Before we actually dive into the nuts and bolts of formatting your book, we need to do a few things that will make the whole process simpler and easier. That’s what this Before You Start section is all about.
Creating a file and folder structure
You’re going to be creating a lot of different files over the course of the ebook formatting process, and having them all neatly organized will make your life a whole lot easier. The easiest way to do this is to create some folders beforehand and make sure you save the various ebook-related documents and files in the appropriate spots within those folders. This keeps everything nice and tidy.
There is a specific file and folder structure that I recommend you have in place before you start formatting and packaging your ebook. The structure is the same on both a Mac and Windows PC.
First, create a new folder on the desktop or somewhere else that is easily accessible. To do that, right-click on the desktop and select “New Folder” and then name it whatever your book is called. Inside this folder, create three new folders called Cover Graphics, Images, and Final.
The Cover Graphics folder is for three things:
- Any individual images or graphics you use to create your cover
- The graphic editor file you’re using to create your cover (like a Photoshop, GIMP, or Illustrator file)
- The final versions of your finished cover that you can upload to Amazon
All of that is stuff that will be covered in future Osmosio modules, but it’s beyond the scope of this Word to Kindle course. You won’t be using this Cover Graphics folder for anything involving formatting your Kindle book in Word, so you can ignore this folder for now.
The Images folder is where you should put the images you’ll be adding to your ebook itself. If your ebook doesn’t have any images, you don’t need to create this folder. If your ebook has a lot of images, you might want to create subfolders within the Images folder that help you better organize them all. You might want to create a new folder for each chapter, for example, and then put all images for a given chapter into that chapter’s folder.
Inside the Final folder, create three more folders: V1, V2, and V3. These stand for Version 1, Version 2, and Version 3. The Final folder is where you put the final versions of your book that you then upload to Amazon. These are usually html or zip files, and we’ll talk more about those in the Saving, Packaging, Converting, and Testing section, but it’s enough for now to say that it’s highly unlikely that the first “final” version you save will end up being the final one you stick with. You’ll see formatting issues that you need to tweak or come up with things to add. That’s what the V1, V2, and V3 subfolders are for. Instead of naming your “final” versions things like “final” or “real final” or “final final,” just save each later version in a different subfolder. You’ll be able to tell immediately which one is the latest and most up-to-date version. Add more version subfolders (e.g., V4, V5, etc.) as necessary.
And finally, the top level of the main folder is where you will also save the Word document that you are formatting. In the end, your folder structure will look something like this:
To sum up, here is a hierarchical breakdown of the recommended folder structure that you should create:
- Desktop (or some other easily-accessible place)
- Book Title [Folder]
- BookTitle.doc [Word file]
- Cover Graphics [Folder]
- Images [Folder]
- Final [Folder]
- V1 [Folder]
- V2 [Folder]
- V3 [Folder]
- Book Title [Folder]
You can add additional subfolders as necessary to suit your unique needs. In the Images folder, for example, you could create a Raw Images folder and a Formatted Images folder. And again, if you end up making a lot of changes and tweaks to your final Kindle document, you’ll have to create more than three version folders.
Preparing your document
To format your ebook in Word, you’re obviously going to need a Word document. Everyone will be at different starting points here. You may have written your book in Word to begin with. You might have written it in Google Docs. You might have written it in Evernote, Scrivener, Pages, OpenOffice, a plain text file, or one of a hundred other formats. Regardless of how you started, though, you’re going to need a new Word document to work with.
If you wrote your book in Word to begin with, I recommend creating a separate Word document that will be the dedicated Kindle document. At some point in the future, you might want to create PDF, Nook, Kobo, or other versions of your ebook, so it’s helpful to have a single master copy—the original file that contains the most up-to-date version of your book—from which you can create all of those other versions. Keep in mind that if you see things in your text that need to be changed while formatting your Kindle book, you’ll want to do it both in the Kindle Word file that you’re formatting and the original file that you wrote your book in. For this reason, it’s best to wait to format your ebook until after you’ve done all of your proofreading and copyediting.
The short video below (1:36 in length) goes through creating the new Word document, plus some very important things you need to do and not do with that document.
Above: Creating a new Word document and a few very important steps [1:36]
Importing your text
You’ve now got a blank Word document, and you’ll need to get your ebook’s text in there. The easiest way is to copy and paste the text from your original document into your new document. (If you wrote your ebook in Word originally, you could also just make a copy of that original document and then edit and format the copy, but be sure to save it as a .doc and not .docx file.)
You can also go to Insert > File if your original file (the one you wrote your book in) is a Word document.
There is one extra step you can take here that I strongly recommend, and that is to strip the document of its formatting. What I mean by that is that the text of your book that you’re copying and pasting into the new Word document likely includes different font sizes, fonts, and/or various alignments, and we don’t yet want any of those things in the new Word document we’re working in. The idea is to strip the new document of those formatting instances so that you start off with a clean slate, and then you’ll be recreating the desired formatting from scratch using styles. Starting from a clean slate is another reason I recommend starting with a brand new Word document instead of making a copy of an existing Word document. It can help prevent future issues and frustration.
Happily, Word makes it very easy to clear a document of formatting. Select all of the text that you’ve imported into the new Word document (Cmd + A is a simple way to do this) and click the Clear Formatting button in the Home tab. The button is to the right of the font sizing options, and it shows a white block (presumably an eraser) next to the letters “Ab.” Here it is:
As soon as you click that, you’ll see that the text in your document has been stripped of all but its most basic formatting.
Get rid of double returns
A double return is where you’ve hit the enter or return key twice in a row. This is usually done to create a new paragraph that is separated from the previous paragraph by an empty line. These are a problem. When a Word document with double returns is uploaded to Amazon, the space between the paragraphs in the resulting Kindle document becomes much larger than intended, and it doesn’t look good. We’ll be using styles instead to create those spaces between paragraphs and before or after headings. You can certainly delete the double returns later on, but you might as well do it here at the beginning of the formatting process.
The video below shows how to easily get rid of those double returns without going through and deleting each one individually.
Above: Getting rid of double returns [1:12]