Monday, September 24, 2012

Self Publishing Tips #2 from Lyn Horner

Self-publishing guru Lyn Horner returns for her second series in tips for self-publishing. Lyn has had resounding success in self-publishing on Amazon. Today she discusses Kindle Previewer and Kindlegen. Come back every month for the next installment.
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Lyn!

As previously promised, today I’ll explain the uses of Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer. Both are free aps provided by Amazon. Their purpose is to view a book as it will appear on various Kindle readers and other devices. By doing so the author or publisher can spot glitches and correct them before uploading to the Kindle Direct Publishing Platform.

Amazon says: “Books that aren’t properly formatted may impact your sales in the form of negative reviews from readers, and in some cases, be removed from the Kindle Store.” More here.

Before I go any further, I must, warn you that using Kindlegen requires knowledge of html code. If you do not know html, or have a relative or friend who can help you, you’d do best to avoid Kindlegen. There are alternatives I’ll mention later in this post.

So, what does Kindlegen do? It converts a book file from HTML, XHTML, XML (OPF/IDPF format), or ePub source into a mobi-formatted Kindle Book. In order to do this, you first must construct an OPF tech file that contains all the book chapters, the book cover image, a TOC (Table of contents), an ncx toc, etc. It’s technical, too technical for me, but luckily I have a computer programmer son who sets up this stuff for me.

Why do I bother with Kindlegen when I could go an easier route? Because I’m a perfectionist and a worrywart of the first order. I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my books will upload without formatting glitches. In order to be sure of this, I need to proofread it on the Kindle Previewer.

Again quoting Amazon: “Kindle Previewer makes it easy to preview the layout of a book and make sure its text displays properly for any orientation or font size. This tool is recommended for publishers, eBook conversion companies, and individual authors in combination with KindleGen to produce the highest quality Kindle books.” The only way to feed it onto the previewer (downloadable version) is with Kindlegen.

To learn more about these two applications, refer to the Amazon Kindle Publishing guidelines. I suggest you download this pdf file for future reference.

One thing you should keep in mind is that Kindlegen is a command line tool, meaning you can’t just open it and automatically connect it to your book file. You will need to open it from your Start menu, which brings up a black command prompt window. Once there, you will follow specific steps to find your book and run it through Kindlegen. Note: you must have a book cover included in your tech file or Kindlegen won’t complete the process.

Simpler Alternatives:
If you choose, you can just upload your html (or Word) book file to the KDP platform. Here is a link to a tutorial video that takes you through the steps. Once your book file is uploaded you can preview it with the online previewer. Many, if not most independent authors go this route because it’s faster and easier. The problem is, if you discover formatting errors, or your book cover looks terrible, you will need to remove your book, make the necessary corrections, upload it again and hope everything works right. If not, you’ll have to repeat the whole process again. Amazon has provided Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer so we can avoid those headaches.

There is still another alternative: hire a service to convert your book for you. Many will also do the formatting. Just be careful who you hire. DO NOT sign a contract giving the conversion company any royalties or rights to your book! You should pay a one-time flat fee for the formatting/conversion job. Nothing more. Amazon list of conversion services can be found here.

Okay, I hope all this is a little clearer than mud, and you will know what I’m referring to when I mention Kindlegen and Kindle Previewer in future blogs. Bye for now!

Come back the end of October for the next self-publishing installment from Lyn Horner about creating book covers!
Breaking news: Lyn Horner's DASHING DRUID (2nd book in her TEXAS DRUIDS series) took 3rd place in the Romance Through The Ages contest (Colonial/Civil War/Western Category), sponsored by the Hearts Through History RWA Chapter. Congrats, Lyn!! Find the announcement here:


Ruby Johnson said...

Lyn: I'm saving these posts so that I can lay them out and absorb them. My computer literacy only goes so far. Thank you so much for your help.I've purchased ebooks with formats that have little squares where the text should be. Do you have any idea what the causes this problem? It's happened on more than one occasion. Amazon sometimes comes out with an update. I guess a lot of customers complain about this.

Keith said...

I tried I failed. Going to have to get someone to sit down with me and help me navigate the system.

J. A. Bennett said...

I'm saving these posts too. Seems like they are mini gold mines of good info I'm just not ready to process yet! Thank you so much Lyn for sharing!

Claire said...

Thanks so much Lyn for sharing your expertise. I too am keeping them.

Lyn Horner said...

Hi everyone. I apologize for not responding sooner. This is a crazy week. I've been brooding over a tricky plot point in the new book and sorting out stuff for a group garage sale. What a pain!

I'm so glad you're finding my posts helpful. I really debated whether to talk about Kindlegen because it's such a technical subject. (Like I said, my son handles tech stuff for me.) But I felt you should know about it.

Ruby, I've seen Kindle books so badly formatted that I gave up reading them. What causes the black squares you mentioned, I don't know, but such problems are why I prefer using Kindlegen and the downloadable Previewer. If one of my books were to look like that, I'd hide my head in shame.

With that said, there's nothing wrong with skipping Kindlegen and just uploading your Word or html book file. But prepared to take it down and fix glitches after viewing it on the online previewer. Don't be satisfied with a book that doesn't look good. Readers will delete it and never buy another book of yours.

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