Dear Indie | eBook Formatting Tips & Hacks for Kindle

Hi Indies!

Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best “free” ways to update the formatting for my books. I wasn’t happy with their blahzay interiors–and I also wanted to add content to the Back Matter that I didn’t have before.

I already shared the new chapter graphics in a previous post, but what I really wanted to know was how to use a drop cap that KDP wouldn’t automatically strip out.

There is one surefire way to have drop caps in your Kindle books: Use Kindle Create and sacrifice all control over font styles, graphics, etc. just for a drop cap. If you don’t care how unoriginal your book will look, then KC is a fast, easy approach to formatting your interior.

I do care, and I didn’t want to lose all of the work I’d already put into getting my interior the way I wanted, so I finally accepted that unless you’re good at coding (which, I’m not), there is no easy way to add drop caps for Kindle.

Note: If you are good at coding, then check out Derek Murphy’s video on inserting Drop Caps to Kindle.

I went through eBooks I’ve read by other authors just to get a feel for how they format their interiors. Of course, the best selling authors have professionals doing everything for them, so I skipped those.

Normally, drop caps wouldn’t cross my mind unless I was preparing a paperback file–BUT, when I added these chapter graphics, it didn’t quite look right with an ordinary First Paragraph. Viewing other author’s books that combined a graphic with a drop cap was easier and more pleasing on the eye. Here’s what I was stuck with:

Avarice Unleashed w/New Graphic, No Drop Cap

I soon discovered that wasn’t the only mess my books were in. As you can see in the image above, I was using Times New Roman, Single-Spaced with a jagged right alignment (technically it’s the Left alignment, but you know what I mean). None of the books I read on my Kindle app look like that. What the heck was I thinking?

After diving into more research, here is the best advice I’ve come across for the cleanest, easiest to read combination that Kindle will accept:

  • Georgia Font (12pt. for body)
  • 1.5 line spacing
  • Justified alignment.

It makes a big difference. And maybe I’m the last to learn this, but I’m sharing anyway. I also noticed that no one uses the “link back” to the Table of Contents anymore on their chapter headings–that was an old formatting tip from Smashwords. It’s an outdated practice, so I took all of those out, as well. Here’s what those changes left me with:

New Font, Spacing, & Alignment.

As you can see, those simple changes have already made my book 100% easier to read compared to the first image. Still, I was burning with determination to spice up that first paragraph. I went back to my Kindle and checked out other author’s books again and noticed that some of the ones I “thought” had drop caps really didn’t. It’s actually a simple hack, and this is what it looks like:

New “Fake” Drop Cap

Capitalize each letter for the first 2-3 words, then enlarge the first letter only (I used 24pt.), and select “Bold.” Voila, it has the similar appearance of a drop cap. Unfortunately, this has to be done manually each time, but that’s still a heck of a lot easier than coding. I’ve seen this used even when there isn’t a graphic and it still looks good.

I also noticed a lot of people inserting an image of the first letter for a more genuine drop cap effect, but this requires a lot of tweaking to get the spacing just right, which again takes some ability to mess with the coding, and I just don’t have those skills.

Now, that I finally had everything the way I wanted, all I had to do was upload my updated manuscript to KDP, right? 😐 Since I never had these formatting elements in place before, I’ve always just uploaded a .doc (Word) file. But here’s what Kindle did with that:

Collar Me Foxy .doc file in Kindle Previewer

Yep, it attributed the 24pt. size of that “fake” drop cap to the entire first paragraph’s spacing. And I’m ashamed to admit that I tried fixing the problem in the .doc file for about 30 minutes before remembering that KDP accepts other file types for publishing. Ugh! It was one of those days.

I use Calibre to preview all of my books before publishing because it will convert your .doc or .odt file to any other file extension you want. It’s 100% FREE and easy to use – I highly recommend it.

After messing around with conversions and viewing them on the KDP website, I chose ePub over mobi because it stayed truer to my formatting.

The biggest -ish is mobi’s answer to “justified” alignment, which is to stretch each line from margin-to-margin, resulting in irregular spacing between words. You’ve probably noticed this before in eBooks you’ve read, where random lines will have gaping spaces in between shorter words. It’s glaring, nobody likes it.

Mobi was also shrinking my graphics and/or moving them too far away from the Chapter heading. ePub doesn’t do any of that nonsense, and looks more like the .doc version. Here’s the final result:

ePub file in Kindle Previewer

Perfecto. 🙂

Two valuable pieces of advice to follow when formatting, is: 1) Make sure the layout and font styles match the genre of your book, and 2) Practice the Keep It Simple motto. You want your book to look like it was customized by a pro not Bedazzled by a 5-year-old.

Many best selling authors don’t even use images, or maybe just an ornamental divider, and those look really nice, too. The bottom line is you’re not using these graphics to sell books, that’s your story’s job.

Now, I have noticed a rise in graphics in the Back Matter of both best selling and non-best-selling books, usually for promoting other books, fan pages, and newsletter subscriptions. Again, you don’t want to go crazy, but at least these images aren’t in danger of distracting readers from your story. Here’s a couple of examples:

Promoting Hexed at the end of Avarice Unleashed
Using my Logo on the Newsletter Subscription page

Remember you are a brand name, so don’t feel bad about slapping your logo onto your work. That’s what it’s for.

Okay, that’s all for now, Indies. Hopefully, some of these tips and resource links help out in your writing/publishing journey.

❤ Stay Safe & Healthy!

2 thoughts on “Dear Indie | eBook Formatting Tips & Hacks for Kindle

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