Having previously published a book with Lulu, I was expecting the Kindle publishing process to be similar. That is: you save your book as a PDF file to provide pixel-perfect formatting, upload it and you’re done. Nope, that isn’t the way Kindle works...
This first big shock was that the Kindle preferred document format is not PDF, not PostScript, not LaTeX, not, in fact, anything that is widely used for accurate printing and publishing. On the contrary it is (are you sitting comfortably? I warn you, this may come as a shock...) HTML.
When someone first told me this, my immediate reaction was that they must be wrong. Nobody, but nobody would format a book in HTML. I mean, HTML is a horrible, clunky formatting so-called ‘language’ used for Web pages. Anyone who’s designed Web sites knows that the formatting capabilities of HTML are primitive. It would be next to impossible to lay out a single page of a glossy magazine such as ‘Vogue’ in HTML let alone a whole book.
Even so, HTML is what Kindle uses. And it’s a very basic form of HTML at that. You can’t use complex styles. And if you enhance your text with a variety of fancy fonts, Kindle will disregard the fonts when you publish the book. In fact, just about the only stylistic effects permitted are indentation, bold text, italics, headings and justification.
To get started you need to sign up at Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): https://kdp.amazon.com. Here you will find a number of guides in the support area: http://forums.kindledirectpublishing.com. One of the problems with these guides is that they are scattered around all over the place. You have to browse down into nested sections in order to locate numerous stand-alone articles. What you won’t find (bizarrely!) is a Kindle book that gathers together all the essential help in one place.
Let me save you some browsing time. The place to start is support article #533 in the Getting Started Guide Section: “Simplified Guide to Building a Kindle Book”. This assumes you will be using Microsoft Word. It tells you how to generate the final text by a) saving the file as ‘Filtered HTML’ (Word provides this option) then b) importing the text using a free tool called the Mobipocket Creator which you can download here: http://www.mobipocket.com/en/downloadsoft/productdetailscreator.asp. You can add a cover image at this point. As it’s a bit vague on the size and format, let me help you. Use a JPEG format image that is 600 pixels wide and 800 pixels high. Then you click Mobipocket Creator’s Build button to generate the Kindle-formatted output (a file that has the extension ‘.prc’).
Create a Kindle Book in 5 Easy(ish) Steps
|First save the Word document as Web Page Filtered|
|In Mobipocket Creator, click the option to import an HTML document|
|Browse to your HTML document and click Import|
|Click the Mobipocket Creator’s Build icon|
|Click its Build button to create a Kindle-format ‘.prc’ file|
You now need to check that your eBook looks OK. It almost certainly won’t, so don’t panic. If my experience is anything to go by, you will be going backwards and forwards between Word and the Mobipocket Creator many times making changes and regenerating the book before it looks anywhere close to ready-to-read.
The quickest way to verify the appearance of your book is by using the Kindle Previewer and a Kindle Reader for your Desktop computer.
The Kindle Reader has the benefit of formatting the text to fill the screen. However, this is not a good representation of the much smaller display of a Kindle reading device. The Kindle Previewer deliberately restricts your view to a Kindle-sized screen. However, in my experience, some formatting effects vary between the two pieces of software so you may want to check that the display of your book is at least acceptable on both.
Download the Kindle Previewer here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000234621
Download a Kindle Reader here (available for PC, Mac, iPad, Android etc): http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000234621
For more help on formatting your book for Kindle, I’d recommend the following two sites:
http://www.newselfpublishing.com/WordKindle.html (excellent overview of using Word for Kindle)
http://www.cjs-easy-as-pie.com/ (lots of invaluable articles)
At the time of writing, I still haven’t solved all my Kindle formatting problems and I’ll be soon writing more articles here on the Blog to discuss specific issues. If you are interested in publishing for Kindle, be sure to bookmark this Blog. I plan to talk you through my own experiences and the experiences of other Kindle authors in the months (and, I hope, years) ahead.