Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to format an ebook for Amazon.com

This is your brain on regular books: *(^O^)*

This is your brain on ebooks: (X_X)

Formatting an ebook can seem really daunting at first, mainly because I imagine that most people who are dreamy and creative enough to write a book, do not have the patience to sit and weave through the complicated world of computer languages and coding. But, I assure you, it's not that hard. Like any skill, formatting takes a little time to get used to, but it ends up being easy and worth the effort.

Because of my own personal biases, I'm writing about formatting for Amazon.com. I'm obsessed with Amazon. Like, if I could marry a website, I would marry Amazon in a heartbeat. Let's start there.

First, figure out where you are in the process:

A) I have a great idea for a book!
B) I'm writing a great book!
C) I've written a great book!
D) I've written and edited a great book!
E) I've written and edited a great book and I have a KDP account!
F) I've written and edited a great book and I have a KDP account and I don't care about formatting!
G) I've written and edited a great book and I have a KDP account and I care about formatting!

If you answered...



A: Start writing your book.
Seriously, if you haven't started writing your book, you're really jumping the gun. You're not a writer until you start writing. Start writing!

B: Finish writing your book.
Don't let the destination get in the way of the journey. You need to finish that book. There's no point in formatting if you don't have a product.

C: Edit your book until you hate the world.
No matter how many times you've edited, you will always find a mistake. It's just a fact. Readers will find these mistakes one day, and they will go right to their review and mock you for it. That's why it's so so important to keep editing, and to ask someone else to help you. Two brains are better than one, and four eyes are better than just two (not to exclude the visually impaired, but you know what I mean). Just last night my boyfriend was helping me edit and we discovered that we, as college students, have a very vague understanding of whether or not you place a comma after the word "So" at the beginning of a sentence. We had to Google it and get to the bottom of it. Bottom line: EDIT.

D: Get a KDP account.
KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. It's the platform for uploading ebooks to Amazon.com and arranging payment once the royalties start rolling in. Go to the KDP site and set up your account. If you have an Amazon account, you just log in with those details. If you don't you REALLY should make an Amazon account because it's so wonderful. 

E: Decide whether or not you care about formatting.
I'm super nitpicky so it was really important for me to find a way to organize my ebook just to my liking. At first, I thought I just wanted to do it as quick and dirty as possible, but I found that I wasn't content with the standard format that Amazon applies to word documents. It really wasn't for me. So, I determined that I do really care about formatting. Figure out what sort of person you are and then make the decision to format or not.

F: Format your word document and upload it directly to KDP
So, let's say you've determined that you don't care so much about formatting. Great. You can upload a word document directly to KDP. There are a lot of things to consider, which, regardless of whether or not you hate formatting, you should really do.  When I first tried to create the book with the basic format, I took these suggestions to heart. Amazon does a great job outlining these things and you should follow their instructions. But keep in mind, that for those of you not born in the computer generation and who are not fluent in basic Word, things might get sticky, and you don't have a great opportunity to check out your ebook before publishing (I think the previewer platform on KDP is pretty flawed...)

G: Download Mobipocket Creator and Kindle Previewer.
I really like Mobipocket Creator. Some purists with better computer skills than me will tell you that it's not the best, but it has always done exactly what I want it to do. Download it, learn it, love it. It's free!

Do read through the list of formatting suggestions (linked under F in this post) that Amazon provides. It's very helpful and gives tips (don't use the tab key to indent, use page breaks between chapters, apply headings to chapter names, use .doc, etc.)

So, you've got Mobipocket Creator. First thing you need to do is take your Word document (which ideally, should be saved as .doc rather than .docx), make sure it has the same title as your book, and convert it via 'Save As' to Web page, filtered:


Then, you need to open up Mobipocket and upload to book to the program under "Import From Existing File: HTML document:


The program takes the html version of your book and imports it and brings you to a weird screen that looks like this:


The next step is to fill in the other components of your book. You're going to want to add a cover. Click on the Cover Image link and upload your cover. It will appear larger than the screen, but that's not a problem. Click update:


Then, you'll want a table of contents. In your original document, you should have put all of your Chapter headings as Heading 1 (just to make it easier). If you've done so, add a table of contents and type "h1" into the first row, first column. Click update:


Then,  you need to list yourself as the author. There are other components you might consider filling out, but that's not necessary. Just eBook title and Author:


Then, you're going to click on the 'Build' icon on the blue bar along the top (between Files and Deploy). The default settings should be what you need. Do NOT encrypt the file; it won't work on Amazon.com if you do.

Open up the file containing the eBook and you should get this:

That little turquoise file, .prc, is your book. Congratulations!

Now, you probably want to look at it. Download this puppy and you can view the book in any Kindle format.

This took me a week to get right, and this is a bare bones how-to. Please feel free to ask questions and I'll be glad to help. It will be very frustrating at first, but in the end it's worth it. This is about as close as I've ever gotten to making something on my own, and in the internet age, this is about as good as it gets.

While Kindle is really pushing the Kindle 8 format, this is a tried and true method and will turn out great. Hopefully.

-CZ

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