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From Word to Kindle

Self Publishing Your Kindle Book with Microsoft Word


Tips on Formatting Your Document So Your Ebook Won’t Look Terrible

Book cover

By Aaron Shepard

It’s not hard to find instructions for converting from Word to Kindle—but these instructions are usually less helpful than they could be. Many, for example, proclaim that Word’s HTML output requires extensive alteration and cleanup before submission.

This advice is misguided. Some who offer it have drawn their conclusions after simply choosing the wrong export option. Others fuss about a moderate amount of excess code, not realizing that it doesn’t increase file size enough to matter or that the Kindle ignores it anyway.

Other instructions will imply the opposite: that conversion is straightforward and just what you would expect. Supposedly, as long as you start with a properly formatted Word document, you’ll wind up with a well-formatted ebook. Well, it doesn’t really work that way—not without a few techniques for tricking or bullying the Kindle into doing what you want.

In this book, Aaron Shepard offers his own tips for moving your document from Word to Kindle, with a focus on desktop Word versions from 2003/2004 to 2010/2011.

Aaron Shepard is a foremost proponent of the new business of profitable self publishing, which he has practiced and helped develop since 1998. Unlike most authorities on self publishing, he makes the bulk of his living from his self-published books—not from consulting, speaking, freelance writing, or selling publishing services. In a parallel life, Aaron is an award-winning children’s author with numerous books from publishers large and small.

Shepard Publications

Ebook ~ 2011

Paperback ~ 2013

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Getting Started


Working with Word

Document Setup

Text Cleanup


Special Characters

Font Formatting

Paragraph Styles

Paragraph Spacing

Paragraph Justification

Line Breaking

Page Layout


Other Paragraphs



Text Boxes and Sidebars

Footnotes and Endnotes



Web Links

Internal Links

Tables of Contents

Menu Items


HTML Export

Book Covers

Book Data

Submitting and Previewing

Sample Text

By default, Word will apply the Normal style to your paragraphs. Amazon knows this, so for some Kindles, it hijacks that style, changing its formatting to what Amazon prefers. This can lead, for example, to unwanted space above or below a paragraph.

If you want control of your own formatting, then, you’ll have to avoid the Normal style and apply something different. There’s no problem, though, with applying styles based on Normal, or even with applying a duplicate of Normal under a completely different name.

In regard to this, watch out for manual page breaks in recent versions of Word. Unless you’re in Compatibility Mode, each break is now placed in a paragraph of its own, and the Normal style is assigned automatically. That in itself isn’t a problem—but if you then hit Return and start typing, your new paragraph will be in Normal as well. (This is another reason to stick to the paragraph format setting “Page break before” to start a new page.)

You can change all paragraphs already in Normal style to a different one by using the Format menu in the Find and Replace dialog. Don’t enter any text, but place your cursor in first the Find box and then the Replace while choosing a style for each.

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