3 May 2011

ADVICE INSIDE: Formatting My Book for Kindle - Get the Tools

Hi all,
It has been a couple of weeks, sorry for that. I had been travelling for work and then managed to take a bit of time off. No mobile, no email just the family - feeling quite refreshed thank you very much.

So I started to format one of my books for Kindle last week. This is a process that makes moving from one country to another seem like applying for a library card.....but after a little bit of research I am happy to report that it isn't that hard.

Read on........

As I found you have 2 options:
Option 1. Pay someone else to do it for you, and
Option 2. Do some research and try to do it yourself.

I have no experience with Option 1, although I will consider it as a comparison with one of the later books, once I do know something I will be sure to post it here. For now - all I know something about is the hard way!

So we will concentrate on Option2 - Do it yourself.

Step 1. Google it
I did and found a range of marginally helpful resources including free e-books (which were a bit more helpful). The best resource is actually the learning curve you enter when you start to have a go. I recommed starting with the google search and see what you can turn up.

Step 2. Your document
I started with a document in MS word format or in PDF format. Most of the anecdotal evidence suggests that PDF documents do not 'translate' very well so I opted to keep working with the word document. The key thing is to pick a format and then learn what you need to do from there. Some suggestions:

- If you understand HTML then perhaps notepad is just as good for you (if you start in notepad),
- If you started in MS word then this is fine as well, or
- If you started in some other format then try to convert it to text and then work with MS word or notepad.

If you are converting from another e-book format then try searching for a conversion tool - this might be easier for you than for those of us preparing a new e-book for the kindle.

Step 3. Using HTML and making the format work for your book
I still haven't found a complete list of the 'tags' in HTML that Kindle will support. In the next topic I will go through what I found with some of the MS word features, this will be a little bit of a mix of HTML advice and things you can use in MS word to get the resul tyou want. The easiest thing for me to do was to set up my workspace like this:

- Kindle for PC (for testing the output)
- mobipocket creator (for converting an MS word or HTML file into kindle files)
- MS Word (for editing an MS word document or HTML document)
- the Kindle digital publishing website (get a login NOW, I will explain why)

There are probably other ways you could do this but let me tell you what I found - it was quite easy after a little while. With this setup you can test different formats and then see how it will look in the kindle for PC. You can also see how things will look on a 'kindle' when you upload your files to the digital publishing site (you also have the option of then taking your converted file back from Amazon to keep working with it).

So - you format your HTML or word doc a bit, upload the latest version in mobipocket (see the link), build a new book in mobipocket creator and then move the 'kindle' files into your 'My Kindle books' directory. This is where your kindle looks on your PC for the book files. You can then open Kindle for PC and look through your book as if it has been downloaded from Amazon.

Lets break this down a little bit for you.
a. Go and download Kindle for PC from here

b. Go and download mobipocket creator from here

c. Go to the folder on your PC called 'My Documents'

d. Create a folder for your work - I call mine publishing, under there I have 'working' folders for each of my books and a folder for published book files. Set up your space so you don't confuse files - do this however you like

e. Mobipocket will create a folder called 'My published book' or similar - this is ok, you can make it call this folder whatever you like, essentially think of it as a temporary folder where you go to get the kindle files once created and move them to the kindle folder.

f. The Kindle for PC application will create a new folder under 'My Documents' called Kindle books or something similar - any kindle files (they look like little books) you put in here will be able to be read using Kindle for PC (which is just like any other kindle).

g. So go the mobipocket folder (the one where you tell mobipocket to send your kindle files when it has made the conversion - copy the files and put them in the 'Kindle files' folder. If you have images in your book then there will also be a folder with the images in it when mobipocket 'builds' your book - that should also be copied into the 'Kindle books' folder.

h. All you need to do now is open Kindle for PC and check the look and feel of your book! I promise that you will do this a thousand times. One method that works well is to build a new version, then open it in the Kindle for PC, then open your word document again and make fixes and adjustments as you go.

Step 4. Troubleshooting.
-If the Kindle for PC application is running when you put the new files in the 'Kindle books' folder then the Kindle for PC application will not see them until you restart it.

-You can't upload a document to mobipocket creator while it is still open in MS Word, so you need to save it and then close it before you import it into mobipocket.

-You will not see any images in your book unless you also copy the image folder to the 'Kindle books' folder as well as the actual book file. This image folder is probably called 'name of your book files' - copy the whole folder into your 'kindle books' folder.

Next article - actual formatting tips.

Thanks for reading.