Self-publishing fiction is as easy as having a Word document and then uploading.
But for poets, poem formatting for ebooks can cause some problems.
Most publishing platforms automatically remove unnecessary double spacing to create flowing text in an ebook file, which is perfect for fiction.
When you self-publish a poetry book, however, space is a valuable tool.
It can be very frustrating when all your poetry book formatting in Microsoft Word is stripped away when you upload your collection of poems for publishing.
It had been a while since I had to work on a poetry manuscript.
I’ll admit that I became a little frustrated after my first couple of attempts at uploading to both Kindle with KDP or KDP Select and Draft2Digital (D2D).
But in the end, I succeeded.
How to format a poetry book with the right tools
When I tried to publish a poetry book on Amazon Kindle, it preserved at least some of the Word formatting. But the result was far from perfect.
But Draft2 Digital stripped almost all of my formatting away when I tried publishing a book.
I found this in D2D help, regarding poetry book layout, but it proved to be a hit and miss affair. Some formatting worked on some individual poems, but not others.
Blockquotes and Poetry
We detect blockquotes based on the margin (the distance from the right and left side of the page). You don’t need to use any particular margin, but to include a blockquote in your text, just make that block narrower than the main body text.
We can also sometimes recognize poetry formatting, as long as you place it within a blockquote. If you have a poem or song in your body text, make sure it’s tabbed in further than the body text, and there’s a chance we’ll catch it.
There had to be a better way to retain line breaks when creating an ebook of poetry.
I decided to do some digging around for articles and suggestions about formatting for self-publishing a poetry book title.
But most of the publishing advice I found on Google, and social media involved editing .html and modifying .css files.
For those new to self-publishing, these are complex skills. They are usually very difficult to master quickly enough to publish a short poetry collection.
In the end, I found that the easiest, quickest, and most flexible means of formatting a manuscript for poetry was to use two free software tools — one for Kindle Direct Publishing and one for Draft2Digital.
I’ll start with how I fixed the issues on Kindle.
How to publish a poetry book on Amazon
First, make sure that your Word document is formatted exactly the way you want.
It’s a good idea to check your page breaks, line and paragraph breaks, title page, and perhaps chapter titles if you have them.
These might be your poem titles.
If you have page numbers, they will not work with an ebook. You need to remove these from your footer. In fact, do not include anything in either the headers or footers.
Make sure that you save your document in .docx format. If it is in .doc format, do a new save as and save as .docx before to try to upload your book.
You can do this in any version of Word.
Then you need to download Kindle Create from Amazon. It is available for free for both Windows and Mac.
I find it a terrific tool for publishing any type of book to Kindle.
To give you a quick step by step start, here is a short video outlining what you can do with Kindle Create.
The only slight annoyance with Kindle Create is that you need to apply any formatting changes on a chapter by chapter basis.
There are a few global templates, but making other changes to your fonts, paragraphs, line spacing, indents, and alike cannot be changed globally.
However, it didn’t take me long to format the ebook I was working on, and the result was perfect.
You can edit almost anything. I added tabs, fixed a few typos, added a single space here and there, and changed some fonts.
It really is an easy to use ebook editor for those with no technical knowledge of .html.
It doesn’t matter what types of poems, what form of poetry, or how your poem is written.
You can let your imagination free and use a huge starting letter of each line, or create a Mouse’s Tale.
Even if you are publishing fiction, self-help, non-fiction, or textbooks, Kindle Create can be a useful creative tool.
The end result for me after uploading my Kindle Create file to KDP was a perfectly formatted poetry ebook.
The image below is from the Kindle app after publishing my ebook.
It is not possible to take a screengrab from my Kindle, but the result was exactly the same.
The formatting stayed precisely as I designed it no matter what font or size is chosen by the reader on their reading device.
For Draft2Digital I had to use a workaround
No matter what I tried, I could not get D2D to recognize line space after a paragraph.
This is, of course, an essential element for formatting poetry or free verse.
I used all the tricks I know in Word, but nothing worked 100%.
I reverted to plain text to remove any extra code and reformatted again. D2D recognized some poems that were wrapped in a blockquote with a changed margin, but totally missed others.
And then, when I uploaded it again, I would get a completely different result.
It was time for a better solution.
The solution is to prepare and upload your ebook in .epub format. Then D2D will retain all your ebook formatting.
Calibre to the rescue
If you are not using Calibre, you should be. It’s one of the best ebook editing tools for authors, and it’s free.
So, what did I do to keep my poem formatting?
Again, I had my ebook manuscript correctly formatted in Word and saved in .docx.
Calibre will respect all your formatting in Word, and replicate it exactly in .epub.
One very important tip before you start.
Make absolutely sure that all the chapter headings or poem titles are “Heading 2” in your Word document because these are needed to create a table of contents.
Upload your .docx file to Calibre, then click on metadata to add your book cover.
The next step is how you create a table of contents for an .epub file.
This is a necessity for Draft2Digital, or anywhere else you plan to publish in .epub.
Right-click on your book, and select Convert – Convert Individually.
The screen that opens is where you can adjust settings for your .epub file.
Click on Table of Contents, and then make sure that Autogenerate Table of Contents is ticked, and you have selected .epub as the output format.
Most importantly, make sure you have ticked “Manually fine-tune ToC after conversion.”
Click, Ok, and your ebook will start converting. Once it is finished, this screen will pop up. This is where you can edit your table of contents.
Once you have made any edits, your ebook is now ready in .epub format.
You will find your .epub ebook file in your Calibre library ready to upload to Draft2Digital, and all your poetry formatting will be absolutely perfect.
Even if you are not publishing poetry, you can use these two tools to give any of your ebooks a touch of class. Even for your free ebooks.
Kindle Create is very easy to use. Calibre can take a little while to learn, but your time will be well invested.
The most important use of these tools is to give your reader the best possible reading experience.
So anything you can do to achieve this aim is well worth the effort.