formatting e-books

Tips on How to Publish on Amazon with KDP…

When you publish on Amazon through KDP, getting the formatting down can be tricky. So I asked Tony to give me a few notes about his experiences while he was publishing my last three books.

I’m publishing them here just in case they might help someone who is experiencing any problems. And please take into consideration the information below is not something that is supported by Amazon. It’s just a basic overview that comes from personal experience through trial and error. And we make no claims that this is the only way to do it.

And, for those who think indie publishing is easy, or for those who frown on indie publishing and feel superior to it, this is just the tip of how complicated it can be. The information below only comes after I’ve written the book, after I’ve edited the book six thousand times, after I’ve paid a copyeditor and cover artist, and after I’ve pulled most of my hair out. With the last book I did, Chase of a Dream, it was twice the work because I pubbed two versions at the same time, abridged and unabridged.

He doesn’t get into anything about putting the book on allromanceebooks.com, but said that was one of the less difficult places to do it. In fact, he praised ARe for the way things are set up there.

In my dealings with Amazon, it took a long time for me to get the “format” exactly correct to look perfect for a Kindle Reader. Although Amazon will accept a Microsoft .doc to upload, I found this to be the worse type of file format.

Anyone who will be publishing through Amazon should really read the help sections/guides that Amazon has to help guide you through this process, a long read but worth it.

But the short of it is, use a HTM/HTML as the format to upload to Amazon, this is the best type and easiest way for a conversion to a .MOBI. I also found many errors using a .DOCX file format to convert to HTML, and after many frustrating days of researching, I found that you have to first save your document as .DOCX, then save that .DOCX file and save as a ,DOC file. Once u saved as a .DOC, review the formatting and make sure all chapter headers, section breaks, and page breaks are correct, if not make the changes. Once satisfied with the .DOC, then save as a HTM/HTML document. Again, a review must be done after saving as an HTM, if everything looks good, use that to upload to AMAZON. After uploading the HTM file to Amazon, there is a very important key, especially if you uploaded prior versions of the book, you have to find the folder on your C:\ drive named “My Kindle Content”, and delete the files of the book you uploaded prior. Obliviously this step can be skipped if this is your first upload. So, once that is taken care of, you now can review the newly uploaded book from Amazon’s Kindle reviewer to ensure formatting is correct, 9 times out of 10 it will be with an HTM/HTML file upload.

There are so many more things to consider regarding the proper formatting, one has to keep in mind the elements that impact a proper conversion; table of contents, font colors other than black, headers/footers, section break vs page breaks, hyperlinks, font size (that is a biggy) and so on, these will have a direct impact on the conversion.

Now Smashwords, I find that site to be a real PIA. They take a file and convert it up to 6 different formats (if you want all of them available for purchase). I discovered that Smashword uses the most extreme formatting constraints for all its conversions, I believe it is based on PALM READER, that is in order for your document to be converted to a palm device; this is used as the basis or parameters for the other file formats. If you can get past all their reviews without pulling your hair out, then you are doing well.

If it was a .DOC file, again, formatting to MOBI will be good, not the best, and maybe not so good on EPUB. I would also, as I mentioned above, before reviewing a “newly” uploaded MOBI (either Amazon/Smashwords), if there are prior uploads, to delete them from your Kindle content before reviewing a new upload.

HTML, Formatting on Kindle, and Links for Help

So far, I’m happy with the basic formatting results with “Chase of a Lifetime,” but I wasn’t 100% thrilled, which is why we’re still working on one issue. In several places, I’ve found that one line paragraphs, usually with dialogue, didn’t indent properly. This isn’t an editing issue and it’s not that I don’t know any better. It’s a formatting issue that happens all the time when Word is converted to HTML and they aren’t always compatible. There are tricks and secrets Tony knows that I honestly can’t explain in detail. I will provide a few links below, though. (I’m going to try to get Tony to write a guest post, in more technical detail, about this.)

I’m not going to get into all the technical issues in this post. I barely know how to pronounce them let alone write about them. But since I’ve been talking about the self-publishing process since I started the project, strictly from the writer’s POV, I want to mention everything I’ve experienced along the way. And, for the record, this isn’t something I’ve read about on any of the more popular blogs about self-publishing on Amazon. I’ve read about how important it is to edit, to get a cover that works, and how to promote. In fact, what I’ve read about self-publishing has always been more about promotion and self-promotion than anything else. All those things are very important. But getting the right formatting is just as important, and for people thinking about self-publishing they need to know all the issues that can arise.

I’ve read where people who are self-publishing poetry books on Amazon go absolutely crazy. I’ve read so much by now I feel lucky that I’ve only experienced issues with indentations in only certain sections of the book. And now I know why I’ve seen these indentation issues in other e-books I’ve read…even from large publishers where I’ve paid 14.99 instead of .99. It’s not a simple process and for anyone thinking about doing this I would advise getting help from a professional if you’re not all that great with formatting and converting Word to HTML. It’s almost like trying to translate one language to another, and sometimes things get lost in the translation. Tony is doing it for me. I’m very lucky to have a smart and good looking partner (who is great in bed).As I write this post he’s still trying to figure out how to get those indentations right so a revised version will be up today. Considering some of the mistakes I’ve seen in all e-books, not just those that are self-published, this might not be the biggest issue in the world. But I’d still like to get it right. And not only for “Chase of a Lifetime,” but for future Kindle books.

There are also issues with regard to e-reading devices I won’t get into right now. Sometimes the formatting is perfect on Kindle devices and not so perfect on iPads or iPhones. I read about this late last night while I was checking out issues other authors have had. Getting digital books up and running is a science, and it’s not easy. But authors are working on these issues all the time and trying to get them right. At least I hope they are.

Here’s a link to one web site that I think explains some of the formatting issues very well (they also provide the QED E-book Seal of Approval, which I’ve blogged about before). Here’s a link to another, written by an author who makes it easier to understand. Like I said above, if you’re not the best at formatting and converting and you don’t understand anything about HTML, you probably should hire someone to do it for you. It’s worth the money.

In any event, a version of “Chase of a Lifetime” with the corrected indentations will be up today. It’s not that different from what’s already there, other than the fact that several sections where the indentations didn’t format correctly should now be fixed. I’ve already purchased the book myself and I have it on three different devices, so what I’m going to do is take it off my e-readers and then have Amazon resend me the updated versions. So I’ll be checking it out, on an actual e-reader, to make sure the issues were corrected.

This is just a small suggestion, but in a perfect e-book world Amazon would hire some of these college kids who have student loans to pay off to help out with these formatting issues. It would not only give Amazon a great boost as a seller of quality e-books, it would be a great way for Amazon to say they are helping the economy, too. Last I heard, we need more jobs in the US.