Formatting crib-sheet


I use Michael Boxwell’s book, Make an Ebook to refer to, and I use Indies Unlimited for all my dramas, crises and trouble-shooting. Here is one of their posts about formatting:

For Amazon Kindle:


According to the book I use for guidance (Michael Boxwell’s Make an Ebook) for your cover, you need an image that is at most 960 x 1280 pixels, and an ok kind of dpi. But on Canva, the eBook and the Kindle covers are the same size: 1410 x 2250 and I find they are perfect…. And you really need decent quality, at least 300 dpi (it’s hard to get better than that anyway without huge wodges of cash. Usually if I’m using a stock image from Pixabay or Shutterstock, I go for a jpeg that is 1920 x 1271 and just crop it as needed. However, they also do larger sizes if you sign up (for free on Pixabay) as a member, and both do other formats than jpeg, though amazon is picky about what formats it accepts.

If you use other images in your book, use the insert image method, not a copy and paste method. And don’t try to snuggle your image amongst the text, it won’t do it on Kindle. Remember that all images need to look great teeny and huge, and in black and white as well as colour, as devices (like budgets) vary hugely.


Most important, don’t copy and paste from another device without getting rid of all lurking background formatting, as this has a habit of lingering unnoticed until you upload your document to Amazon.

I always use Microsoft Word, so don’t know how things work with other software.

Don’t use page numbers as text is rejigged (that’s a very technical term you won’t have come across before) by KDP according to the size of the screen the doc is viewed on.

Don’t use headers and footers.

Use a simple, conventional font; Amazon will change it anyway. Embedding the font doesn’t always work. I find drop capitals often get unformatted, so I stick to a simple style of nothing like that. I just have a bold, slightly larger chapter heading and a blank line before the chapter begins, with all subsequent paragraphs indented by 0.4cm or 0.6. To close each chapter I usually just put in one larger, centred bold asterisk. New chapters should begin on a new page.

Don’t leave lots of blank pages, their meatgrinder will freak. You can usually get away with the odd one here and there if you really need it.

Don’t use any snazzy styles as these won’t transfer. Use a very simple style to distinguish headings, titles, etc but keep the font size to 18 or below.

Don’t have more than one blank line (ie don’t hit the enter key more than twice) as this will likely be flagged as an error.

Don’t use tabs to create indents; instead go to the paragraph section on the Home tab of your Word doc and create the indent there.

Be insistent throughout for line spacing, font, bold/underline/italics for any emphasis.

To create clean edges on either side of the screen, when you’ve finished all other formatting, go through and justify each chapter. (but not the headings – sorry you can’t just control A and justify) Otherwise your edges will look as wavy as my knitting. And that’s just horrid.


Have I forgotten anything?


For Amazon Createspace: (your paperback copy)

(NB since I first wrote this Createspace has been taken out back and shot, but as far as I can tell, the process is exactly the same with Amazon’s KDP Print. I will be putting this to the test seriously in December when I release my next book.) Plus they have an adequate (!) help section.)

Covers: OMG give me a moment.

Ok so they do book cover templates, which is limiting but easier.

I always choose the shiny finish as the matte one has a weird sticky feel to it.

You can change the font (within their small range of pre-formatted fonts), the colour of the text, the colour of the background, insert your back cover blurb, change the style (font again but also affects the text spacing and presentation on the back cover) you can add a logo if you wish or an author photo.

If you have a series, make a note of all the choices you make as it’s hard to go in and check what you did last time. Some of their templates are s**t, some of them are ok.

What you need is your original KDP cover image sans text for your front cover, 300 dpi recommended but mine are usually less and still look fine. Try enlarging your image before you upload it to make sure it doesn’t go fuzzy/blurry in big.

Text on the spine is automatically generated for books of 100 pages or more. Less than 100 pages and you’ve no spine printing (too teeny) and no option for creating one. If your book is almost 100 pages, I’d recommend whacking in a bit of extra back matter to pad it out a bit, or making the font slightly larger.

Re images: when you are setting up your new book on Createspace, you have to choose the colour of your interior. Black and white is obviously cheaper. But this means you cannot have coloured images inside the book. This was a problem for me when I wanted my last book to carry a cover sneak peek of my next book, and including the image in colour more than tripled the production costs of the book, so I had to revert to black and white, which meant the cover was less clear and certainly less dramatic. As the book I was trying to release at the time was a novella, not a full length novel, I didn’t feel it made sense to up the price to $20 (without my profit margin) for the sake of one image. As it is, I now have a small profit margin and the book sells at a reasonable price, albeit in black and white. This is just the interior though, the cover is still full colour (not sure I’ve made myself clear there, if not, tell me).


You can, of course, upload your own pre-created cover, which is in fact a doc which is front-spine-back. So you need to know the width of your book spine. BUT that means you have to know exactly how many pages your book will run to. Then you multiply your number of pages by paper thickness:

copied from Createspace:

For black and white-interior books:

White paper: multiply page count by 0.002252
Cream paper: multiply page count by 0.0025

Example of spine width calculation for a 60-page black and white book printed on white paper: 60 x 0.002252 = 0.135″

For color-interior books:

Multiply page count by 0.002347

Example of spine width calculation for a 60-page color book: 60 x 0.002347 = 0.141″

Then you add this to your chosen book trim size, twice obviously as you a front and a back…

This may be fine if you’ve sorted out all the interior first, but it feels a bit complicated. If you’re paying someone to do you a cover, I forsee possible problems. To be honest, I think it’s just easier to change what you want to fit with their available templates than to try to get your cover perfect. But that’s just how I feel about it, others will obviously feel differently.


I use the same initial doc from the Kindle formatting, then laboriously copy and paste into the template. I use one of their own pre-formatted templates which you can download. I choose a small book size: 5.25 by 8 inches. This is smaller than the ‘standard’ American size, as personally I think those things are really heavy and look just way too huge. But there is a range of sizes to choose from, and it doesn’t really matter what you go for so long as you keep all books in a series the same size.

You will need to insert your name and book title in your header and your page numbers in your footer! I do my name on the odds and my title on the evens (or it might be the other way round) but if that’s a bit tricky, you could do both on both without any problem. Make it a little smaller than your body text so it doesn’t intrude into your story.

Although the pre-formatted templates are a good time-saver, they aren’t perfect and there’s always a few niggles to sort out. I do this at the online proofing stage, where you can look at an image of your book. I do make the effort to look at every single page. It’s quite easy to see what you’ve got to change and how things look on the page, but the snag is, you have to upload then resubmit the doc at each stage, so make sure you’ve got plenty of deadline wiggle room. It’s typically 24 hours between uploading your doc and them messaging ‘congratulations, your book is now ready to proof’. Don’t do what I did the first time and order an actual book proof to come by mail – it took 12 weeks. The online digital proof is VERY accurate, and much much quicker. Once you’ve got it right, it can be another 24-48 hours before you get the ‘Congratulations your book is now available to purchase’ message.

You can upload your own formatted doc, but beware, these can be fiddly to get right. And that means sitting up until four in the morning weeping and gnashing your teeth. Which, actually, I do anyway even with the pre-formatted template. It’s a bit like giving birth. Your husband can hold your hand and shout encouragement, and bring you drinks and mop your brow, but it’s you that does the tricky bit. Just always give yourself plenty of time, these things can be fiddly at the end and what worked last time doesn’t always work this time.


Is that everything? If I’ve forgotten anything, just ask me. Or if I’ve not been clear enough, again, just give me a shout.


For other publishing platforms ie Smashwords or Draft2Digital, stay tuned for updates…