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Ebook Publishing > Formatting a (Kindle) e-book

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message 1: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (last edited May 17, 2020 04:32AM) (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 721 comments Mod
Well, I am getting there. Just a few last things to fix and my story will be finalized.

Which means I'll need to think about formatting. I plan to do this myself instead of splashing precious money on outsourcing this task, to save for other expenses (especially cover graphic). At this point, I'm considering three options and decided to ask for your opinions and experiences. This means you're more than welcome to add any other way to do this that I don't mention (because I most likely don't know about it).

Simple Calibre conversion
This method is something I have experience with because I used it for the conversion of my WIP drafts for self-proofing. Hence, I did not play with the formatting at all and I just let it chew the Word file and spit a MOBI or AZW3 file out. I have no idea how complex it would be to adjust anything in Calibre - especially if I wanted to play with chapter numbers/titles.

I also don't know how well would the conversion pass if I'd embed the map in Word and then let Calibre do the conversion.

Using Kindle Create
I had a look at Amazon's simple too and it seems to work quite well, if you're okay with one of the four templates. If not, well, you gotta use another way.

The best part of KC I've spotted so far is a tool to add a copyright page, title page, and other possible elements of both front and end matter with a single click and then adjusting the template. And I believe it'd also code it properly so the % progress you see when reading reaches 100% by the time you reach 'the end' (before the end matter) as well as the fact the e-book will open at the start (thus skipping the title and copyright page) - something I don't know if the other methods can do.

HTML editing + Calibre
The method I had a look into recently is probably the one that can do the most. I know some basic HTML (and, by what I saw so far, should be able to do the 'coding' myself if I have a guide open to Alt-Tab to), which makes this method viable, but there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done manually.

When I tried to export my current draft from MS Word to HTML directly, it produced ~1800-ish (yes, that many) lines of weird code at the very beginning, and the paragraphs were each screwed up by a lot of meta-attributes MS Word uses for styling. Ugly mess.

Copy-pasting the text into Notepad++ avoids these issues but strips any bold and italic formatting - which I'd have to re-add manually. Considering that I use italics for internal thoughts, and there's a lot of them, this seems like half a day just to fix this - a tedious work.

The massive advantage is that I can do fancy stuff with chapter headers (such as playing with sizing chapter numbers and titles individually) and replacing special characters with their typographical 'HTML equivalents' (such as ... with … to assure the three 'dots' won't end up split between lines). But, again, I'm not sure how exactly it'll pass through Calibre when I insert the map and how bothersome it'll be to add the front and end matter.

---
So, if you can share your formatting experience and what ways you used, I'll welcome your experience and advice.
Feel free to name software but keep the no-link rule in mind.


message 2: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) For any of these solutions, I would recommend using "styles" to mark and format your Chapter headings as Heading 1 before starting. Each conversion program will recognize these as chapter markers and will generate the internal table of contents accordingly.

1. If you are only publishing to Amazon/KDP, a lot of people just upload their .doc file directly, and let Amazon do the conversion. I've never done it this way, but a lot of people are perfectly satisfied with this.

2. Calibre does a good job of converting a .doc file to mobi and epub. And you can edit the code after that if you like. So I would reverse your #3 and do the conversion in Calibre first, not second. Then you can do a find/replace where you want to, tweak the css settings for your headings, etc.

3. Kindle Create is simple and the end product looks good. It will let you do drop caps and other fun things. But the formatting templates are limited and there are some functions that are still not supported. (I don't know if they are now letting you add graphics, links, or additional pages after conversion. It didn't used to.)


message 3: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Iciek | 135 comments I used Vellum last time. It was a breeze but it only works on Apple computers, last I heard. I had tried to use another software product, but after two weeks of trying to make it work, I gave up and got Vellum.


message 4: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Caston | 109 comments I used Kindle Create. Problem is if you want to also publish on other platforms, I think you have to use calibre route anyway. But if you are fine just using amazon, I would suggest KC.


message 5: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 721 comments Mod
Thank you all for your opinions - and I hope more people will share theirs.

P.D. wrote: "I would recommend using "styles" to mark and format your Chapter headings as Heading 1 before starting."

People can write without having the chapter headings marked this way? That's so barbaric!
I even used headings 2 and 3 during drafting to mark scenes I had to adjust because it's easy to find things by headings.

Eileen wrote: "I used Vellum last time. It was a breeze but it only works on Apple computers, last I heard."

To me, the idea of setting up a virtual Apple machine sounds harder (and potentially more time-consuming) than doing a bit of HTML by hand. But I've heard of that way, and it's good you mention it, for future reference. Maybe someone will find it useful.

Jeffrey wrote: "I used Kindle Create. Problem is if you want to also publish on other platforms, I think you have to use calibre route anyway. But if you are fine just using amazon, I would suggest KC."

KC can make a lot of stuff easier, true. I guess one of the main questions I face is: how 'pro' or 'fancy' I want to get with the formatting.


message 6: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments Congratulations about the imminent release!

I was commenting about this in the marketing a novel topic. Kindle Create, the only one I have experience with, has given me some random results. Not horrible, but for example, it will insert huge spaces if you choose an acknowledgement page after a dedication page (you can see for yourself if you check my first novel in the 'Look Inside' section), or make some hyperlinks work and others not even if they are copypasted from the same working source.

I am working on this myself so no definitive answer yet, but I think it's better if you try a simple and well-done format you can upload to many platforms. Smashwords has a formatting guide, which is very long but it could prove useful. You might want to check it out.


message 7: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1122 comments Kindle Create is easy and you can add a drop cap which looks nice. It's a nice clean look. It's also easy to edit in KC. I know a lot of folks like to go wide, which is great, but what I've read is that if you change your mind and decide to use Amazon exclusively, then it's a hassle to remove your books from all the other sites and some are slower/less responsive than others.


message 8: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (last edited May 18, 2020 09:11AM) (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 721 comments Mod
Haru wrote: "Congratulations about the imminent release!"

Not that imminent - my current plan is Fall 2020 - but thanks anyway :)

Haru wrote: "Kindle Create, the only one I have experience with, has given me some random results."

This is why I'm leaning towards going 'manual' with HTML - being able to see the 'code' could be an easier way to troubleshooting.

M.L. wrote: "Kindle Create is easy and you can add a drop cap which looks nice. It's a nice clean look. It's also easy to edit in KC."

Yes, but what you can edit (and how) is limited - or at least seems to be so. I'll probably set aside one day just for reading KC help/manual and see if I'm missing something.

M.L. wrote: "I know a lot of folks like to go wide, which is great, but what I've read is that if you change your mind and decide to use Amazon exclusively, then it's a hassle to remove your books from all the other sites and some are slower/less responsive than others."

This is why I'll start with Amazon-only - if KU doesn't do well for me, it's easier to leave it than to leave several other retailers.
And, in the meantime, I can do some deeper research on the readership for my genre (if 90%+ of readers in my genre are on Amazon/Kindle then going wide would be too much effort for almost nothing)


message 9: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Lagarde (deb_lagarde) | 78 comments Here is what I did using Calibre for use on my laptop Kindle app when I got my trilogy published by Lulu which uses EPub (easy for Calibre) formatting: 1. put the book on Calibre 2. at the right of the headings area one can translate it into MOBI or other Amazon formats like AZW3, then select the format, and format it 3. the new formatted doc goes into a "Document File" (don't know about Macs though, just Windows), so you find the document and put it on the desktop 4. either plug in the Kindle device then transfer it, or open the Kindle app and transfer it. More detailed instructions are on the bookstore page of my website (click on name above which goes to the Goodreads page for link to site). Works best for newer Kindles. Should work for Nooks and iBook devices as well.


message 10: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Lagarde (deb_lagarde) | 78 comments Tomas wrote: "Haru wrote: "Congratulations about the imminent release!"

Not that imminent - my current plan is Fall 2020 - but thanks anyway :)

Haru wrote: "Kindle Create, the only one I have experience with, ..."


Tomas, with my trilogy one reason I went with Lulu's Global Reach program was an experiment (plus I had to money in my budget to do this) to see if platforms besides Amazon Kindle would work sales-wise. As far as e-books go, I'd say comparing Kindle and the rest, it's about 50 percent Kindle and 50 percent everyone else. Print books? Mostly Lulu and B&N. Plus I buy them at deep discount and sell them myself at local events.


message 11: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (last edited May 18, 2020 10:42AM) (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 721 comments Mod
Deborah wrote: "Plus I buy them at deep discount and sell them myself at local events."

As someone writing in English but being from non-English-speaking country, that can't work for me.

Deborah wrote: "As far as e-books go, I'd say comparing Kindle and the rest, it's about 50 percent Kindle and 50 percent everyone else."

The ratio is significantly affected by genre. I plan to have a good look for mine but I'll start with Amazon only. As said above, it's easy to exit KU than pulling a book from many retailers at once.

As for your first post, I know how to work with Calibre at a basic level, but not sure about something more detailed.


message 12: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments I've only done it (for Kindle) by coding in html. At the time I was publishing there was an issue with Amazon not accepting files made with Calibre. And when I looked at the html created by Calibre, that program added all kinds of unwanted metadata referencing their own product that I simply didn't want cluttering up a commercially available file.

So I learned html … I say learned, it's been too long since I did it to offer more than general advice on the topic now.

Going from Word to html basically required tagging and then removing all formatting for later Find/Replace actions in a text editor. It's called going nuclear. Word adds way too much junk when trying to save it to html, as you found out.

After that you need to learn the different html parts that make up an eBook file. And you have to realize that you cannot simply use any old html in the formatting. eReaders at their core are modified browsers, but they all follow different variants of what html is allowed and disallowed. And that changes over the years as new eReaders come about. So best practice is the old K.I.S.S. adage (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Setting up my first eBook that way was confusing and took some work, but once I had the process down more or less, I was able to copy/paste the basic formats and make easy code changes for each book. The hard (not really hard but time consuming) part was doing the text itself. Copy and pasting it in, doing the Find/Replace for the formatting, and then troubleshooting.


message 13: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Now … for non-Kindle files I did use Word and went through Smashwords. A lot of people kick and scream about their difficult "meatgrinder" or Word-to-ePub converter, but I found it extremely easy.

Their method is to have you submit a Word document from a template they give you. It's all based around using Styles rather than in-line formatting (much like P.D. recommends in her message #2, above).

As long as you don't try to do anything really fancy, like multiple-layered Table of Contents, or unusual/excessive formatting (and who knows what), and keep it simple, it was a slam dunk.

If the manuscript makes it through their converter it can be produced in multiple formats. And, of course, is distributed though multiple markets.


message 14: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments I've only tried this once for a test run but since I've moved from writing in Word to writing in Scrivener, I'm going to give its exporting function a go next time. My first trial went well but taught me a lot (and caused me a bit of work afterward because I had misunderstood some things).

I've not tried submitting a file made though Scrivener to Kindle yet, though, so YMMV.


message 15: by Haru (last edited May 18, 2020 01:18PM) (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments I think it all boils down to what kind of author do you want to be. Do you want to just publish your trilogy? Well, Kindle Create could suffice. Do you aim for bestseller author and want to still be writing at age 90? Might as well try learning as much as you can.


message 16: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 889 comments If you are using maps and pictures, try using the children's book template. That will embed the pictures and maps for you. If I remember correctly, you need to change it to a PDF first which you can do from MS Word.

If you format in word, the regular template will take it but just don't get too fancy. It doesn't like maps and anything in color. I've gotten pretty decent in the formatting department, the discovered the templates from Joel Friedlander. I use like Spark and just set it up like I want for Ingram-Spark. For Draft to Digital, I pick the template from those they have available. You can't do picture books through them though.

If you are going Amazon exclusive, then try the children's book template where you have the picture capability.


message 17: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 889 comments Oh,,, Vellum is in the MAC cloud and you can use it on a regular PC but it is expensive to do it that way. I did check it out but like other programs, it has limited templates to use.

As PD said, use your styles in MS word to format. It isn't that difficult and you can tweak it get what you want. I set mine up as soon as I move it from Scrivener which I find much too hard to format and make it look like I want.


message 18: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 721 comments Mod
B.A. wrote: "If you are using maps and pictures, try using the children's book template."

I think that'd be an overkill for a single map.

B.A. wrote: "As PD said, use your styles in MS word to format. It isn't that difficult and you can tweak it get what you want."

As I said, I do use styles.

Haru wrote: "I think it all boils down to what kind of author do you want to be. Do you want to just publish your trilogy? Well, Kindle Create could suffice. Do you aim for bestseller author and want to still be writing at age 90? Might as well try learning as much as you can."

This might be a good point. I don't mind a simple look but I want to make sure it doesn't look like I lacked the effort to put together a decent book. Even if I go with manual HTML, it won't be anything too fancy.

One thing I'd like to do is to play a bit with chapter headings. I once saw an e-book that had a larger number followed by chapter title in the usual H1 font size. That looked cool - definitely cooler than the usual 'Chapter 1: Whatever floats your boat' thing.

The other is some special formatting for when it's a letter written by another character. With HTML, I can easily adjust padding for the appropriate section to make it distinct. I'm not sure how well would this carry over from Word even if I used a special style for this - or if KC can even do this.


message 19: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Lagarde (deb_lagarde) | 78 comments Tomas wrote: "Deborah wrote: "Plus I buy them at deep discount and sell them myself at local events."

As someone writing in English but being from non-English-speaking country, that can't work for me.

Deborah ..."


I agree...but my trilogy is not genre specific, but incorporates all the genres I can think of. Blessings, and thanks for being a great mod!


message 20: by Stephen (last edited May 20, 2020 12:24PM) (new)

Stephen | 5 comments By far the best kindle formatting tool for me is Kindlegen (2 novels & a book of short stories). The flexibility and precision is unmatched and I've tried others (some of which have been mentioned here). The only drawback to Kindlegen is the learning curve which can be flattened with tools available for easing the introduction. Like it's a command line program (a throwback to DOS) but which can easily be overcome using Windows Powershell. Subsets of CSS & HTML can be quickly learned, there's also the use of templates . . . etc. But all of this is worth it for the degree of control you can achieve with the formatting of your Kindle book: the look and feel is amazing . . . also knowing that you can pretty much translate your design skills into an actual Kindle Book!


message 21: by Wanjiru (new)

Wanjiru Warama (wanjiruwarama) | 204 comments Haru wrote: "I think it all boils down to what kind of author do you want to be. Do you want to just publish your trilogy? Well, Kindle Create could suffice. Do you aim for bestseller author and want to still b..."

Good point. It's quite interesting to read how fellow writers go about formatting their books. I never seem to get the time to learn how to do it well. So far, I have turned to Fiverr.


message 22: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1122 comments @ Tomas - re KC. Experiment with a few chapters; insert images (you can choose the size), try the drop cap, and I think there are two different styles.

It might be good to know everything you can about all programs, however, in a year or so everything gets updated/changed, etc., so you have to review it again.


message 23: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
MS word to Jutoh. Never had a problem:)


message 24: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Eldon, so you write from the get go in MS Word?


message 25: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
Graeme wrote: "Hi Eldon, so you write from the get go in MS Word?"

You bet Graeme! I love Word :)


message 26: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Do you put your book into a single file, or do you break the book up into parts, acts, chapters etc as separate files, or use headings etc?

I.e. How do you manage the complexity of your novel?


message 27: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
Graeme wrote: "Do you put your book into a single file, or do you break the book up into parts, acts, chapters etc as separate files, or use headings etc?

I.e. How do you manage the complexity of your novel?"


All in one file :) I use Styles to manage the complexity. Styles are a must for when it comes to conversion.


message 28: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Interesting. Well done on finding a simple method for managing your work.


message 29: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
Graeme wrote: "Interesting. Well done on finding a simple method for managing your work."

Mastering Word can be tricky, but once you get a handle on it, it's smooth sailing! You just need to use Styles 😁


message 30: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 889 comments I use Scrivener to write as I like the ease of going back and changing things around and the way I can have my character profiles, settings and research all at hand. I like the split screen when needed for revisions and research.

With that said, I use MS word for format my books. If you use the Styles it comes out nice. Maybe not as great as Vellum. You can also use a template to format that takes away a lot of the hassles if you don't know how to use Styles.


message 31: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
B.A. wrote: "I use Scrivener to write as I like the ease of going back and changing things around and the way I can have my character profiles, settings and research all at hand. I like the split screen when ne..."

Hey, B.A., I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about Word. I hear all the time how you can't use it to format, and while it's true that it is not a typesetting program, if you adhere to strict use of Styles, you can get very pretty ebooks and print books as well.


message 32: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Caston | 109 comments The process I use is similar to Eldon. I write in word and use styles as described. I then do a "save as" as a web page, filtered, and then open that in a program called Scribe. Scribe will transmute it into an epub document. From there, I take the epub and using Caliber can make mobi or whatever I need.


message 33: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
Jeffrey wrote: "The process I use is similar to Eldon. I write in word and use styles as described. I then do a "save as" as a web page, filtered, and then open that in a program called Scribe. Scribe will transmu..."

Have you tried Jutoh, Jeffrey? It would save you a couple of steps on your ebook conversion.


message 34: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Caston | 109 comments I have not, but I am very much going to look into that. Thanks Eldon!


message 35: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
Jeffrey wrote: "I have not, but I am very much going to look into that. Thanks Eldon!"

My pleasure!


message 36: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 889 comments I'll agree Brandon. I format in MS Word and the only issue is that the spacing of the words isn't like a typesetter did it like Vellum or Adobe. I have done several books with MS Word and they turned out nice. I was even asked who did my formatting.


message 37: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 721 comments Mod
Reviving this topic: anyone around who has a basic understanding of Xpath syntax? I'm trying to force the book to open at Prologue (skipping ToC and front matter) but trial and error don't work for me so far and neither does the explanation on W3schools.


message 38: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
Tomas wrote: "Reviving this topic: anyone around who has a basic understanding of Xpath syntax? I'm trying to force the book to open at Prologue (skipping ToC and front matter) but trial and error don't work for..."

If anyone can help with this, I'd be interested to know what Xpath syntax is myself?


message 39: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 721 comments Mod
Also, for those who use Calibre to create the e-book file and then upload it to Amazon, will Amazon auto-adjust the text to automatic indentation?


message 40: by Stephen (new)

Stephen | 5 comments You can easily do this (direct kindle to open to any section) when using Kindlegen, an Amazon formatting program. I've been using Kindlegen to format all of my kindle ebooks, and once you get the hang of it, Kindlegen is more powerful and provides more control than any other method I've tried and I've tried more than a few including Calibre.


message 41: by Trana (new)

Trana Mathews (tranamathews) | 25 comments Stephen wrote: "You can easily do this (direct kindle to open to any section) when using Kindlegen, an Amazon formatting program. I've been using Kindlegen to format all of my kindle ebooks, and once you get the h..."
From the Amazon website: "KindleGen is no longer available for download. Please use Kindle Previewer to convert, preview, and validate your eBooks. Kindle Previewer provides the same functionality of KindleGen..." IMO their previewer is worthless.


message 42: by Eldon, Lost on the road to Mordor (new)

Eldon Farrell | 430 comments Mod
Trana wrote: "Stephen wrote: "You can easily do this (direct kindle to open to any section) when using Kindlegen, an Amazon formatting program. I've been using Kindlegen to format all of my kindle ebooks, and on..."

It's not the best piece of software around, that's for sure.


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