I format my “About the Author” page.

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And that wraps up all of the formatting that we actually have to do ourselves. No more coding is needed. So save this formatted file in a safe place, because we are going to plug it into Calibre and allow that sweet program to do the rest of the work for us.

As I mentioned before, there are many ways in which to format your manuscript for uploading to Amazon KDP. You can learn how to code it – but this is very time intensive, easy to mess up, and if you’re not already familiar with coding, it isn’t always an easy thing to learn. Some people have a gift for it, but most don’t.

But why waste your valuable time coding when a free software program will do the work for you? All you really have to do is follow these two simple steps and the hard part is over. In my next post, we’ll plug your file into Calibre, adjust a couple of settings and then allow Calibre to do the rest of the work.

It won’t be long and we’ll be uploading your completed file to Amazon and sharing it with the world.

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Until next time!