How Not To Publish Books on Kindle

Hi Everyone,

As folks might recall, I published a science-fiction book named Jack, Still Standing recently on Amazon as an e-book. I started the book 10 years ago, and finally decided to take a chance and publish it and I feel really relieved that I did.

The process of publishing an e-book was a lot harder than I expected though. I was impatient and didn’t test things carefully so I has some problems at first, and had to spend time to fix them. So, I wanted to share some advice to others who are thinking about doing e-books, and books on Amazon in particular to save them some headaches.

First, when I published my book, I published it with a pen-name because I wasn’t sure what kind of reception my book would get and I was kind of worried.

Unfortunately, I didn’t check whether the name was already used or not. Sure enough, the name was used by another, popular E-book author. I had some book sales in the first week that seemed a bit unusual. Then I realized they were probably buying the book because they believed it was the other author. I finally decided to use my real name and fixed the problem later. Book sales declined but at least I know people are buying the right book. πŸ™‚

But the worst problem was that the e-book format was messed up and unreadable!

You see, E-books are a kind of simple technology. Ebooks use the EPUB digital format which is based on XHTML. So, Ebooks are a lot like webpages. Similar technology, similar formats.

The trouble comes when you translate your book from its original format into the EPUB format. I had originally written the book using NeoOffice, a free wordprocessor for Macs, then later switched to LibreOffice which was also free, but had better support. However, when switching from one processor to another, the fonts had changed in subtle ways. It was impossible to see visually, but different paragraphs had slightly different fonts depending on whether they were written before or after the switch.

Worse, there were hidden carriage-returns due to copy-pasting. Originally, each chapter was a separate file, but I started copy/pasting them into a single file, but also copy-pasted paragraphs around. The result was that some paragraphs had improper carriage-returns that were invisible, but appeared later when converted for the Kindle. So, some paragraphs looked “crammed” together and other ones were too far apart.

Since I couldn’t see any of this on my computer, I assumed it looked normal and ready for publishing. The first thing I did was use the excellent tool called Calibre for the Mac, and converted my LibreOffice file to EPUB format. I looked at the EPUB file in Calibre and it looked great. Then I uploaded the EPUB file to my KDP account on Amazon, which automatically converted it to Kindle format. Again, I briefly previewed the first few pages, and it looked fine.

But then, when I looked at the “Look Inside” book preview, the formatting was terrible. Certain paragraphs had strange bold or italic formats, and not all paragraphs lined up correctly. I was confused by the discrepancy so I then went into my KDP account, and used the Kindle preview feature to look at the same book in all formats: Kindle, Ipad, etc. It turns out that the formatting issues only surfaced in non-Kindle devices for some reason, but that includes the book preview feature on the website.

The only way I was able to fix this was to take the original file, select all the text and reset the formatting to defaults. This removed all the hidden fonts and carriage-lines, but then I had to go through the book and add any special formatting back in line by line. LibreOffice makes this fairly easy, so it only cost me a couple nights of work, but once I uploaded the newly converted EPUB file again, I made certain to preview the book in all formats provided by Kindle. The format looked much better this time, and I was able to re-publish with confidence.

The lessons learned from all this was:

  • Check to see if someone else is using the same pen-name.
  • When converting from one word processor to another, reset all the formats for the entire document and add them back in manually just to ensure there are no hidden fonts that will appear later.
  • When uploading the EPUB file, use the Kindle Preview feature to see how your book will look in all formats. This will help you a lot because you can see your book the way a customer sees it.
  • To avoid cut and paste hassles, try to compse your document all in file, rather than 1 chaper per file. Or, before you publish, enable the word-processor feature to display paragraphs so you can catch any strange discrepancies.

Anyhow I learned some painful lessons from publishing my first E-book but I’m glad I did it though. If you are going to publish on Amazon please take this advice and I wish you luck. πŸ™‚

P.S. Now that that book is complete, I am working on a Buddhist book I always wanted to write, and the second book in the “Jack” series. Busy, busy. πŸ™‚ As I suspected, once you publish one book, it’s a lot easier to write and publish other books.

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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