Cynical Saints
Publishing and Graphic Design


This is my place to write about publishing and design projects I've worked on, or just share my opinions and experiences.

How To Use HTML Tags In Your Book Description

When you were a child, I’m sure that at some point a pleasant, nurturing woman who smelled of biscuits and springtime sat you down and told you: 

“Now child, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you can, however, judge a book by the 4000 or few character book description that the nice people wrote about the book, and if they found it agreeable to use a few of them HTML tags in there, you know to spruce the place up a bit, ooooo child, you go right ahead and buy that book like the good lord intended.”

Thanks Maw-Maw.

To make Maw-Maw proud, today we are going to talk about how to apply special formatting such as font size, bold, and italics to the text in your book description using the surprisingly simple technique of HTML tags.

Here is a list of the HTML tags which are currently accepted by Amazon for kindle book descriptions. For the most up to date information visit KDP’s Help page.


When implanting HTML special formatting into our book description we type the HTML language right into the book description itself and as long as we type it correctly the code snippets or “tags” will be hidden from view in the description and instead they will just have the desired effect on the text immediately before or after them.


1. All tags are letters or numbers contained in brackets

< >

2. Some effects (such as adding a horizontal line) require only one tag to be placed in the location of the desired effect.


3. To apply special formatting to specific sections of text two tags are required. One to signal the beginning of the affected section of text or "open" and another tag to signal the end of the area of text or "close". The open and close tags will usually look the same except the close tag will also contain "/" inside the brackets to signal end.

<b> Text, text. Text! </b>



Let's play a little game here.

If you can get this right, you are ready to start using HTML tags on Amazon or anywhere else on God's green Earth that will accept them!


I’m going to show you the book description for Personal Defense and the Right To Bear Arms as it appears in the Kindle Store. I already showed you our list of HTML special formatting tags. You can refer back to it to help you. See if you can look at the book description below and spot all of the special formatting. Don’t worry about the tags or brackets or any HTML code itself, just see if you can spot all the uses of special formatting in the description such as bold text or italics text.


How do much were you able to notice? It would have been hard to spot everything, especially the subtle differences between "heading" sizes for different text. The point of the exercise is not to get everything right but to familiarize you with some of the many options available to you for formatting your book description and hopefully show you that HTML tagging is really just applying simply formatting styles to your book description. Some of the special formatting you may have noticed in the description:

  • A bulleted list
  • Italics text
  • Different sizes of text (in this case we used different "heading" categorizations to do that)
  • Paragraph breaks
  • Bold text

I always like to take the mustard off the hot dog so here's what my book description text actually looks like on the back end. Copy and pasted from KDP into Microsoft word. I highlighted all the tags in grey with open tags dark green and close tags dark red. Tags that stand on their own or aren't designated as open or close tags are blue or black.



Now that we've got up close and personal with this book description, let's take a cigarette break, step back, and look at the bigger picture.

Why is your book description important?

Well, for starters:

There are three absolutely mandatory things that you need before you can make your E-book live in the kindle store:

  1. Cover File
  2. A draft file of the interior content
  3. A book description for the Kindle Marketplace

Here’s a little cheat code about those three requirements for readers who are trying to fly through the process and complete the level with Sonic The Hedgehog like speed:

The 2nd requirement, a draft file of the interior content, does not need to be a complete copy. To say that another way: you can upload an incomplete draft such as a plot outline, as long as you upload something, and Amazon will usually accept it and allow you to move forward with a live pre-order in the Kindle Store.

That means that if you already watched my other video posts about how to create an E-book cover, then all you have left is a book description and you are ready to go live. Don’t get me wrong, you will still have a ton of work on the back end with formatting, uploading, marketing, etc. But this is Self-Publishing 101. We are just going from point A to point B here without spending any money.

Don’t make the mistake I’ve made before which is I’ve finished everything about my book and then been super psyched to upload it only to be reminded by KDP at the last moment that I don’t have a book description, choosing in haste to post my book live for pre-order without applying the proper time and energy and forethought to the book description that it deserves.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my previous posts on book cover art specifications. Once you have your cover and your book description you have the two major outward facing pieces of the puzzle that are most visible to potential customers and required by amazon. Stay tuned for the my next post where I will walk you through the “back end” side of kindle direct publishing and get you ready to hit that “publish” button at the end!

Taylor McBride