Kindle Conniptions: How I Published My First E-Book

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hire production lackeys to pore through each book, paragraph by paragraph, reformatting them for Amazon’s digital bookstore—and Sony’s, and Barnes & Noble’s, and soon Apple’s.

It seemed only fitting to sum up my self-publishing experience in today’s column, which is also Chapter 80 in the book. It’s a cautionary tale. E-publishing may be great for independent authors from a financial point of view—especially once Amazon starts offering 70 percent royalties this summer—but it’s still a nightmare from a technical one.

My first step toward creating Pixel Nation was simply to gather up all of my old columns, which meant copying and pasting them from the Web pages on Xconomy into a Word document. I would never have attempted this task before November 2009, when we added a single-page view option that lets you see an entire article on one page. Many of my columns are fairly long, so they get broken into two, three, or four pages on the site, and it would have taken forever to stitch them all together from these separate pages.

Pixel Nation: 80 Weeks of World Wide WadeNext I deleted most of the pictures, as photos tend to add greatly to the file size of an e-book. Then I went through all the old columns and added updates and wrote an introduction. Using a graphics program and a photo that I staged on my dining room table, I whipped together the cover image you see here and inserted it into the Word file. That was the fun part.

Now I was left with a big, long Word file. On a Mac, it’s easy to export a Word file to PDF, so creating that version of the e-book was child’s play. It was the Kindle version that really gave me fits.

Now, I am very fond of my Kindle. I got it in May 2009, and use it every day. I love the fact that it comes with an email address (like “”) that you can use to e-mail Word and PDF files to Amazon; for only 15 cents per megabyte, Amazon will then convert the files into the Kindle format (called AZW) and transmit them wirelessly to your device.

In an ideal world, publishing an e-book—that is, getting it converted to AZW and listed in the Kindle Store and the website—would be just as easy. Unfortunately, Amazon’s conversion software doesn’t have much of a sense of style. The Word files that you mail to yourself never look as nice as the e-books that you can purchase and download. The conversion process tends to leave ridiculously large gaps between paragraphs, for example. And the files lack all the pleasant conventions of professionally published books, such as consistent chapter headings or a hyperlinked table of contents.

It turns out that if you want that stuff in your e-book, you have to build it all yourself. Did I learn this from Amazon? No, the company actually shares very little information about … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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