How to write book in Kindle style

Book Style in a 2012 Kindle World

A Monograph by Henry J. DeVries, MBA

and Karla L. DeVries, MA

How do you write a book that works for print and ereaders?

January 24, 2012

     The digital revolution is rapidly changing the look of books, both printed and electronic. The purpose of this monograph is to help the authors we coach and the experts we ghostwrite books for to have more professional looking printed books and e-books. By following these guidelines your book will look more professional and there will be a savings of time and money in the final editing stages.

     The following are guidelines on layout, format and word usage. The primary guidebooks we recommend are the Chicago Manual of Style, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Google.

Chapter 3

Chapter Title in 16 Point


Pithy epigram quotes are centered in italics with no quote marks.

Michael Lewis, in Moneyball


You can start chapter with a short bold sentence.


     Chapter paragraphs are single spaced. They begin with an indent. We write them with a ragged right border. Leave just one space between sentences. Later we will justify the paragraphs and there will not be a ragged right. Use 12 pt. font and Times New Roman typeface.

      Do not leave one line space between paragraphs. Simple format is always the best. This is what we do to make books look professional and workable for the various e-reader platforms like Kindle.

       This is just a third paragraph.



          Subheads break chapter content into meaningful blocks. Sometimes you need to break chapters into even smaller chunks. This is when subhead 2s are used.

Subhead 2s are BF 14 Point Flush Left


          We are getting to two burning points: the use of italics and the use of bullets. Italics are for emphasis. Let’s address italics first. An example is a business owner should not only work in the business they should work on the business. Or in a quote, like “our forefathers brought forth a new nation” (italics added) said Lincoln.

          The second topic is bullets. E-readers do not like bullets. In early 2011 we writers were told bullets were forbidden for Kindle. In 2012 this has loosened up somewhat. Bullets can now be used but sparingly. Simple is best, an editor at McGraw Hill told me. Short works best too. Such as the names of the Marx Brothers:

  • Groucho
  • Chico
  • Harpo
  • Zeppo


        Notice that these bullet points were short, not drawn out sentences. There are other ways to handle longer thoughts that you want in a list. E-readers like numbered lists like this.

  1. Make a short statement in bold. Then continue with the rest of the paragraph.
  2. Keep the first statements short. Then go into more details. This can be several sentences.
  3. The minimum number of points are three. A list with two points looks weird. Odd numbers or the magic ten are nice lengths.


There are alternatives:

  1. Few words. Not phrases or sentences. There can still be several sentences.
  2. Very short. Period not dash follows. Only one space not two after period.
  3. Minimum of three. Again the list can go longer. Exception to the rule is the rare two choices. Never one choice, of course.


Here is another alternative.

Italics. These are just paragraphs with the first word in italics. These start flush left.

Single. Using just a single word to start. These can be full paragraphs of several sentences.

Spaced. Spaced like regular paragraphs.

You can also use italics for scenarios or dialogue. This resembles how you write a play, not a movie script.

Client: This is the client speaking.

Salesperson: This is the salesperson’s words.

Another way to do a list is a numbered list. This is often a top ten list format.

  1. The first item on the list is bold.

Then an indented paragraph that lines up with the words in your sentence, not the number.

  1. Second item on the list is bold flush left.

Then another indented paragraph.

A list of procedural steps can just be a numbered list without boldface.

1. Find the worst play ever written

2. Hire the worst director

3. Obtain the worst actors

4. Oversell the show to little old ladies

5. Open and close the same night

6. Flee to Rio if the play is a smash

     Figures get the chapter number and the number of the figure in the chapter. So that means Figure 2.3 is the third figure in the second chapter.

       Long quotes can be indented and in italics. This is from the book Think Like Silicon Valley by Jorge Zavala.

         Seven years ago I came to Silicon Valley from Mexico to help train executives from my homeland on how to do business in Silicon Valley and the United States. I used to think starting a company was very easy. You get an idea, you talk to some people to determine the need and you start building a great product. But Silicon Valley gave me a wonderful gift: a new mindset. My discovery was that the mindset of Silicon Valley is to think beyond the start-up phase.  In the minds of the Silicon Valley company creators, it is not enough to merely have a great product and to do well in your neighborhood. Company creators must think beyond their local boundaries. The question to ask is: how do we grow regionally, nationally or even internationally?


Sidebars and Callouts


          Sidebars and callouts are used to make the book more visually appealing to those readers who scan the manuscript. Here is how to use them.

         What is a sidebar? Think back to your high school history text book and those little boxes with the headline “Did You Know?” that contained trivia. The Dummies series and Idiot’s Guide series likes sidebars. In newspaper parlance a sidebar is a small story that runs adjacent to the main story. Sometimes an anecdote that relates to the main story is a sidebar. In books they appear in boxes. Another sidebar example is a summary that appears at the end of the chapter. The same bullet rules should apply.

           A callout is something different. Callouts are a popular magazine technique. In the middle of the story will be a snippet of dialogue from the article that is set off by two lines that highlight the information. Here is an example.

           Seven years ago I came to Silicon Valley from Mexico to help train executives from my homeland on how to do business in Silicon Valley and the United States. I used to think starting a company was very easy. You get an idea, you talk to some people to


My discovery was that the mindset of Silicon Valley is to think beyond the start-up phase.


determine the need and you start building a great product. But Silicon Valley gave me a wonderful gift: a new mindset. My discovery was that the mindset of Silicon Valley is to think beyond the start-up phase.  In the minds of the Silicon Valley company creators, it is not enough to merely have a great product and to do well in your neighborhood. Company creators must think beyond their local boundaries. The question to ask is: how do we grow regionally, nationally or even internationally?



Simplified Formatting Guide

This is directly taken from the CreateSpace website. This also illustrates another way to present a list of items in a book.

Building Your Book: Microsoft Word is a great tool to use because it’s extremely easy to format. We suggest writing your book in Word or converting an existing source file into Word (.doc) format before continuing. Remember these important tips below to ensure an excellent eBook presentation.

File Format: Save your content in DOC (or .doc) format, not RTF (.rtf) or DOCX (.docx) as the latter do not translate well to Kindle. Save your work periodically as you make changes to ensure all changes are recorded.

Tables: A new feature in KF8 are tables. If your book requires tables you can insert tables in word by selecting “Insert Table.”

Layout: Use indentations, bold characters, italics and headings, as they will translate into your Kindle book. However, bullet points, special fonts, headers, and footers (our italics for emphasis) will not be transferred, so be sure to avoid those.

Page Breaks: Enter a page break at the end of every chapter to prevent the text from running together. To insert a page break in MS Word, click “Insert” at the top menu bar and select “Page Break.”

Image Placement: Images should be inserted in JPEG (or .jpeg) format with center alignment (don’t copy and paste from another source). Select “Insert” > “Picture” > then locate and select the file. If your book has a lot of images, it can be viewed in color by readers using our free Kindle apps for PC, MAC, iPad, iPhone, and Android. Otherwise, remember that images on Kindle are displayed in 16 shades of gray for great contrast and clarity.

Spellcheck and Grammar: This tool is always your friend to ensure a professional presentation free of typos. Use this tool, but also manually proofread your file to ensure no errors are missed by the automated checker.

Creating Front Matter: Front matter is the beginning pages of a book, which may include a Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, Preface, and Prologue. For a stylish and professional presentation, you should add a Title Page at a minimum.

Title Page: The title page should be centered with the title on top and Author Name underneath, like in the example below. Insert a page break.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

By Mark Twain

Insert Page Break Here

To insert a page break in Word, click “Insert” at the top menu bar and select “Page Break.”

Copyright Page: This page normally follows the Title Page. Insert a page break after the Copyright details.

Dedication: If you have a customized Dedication, it should follow the Copyright page. Be sure to Insert a page break.

Preface: If you have a Preface, it should follow the Dedication. Be sure to Insert a page break.

If your book includes a Prologue, it should follow the Preface. Be sure to Insert a page break.

Formatting Text: Once your front matter is complete, you’re ready to format the remainder of your text. The indentations, text spacing, and separate paragraphs should have been included when you built your book in Word.

The remaining step is to insert a page break after the last sentence of each chapter in the book to prevent chapters from running together. Depending on the number of chapters you have, this may be a time-consuming process but the effort is worth the improved reading experience.

Paragraphs: Paragraph text displays with justified alignment by default. The first line of each paragraph is automatically indented.To manually indent paragraphs in your content, don’t use tab-spacing. This will not convert for the Kindle. Instead, use the Word-default Paragraph Formatting to indent paragraphs. There are two ways in which you can indent paragraphs:

1. Click on “Page Layout”, and specify the amount of indentation in the “Indent” option.
2. Use the ruler at the top of the page to change the indentation. If you don’t see a ruler in your Word document, click on “View” and check the Ruler option.

Creating an Active Table of Contents. For digital books, page numbers don’t really apply. This is due to the fact that Kindle content is resizable, and the number of pages within the book changes as the text scales. It is highly recommended that your book has an active Table of Contents for easy navigation.

Creating Back Matter: Back matter consists of the last pages in your book which provides additional information the reader should know about, such as Bibliographies, Appendices, Notes or Glossaries. There isn’t a specific order which back matter should be presented in, so use your judgment and be sure to insert page breaks after each section. Indexes are not recommended at this time.


Capitalization, Boldface, Italics and More

Thank you Kindle. Now back to book guidelines according to Henry and Karla. The style guide for books is the Chicago Manual of Style, not the Associated Press Stylebook, which is the style guide for newspapers and magazines. The purpose of this section is not to replicate the Chicago Manual of Style, but to note some important points that commonly occur in manuscripts we edit (yes, that was the editorial we, not the royal we).


Only capitalize proper nouns. So yes to terms you created like Professional Advisory Board and the Chairman’s Playbook. No to just board or chairman. Yes to a concept you invented like Exceptional Transferable Value.


Exclamation Points


Avoid the use of ! to end sentences to create emphasis. The purpose of the exclamation point is to signal an exclamation, like “Help, thief!” or “Fire, I’m on fire!”


Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes.

    —F. Scott Fitzgerald

[The exclamation point] has a gushy aura, the breathless excitement of a debutante commenting on an

event that was exciting only to her: “Daddy says I must have had too much champagne!”


—William Zinsser

No Periods at the End of Headlines or Bullet Points

No periods at the ends of headlines or bullet points.


Italics should only be used to show emphasis or the titles of books, newspapers, magazines, films, television shows, and plays (like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Mary Poppins, and The Grapes of Wrath). Whole stories should not be in italics.

Serial Comma (Oxford Comma)

        When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma—known as the serial or series comma or the Oxford comma—should appear before the conjunction.

Example: She took a photograph of her parents, the president, and the vice president.


A book from a traditional publisher like McGraw-Hill would not use TM or circle r symbols anywhere in the manuscript. A compromise would be to use it once the first time you use it.

Don’t Overuse the Word It

Starting a sentence with the word it should be avoided. This can confuse the reader. Instead, use a term to take the place of the word it.


All acronyms should be spelled out in first usage, or spelled out in ( ). For example, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Actually, CIA is not a true acronym, like Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD), but the same rule applies.


Spell out percent, not %.

Boldface and Caps

Boldface is to be used to start a sequence but not for emphasis like the words IN and ON. Instead use italics and lowercase (…so they only work in the business, but not on the business).

Technology Words

          As of this writing, this is the agreed upon forms of these words – notice the capitalization, hyphens and spacing.





Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy

Look it up on Google to make sure you are using the accurate company name, quotation, reference and the like. When in doubt, look it up. When not in doubt, you should still look it up. For example, is it WalMart, Wal-mart, Walmart, or Wal-Mart?

Citing Other Works

           Instead of just off-handedly referring to “studies” or “research,” adopt the practice of actually citing your sources. We recommend an adapted American Psychological Association (APA) style.  In a sentence cite the source and then use an endnote. At the end of the book have an endnote section. This excerpt is from the 2011 book Closing America’s Job Gap (by Mary Walshok, Tapan Munroe and Henry DeVries) illustrates how to do this for a periodical and a book:

An economy shifting away from domestic consumption to high-end exports is also likely to gravitate to metropolitan cores because such firms depend on attracting younger educated and creative workers who typically prefer living in vibrant city centers. Richard Florida, an urban planning expert from the University of Toronto, suggests in a 2009 article in The Atlantic that the new economy does not just focus on making and moving goods from one place to another, increasingly the economy is involved in moving ideas from one place to another.[1]

In 2007, Van Jones, a Yale Law School-educated community organizer from Oakland, California, wrote a book, which, to his surprise, became an instant New York Times bestseller – The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.  The early pages of the book are especially relevant to the point we are trying to make about the skills gap and about the fact that the skills gap we mean to close is occurring across a wide range of occupations, moving from skilled and semi-skilled to highly- skilled professional and even Ph.D.-level jobs.  Jones asks the question:

So who will do the hard and noble work of actually building the green economy?  The answer:  Millions of ordinary people, many of whom do not have good jobs right now.  According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, the major barriers to a more rapid adoption of renewable and energy efficiency are not financial, legal, technical or ideological.  One problem is simply that green employers can’t find enough trained green collar workers to do all the jobs.[2]

The thrust of Jones’ book is a call to action through a variety of policy initiatives that can support the growth of green energy technologies and companies as well as thousands of jobs that will be created by these companies.  He describes how hundreds of thousands of green collar jobs will likely be in weatherizing and energy retrofitting every building in the United States.  He comments “that the main piece of technology in this part of the green economy is a caulking gun.” [3]



[1] Florida, Richard, “How the Crash Will Reshape America”, The Atlantic magazine, March 2009.

[2] Jones, Van, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, (HarperOne, 2009), page 14.

[3] Ibid, page 15.

About Henry DeVries

Best-selling author and “marketing with a book” expert Henry DeVries is an authority on typing and talking: how to maximize revenues by writing books and making speeches. He speaks to thousands of business leaders, professionals, and consultants each year, teaching them successful tactics that shine a spotlight on their company, cause, or career. Along with his best-selling books — Self-Marketing Secrets, Client Seduction, Pain Killer Marketing, and How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett — the buzz-building tools of Henry DeVries have been used to dramatically increase revenues and leverage marketing budgets for two decades. He speaks to thousands of professionals and consultants each year, teaching them scientifically proven tactics that bring them new clients.

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