Formatting Poetry and Lyrics for the Kindle


In many cases, people get worried about the formatting of their Kindle books when they shouldn’t be: it’s best to keep it simple and let people focus on your writing.  The default format provided by the device is something Amazon has tested with numerous people in order to make the default ‘just right’.  Of course, there are technical details like a table of contents and navigation that are trickier, and do merit a bit of attention (LiberWriter makes them very easy, though).

However, poetry and lyrics don’t work very well unless they’re laid out with the line breaks in the right place, and visually distinct from the rest of the text.  You may also want to write an attribution at the bottom, which should also stand out.  Here’s how to quickly and easily format a poem or song lyrics in LiberWriter, as well as the generated HTML, for those who are curious how things work under the hood.

  1. First of all, add a space between the main body of text, and the start of the poem, by simply hitting return.  This creates an empty paragraph: <p></p>.
  2. Write or copy the poem in like so: after each line, where you want the line break to occur, hit shift+return – this creates a <br /> tag.
  3. If you want to do an attribution, on the last line, hit the space key a few times – I find 6 works nicely, then type the name of the author and the title of the poem or song.
  4. Now, go back and highlight the whole poem and attribution, and click the blockquote button in the LiberWriter toolbar.  While it’s still highlighted, hit the increase indent button, located just to the left of the block quote button.  You can hit the indent button more than once if you want to  move it further right.
  5. If you have an attribution, highlight it, and from the styles menu, select small.  This will set the attribution apart from the rest of the poem or song visually.
  6. Make sure there’s another empty paragraph at the end of the poem/song.

The results, from a screen shot on my Kindle (click to see full size):

For the curious, the HTML for that looks something like this:
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer id eros in tortor eleifend tincidunt eu eget est.</p>
    <p style="margin-left: 40px;">O Fortuna<br />
        velut luna<br />
        statu variabilis,<br />
        semper crescis<br />
        aut decrescis;<br />
        vita detestabilis<br />
        nunc obdurat<br />
        et tunc curat<br />
        ludo mentis aciem,<br />
        egestatem,<br />
        potestatem<br />
        dissolvit ut glaciem.<br />
        <small>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; - Carl Orff, Carmina Burana</small></p>
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam pharetra tempor dui, quis molestie risus ultrices viverra.

There you have it – nicely formatted lyrics!  It’s pretty easy.

A Worrying Trend: Kindle Spam


Hopefully Amazon will be up to the challenge of dealing with this worrying trend:


It says people are even selling software that automates the KDP spamming process… how sad.

They mention several suggestions to deal with the spam problem, including using a “social network” approach, as well asking people to pay a fee to list their books.  The latter idea isn’t as bad as it sounds – as long as it’s just a token amount, like $5, it’d be enough to make spammers think twice, but not be an undue burden on the rest of us.

It’s not an easy problem to solve, and is one faced by other online giants.  Google, for instance, is in a constant battle with outright spammers, and so-called “SEO experts” who try and game Google’s results to position products better in the search results.  Some of these people play by the rules, but others do not, and Google spends a lot of effort trying to make sure that the results you get are the ‘best’ in terms of the content.  Paypal and eBay also dedicate massive amounts of time, money and effort to fighting fraud, with the unfortunate side effect of many horror stories about Paypal freezing people’s accounts with no recourse.

Indeed, that may be one lesson that Amazon can learn from this: if you start automating spam-fighting, once in a while you’ll get a “false positive”, meaning that a real author gets flagged as spam.  That will not be a pleasant experience, so the better Amazon can deal with it, the happier everyone will be.