Formatting a Screenplay for Kindle

Standard

A persistent problem in the world of kindle formatting has been how to format a screenplay for the Kindle.

At LiberWriter, we were lucky enough to have Dave Trottier as an early customer.  Known as “Dr. Format”, he’s an expert at the nuances of how a screenplay ought to be written, so we were happy to work with him to ensure that his screenplay came out looking just right, given the limitations of the Kindle platform.

He was kind enough to write an article about the experience, and a technique he found that worked for him, reproduced here:

How to Prepare Your Script for Kindle

By Dave Trottier

These days, screenwriters want to get their script out any way they can. I have found that it is relatively easy to prepare a script for Kindle using LiberWriter.com.

Your first step is to register your copyright of the script. Don’t do this unless you are now ready to market the script, because the copyright displayed in the title page will “date” your script.

Your second step is to convert your script from Movie Magic Screenwriter or Final Draft to an RTF file. With Final Draft, use “Save as.” With Screenwriter, use the “Export” function. (If your script is already a Word Document, then there is nothing else you need to do.)

In your new RTF file, either delete all of your transitions or, if you absolutely must have a CUT TO or DISSOLVE, move it flush to the left margin. If you leave it flush right, it will create problems for you as a Kindle (mobi) file.

Now, avail yourself of the services of LiberWriter. It’s one of the best value sites I’ve found where you get plenty of help from their Support department, if you need it. I don’t get a commission for saying this. Realize that if you get stuck anywhere in the process, you can go to the User Guide, which is clear and helpful. If you still can’t solve your problem, you can email their Support department.

It might help to see an example of a finished product. In that case, consider purchasing a copy of A Window in Time from Amazon Kindle at $3.99. You will see how I handled each section of the e-book (actually, e-script), and what the final format looks like. But you don’t need to buy my script to be able to format your own.

While in LiberWriter, you may want to create some kind of brief introduction as your first chapter. Depending on your purposes for publishing your script, that chapter might include your logline and/or a brief synopsis. Of course, you may not want an introduction at all.

You’ll notice that the standard font for LiberWriter (and Kindle) is not Courier 12-point. I recommend you use the Kindle default font to make your script more readable on the Kindle. However, if you absolutely must use Courier, just pick LiberWriter’s “Typewriter” font.

The next chapter is for the script itself. Just copy and paste your RTF file. When you view your script in the LiberWriter window, you will see that it doesn’t look right. At that time, email Support, tell them you have downloaded your script, that you are affiliated with Dave Trottier, and that you need LiberWriter to adjust the file so that the indents disappear and there is spacing between paragraphs.

Once you hear back from them that the task is done, there is only one formatting change you need to make: dialogue blocks. Because it is next to impossible to create correctly formatted dialogue blocks that are pleasant to read on a Kindle, I have created a new formatting style for dialogue blocks.

Here is what a dialogue block will look like in the LiberWriter window once Support has made your requested adjustments:

JOHN
(desperately)
I love you, my darling.
(tipping his hat)
Frankly my dear, I’ve changed my mind.

Here’s how you want it to look:

JOHN (sarcastically): I love you, my darling. (tipping his hat) Frankly
my dear, I’ve changed my mind.

Here is how you make that happen.

First, you move everything in the block together, as follows:

JOHN (sarcastically): I love you, my darling. (tipping his hat) Frankly my
dear, I’ve changed my mind.

Then, you select the entire block. This is very important. Once selected, click on the “Increase Indent” icon, and the entire block will be indented just a few spaces. If you have several speeches in a row without any narrative description, you can select all of them and then indent. Take care that you don’t accidentally select and indent any action (narrative description).

Yes, yes, I know that this will be a somewhat laborious process, but it won’t take as long as you think. Besides, it allows you to polish the dialogue one last time. Make sure that any changes you make are also made in your master script in Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft.

Once done, you will download your new e-book/e-script, which will be saved as a Kindle (mobi) file in your Downloads folder, assuming you use Windows.

Finally, you will then open an account at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Follow their directions for creating your book (e-script) and uploading your mobi file. If you don’t have a cover image, Kindle will prepare a simple one
for you automatically.

Good luck and keep writing!

So there you have it: in the end, after trying various solutions with different levels of spacing and indentation, “simple” wins!

For those not using LiberWriter, the indent function simply adds the following to paragraphs: style=”margin-left: 40px”.

Dave describes it as a “laborious process”.  Since we like to save people from boring work at LiberWriter, if we receive further interest in converting screenplays, we may look at additional options for automating some or all of the process in order to make it quicker and easier, so get in touch with us!

You can find more of Dave Trottier’s advice on his web site: http://keepwriting.com/

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