Making Kindle friendly files

I’ve been working on various options for publishing my books to Amazon.

For a print copy there’s Create Space which looks fairly straightforward and easy to use.  Charges to be distributed outside of Amazon, and gives a horrible royalty at that point (though sadly one not too far from the mark of what every royalty would be if I went traditional publishing.  I won’t say I’m self-publishing for the money, self pub has it’s own drawbacks, but I won’t say the big guys’ under 5% rates weren’t insulting enough to be a factor).

For electronic publishing it looks like I would need an ISBN for Apple iBooks.  Unfortunate as I’d like to be published there, but don’t have us$250 for ISBNs (us$125 singly or us$250 for 10.  I’ve got 4 books I’d like to publish.  And do plan to write more).  So looks like being there is a bit back burner – bummer since that’s my favourite eBook store.  Kobo, which I’d never heard of, and the Nook I can just upload an ePUB generated by Pages ’09 and they’re happy so I’ll be doing that.  Amazon, well, suffice to say Amazon’s a little different.

Amazon has its KDP program.  No big deal, right?  I can upload .doc, .pdf, .epub, or .html to it.  Yes, and it comes out kind of weird.  Okay, so it looks like they use their own thing:  .mobi.  What can make .mobi?  Amazon’s software, KindleGen – not impressive.  A program called Calibre – easy to use though not written with non-computer geeks in mind (luckily I can fake it) as all too much FOSS stuff is these days, and its .mobi output is awful:  Assuming Amazon will let you upload it (frequently gives an error message) you wind up with insane word wrap!  Finally there’s a plugin for Adobe InDesign CS4-6 which allows export to Kindle.  Like many Adobe products it is, just a moment while I consult a thesaurus – I need an antonym, ah looks like non-intuitive will have to do despite lacking poetry, but then again so is InDesign.

Because it was no easy task I’m going to give some simple steps for what to do.

First off, have a .doc or .docx file. And be prepared to make adjustments.

Fire up InDesign, tell it you’re making a Document.  Set it to Digital Publishing, then select Kindle from the appropriate drop down.

Okay, from here it’s easy, just stupid.  Click file, then PLACE.  Not import, gods no, of course not.  Why would it be Import!?  Place is the only sensible term for doing what we’re about to do!  Find your doc file.  PDF works too I imagine, but that was … different and I didn’t like it.

Where’s the document?!  Notice your cursor looks funny?  Click the blank page in front of you.  Don’t worry where, it doesn’t seem to make a lick of difference.

There!  Your document is ready!  Or is it?

It doesn’t import auto-indent settings correctly.  Why?  One word:  Adobe.

You could do all manner of things to fix this, but the easiest is this:

Pray you set separate styles for things that oughtn’t have been auto-indented.  If you didn’t, you just have to add/remove indents by hand.  Luckily there’s the ability to do it via selection tool.

Now for those of us with styles for everything, go to the top and click Type.  Go down to Paragraph Styles.

An ugly little box pops up with a list of all your Styles.  Hurray, now what?  Where’s the edit option?  It’s in a right click menu.  God knows why.

There.  Edit all the styles that should (or shouldn’t.  Two books in a row, one imported with, the other without.  Explain THAT one!) be auto indented and fix the indents.  This will fix it for all the text with that style, which if you remembered to set that when you made the document in the first place means you’re all set.

When finished, click file, click Export for Kindle, enjoy what SHOULD be a good mobi file.

There’re some quirks that can happen with the title page so you might have to adjust some here and there so don’t forget to preview your file.


3 thoughts on “Making Kindle friendly files

  1. Addendum: also looks like in order to have a table of contents you have to create a blank page and insert one. The options for this are pretty basic, so if you’re used to making them in Word or Pages, you’re set. It doesn’t seem to think right in terms of one already made by the wird processor so the only good you’re doing yourself there is having a place to drop the InDesign made ToC.


  2. Another addendum: Looks like Apple may not require an ISBN last I read their FAQ. I’m waiting for a response to my query for clarification. Regardless, Smashwords now accepts EPUB directly and can provide an ISBN for free that you can use for all your ePUB titles, including iBooks (or let them distribute it to iBooks … though I don’t much like their terms for that and so shan’t be using it).


  3. Pingback: How to self-publish | The "Professional" Blog of J. M. Brink

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