Steps to Clean Up MS Word and Publish to the Kindle

If you already have a Kindle file, but it’s not formatted right:

Are the first-line indents all wrong?

Does it have uneven spacing?

Are paragraph breaks and page breaks in the wrong places?

Is your Kindle eBook just, in general, messy-looking?

Most of those problems can be fixed quite easily in your MS Word file.

Most of the errors described above are caused when the person who typed your manuscript  entered extra spaces and tabs (usually to create first-line indents) and extra paragraph returns, instead of formatting with MS Word Styles.

That’s what MS Word calls “Direct” formatting, and it must be taken out the same way… by hand… using MS Word’s Search and Replace to clean out all those extra spaces and tabs that are causing your Kindle file to look so ragged.

To see how to clean up your manuscript, go here: 



  1. Thank you very much for this article, it has been very helpful. Question: can I sent the finished PRC file to anyone who has a Kindle or other digital reader, and will they be able to read it?

  2. Thanks for commenting, Bruce!

    Yes, as far as I know, you can send your PRC file to anyone and they can read it on a Kindle, or Kindle for PC.

    That's what I do for clients who use my services to format their files for the Kindle.

    There's another little tip you might find useful if you send to the same person a lot.

    Go to "Manage My Kindle" in the Kindle section of the Amazon website, and in the area where you can change your official Kindle email address, there is a place where you can enter the email address of anyone from whom you are willing to accept Kindle format files.

    If the person you want to send to enters your email address there, you can send Kindle files directly to their Kindle.


  3. Dear CJ,
    Hey, it's me again. ha. i posted a question the other day and now cannot find where i put it to find the answer u probably gave. so i will ask again. I have openoffice. to put the book on kindle i need to have word. is there a way to convert the kindle to word, on my own computer, without having word? thank u for your patience and wisdom with a computer illiterate. it is much appreciated.

  4. Chris,

    The clear and simple answer is... I don't know.

    I did think in terms of learning to use Open Office myself well enough that I could help others with it, but it turned out to have more of a learning curve than I expected.

    So... I am electing to do one word processor... MS Word... very well rather than trying to do them all.

    I THINK that you could create your book in Open Office, then save it as an HTML file and upload that HTML directly to the Amazon Direct Publishing platform... or feed it to Mobipocket and let Mobipocket create your Kindle format file.

    Have you signed up with the Amazon Kindle KDP support forum?

    I have read posters there talking about using Open Office.

    Maybe you could check in there and get some answers.

    Good luck... and let me hear how it goes!


  5. CJ,
    I feel kind of proud, for I was thinking the same thing: that i could turn it into an HTML file and then upload that. now i will try that and get back to you and let u know the outcome. i have signed up on the support forum and i had the idea that it was too much and it appeared also, even to one not overly savy, as more incorrect info that good, which is exactly what u said when i came here.

    Thank you for your reply. I will go try that now.

  6. Chris,

    Your comment that even to one "not overly savvy", the so-called "support" forum seems to contain more incorrect than correct, info, made me laugh out loud.

    It also gives me some comfort to hear that it's that obvious to a newcomer... so it's less likely to mislead if people see that up front.

    I don't know why Amazon doesn't provide a moderator to make sure incorrect messages are not allowed to stand, but they don't... but they do most things right, so who am I to argue?

    I can't afford the hours to give individual help, much as I'd love to... why else would I be doing these Kindle tutorials if I didn't love to help people!

    But if you will promise to report back with your progress... which will help me to help other newbies with Open Office... I'll see if I can help you get started.

    Send me an email with your email address (to my private email, general information... your computer knowledge background, the computer you are using, and the version of software you are using.

    To repeat myself... if you will promise to report back your progress, I'll see if I can help you get started with Open Office.


  7. CJ, I was looking through your instructions on how to create an NCX file, and I spent about two hours trying to understand it. Even when I thought I understood it, all the attempts failed when I put them to practice.

    It seems to me that the instructions are only suited to someone who already knows a great deal about html and other computer related stuff. I was pretty much lost from the beginning of that page.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Hi CJ,

    Can't thank you enough for this site! Like Chris, as a 'not overly savvy' person attempting to work this stuff out, I found the forums contradictory and often completely unhelpful...seems to have descended at times to 'my Kindle book formatting process is bigger than your kindle book formatting process'...

    Your site is excellent for the complete newbie :-)

  9. Thanks, Christine!

    I do understand what it's like to be a complete newbie... that is the reason I go to such pains to explain things carefully... in baby bird steps, I like to say.

    More experienced people may get annoyed at such detail... and may be the very ones you see slugging it out on the forums.

  10. Ryan,

    I'm sorry your message got lost... or temporarily misplaced, at least.

    I approved it, then came here to answer it... and it wasn't here.

    Now that It's back, I'll give you my best answer.

    Which is, to keep doing what you are doing... just reading and testing and practicing.

    That's just part of learning how to be a "Self Publisher"; some projects do require you to learn some programming skills.

    Another suggestion... contact the author of that article... Araby Greene... and ask what she'd charge to create the NCX file for you.

    Her website, WebbishBooks is highlighted there at the beginning of that article.

    You should check it out anyway, for some really good examples of beautiful work.

    It would probably cost less than you think.

  11. I have some song lyrics in my book that turned out a little funny. Everything else in the document is perfect, probably because I used the Smashwords Style Guide and worked like crazy to get it just right for over a month. I hate to strip all the formatting and start over, since there are lots of little places that need italicized parts and everything. Any other way to fix the few paragraphs that are funny and leave the rest alone?

  12. I don't know that it would work, but it would be worth a try...

    Just select (highlight) the "funny" paragraphs, then click "Clear Formatting"... it's usually at the top of the Styles and Formatting drop-down menu.

    Then, apply your Styles again.

    That won't work if your underlying code structure has broken down, but, in your case, I'd sure try it before deciding to clear everything out.

  13. Please help me!! Argh! I followed all of your steps (except the NCX thing because that was WAY too advanced and confusing for me). I checked bookmarks in Word. No problem. Go To in Kindle? The stupid thing doesn't go to the beginning. It goes to Chapter Two. But in Word, it goes to the beginning. Chapter One. I created a TOC of six points including the Title. In the Kindle, I don't have six entries in there. I have 11, including three at the end that are duplicates. For example, I have a Chapter Three entry that goes to Chapter Three. But then at the end of the TOC, there's ANOTHER Chapter Three entry and when I click on it, it says CHAPTER THREE and then underneath, CHAPTER FIVE.

    Since I'm on a Mac and this is apparently still the dark ages at Amazon, I've had to use Calibre to create the book. ANY idea what's going on here, or do you have any advice about where to look for someone who really and truly doesn't understand the technical jargon?

    FWIW, I learned Photoshop in about two days so I could create a cover. I'm not always entirely stupid!

  14. Kay,

    Hang on a bit and I'll try to help you... I can't do it right now, but maybe in the early AM...

    Take heart... you are on the right track!

  15. Ok, Kay, I'm back.

    I don't quite understand what's happening... so will you tell me again?

    You built your file in Word for Mac, right?... then fed it to Calibre, right?

    What were the steps you took in Calibre?

    It's pretty complex, as you know...

  16. Any idea why - after saving a Word document as html filtered and converting it in mobipocket creator - when viewed in Kindle previewer, the chapter headings, which were stlyed as Heading 1 (14 pt bold, centered) change to normal (12 pt left aligned) when arriving at them, from the TOC links. Whereas they appear as they should, when browsing to them using the forward and backward arrows?

  17. Laurence,

    I'm sorry, I did overlook your post.

    The previewers and sometimes even the Kindle device, itself, sometimes act that way, because of the way the text flows.

    However, I recently had a file with *centered* headings that Mobipocket Creator simply would not create as centered.

    I don't know whether it was unique to that file, or whether it is a feature of Mobipocket I just never noticed before, because I usually "left align" all chapter headings.

    Can you do that... use left align headings instead of centered?

    If so, that might be your answer.

    If you absolutely must have centered headings, you might try Calibre (just search for that name for a free download).

    It does a nice job but is still in work and is too complex for my basic tutorials.

    If you want to try it and have problems, look for the support's there on their main page... and members are good to help newbies.



    1. Thank you for your wonderful tutorials filled with a wealth of information. I've had the same issue with titles. Oddly they move to the left when I go to them via clicking in the ToC, but are fine if I move off that page and back on. It's peculiar and I can't find an answer to why it happens or how to fix it.

    2. Linda,

      As far as I know, there is no solution other than to edit the HTML file... and that doesn't seem to work all the time.

      Another reader, SmurfSmith, offered to research this issue, and offers the following:


      Some updates.

      I think I solved the problem that was left over. However, this is unofficial claim from me for now  I still need to do additional test. Anyway, this is situation:

      Of course, as we already discussed, when you put name code at the beginning of chapter title, chapters were still not alligned right sometimes. Sometimes manual browsing would bring chapter titles a little bit lower, and direct TOC access would bring them a little bit higher.

      However, when I replace default HTML code for page breaks before chapter headings (on previous page)...

      With this simpler one:

      Then it seems that everything works perfectly.

      Stay tuned. I will inform you about everything.


    3. whoops... the html didn't come through.

      To follow SmurfSmiths advice, replace the existing html code for page break with the most simple html code for page break.

      I'll ask him to come by to do a better explanation.

  18. Hi,

    Your blog has been really helpful to me. The only problem I'm still having is that my dialogue indenting is spacing further than it should. I honestly don't know if I entered paragraph breaks but I did clear out the junk code and it still isn't looking right. It looks like this:

    "Hello." "Hi."
    "What's your name?" "My name is Sue? What's yours?"

    It's all over the place-uneven spacing and terrible indention. Paragraph formatting doesnt seem like it is accepting my commands. My page breaks and everything else are perfect. But dialogue and paragraphs are starting way pass the .03 indention that it should. I used tab while I wrote the novel in MS Word 2007. Is there anything I can do? Thanks for your help.

  19. Hi CJ,

    Thank you for your wealth of info web site.

    I am preparing to convert my first e-book. I am on a Mac using Word 2004. It only has a "save for web-html" setting, not "web filtered". That isn't available until a recent version of the software, which isn't compatible with my computer.

    Some of the Amazon Forums have said that is ok to go right from a word.doc to the mobipocket. Is this true? Also, is it necessary to preview the book on a Kindle (don't have one) for good results if your instructions are followed?

    Thank you for your response,


  20. Catherine,

    I don't use Mac, but I understand that you can upload your properly prepared Word file directly to the Kindle Publishing Platform.

    The reason I would not advise that is that it is too hard to proof your book before you hit PUBLISH... then it's too late to cry.

    If you save for web... even if it doesn't save for web, fitered, and feed that file to Mobipocket, I believe that will work.

    It's probably the same thing... the Mac just has a different word for it than MS Word does.

    The Preview that you can download and view on your desktop (see CJ's Easy As Pie search box under the birds for where to download it) will show you exactly what is shown on the actualy Kindle... so I think that is the only way to go.

    Be sure to watch when you download it and get the one for the MAC.

    Good luck!

  21. Hi CJ
    I'm permanently confused about saving edited versions of my file after correcting errors found whilst using Mobipocket creator. I understand that everything goes to MyDocuments > MyPublications > file name folder, but the file doesn't seem to update after editing and saving. Do I upload a fresh version along with any images to Mobipocket or go back to the .prc file?

    Also, can you explain to me why my images are displayed correctly in the text but are displayed again at the end of the book?

    Thanks in anticipation. Have learned loads from your site.


  22. Wendy,

    You are right, you have to go back to your MS Word file every time you need to make a change.

    Change your MS Word file, save as HTML filtered again, feed to Mobipocket again, add your Guide items again... and add your cover image again, and Build again.

    I have heard others talk about images being displayed at the back of the book, but have never seen it happen.

    From their messages, it sounds like they may be adding the images with Mobipocket... which you don't have to do.

    If images are inserted into your MS Word file that's all you have to do.

    Let me know if this solves your problem, OK?

    I need to know so I know how to answer the next person with the same problem.



  23. Alright. I am starting with this "section" first. But, I noted you are using the Mobi pocket to "view" an ebook. How the heck do you do that? It seems like to view an ebook you have to have it published first lol. I'm confused again eh? Ill tell ya what. You help me as much as you can without tearing your hair out, and Ill probably never have to ask again. Usually once I get in the groove of things I "get it" and am good to go. The whole reason this started was so I could do something fun that I enjoyed and make pretty good money. But, oi. This seems difficult - as does anything you aren't used to!

    I did the MSWord thing. It took me a few seconds to find what I was looking for because I am using 2007 not 2003. But, I found it :o)

    I see a bunch of non text characters. Which I will delete now. But, I need to figure out how to view this on the mobi thing. Oh and I also made an account with the Mobi program in case you were wondering.

  24. Hi CJ

    Thanks for a speedy reply. 'Fraid my problems aren't solved - so if it's any help will start with the basics.

    I'm working with Vista and Word 2000. My Word doc has been stripped down to the basic styles and has already been uploaded to Smashwords without any problems. My previous Kindle books have all been formatted as .html from the beginning but on this occasion decided to try and save time by using the existing Word .doc.

    So I've started afresh by renaming the .doc file and saving it in a new folder along with the images (but couldn't find 'Save as html /filtered/'). Imported it into MobiCreator, added the cover image and asked it to Build. It gives me 13 build warnings, all relating to the images. I see that it's looking for images that have been renamed as 'image 001', etc. (Is it Mobi or Word that's renamed them?) I can now see these renamed files listed in a folder created by Mobi in the My Publications folder when I tried a previous Build before contacting you, so why can't Mobi find them when building the ebook this time? (Incidentally, I haven't been allowed to delete this folder and would like to get rid of it to avoid confusion as it's now redundant.)

    So ... I've returned to the Word .doc, moved all the renamed image files (001, etc.) into the same folder, saved and renamed the Word .doc file, inserted all the renamed images into the .doc file, saved and imported it all into Mobi to Build. It still can't find the wretched (renamed) images. However, it creates all the text for the Kindle without error.

    I can now see that if I upload the images as separate files they will appear both in the text and at the end of the Kindle book, but I'm still not quite sure why if it can't find them to put into the text at the first build it could now display them twice.

    In truth I've had enuf - my patience is exhausted!! I'm going to format the file as .html (using DW) and try with that. Will let you know how I get on.

    Please get back to me if there's anything I've missed out from your instructions or that you can't understand here, eg.I ignored using Guide as it doesn't seem to work - keep getting error messages, but think this is a Vista problem - and how important to the whole process is the 'Save as html /filtered/' bit?. Can find a 'Save as html ...' but that throws in far too much html, doesn't it?

    Blimey, they don't make life simple, do they?


  25. Kristi,

    The non-text characters are the result of the garbage that needs to be cleaned out of almost every MS Word file, no matter how careful the writer... so that would be your first step... go back to the articles about how to clean up a messy Word file (use the search box under the Birds on a Tightrope photo).

    Trying to delete those characters without cleaning the whole file is usually just an exercise in frustration.

  26. Wendy,

    We have two areas of possible problems here... you are using older software... Vista and MS Word 2000, so consider that as you read my answers.

    With later versions of MS Word, MS Word 2003 through MS Word 2010, you can upload your Word file directly to the Amazon Publishing Platform... you don't have to use HTML at all.

    The only reason I recommend HTML and Mobipocket is that it gives you more control.

    Mobipocket Reader appears within Mobipocket Creator as soon as you finish build correctly. If it is not appearing for you, that may mean you have the wrong version of Mobipocket, and should go back to the article where it tells you what and where to download it.

  27. CJ - This was an absolutely fantastic find! As a part-time blogger and website maintainer I know it takes a alot of time to put this together AND respond to folks!

    I started with a PDF file that contained scans of pages of a small book, @ 70 pages. I used free PDF and OCR software from Software 995 to read the PDF file and create a text file of each page. It was not 100% accurate - I'd guess 95% which was more than acceptable.

    I then merged the text files into an MS Word 2002 .doc file, created the toc and start, used MobiPocket to include a cover and it looks real good on the Kindle.

    There ar eonly two things I would like to fix. The first is the "justified" look on the Kindle. I used "justified" in Word for the paragraph settings. On the Kindle some pages are perfect while others can have many lines that don't make it to the right margin. Are there settings I missed somewhere that will clean up this last bit?

    The second is on the Table of Contents. Looks great in Word but on the Kindle it will have the chapter title followed by one or two periods and then the page number.

    Neither of these are major items but think it would look a little moreprofessional if I could update them

  28. Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the words of appreciation.

    That was certainly a major project you undertook, and you are to be congratulated for getting it to the point you have.

    We have to remember that Kindle text, along with other ebook formats text is "flowable", so it can never look as pretty as typset text... and we can't create a justified right hand margin that will hold and look as nice as typeset.

    So I find it's best to format with that thought in mind... don't try to right-justify text.

    The Table of Contents is another matter...

    It's really easy to build the Table of Contents with MS Word. You just tag your Headings as I explained in recent articles about creating styles... then run the Table of Contents wizard as explained earlier in articles on that subject.

    Just use the Search CJ's Easy As Pie Website box under the Birds on a Tight-Wire to find the articles you need.

    So... please try again to build a Table of Contents, and if you still have trouble, came back and tell me exactly what you did... and I'll try to help you search out the problem.

  29. Thanks again, CJ!

    I re-did the Table of Contents WITHOUT page numbhers sincethey don't apply on the Kindle anyway. I have a friend proofreading now and should be ready to publsih soon!

    I am the president of a society that has published some material including books and pamphlets. With this new capability who knows how many peoples lives we will be able to help! Thanks again!!

  30. I've found that Atlantis word Processor for a mere $35 is a very useful addition to MS Word. There is an amazing amount of functionality in this tiny install. It looks a lot like Word 2003 but with two huge feature additions: Save as EPUB and a much cleaner Save as Web.

    On my latest project, Word created a 1450 KB HTM file while Atlantis produced a 958 KB file from the same source.

    The big caveat is that Atlantis doesn't do tables. This is a disqualifier for a lot of professional work and would be annoying if developing solely for EPUB but since the Kindle is pretty lacking in that same area, it's still very useful for e-book work.

    I prefer to work in Word most of the time but AWP reads DOC and DOCX just fine, so I often save the final steps for it. The Word ToC problem noted above is something I saw recently that Atlantis got right where Word failed. While not as versatile, the AWP ToC function is more straighforward and reliable in my experience.

  31. epobirs,

    Thanks for posting this information about the Alantis Word Processor.

    I've wondered if it would be appropriate to recommend to those who don't have and don't want to purchase MS Word.

    But, your comments that you prefer to work in MS Word, leads me to think that Atlantis may not be suitable for someone to use as their only word processing software.

    Is that your opinion?

    Thanks again for your very informative post!

  32. CJ, I have published eight novels through KDP, all of which look just fine on the Kindle, but I still didn't know half of what you've explained here. I can now redo my books with a table of contents and a full-screen cover illustration, so thank you so much for this site! :)

  33. you are doing a marveous job here. specially the ncx stuff you seem to be the onlly one making sense, tks

  34. Thanks, Bert!

    I'll pass your remarks along to the writer of the NCX article,
    Araby Greene, of

    She also does stunning websites, btw.


  35. Hello, I was wondering how to get rid of idents that automatically keep showing up in mobi when i convert word to prc etc. I dont want all of my idents to go away but when I publish cook books etc I would like the list to be free of idents. IE: 2 cup this
    3 teaspoons of that.

  36. Should I format bold and italics with the strong and em html tags?

  37. Greg,

    HTML tags work if you are working in html, but I think that's much harder than working in MS Word.

    In Word, bold is simply CTRL-B, and italics is CTRL-I.

  38. EricW,

    To get rid of those unwanted indents, click on the photo of the birds on a tight-rope, and go through the steps to clean up MS Word, then set your indent as it tells you there.

    Mobipocket Creator automatically sets a first line indent unless you disable it... but you will see how to disable it when you follow the bird's steps.

  39. Dear CJ,
    Great blog and a godsend for newbie publishers! Just a quick one. What line spacing & font would you recommend a word doc to be formatted on Kindle..? At the moment the spacing looks too squashed (although it looks fine in word) and I was wondering how one would change it..?
    Any help truly appreciated!
    Ria :-)

  40. Thanks for such a great guide to a confusing subject. The only thing preventing me from following along completely is that I have a Mac and Mobipocket Creator is for PC only. Do you know how best to go through those steps on a Mac? I have Calibre, Apple Pages and OpenOffice (but I'm working at the moment with a MS Word .doc file.


  41. Hi Donna,

    Yes, from what I understand (I don't have a MAC), Calbre will work well for you.

    Continue with your MS Word file, but save it as HTML, filtered when you have finished editing... then feed that HTML file to Calibre.

    Don't try to edit your HTML file unless you just have to... that is if you have some kind of special format that can't be done in Word.

    That's where a lot of people go wrong... they think they have to edit the HTML file.

    Good Luck,


  42. This site was amazingly helpful. I am so glad you took the time to make a step-by-step process for us. You're a saint.

  43. CJ,

    I have been publishing Kindle books/articles for 2 years and I believe you have the best website/blog on Kindle formatting that I know of. I often refer people to it. I know html but I have the least hassles from using .doc and uploading them to Amazon.

    I have a question for you: I notice that Amazon now does auto indents on some devices (even if I don't want them) and they also want people to use paragraph formatting tools for spaces between paragraphs (when they didn't used to). The problem is -- their online previewer is inconsistent. The Fire in particular, does not add the indents and the others do.

    These changes get frustrating over time.

    My general rule is: the less formatting the better and to only trust previews I send to my devices via email.

    What do you think?

    1. Kate, thank you!

      I work very hard to make these the best tutorials around... but due to constant changes (improvements) by Amazon, they still need work!

      That default first line indent was built into the first edition of Mobipocket Creator.

      I've written several times about how to avoid it... you can find articles on the subject using the search box under the photo of the birds on a tight-rope.

      Essentially... you can disable that behavior by entering a value... any value... into the first-line indent box.

      If you enter the smallest number possible... ".001", that will do the trick, and will be so small it won't be noticeable... or at least not VERY noticeable.

      It's better explained in the tutorials.

      Yes, I agree that less formatting is better, but recently I've seen several examples of where HTML to KDP produces a nicer output than MS Word to KDP, even when the file has no images... so may change my tutorials to reflect that.

  44. Hi CJ, my niece (Master's in art) is designing my book cover for print-on-demand for amazon. How do we know what size the cover should be? Or does amazon size it to fit each author's book? Thanks so much for all your help & the step-by-step tutorials! Dixie

    1. Amazon changes their requirements so often I wouldn't dare try to answer without going to see what the latest is... which your niece can do better than I... since she can choose which she wants.

      I'm currently using the Cover Creator that's offered right there on the KDP Publish routine.

      It makes a very nice size on the Kindle... just a narrow margin all the way around... better than 90 % of other covers I see

      Even if she wants to do the final version herself, your niece could go on there and rough out her draft... (remember you can create a draft there... just don't hit PUBLISH) then view the draft on a Kindle.

      That would, with minimum effort, show her the sizes that work best.