Self-Pub eBook Update


Well, I’ve been a busy, busy boy lately.

I’ve spent more time reading up on Kindle publishing than I ever imagined I would. And my buddy Bryce helped out a lot too.(Matter of fact, watch both this space and his for a full run-down of the how-to of Kindle self-publishing, soon as I can get the time block cleared to do it.)

What I’ve done so far is download a couple of utilities that make processing the Kindle format much, MUCH easier. There are three specific ones I’m using for this process:

  1. A command line utility Amazon offers on their DTP (that’s digital text platform) site. You run it from a command prompt in Windows or whatever operating system you’re using (think I saw instructions for both Linux and Windows, maybe another one – Mac? – too). Basically you run the utility and it spits out a .mobi format (the one the Kindle uses) file for you. But the catch is, you have to input one of the acceptable file formats to begin with (luckily, HTML is one such format).
  2. A second utility which does something similar but uses raw Word documents as input. It doesn’t, however, work quite as well, at least not in my testing. (I haven’t tried it with HTML documents yet; that experiment is later today.) It’s also a GUI program, meaning it works IN Windows instead of a command prompt (which many will think of as a “DOS” program).
  3. Finally, I’m using the Kindle Previewer to view the converted e-books and see how they turned out. They lack the professional kerning capabilities of a major publishing house utilizing a professional typesetter, and I could run the Word files through Adobe InDesign (which is a typesetting program), but it’s sort of a PITA to do that and very, very time consuming (since this is NOT my full-time job and I cannot afford a typesetter).
  4. Also, I created a cover for the book, which I think (and my wife agrees) is quite nice. It’s slick. But I don’t know how to get the image into the book. I know it will go up with the upload to be a thumbnail for the Kindle store, but how to include it as part of the .mobi file?

So my questions keep piling up. Back to the Kindle publishing forums I go, I suppose. Maybe it’s in the formatting instructions somewhere.

All right, then, here’s what I have to do:

  • Make a single Word document of all the stories I’m including in the compilation
  • Convert that document to HTML
  • Run it through the utility(ies) to see how it turns out
  • Upload to Kindle store and Smashwords and pray. Pray, pray, pray.

Did I miss anything?

Here’s one for you Kindle owners out there: Can you download books from sources OTHER than Amazon’s Kindle store? That is, if I email this thing to you, can you get it onto your Kindle and check it out for me, see whether the formatting is at least comparable to professionally converted ebooks? I’d like this product to be as close as possible to professional quality; after all, I’m going to have to charge for it.

Also need any and all information you all can share about the “front matter” in a self-published e-book. How should the copyright information read? And should I include a dedication and acknowledgements page? (I did do it myself, but I still need some help.)

Oh, and any takers on the proofing stuff, please let me know if you’re still available. I’m way behind where I wanted to be, but I’m getting there. Thanks!

Hm. I think that’s it. What’s on your plate this weekend?

-JDT-

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8 thoughts on “Self-Pub eBook Update

  1. I’m trying to answer the Kindle questions for you but I’m not having much luck, but I am trying to find out. 🙂

    Thanks sweetie! I’ll look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

  2. Just reading part of all that hurts my head! Wow. What a lot of information and work. Good for you though. Three cheers and then a few hundred more cheers.

    You ask some good questions. It is too late in the night for me to think of useful answers (if I even have any), but if something comes to mind, I’ll let you know.

    Good luck with all these steps!

    Thanks, Marta! It’s not so overwhelming as it sounds, though. I’m just learning the process; once I have it down I’ll be able to do this easily. 🙂

  3. Here are SOME answers to SOME of your questions…

    (1) The cover art: Years ago, when I was in my XML phase, I played around with converting XML documents (like XHTML) to Mobi format. (There was no Kindle then, but there was some client e-reader software called the Mobi Pocket Reader — still out there, I think.) I vaguely remember that along with the underlying text (the document), what you could feed the Mobi Reader was a text file called a “manifest.” It always contained either the document itself or a hyperlink to it. It OPTIONALLY included information about the front and back matter, and in the former you could include a link to cover art. This was sort of parallel to an (X)HTML document, which always contains a body element (tag) and MAY (usually does) contain a head element. And in the head element you can (or may choose not to) include one for the document title, the style sheet, and so on.

    Anyway, there may be something called a “manifest” for you to learn about. 🙂

    (2) Other non-Kindle formats: I haven’t tried them all, but supposedly it will handle .mob, .prc (an altnernate Mobi format), .doc, ePub, HTML…

    Starting with the Kindle 2, it comes equipped with a native PDF viewer. (I don’t like this much, at least on my K2, because it’s not really formatted for the screen. If you’ve got the full Adobe Acrobat, I think when you create the PDF in the first place, you can set up page size and such so it’s more optimized for an e-reader’s screen. But at normal page (print) “page” size, either (a) you can see the whole page, but it’s too small to read on the little screen; or (b) you can zoom the magnification to make it more legible, but then have to scroll side-to-side and left-to-right. Not fun.

    There are two ways to get docs onto the Kindle from sources other than Amazon: (a) The reader comes with a USB cable to connect to a computer; you just drag and drop as to an external drive. (b) With the Kindle, you also get a special email account, [yourusername]@kindle.com. You can email yourself a blank message, with an attachment (Word, PDF, HTML, etc.), and the Kindle receives it over the wireless connection just like an Amazon book. You can also use the word “convert” as the message subject, and Amazon’s software will do a more or less okay job of converting it to the Kindle’s native format, which isn’t the .mob thing but .azw — and then will send it wirelessly to your Kindle.

    (Using the special kindle.com email address costs $. It’s not expensive, but moreso than using the USB — which, ha, is free. I only use the email address when I want something converted.)

    I found a site this week called ManyBooks — all free. If you’d like to blow your mind, select any book there, and pull down the “Select format” drop-down list. They make their books available in a gazillion ebook formats, including .azw. I’ve downloaded a couple things from there so far, just using a browser. Once they’re on the computer, I just USB ’em over to the K2.

    Haven’t tried it yet, but it may very well be possible to buy a .mob, .prc, or ePub book from the Borders or B&N ebook sites, and USB it to the Kindle. Although I love the convenience of the Amazon connection, a lot of books simply haven’t made it to Amazon’s ebook shelves yet; those other stores might have the ones Amazon’s missing.

    Hope that helps!

    AMAZING information, JES! Wow! Thanks! It sort of DOES help. The converter I have takes an HTML document and transforms it to .mobi; it does a nice job, but because I don’t have a Kindle, I can’t compare it to other Kindle books. I’ll have to spend quality time on their site today finding out about the cover art thing. 🙂

    Thanks again! This is great stuff, and I’ll be sure and bookmark that ManyBooks site and check it out. 🙂

    • A not-very-well-publicized bit of info: you don’t NEED a Kindle. Amazon makes Kindle “apps” for various platforms: PC, Mac, smartphones… You just download/install the app to the device, and you can read Kindle books just as someone does on a Kindle. [See here for details.]

      Of course it’s not “just as good” as a Kindle. You’d have use a backlit screen instead of e-Ink; you’d have no access to the wireless download feature/Whispernet (as they call it). And I don’t THINK you can synchronize your reading across various devices — letting you read a book on both your smartphone and PC, say, while keeping your current location in the book straight across all of them — unless you have the Kindle itself. (I could be wrong about that part, never having tried.)

      Anyway, for your purposes — seeing how it will look, sorta-kinda — it might be just fine.

      I’m using the KindPreviewer which is downloaded from their Kindle sotre publishing site along withe the meatgrinder software. It’s been a big help, but I’m unsure how accurately the software will replicate the look of the Kindle relative to how my stuff looks. Hence, I’m looking for Kindle users to take my file and see if they can get it from their PC to their Kindle without having to download from their site. I’m hoping it will look good; it odes here on my emulator software. 🙂

  4. P.S., if you can believe it… When converting from .doc to HTML, be sure to use a “smart” converter. HTML isn’t a “paged” medium; by itself doesn’t know about things like physical page breaks, page headers/footers, etc. The OpenOffice word processor does an astoundingly good job with this.

    Oh really? ANOTHER guy trying to hawk OO on me? 😉

    I think Word ’07 does a decent job with this; I have to figure out what’s going to happen when I try to compile all the stories into a single document and then convert, but I’m going to be testing a lot first. Thanks again!

  5. So far as I know, the Kindle only accepts files from Amazon.com. They’ve decided to the the proprietary thing, like Apple.

    You and JES must’ve been simultaneously posting, Spark! Check out his answer below as an FYI. 🙂

  6. I’m saving this for later. Thanks for doing so much research!

    Well, it’s my pleasure. AND, I just found a little bit MORE out too. Now I have to try and just take the plunge here, but I have a few more questions. When I’m all done I’ll re-post the process in a bit more detail. I might set up separate pages for it, too. 🙂

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