Are you a first-time author? Do you have the modest dream of turning your novel into an ebook?
As you already know, there are two formats you need to consider: the .epub format (which works on virtually every device but the Kindle), and the .mobi format (which only works on the Kindle).
One of these formats is as simple to create as sending an email. The other is like playing the Whack-a-Mole game with your face instead of a mallet.
Here are the steps it takes to create an .epub document:
Step 1 – Export File To .epub Format
Ta-da! The finished product is beautiful and ready to sell!
To create a .mobi file for the Kindle, the process is a little more complicated:
Step 1 – Memorize the Formatting Guide
You could refer to Amazon’s guidelines every time you get stuck, but I recommend memorizing it to save time. Keep in mind, this document only provides about a tenth of what you need to know to successfully publish a Kindle ebook; the rest will come from forums on Google.
Step 2 – Set Tabs
Did you push the “tab” button at the start of every new paragraph? IDIOT. The Kindle doesn’t recognize tabs.
To fix the problem, perform a search for every tab in your document, then replace them with nothing. Next, set your tabs manually in your word-processor’s formatting menu. Easy!
Step 3 – Re-center Centered Objects
Do you have stanza breaks that you want centered? Pushing “center” doesn’t work.
Search your document for every centered object and highlight it. Then open your style drawer, and change them–one at a time–to a heading.
WARNING: the Kindle will not display this text the same way it appears on your computer! Trial and error may be required.
Step 4 – Play an Hour of Angry Birds
Pretend the pigs are Kindles.
Step 5 – Delete Every Italicized Sentence In Your Book, OR Download An HTML Editor and Trick the Kindle Into Accepting Your Important Formatting Decisions
If integrity isn’t important to you, this is an easy step. Search your document for any instance where the entire paragraph is italicized; this could be song lyrics that required different formatting, or a one word paragraph italicized for emphasis like:
Then remove the formatting so the paragraph is plain text. Were the italics an important part of your story? To bad.
If you’re one of those stubborn authors with integrity, you can perform this workaround I found online:
After you have performed this action on every italicized paragraph in your book, you can move on to number six.
Step 6 – Ask Your Girlfriend For Help
ESPECIALLY if she’s not good with computers. (The logic behind Kindle formatting makes it so humans and monkeys have the same chance at creating a properly formatted ebook.) To put credit where it’s due, my fiancé figured out step 2 for me.
Step 7 – Re-do Your Table of Contents
Creating a special “chapter” style and linking the heading to the table of contents isn’t enough. So how do you fix it? I haven’t figured that out yet. Seriously.
From what I understand, you need to download an HTML editor to create a new table of contents.
Step 8 – Export File To .epub Format
Finally! We have reached the only step that was required to publish the .epub file!
…but we’re not done yet.
Step 9 – Convert the .epub To .mobi Format
I tried this with Calibre, but the program added hyphens to every word and destroyed my formatting in about twenty different ways. Instead, use the converter on the Kindle site. But be prepared… it has bugs of its own! I spent an hour trying to figure out why the tabs were deleted at the top of every page, only to find out the glitch is only present on the online preview, NOT in the final version.
Step 10 – Repeat Steps 1-9
When you finally view the finished product, it will look nothing like you expected. The only way to fix this is to pop a couple Adderall, beat your face against your computer screen, and start over from the beginning.
Essentially, the Kindle format is EXTREMELY necessary. If your self-publishing experience is anything like mine, you’ll sell ten times as many Kindle versions as the others combined.
Just because Amazon has millions of subscribers does NOT make it okay for formatting to be a chore. Why would a company show this level of complacency? How hard would it be to drop a million bucks to develop an easier method of formatting?
Perhaps this wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t so simple to create an .epub document. It baffles me that I can look at the iBooks version that I created months ago, and it looks flawless. If this kind of technology exists, WHY CAN’T AMAZON IMPLEMENT IT?!
To be fair, Amazon is a great company. Their customer service is impeccable, and I appreciate their support of indie talent. But until they change their ebook formatting issues, this blogger is gonna be pissed.