How-to: Formatting your book description on Amazon KDP with HTML
It’s been a while now that authors have been officially allowed to use HTML tags in their book descriptions on KDP to spice up their layouts, even if the set of tags that Amazon allows is very limited (see Amazon’s support article for the list).
Why you want to use HTML tags in your book description
- You only have a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention.
- A simple body of plain text without additional formatting is less readable than one with some good structure.
- All the other authors are doing the same thing.
But: don’t overdo it. Use HTML sparingly and in the right places. If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to go too far, which will only achieve the opposite of what you intended.
How HTML tags work in the book description
If you already know your HTML, you can skip this section. For everyone else, HTML (hypertext markup language) uses certain tags to define the formatting and layout aspects of the text on a website. Of course, Amazon prefers to keep a tight rein on how its pages look, so it only allows a small subset of the typical HTML commands.
Most HTML commands consist of both a start tag and an end tag. The start tag must be within pointed brackets, like <this>, and the end tag must also be in pointed brackets, generally with a slash preceding the command, like </this>. Everything between the start and end tag will have the quality defined by the command.
You can also combine HTML commands. When you do this, you need to make sure not to overlap them: close the last start tag before opening another.
- Another common mistake is: This is wrong.
- Correct is: This is right.
If you do not use an HTML tag correctly in your description, KDP will let you know in an error message.
The error message you receive is somewhat confusing: You are indeed allowed to use HTML, but the closing bracket is missing.
HTML commands are not case sensitive, but it is generally advisable to use all lowercase.
What HTML commands can you use
The complete list of possible HTML commands is given at the end of this article. The four that I use most are:
- <h2> – creates a heading in boldface (used to be in orange, now black). There are actually a number of heading sizes you can create by changing the number (h1 and h3 through h6 are also options). Any heading is automatically followed by a blank line of the corresponding size.
- <b> – for bold text
- <i> – for italics, as used for names or quotations (for example, excerpts from reviews)
- <ul> and <li> – to create a bulleted list. Every element will be offset with its own bullet (just like each item of the list you are reading right now). To do this, you must begin the list with the <ul>
tag. Begin each element with the
- <li> tag
to separate it from the others. End the list by closing with the
The <br> tag, which is used to add a blank line, is not generally needed in your book description, because Amazon automatically adds space after a paragraph.
|<b> or <strong>||Makes text bold|
|<em> or <i>||Text in italics|
|<font>||Defines the font|
|<h1> through <h6>||Headlines of various sizes|
|<hr>||Adds a “horizontal rule” (black line)|
|<ol> and <li>||Creates a numbered list (list elements must begin with <li>)|
|<s> or <strike>||Strikethrough text|
|<ul> and <li>||Creates an unnumbered (bulleted) list; list elements must begin with <li>|
Final tip: if you already know more or less what you want your book description to look like, just use the HTML editor for Amazon on the site www.selfpublisherbibel.de.
This article was originally published by selfpublishing expert Matthias Matting on his German website www.selfpublisherbibel.de. He kindly gave us permission to translate it into English.