Formatting for Kindle: Why Page Count Matters

Most authors rarely think about formatting. Thanks to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), the tricky task of formatting is not nearly as difficult as it is when formatting for a printed copy. With Kindle, there is no need for the aesthetically pleasing page breaks and numbered pages that one must adhere to when formatting for print. Most authors just sit down at their word processing software and begin typing away, using whatever default setting their software is set to. They finish the drafts, have it edited, and if any formatting is done for Kindle by professional formatters, it is just to ensure that there is a hard page break between the title page, copyright page, dedication page, each chapter, and any ‘About the Author’ or ‘Foreword’ sections. The author gets the finished file back, uploads it to Kindle, and never thinks twice about it.

 

 

In today’s article, we discuss why the estimated printed page length that is on a book’s purchase page is important, how Kindle estimates the page count, and what you can do to ensure that your printed page count is accurate.

 

 

Let’s consider this for a moment.  When you walk into a book store, you are purchasing formatted books, correct? You are not purchasing an unformatted book printed single spaced on a standard sized piece of printer pager. The books come in many different sizes, or trim sizes as the industry calls them, and they vary greatly in page length depending upon font used and the trim size used. As a reader, one of the first things that you are concerned with will be

 

 

  1. The size of the book and
  2. The price of the book

 

 

As a reader, how large the book is determines whether or not you are willing to pay the asking price of a book. While you may not mind paying $20 for a book that is 400 pages or more, you most likely will baulk at paying that same price for a book that has half that many or fewer pages. As a reader, you want to get your money’s worth, and expect to pay more for larger books that have a larger trim size and more pages. Publishers know this, which is why they will purposely use a smaller trim size on short word count novels to increase the printed page length. They know that readers will not be willing to spend $20 on a book that is only 200 pages long but will be much more willing to pay that same price for a book that is 400 pages long, even if the word count is the same.

 

 

With that in mind, what most authors do not realize, especially if they do not do their own formatting or format for printed copies, is that Kindle strips out all the formatting on a file when it is uploaded. The estimated printed page length is estimated on the overall word count as if it were being printed out on a standard sized 8.5” X 11” of printing paper, single spaced, with a 12 pt font. As noted above, you do not purchase unformatted books printed out on standard sized paper with single spacing. So, when Amazon strips out the formatting, the estimated printed page length of the book will NOT be based on the trim sized used for print formatting.

 

 

So let’s break this down further and use a real world example. My book The Red Fang was formatted for print using the standard 5.5” X 8.5” trim size and is just shy of 50K words.  When printed, this book is 388 pages in length, as noted in these product details.

Product Details

 

However, when this same formatted file is uploaded to KDP, the formatting is stripped out, and the estimated printed page length that is showing on the book’s Kindle buy page is estimated at only 178 pages.  The book lost 210 pages during the conversion process, as noted in the below product details for the Kindle version of the same book.

 

Product Details

 

 

But what does this mean? As an author, do you really care how many pages your book is on Kindle, or that the estimated print length showing on Amazon is based on an unformatted standard sheet of paper and not based on a formatted print copy?

 

The short answer for this is yes, and the reason why is because your readers care. Remember our scenario from earlier where you walked into a book store and made a purchase based on the overall page count of the book? Readers do this same thing when looking at Kindle books. If they see two Kindle books that are the same word count and both priced the same but one has an estimated printed length of 178 pages and the other has an estimated printed length of 388 pages, they are naturally going to buy the one with the higher estimated printed length because they think they are getting a better deal. It doesn’t matter that the two books have the exact same word count because Amazon does not list word count, only estimated printed length. Since the readers don’t know the two books are the same word count and ONLY have the estimated printed length to judge the length of a Kindle book, they are naturally going to opt for the Kindle book that shows a longer estimated print length.

 

But if uploading the file to KDP is automatically going to strip the formatting, then wouldn’t all the Kindle versions of all books then be on equal footing, i.e. wouldn’t they all show estimated page counts based on a stripped down format that had fewer pages? The answer to this is no, which is why authors need to make certain that the estimated printed length on their Kindle books is accurate.

 

So you may be wondering if this is all done automatically, how do you get the Kindle versions of your books to show the correct, formatted estimated printed length? Why is it that some books are showing a stripped down page count resulting in fewer estimated pages while other books are showing the same printed page length as the book’s printed counterpart?

 

The answer to this is simple. You will need to link the Kindle versions of each of your books to a printed copy, and you can do this by going through CreateSpace (CS). Once you have your book formatted to the trim size of your choice, you simple have to upload the file to CS and link the printed version of the book to the Kindle version.  Within a few days the estimated printed page length on the Kindle version will automatically readjust to show the same printed length as the printed version of the book. This same process will work in reverse, i.e. you can upload the printed version to CS first and then have it transferred over to Kindle using the feature built into CS that automatically carries everything over to Kindle for you. When uploading to Kindle through CS, the Kindle version of the book will automatically show the same estimated printed page length as the printed version.

The Formatting Fiasco: Formatting Novels for Different Platforms

 

 

The Formatting Fiasco

 

I believe it was Thomas Edison who said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”  Over the years, people have inserted whatever difficult task they were after in the place of “genius.”  For me, it’s writing that is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  Actually, I think it’s more like 109% perspiration.  And never has any writer worked harder than the independent author who self-publishes.

 

For those of us who do it all ourselves, we often spend as much time, and oftentimes more time, in post-writing with the formatting, editing, proofreading, creation of cover art, etc. than we do the actual writing of the novel.  For us, the creativity does not stop after the writing is done.  We still have to proofread it, edit it, rewrite parts of it, create the cover art, and the horrid, horrid job of formatting the thing for various platforms.

 

Herein lies The Great Formatting Fiasco.  Unfortunately for us, formatting is mostly trial and error.  After a while we get better at it, learning to always insert a page break in between chapters, the title page, the copyright notice page, and all the other important pages.  We learn which margins, font type, and font size work best for which size book.  Of course, there is always room for error, and formatting for a printed format is completely different from formatting for the Kindle format.  I’ve learned that eBook formats and Kindle formats are interchangeable, meaning that I no longer have three separate formatting files. 

 

One of the main problems, especially when it comes to the printed copies, is that you never really know what it is going to look like until you have forked over the money and purchased your own copy.  Then comes reformatting the files, uploading them again, and ordering yet another galley copy.  And heaven forbid you should find spelling and grammatical errors in them.  Just changing one word has the potential to throw off the printed format so much that all pages after the correction have to be reformatted.  It’s enough to make an author want to run screaming from their desk.

 

Checking out the formatting for Kindle editions is not as bad as having to order a half-dozen printed copies.  I don’t even own a Kindle, but I downloaded the free app from Amazon.com and always request a free sample of the book as soon as it becomes available.  For the most part, I can change the formatting and have the corrections uploaded before anyone has the chance to purchase one of the ‘mistakes.’  Still, since I only get a small sample, I can only hope that the rest of the novel looks as good as the first few pages.

 

Out of all the work that goes into producing a novel for the different platforms, I would have to say that formatting gives me the most problems, but it is also the easiest to fix, for me at least.  But I guess when you have reformatted more than 7 projects for 3 different platforms for 2 different websites, you have to get pretty good at it really quick.  If I had the luxury of taking my time, I wouldn’t get nearly as much done.  After all, novels sitting around on my computer drive aren’t going to sale if they are not formatted and ready to go.