Friday, April 8, 2011

Formatting Help for Kindle Authors

After finishing writing and editing my kindle book, I had no illusions at all about how finished the task of publishing was. Late last year, I uploaded an anthology of my flash fiction to the Kindle Store to see how difficult it was to publish on the platform and to serve as a placeholder for my subsequent titles. Suffice to say that the result was below par.

You see I tried uploading the doc file and then the html conversion of the file. The formatting was messed up and I threw my hands up in exasperation. Finally, through coercion, hours of tweaking, tweaking, tweaking and settling for less than the best, I got a passable version up there. I decided then that when next I was uploading my first real titles, I'd get a pro to do the formatting.

When the time came for me to format my new novel, I couldn't get the right person to do it. I also couldn't arrange for payment in time. I was itching to have it done; I couldn't wait to get aboard this kindle storm. So, I decided to do it myself.

First, I scoured the net for advice. What I got was too geeky; every help seemed too pro that getting a pro to do it seemed the best option. Then I ran into the new version of April L. Hamilton's Indie Author Guide to Publishing For the Kindle. You can get a free pdf copy from the author here.

April L. Hamilton deserves a world of thanks. Surely, the version 3 (I used the first version as a guide for formatting my flash fiction collection) showed that publishing to kindle has become more difficult but like she said, if you are tech-savvy enough or plain adventurous, you can get it done. I happen to fall between those two categories, so I gave it a try.

April L. Hamilton's guide is the For Dummies of Kindle Publishing. It is precise, concise and complete. By following the simple instructions, I journeyed through a country of codes and formats to the best kindle formatting I can ever hope for. Surely, I made two passes to get it right but I got it done.

After my first effort went live on Kindle, I wasn't satisfied with the front pages, so I went back and reformatted. The new version is more to my liking and I would have heartily paid some pro top dollar to get the same results.

But first, you need two programs to proceed; these are the Mobipocket Creator and the Kindle Previewer. Both are small programs and both are free. April's guide will show you how to use them. My first try took about three hours between reading the guide and formatting the book.

My second try was faster, taking some two hours because I knew where to go and what to tweak. Essentially, you copy some codes and do some typing. I remember that a particular step: adding the markers for certain stops in the book posed an insurmountable problem in Mobipocket Creator but I knew the terrain well enough to know to copy some lines off the OPF code included in the guide. Of particular interest is the active table of contents built into the toc.ncx file, the chief reason why kindle publishing is now harder than before. Following April's guide demystified the whole formatting problem for me and I heartily recommend that you try it.

If you must hire a pro to do it, you may as well hire her since she wrote the book on getting it right. To see how well my own formatting went, you can download the free sample of my book to your kindle from its Amazon page. It won't hurt if you buy it too.

Already, I have a couple of improvements I hope to make to even make the next formatting better. But before then, I need to get the writing done.


  1. Thank you for this info! I am going to try doing this myself first and see what happens. I'm not computer savvy at all.
    Also...when going to your page on Amazon, I thought it was funny that I had a pop up in the bottom right corner. These pop ups are supposed to be related somehow to whatever I am looking at. It was for a Wonder Woman costume. I hate those little pop ups and need to figure out how to get rid of those. But this one made me laugh.

  2. Thanks for leaving a comment, Gabriela. I followed you back to your blog and have it bookmarked.

    You don't need to be that computer-savvy to do your own kindle formatting. And it's odd get a Wonder Woman costume related my Amazon page. I'm all for Batman.

  3. Batman would have been a better choice! He's way cooler than Wonder Woman any day! *lol*
    I'll let you know how the formatting went when I do it. I'll be the one screaming! *L*