An overview of Amazon publishing

Part 1: decide if Kindle publishing is right for you, and a warning for technophobes.
At the end of 2012, I decided to publish my first children’s chapter book, Saving Davey Gravy, in a Kindle Edition. I’d spent a couple of months tinkering with this website and butchering Josh Stauffer’s Transchild theme, and progressed from having no clue about HTML and CSS to a vague idea of how they worked. (I named this site A boxful of broken things based on the frequency with which my HTML adjustments refused to render.) How hard could coding an ebook be?

Don’t worry, HTML won’t punch you. You, however, will probably want to punch HTML     (source)

Rather bloody tricky, as it turned out. I like to think that I have a middling knowledge of computers and the internet, and I’m the go-to guy in our small office when it comes to googling and implementing fixes and updates for our PCs, but there was still a steady and sometimes frustrating learning curve. I have a very average memory, so I kept detailed notes throughout the process. I’m posting those notes here in the hope that they ease the journey for people seeking to publish their own ebook.

Caveat emptor

So, I’ll issue some warnings. This is a guide specifically detailing the conversion process from a word processing document (in this case Open Office Writer, although I believe the process for Microsoft Word would be very similar) to HTML. This HTML is then converted to MOBI via KindleGen, which is suitable for uploading to Amazon as an ebook. As far as I can tell, this slightly convoluted process gives you the best possible control over the layout of the final ebook, and it is the process that I have seen most-often recommended.
There is a school of thought that an easier route is to code the HTML as an EPUB, and then convert the EPUB to a MOBI via KindleGen. (Remember that, if you are struggling with the sudden onslaught of acronyms, I’ve listed them here to help you find answers via Google.) Briefly, I decided to sell Saving Davey Gravy exclusively on Amazon. I plan to modify the HTML file to generate it as an EPUB over the first quarter of 2013, and post similar instructions about that process. You should at least investigate the options above, especially if you decide to release your own book across multiple formats and outlets simultaneously.

The bit where I make you feel bad

If you are a technophobe who relies on friends and family to maintain your computer, then the learning curve will be steep. If you are a technophobe with a low tolerance for frustration, then I’d recommend that you save your sanity and look at options which allow you to publish directly from Word or Open Office to MOBI.
The tradeoff for this simplicity is that you will encounter difficulties with the layout of the finished ebook, which will probably look rather different from the manuscript version. I have heard that Jutoh is the go-to program for people taking this route. There are guides out there, though, and I hear acceptable results can be achieved via this method. Another possibility would be to source a professional to code your ebook (and be sure to steer clear from vanity publishers, who have very much adapted to the ebook market).

The bit where I make you feel good again

That said, I believe a majority of authors could code a Kindle ebook. I’m guessing that most computer professionals would probably scoff at how easy it all is.
There are going to be points in these articles where I explain things like you’re five, and other points where I gloss over things you’re not too sure about. That’s the nature of articles, though. Obviously, if I was sitting there with you, I’d have a better idea of how I should be explaining things, but I’m not sitting there with you because that would be creepy. If nothing else, at least I hope to provide you with a template of sorts, allowing you to skip the stuff you know and use your google-fu for the stuff you don’t.
Finally, this series has been compiled from a collection of articles spread across all corners of the internet. Some of what I write will be out of date or just plain wrong by the time you read it. If you believe what I’m saying is wrong, I would love to read your comments. Hopefully, together, we can cobble something approximating good advice.

Proceed to Part 2: ‘Acronyms and handy links’, or return to the article index.
Return to Re: writing
While I’ve endeavoured to provide you with accurate information, what is considered ‘accurate’ will change over time. If I’m wrong, or you’d like to ask a question or share your thoughts, I’d love to hear your take on things.

Rhys About Rhys

Teacher, writer, editor, cook: a bit like that nursery rhyme, really.
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