Saturday, May 21, 2011

Adventures in Formatting - Part 3: Kindle, the Final Frontier

First an update: in the interim between posts, the short stories published to Smashwords have all been accepted to the Premium Catalogue, which provides distribution through various other outlets, including Barnes and Noble' s Nook, the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Diesel, etcetera. Final thoughts? Following the Smashwords Style Guide to the letter will produce a properly formatted manuscript across all platforms.

Now, on to the Kindle. People get nervous about formatting for the Kindle, because it's important to have a professional product that looks good on the e-reader. One of the biggest complaints readers have is poorly formatted e-books.

We first assumed that we would be able to just upload the Mobi file produced by Smashwords into the Kindle interface and that would be it. Well, not so fast. First, as Richard mentioned earlier, make sure you take out your Smashwords information and change it to Kindle information. We noticed that after we had uploaded the first manuscript. Oops.

Second, carefully check the Kindle preview. Everything looked great, except for the fact that we lost all paragraph indents. I'm still not sure why. I did some research and anecdotal information indicated that it would show up fine once published, even though we couldn't get it to look right in Kindle Preview. Not willing to trust that, we endeavored to fix it.

What we finally did was save the manuscript in "filtered HTML" in Word. We then zipped the saved file and uploaded it. But then none of our internal graphics showed up. OH NOES! Back to the forums, where we learned that we had to add each individual graphic to the zip file and upload the whole thing. With that done, the package showed up correctly in the Kindle preview with everything intact.

Yahtzee! It only took an hour or two (with all the research added in) to get a Kindle e-book that is indistinguishable from a professionally formatted e-book. After two days, the books had gone through the Amazon approval process and were live.

So what we learned from the exercise outlined in these formatting posts? That even if you're pretty much a technical noob, as long as you can follow directions you can format your own books and you can do it as well as someone you would pay to do it.

If you're looking at self-publishing, you have four areas where you may incur expenses: design, editing, proofreading, and formatting. While I'm attempting to do all of these at no cost, each individual author will have to look at their budget and decided what they can pay for and what they NEED to pay for. I would say that if your budget is squeezed, formatting is the one area where you can learn how to perform the task as well as a professional.

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