Kindle

Kindle e-publishing is almost fun to do, once you’ve gone to the hard work of creating your working file.

I had the advantage of doing all that work ahead of time for my Lulu gift books. All the formatting, spelling checks, beta-reader reviews, revisions, etc. I had the added advantage of starting with Adobe InDesign documents, which converted neatly with a plug-in (downloadable from Amazon for free) to get the final Kindle format (.mobi).

I made two changes. First, I wanted a table of contents. This isn’t essential for a Kindle book, but the classier ones have them. I had to construct a table of contents in InDesign that would then be converted automatically by the plug-in to hyperlinks in the Kindle document. This took a while, since I didn’t have any tables of contents in my Lulu documents at all.

As with a lot of word processors, the InDesign table of contents automatically fixes itself when you move pages around. The main technique is to assign a very specific paragraph style to your chapter headers (I very creatively labeled this style “Chapter Headers”). Then you just tell the table of contents creator to flag those for numbering.

When I was finally done, I liked the table of contents so much that I’m going back now and revising my old Lulu versions so they also have them (those, of course, will have page numbers, not hyperlinks).

The second thing I had to do was modify my Lulu book cover illustration for Kindle use. A hint: Always generate your cover graphics in a very high resolution (at least 300 dpi). You can always cook it down lower if you need it. Amazon likes Kindle cover images that are at least 2500 pixels high, with a 1.6 ratio of height to width. They’re selling books for some pretty high-res machines, now, and it doesn’t hurt to have your cover look great on an IPad Kindle app.

I dealt with footnotes in an earlier post.

Then you import your Kindle-ready file (.mobi in my case, but they do take others) and give Amazon a link to a properly-formatted cover image on your computer.

The rest is just going through the forms online and making some selections. There are decisions involved:

The “Kindle Select” option enrolls you in a program that gives you some benefits, but it prevents you from electronic publishing anywhere else for 90 days, automatically renewed unless you tell them. I went for this, since I wasn’t concerned about the other reader formats for now anyway. People can get a free Kindle reader app for almost any electronic device with a display screen.

DRM (Digital Rights Management) or not? I went for “not.”

Kindle does not assign you an ISBN. There’s a unique Amazon identifier number, though.

Pricing. There are restrictions (depending on other selections). The size of your file limits how cheap you can sell. Big files have higher minimum prices. There is a 30 percent and 70 percent royalty level (not bad), but that selection alters your price choices and some other things too. Pay close attention. I ended up with $2.99, which (in my completely unbiased opinion) is a good deal for a book of almost 500 pages.

Don’t overprice.

At the end of the process, Amazon will generate a final Kindle file and make it available to you for preview. Use that preview! As I said, you can get a Kindle app for any computing engine if you don’t own a Kindle, and they have an online previewer too. This is where you catch the bugs. I’d been previewing my plug-in output all along this way, so at this point I didn’t get any surprises.

When you finally hit the “publish” button, it takes time for things to mature on your new Amazon page. Features get added, bit by bit. Most of it is complete in a day or so, but some things like “Look Inside” take about a week to appear.

This is a very informal article, and Amazon has a lot more detailed help here. Make use of their forums, too.

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