Kindle Formatting for Novels III

The first step is to convert our document to HTML and do some basic cleaning on the code. As far as “confusing” goes, this part probably looks the scariest, but it’s not that bad. Just take it one step at a time.

Quotations and Apostrophes

Let’s get our quotation marks and apostrophes straightened out. Or, rather, curlied out. :-) If you’ve come from a text editor, then you’ll notice some of your quotation marks are straight rather than curly.

Go to “Word Options,” click “Proofing,” and then click “AutoCorrect Options.” (If you’re not using Word 2007, there may be a slight variation in finding these menu items.) Under “AutoFormat,” make sure “Straight quotes with smart quotes” is checked.

  1. Do a Find and Replace operation.
  2. Put a ” in the “Find” line, and a ” in the Replace line. In the dialog box, they will both appear as straight quotes, but don’t worry.
  3. Click “Replace All,” and your entire document will be filled with curly quotes instead of straight quotes.
  4. Do a second Find and Replace operation.
  5. Put a ‘ in the “Find” line and a ‘ in the Replace line.
  6. Click “Replace All,” and your entire document will be filled with a curly apostrophe instead of a straight one.

When copy-editing, you should check to make sure your curly quotes are all going the right way. We can fix these things later, but it’s harder to see them.

Prepare to Find and Replace

At the beginning of your document, put a left curly quote, a right curly quote, left apostrophe, right apostrophe, and em dash. (Am I forgetting something?) Like this:

“ — ‘ ’ ”

And it wouldn’t hurt to do this one, too, just in case.

—“ (Only do this one if you never use this sequence. I never have this sequence, and if it’s there, then it was supposed to be —”. So below, when I put it in the Find and Replace, I’ll make it —”. Please don’t do this one if —“ would be correct in your document.)

Do not use two hyphens instead of an em dash, unless you’ve got it set up to auto-correct to an em dash, and you verify that it did become an em dash. Go to “Insert,” then “Symbol,” then “Special Characters,” and select the em dash. (I use the em dash so much, that I reassign the keystroke for the em dash to CTRL+M.)

Check how you handle ellipses. Did they automatically convert to a single characters, such as …, or did you put a space between each period, like this: . . . ? When you do the Find and Replace operation, you’ll need to know which to search for, and how you want it formatted in your final document.

One Last Thing

Check how you handle scene breaks within a chapter. Generally this is done with one extra, hard ENTER. Do you have a space in this line? Do you use three stars or some such thing? (***) We will need to find these scene breaks later, in order to format them, so it’s best to know what to search for.

Convert to HTML

While there are multiple ways to do this, I’m only going to show you the best and easiest way. The other methods require more intensive clean-up, and it’s just not worth it.

  1. Download and install Notepad++ for Windows, or Text Wrangler for Macs. You can use Notepad for Windows, but if you use Notepad, it can add whole hours to your work process later. DO NOT USE MICROSOFT WORD OR A WORD PROCESSOR.
  2. Get a free Gmail account.
  3. Email yourself the novel to the Gmail account.
  4. Go to that email, and under the attachment, click “View as HTML.”
  5. Once that page opens, right-click the page, and click “View Page Source.”
  6. Click in that page source, press CTRL+A, then CTRL+C.
  7. Click in Notepad++, then press CTRL+V.
  8. Click “Save As” in Notepad++, and make sure “Save as Type” is “All files.” Then save your document as “yournoveltitle.html”


Kindle accepts very limited HTML, and it does not accept the font tag, among other things. Probably, at the beginning of each paragraph, you’ll notice something like this:

<font size=”3″ face=”Courier”>

You’ll probably only have one or two of these, and the rest of the document will be the same. Do a find operation for what you have, make sure the replace field is empty (no space, even), and hit “Replace All.” Do the same thing for </font>.

If you have a lot of <p align=“center”> or <p align=“left”>, may as well replace those with <p>.

If you did not already fix the paragraphs, you might see some space after the <p> tag. We don’t want this space. It should be the <p> tag, and then your text. If there is space, highlight it, copy it, and then do a Find and Replace operation, replacing it with nothing, which effectively deletes it.

Now your document should just be your text, with only the following tags in it: <p> </p> <br>

Find and Replace

We need to do a number of Find and Replace operations to do some basic coding of our characters. We’ll take care of the design and format coding in the next few installments. You can use the little cheat sheet you made at the beginning of your document to highlight each character, copy it, and paste it in the Find box. Paste the following code in the Replace box, then hit Replace All.

—“ &mdash;&rdquo;
. . . .&nbsp;.&nbsp&.


Notice you have two choices for your ellipses. This is just a style issue, and the Chicago Manual of Style (the go-to book for formatting fiction, generally) calls for the second version, with a non-breaking space in between each period. (As well as before and after, but I’m assuming you took care of that in the copy-editing phase.)

If you want the second version, but you used the first version in your document, you’ll have to Find the and replace with .&nbsp;.&nbsp&. .

There are other HTML Characters that might need coding, such as 1/2 and 1/4 and the like. Consult this guide to check if you have any other characters to convert.

The Next Installment

The next installment is the most fun, in my opinion: the design! Since we’re all creative types, this will probably be much easier than these. After deciding on the design, I will show you how to code your design, so you understand how it works. (We’ll also fix any lingering html issues at that time, too.)

Do you see any mistakes? Anything I missed in the clean-up process? Anything confusing? Anything I need to correct?

Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting | Tags: ,


  • I’ve been sending folks your way and I know a few other bloggers who are following your closely in this series.

  • Edie says:

    Thanks so much for this information. This is a lot to process in one bite. I think my quotation marks and parentheses are already curly, but I’ll check them to make sure.

    I know I’ll come back to this often. Great guide!

  • ivan says:

    Good, detailed information.

    But I think I have a room temperature IQ when it comes to updating my Word skills.

    Hang it all. I’m going to copy and paste everything!

  • Rosalba says:

    Hi Nathasha! I downloaded Note++ and did what you indicated. How can I see if the changes I did in the document are correct? How can I open the file on a web page to check?
    My problem with my novel in Kindle is that the book title and my name in the title page are close together and the chapter numbers are one line close to the text body. How can I add more blank lines between chapter titles and the body text in the HTML file?
    Thanks for all your help.

    • Natasha Fondren says:

      You can open in with Firefox or IE or Safari, but it won’t really give you a true preview unless you package it up with mobipocket or kindlegen.

      It’s not that you need to add blank lines. You need to, for example, in your css create a margin-top: 60px; or somesuch for that property. Since the first paragraph of each chapter is not indented, I usually do <p>First paragraph, etc….</p>and in the style section I do p.noindent { text-indent:0; margin-top:45px; }

  • James says:

    A quick question about this:

    In your cheat sheet for replacing various symbols, you list a normal hyphen after the em dash you mentioned that is to be used instead of a double hyphen (–) as being replaced by —. What is the objective here?

    I assume — is the proper — symbol, but wouldn’t this incorrectly replace the hyphen in hyphenated words (read: world-eater) with a —?

    • James says:

      That reads kind of weird, since I was for some reason not expecting it to render the & emdash; code properly for some reason. Sorry about that…

  • C. Ray Cook says:

    My head just exploded and there’s curly quotation marks, em and en dashes, ellipses, and other strange symbols and words all over my bookcase and walls.
    Your information is invaluable, but what am I going to do with the mess? OH! Here comes my wife with a cleaning cloth and broom and she’s not smiling.
    Could you tell her it’s not my fault I have such a thin brainpan?

    C. Ray Cook

    As a former architect I ALWAYS put my initials and date on all documents. I see you date yours but there are so many out there that don’t put it on their websites. What are they afraid of? As a writer does this make me an eccentric (euphemism for anal crackpot)?

  • dejiridoo says:

    Hi Natasha,

    This is an amazingly helpful resource. I am so grateful for your suggestions.

    A tip: when using Notepad++, I had to use the “Regular Expression” search mode. It’s at the bottom left of the dialogue box. Click on the radio button. Otherwise, it seems to miss some of the replacements.

    Thanks again. I’m sure there will be more comments.


    • Natasha Fondren says:

      The search mode depends on what you’re looking for. I use all three modes, depending upon the task. :-)

      I now use HTML Tags plugin to Notepad++ to convert the HTML Character Entities, but I had to manually edit the tag file so that doesn’t become & and something else… but I forgot what.

  • Ardyth says:

    I’ve never done html before and after searching the net for a simple guide, yours is by far the simplest for converting my document to html and changing the formatting. It worked perfectly. Thank you so much!

  • Paul Brookes says:

    Hi Natasha

    If I could make a couple of suggestions.

    1. cKEditor is a simple online HTML editor. If you’ve put together your document using Word styles and you use the Paste from Word function in cKEditor, it produces very clean HTML. It will only output <p> tags, so you’d have to change all the first-line styles manually (although you could fix this with Find & Replace. There’s a demo here: http://ckeditor.com/demo

    2. You’re right about Word’s Save as HTML function. However, Open/Libre Office Save as HTML is actually quite good (and it will open MS Word docs). You have to do a bit of Find & Replace to clean up some of the tags

    • Oh cool, Paul! Thanks! I think those will help people who do it themselves, for sure.

      For me, people email me their Word docs, so it takes me a full five seconds to extract clean html. None of the above come close, LOL.

  • You’re amazing, you know that? I’ve been searching for something like this for a few days now, as I prepare to upload my novel to Amazon. I, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out how to save my file as html.

    Thank you!

  • A little update – right clicking on the gmail attachment doesn’t give the option of viewing as html anymore. Just gives options on how to view (i.e. in new tab etc)

    • Natasha Fondren says:

      You go into the menu to view as html. Once you are viewing as html, then you right-click anywhere in order to view page source. :-)

  • Sarah Grant says:

    Great articles on converting books for Kindle! Thanks for all of the great information! I just thought I’d add I think . .&nbsp&. should be . . .

  • Galimedes says:

    Appreciate the tips, despite the fact I’m almost two years late in finding them. One potential typo I noticed: in your FIND AND REPLACE table the tag for an en dash is shown as the same for an em dash. If this was addressed elsewhere in the comments, then disregard. Anyway, thanks for all your posts on this subject. I’ve learned a few things.

  • Dennie T says:

    The html name for the shorter ‘dash,’ comparing the two listed in the table of codes, should be &endash; (with an ‘n’) as opposed to — (with an ‘m’). The difference is subtle but may be dramatic depending on the use of the characters in one’s text. Dashes may be specified with “–” for the shorter “–”; and “&mdash” for the longer “—”.

    • Dennie T says:

      Well, when the comment was submitted, the form changed some of the codes to the actual characters. This is to clarify: &ndash is for the shorter “-” and &mdash is for the longer “—”. Note that each should start with “&” and end with “;” as they are html codes. Thanks!

    • Natasha Fondren says:

      Yes, thank you! LOL… number one comment on this post! Yes, I know the difference, which is important. One of these days I’ll fix it, but I hope everyone knows this whole article is outdated due to the changes in the industry. It’s a constantly changing industry!

  • Natasha Fondren says:

    Thanks! Yes, as noted above, there is supposed to be an “n” for the en dash, and obviously I know the difference, but this entire post is outdated and none of it is useful for the format today or the processes needed today. I wish I could write another tutorial, but things keep changing and it takes me a llong time to train others to do this stuff… I don’t think a six-part tutorial is even possible.

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