Kindle Conniptions: How I Published My First E-Book
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how to format books for the Kindle. The meager scraps of information that are available from the Help section of Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, the site where authors and publishers submit books for the Kindle Store, are cryptic and poorly organized. Almost everything I now know about this subject, I learned from Kindle Formatting: The Complete Guide to Formatting Books for the Amazon Kindle, by Joshua Tallent.
Kindle Formatting is itself a $9.99 Kindle e-book, although you can also order a paperback for $19.95. It’s a worthwhile purchase either way, because it’s chock full of arcane little details that Amazon doesn’t tell you about and that you’d never figure out on your own.
For example, I learned from Mr. Tallent (a digital publishing consultant with a firm called eBook Architects) that the only format that really looks right once it’s converted to AZW—and the only one that gives you the control you need over the book’s final appearance and behavior—is plain old HTML. And the easiest way to create a Kindle-ready HTML file is to make sure that your initial Word file uses consistent styles for elements like body text and chapter headings.
Since I use Word all day every day, I had thought I understood the program. But Tallent’s book forced me to figure out previously ignored features such as the styles pallette, so that I could then spend a couple of hours going back through the book’s 80 chapters and making sure that every headline was in “Heading 1” style, every dateline was in “Heading 5” style, and so forth.
Once that was done, I could save the Word file as a Web page (being sure to click the option for “Save only display information”—another arcane but crucial detail) and be reasonably sure that the formatting would be consistent once the book was on a Kindle. The next step, however, was to use a text editor to go back and remove the unfathomable amount of cruft that Word leaves behind whenever it saves a file in HTML. This is pretty much a manual process, though decent text editors—I used one called TextWrangler—have global search-and-replace functions that can speed it up. I was able to complete this part of my e-book project while I was stuck on a plane and had nothing better to do. But it’s a good thing it was a 10-hour flight to Alaska, or I would never have finished.
Oh, did I mention niceties like a hyperlinked table of contents? If you want one of those in your e-book, it’s a good idea to create it in Word before you convert it to HTML. The best reason to make sure that all of your chapter headings are in the same style is that … Next Page »
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