While the Kindle has been out for a while, I published my first Kindle book, 42 Fallacies, in November of 2010. While the content of the book has been freely available for years, people expressed an interest in a Kindle version and I put one together. I was rather surprised by the fact that people have been buying about 40 copies each month. After all, there are free PDF, text, and Word versions all over the web.
This modest success motivated me to produce other Kindle books. The most recent is McDonald’s is for Breakups and I have four other books currently in the works. I have no delusions of making a lot of money. Rather, I am more interested in sharing my ideas and raising a little cash to help buy the supplies I need to teach. Thanks to the budget cuts in my state, my department has no dedicated funds for such things. In fact, the university is currently being “restructured” and the current theme is that we are all “lucky to have jobs.” Yes, I have had the occasional daydream of Oprah pushing one of my books and being able to become independently wealthy on the proceeds.
While I doubt Oprah will be pushing anyone’s minor Kindle books anytime soon, getting into the Kindle publishing business can be fun and perhaps even profitable. While writing books can be a bit challenging, the Kindling process is fairly easy. The following is a very simple guide to simple Kindle publishing.
First, you need to set up your Kindle direct publishing account by going to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin. If you do not already have an Amazon account, you will need to set one up and sign in using that account. Otherwise, you just need to set up the KDP, a process that is rather quick.
Second, you need to write a book. Good luck with that. When writing a book for the Kindle, it is a good idea to consider the nature of that format, which leads to the third step.
Third, you need to format the book. Kindle books are, in effect, written in a HTML code with some support for style sheets. It is this code that controls how the text appears as well as handling the navigation of the text. For example, the table of contents for a Kindle is essentially a set of hyperlinks to anchors in the text.
Given this, the more you know about HTML and style sheets, the better. Fortunately, if you are doing a basic book, then you can get by without knowing much (or anything) about HTML.
Fortunately, you do not have to write your book in an HTML editor. After all, most word processing and page layout programs support saving files to HTML. Also, as will be discussed below, you can convert certain file types directly to the Kindle format.
Since my books have been rather basic, I have been using Word to create and edit the content. Conveniently, Word’s table of contents generator will generate a usable table in the document. Simply set the style for each item you want in the table and Word will do the work for you.
Once the book is formatted in Word, the file can be saved as HTML, text or even simply as a Word (.doc) file for conversion. You can even save it as a PDF file. HTML does seem to be the preferred format, however.
Since Word is somewhat notorious for creating crappy HTML, you might consider cleaning up the code in an HTML editor if you are not getting the results that you want when you convert the book into the Kindle format (see below). This does, of course, require knowing about HTML and the Kindle format. Fortunately, you can create decent looking books without knowing any of this.
There are, of course, many options other than Word. Given that all you need is,crudely put, a file with the proper HTML code, any program that can create HTML files (or a file that can be converted to HTML) can be used to create a Kindle book. You can even use programs that are designed for page layout, such as Adobe InDesign.
Fourth, you need to convert the book into the format used by Amazon. Amazon offers two free options. The first is the command line (think DOS) Kindlegen that converts files into the correct format. The second is a (beta) plug in for Adobe InDesign (Mac and Windows versions are available). Both are available here.
A second free option is the MobiPocket Creator. This is the option that I recommend, since it is not a command line program and provides various useful options (such as adding a cover graphic). The program can import HTML, Word (.doc), text, and PDF files. However, it produces the best results from HTML in regards to having the Kindle book resemble the original in regards to layout. I have tried several PDF files, generally with very disappointing results. Not surprisingly, the simpler the layout of a book, the easier it will be for the program to maintain that layout properly.
Given that Amazon is pushing Kindle hard, I have been hoping that they would provide software that could be used to create and directly save Kindle book files. The current method seems a bit jury rigged: you create the book in one program, save it and clean it up with another, then use a third program to convert it to the Kindle format. But perhaps this is intended to put up a barrier or perhaps the folks at Amazon are getting enough books so they need not worry about this.
Fifth, you will upload the book to Amazon via the KDP page. You will need to enter the details regarding your book, set a price, enter a description and (if desired) upload an image of the cover. Amazon will process the book and it will be published in 48 hours (in the United States).
Here is my super simple bullet list method:
- Create your Amazon KDP account.
- Write your book in Word, create a table of contents, save it as HTML.
- Convert the book using MobiPocket Creator.
- Upload it to Amazon KDP.
- Wait for Oprah to call you.