The Official Blog of Iain Rob Wright: Createspace, Kindle, and formatting tips...

Monday, 13 April 2015

Createspace, Kindle, and formatting tips...

Hi Wrighters:

I've been noticing that I am not the only one who finds ebook formatting and paperback formatting via Createspace to be a headache, so I thought I would post a guide of what I know. There's a lot here, so perhaps you will want to scan through and find what you need. Cover artwork guide is at the end.

Learning all of the professional tips, tricks, and functions required to properly format ebooks and paperbacks has taken me a long time; I'm talking years. Over the last 4 years, my ebooks and paperbacks have slowly evolved as I have discovered the intricacies of Word, InDesign, Photoshop, Scrivener, Calibre, and all the other programs required to DIY things properly. Below I will try to outline how I create my paperbacks and ebooks, and hopefully save you some legwork that I had to put in to learn all this stuff.

Document size, margin, etc.
Nowadays I write my manuscripts using Scrivener (but that is a whole other kettle of Twinkies) but I finish up in Word because it syncs better with Amazon's systems (I also use InDesign for paperbacks, but that's not necessary). When I start a manuscript, I set everything up as if it were for my paperback and later make a few changes to create the ebook file.  My paperbacks are in 6x9 and 5x8 formats. I now use exclusively 5x8 as a preference, and I would advise picking a size for all your books and sticking to it as you can then set up templates and use them every time.

Now, here is my page setup for both 5x8 and 6x9:

Page setup with mirror margins
It is also important to change the page size to match what your paperback trim size will be. Sizes for 5x8 and 6x9 below:
6x9 document size

5x8 document size

You will now have a document that will perfectly fit the trim size for either a 6x9 or 5x8 paperback. Now you need to look at the text.

Set up Style Sheets
Setting up style sheets is the mark of a professional and a God send to those who understand their value. If you apply styles to your document then you can make wholesale changes quickly. If you decide you want to increase the size of your chapter headings from 14pt to 16pt, you can change it via the style sheet rather than by highlighting and changing each chapter heading individually. Here's how it's done:

I like to start by deleting all of the default styles and then creating my own. For simplicity's sake I have created just 2 now as an example: Text and Titles.

With the exception of the chapter titles, I will be using the Text style for pretty much all of my document. When I start typing, I make sure that the Text style is active (just click on it). You can apply it to existing text by highlighting the paragraphs you want and then clicking the "Text" style. This will change all selected text to the parameters within your style. Here is an example of my "Text" style and you can make changes by right-clicking on the style and choosing "modify":
From here you can change font size, colour, justification, etc.
For my paperbacks, I like to use Georgia 9.5pt, but it's up to you. I also use Full Justification and I would suggest you do the same. You can also mess with the kerning and hyphenation, but I won't go into that here (I will link to a video that does).

At the bottom of the MODIFY STYLE window is a button that reads "FORMAT". If you click that, you get a dropdown box. Select "Paragraph" to get this window:

There are a couple of very important functions within this window. The first is "First Line Indent" under the "special" section. Amateurs may use tab spaces to start new paragraphs, but this can cause all kinds of formatting problems and headaches. It also means that if you want to change the indent size, you will have to select every single tab space. By setting First Line you will make every paragraph under that selected style begin with an identical indent. You will ideally set it anywhere between 2.5cm and 5cm. This will increase readability for both paperback and ebook editions (Kindles do not like manual tabs).

The second option is "Line Spacing". There are several things you can set this to, but I choose 1.5 lines. This makes the space between the lines of text nicely spaced for the page and not too clunked together. It won't affect the ebook edition so much.

For your chapters, you will want to highlight every heading and then click the "Titles" style sheet, or if you're on a new document, then you just click the box before writing each chapter heading. There is a really useful tool within style sheets when creating chapter headings. Here it is:

You can see that I have selected "Centered", which will automatically centre all chapter headings. At the bottom I have added spacing Before and After. Many people, when creating headings, will add paragraph breaks by tapping ENTER before and after the title. That way is shoddy. This spacing option, however, allows you to set the space before and after the heading so that all match. Then, later, if you want to alter the chapter heading spacing, you can do it uniformly from the style sheet. You could have a hundred chapter headings and you can alter their position all at once from this one window. No more manually having to add paragraph breaks to every single title. Just click the style sheet once. Easy peasy.

You can create more style sheets that you can apply to things such as Front Matter (Copyright page, About the Author, etc), scene breaks (the 3 little stars that separate scenes), and anything else you want to group together for easy editing).

Dividing your manuscript into "sections"
Now that you're a professional, you need to get into the habit of ending chapters with "Section Breaks" instead of page breaks or any other method you may have been using to start a new chapter and a new page. From now on, whenever you finish a chapter or create a title page etc, add a section break like this.

From the PAGE LAYOUT tab on the ribbon, select the "Breaks" dropdown and then hit "Odd Page" (you see it falls under the heading "Section Breaks"). This will start a new page on an odd number (right side). This will make all of your chapters begin on the right like a professional novel. This may even cause the left page to be blank, but it is how things are done traditionally. All new chapters will begin on a new odd page. If you want to cut down page count, feel free to choose "next page" instead so that there are no blank pages. You should also start a new section before and after anything like a Copyright page, Title Page, etc. The important thing is that you add a section break and not a page break. You will see why later.

Add page numbers properly
Ever torn your hair out because page numbers are a nightmare to get right? It should be easier now that you have divided your manuscript into sections. 

Now, select the page with your first chapter heading and double click the bottom of the page to bring up the footer. The ribbon should change to the DESIGN tab.

Click the drop down menu for "Page Number" and select your preference. I prefer bottom and centred. For the first chapter only, DESELECT the button "Link to Previous". You want your page numbers to start on this page and not link back to previous pages (Which will be your title page and copyright page, etc). Also select all three options on the right, Different First Page, Different Odd and Even page, and Show Document Text.

Now, hopefully, you have page numbers starting at no 1. Go ahead and delete the page number on the chapter page. Because you selected "Different First Page" you should hopefully still have page numbers at the bottom of the following pages, but not any of the chapter pages now (they should all be linked together). Each section should begin with a chapter heading on the first page (First page of each new section), so by deleting the page number from the first chapter page (First page of the section) you should have succeeded only in deleting all page numbers from title pages (And also copyright pages etc as these should be single page sections if you did as I suggested). The only pages with numbering should be the full text pages. Just like a real book, right?

Now, go though the document looking for anomalies. If you find that the page numbers restart at any point. Right-click the page number itself, select "Format..." and get this:

See where it says "Start at: 1"? Change it to "Continue from previous section." That should link the pages together and keep the numbering consistent. It's still a finicky process, so you will need top get to grips with it yourselves. Just make sure that all chapter pages, or front and back matter (copyright and title pages, etc) are without page numbers.

Do the exact same thing with headers
Double-click the top edge of the page and open up the headers. Pick an odd page that isn't the first page of a section (so the first odd page AFTER a chapter heading) and add your book title. On the first even page (the page immediately following the chapter heading page), add your name. Like the page numbering, this should add your headers to all pages except your chapters and front/back matter pages. If you get any unwanted headers, try checking in the design ribbon to see if "Link to Previous" is or is not selected. Make sure you choose "Different First Page" and "Different Odd and Even Page" too as this allows you to delete chapter headings and then alternate between your author name on one side and the book title on the other. This is the most fiddly part of formatting your manuscript for paperbacks, so it may take some time until you get it down perfectly.

With these skills, you should have more control over the final presentation of your paperback book. Save your Word document as a pdf and you are set to go. If you want to get fancy, you might want to put the first letter of each paragraph in bold and increase the size to 14pt. It's as close as I know how to get to a drop cap without using InDesign.

Ebook specifics
Once you have you paperback pdf, also save your Word document as a separate file to be used for your ebook. There are a few changes you need to make for your file to suit a Kindle reader. The first is that you should increase the font size to 11 or 12 as the 9.5 your selected for your paperback will appear very small on an ereader. Also, going into your "Text" style sheet (so easy, right?) and change from Full Justification to Left Justification. This will allow the text to flow better on an ereader. You may also wish to change the font to TIMES NEW ROMAN or one of the other fonts that Kindle natively supports.

Clickable Table of Contents
Next, you want to add a linkable Table of Contents. It's easy.

Go to the final page of the document and start a new section. Then select the REFERENCES TAB and activate the Table of Contents drop down. Select "Custom" to get this menu:

Deselect "Show page numbers" and select "Use hyperlinks..." Then press okay, and Voila!

For safety, you may want to click the space before the table of contents and go on INSERT on the ribbon and insert a bookmark named TOC. This will ensure the Kindle reader can locate the contents page from the "Go To..." options. Also insert a bookmark right on the first page named "start".

Front Matter
My Front Matter is in this order for ebooks: Book Summary, Dedication, Quotes, and then start the book. It's harder to skip to the meat of a book with an ereader, so don't put hurdles in people's way. Also, if your book is short, you don't want a big portion of Amazon's preview option to be taken up with dedications. I add a book summary (basically the same as my KDP product description) on page 1 because often people will download a book and not get around to reading it until some time later. By then they may have forgotten what your book was about and why they downloaded it. With some readers hoarding more books then they can read nowadays, it will help them if they open your book and are immediately met with a summary to remind them why they wanted your book in the first place.

Back Matter
I end my book in this order: Plea from the Author, More books by the Author, About the Author, Copyright.

You may be asking what my "Plea from the Author" is? Well, it's a chance for me to thank the reader for buying my book and reaching the finish, and also to kindly ask for a review. Here is the exact page at the end of all my books:

I get a lot of reviews. Maybe this is part of the reason why. It's also nice to end each book by letting the reader know how important they are to me.
Make sure that you add a link to your other books. To entice people, I add a one sentence summary for each of my books along with links to both the US and UK (my biggest markets). To add a hyperlink, just highlight the word you want to act as a link and right-click. Select the hyperlink options and follow the prompts.

Also make sure your "About the Author" page has a link to your website or to your newsletter.

Copyright Page
Here is my simple copyright page. Feel free to use it.

Finally, save your file as "Web Page, filtered". This will create a simple html file that is perfect for uploading to KDP or making into an ebook file. 

So that should get you sorted for the book's interior. But I hear a lot of your shouting that the real problem with getting a paperback created (mainly via Createspace) is getting the cover right. Well, fortunately, someone else has done the hard work for me here. Visit and enter your book's details into the calculator (trim size and pdf word count - make sure you put the file's word count and not your own page number count). The service will spit out a Photoshop template to the exact dimensions you need. All you need to do is overlay your cover within the guidelines and then flatten and save as a pdf.

Drop Caps, Kerning and Spacing
To go even more advanced, get yourself a copy of Adobe InDesign and check out Hugh Howie's awesome guide (with downloadable templates). Here's the link:

Make your own ebook
If you want to create your own mobi, epubs, and other files to give out as freebies etc, then I suggest you download Calibre and learn how to use it. It is free and available here:

Anyway, that was the longest blog post of my life, but I really hope it helps. :-)


Scott Dyson said...

Thanks for this information. It should really help down the line.

What I sort of take away is that I really should write in Word. Can you do the same thing in Open Office? (For some strange reason I've been in the habit for years of writing in WordPerfect, and when I publish I've copied and pasted into Notepad/html template I got from purchasing a formatting guide by Derek J. Canyon a few years ago. It takes me some time to make sure all the italics and all the paragraphs and clickable content is in the right places and works properly...)

Iain Rob Wright said...

Hey Scott. Only just saw your comment. Word is easier, but I know their are many Mac owners who use it.

Iain Rob Wright said...

Hey Scott. Only just saw your comment. Word is easier, but I know their are many Mac owners who use it.