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Self-Publishing on Kindle

*Under Construction due to new updates; please feel free to read but this page will be updated soon.*

 

Part I: Creating Your E-book for Kindle Expansion Instructions

Most beneficial for Microsoft Word-Windows Users, although the websites cited will contain information MAC and other PC users require.

Publishing your manuscript through Amazon's Kindle Program seems like a dream...until you open the Kindle Previewer and realize your spacing is horribly off, paragraphs are justified randomly, and extreme tabbing mode appears to be on. Readers are going to be viewing the E-Book on small enough iPhone screens already. You close your eyes in frustration. 

Then you notice the trio of buttons on the ribbon of the Kindle Previewer: Cover Image, Table of Contents, and NCX view. The first two are self-explanatory. The third, NCX view, is a Kindle navigational file which will allow readers to easily jump to different "navigational points" in your Ebook in addition to the Table of Contents-- such as to Acknowledgements or to the Index. When you click on any of these buttons, however, you are informed that they are missing. Now you are really leaning forward in your chair with a big "HUH?" 

You followed Amazon's Building Your Book for Kindle perfectly (this free Kindle download is also available in a 20-page PDF format for laptops). It outlined the steps to prepare your Microsoft Word document for Kindle: how to format the paragraphs, insert page breaks, creating a Table of Contents... But now you need to clean up your manuscript. If you turn on the Show/Hide Paragraph Marks icon (¶) located in the center of the Ribbon (MS Word's top all-inclusive toolbar) under the HOME tab, you will see accidental double spaces and a whole host of other problems appear in your manuscript. 

Who do you need to turn to for an easy check-off list of punctuation marks to clean up? I heartily refer you to "CJs Easy As PieKindle Tutorials," in which "CJ" has compiled a library of essential information to make your Ebook ready for publication. The clean-up Microsoft Word post is here. Use your "Replace" tool located at the far right end of the Home tab to find and replace all of those nasty double spaces, weird paragraph alignments, and wayward tabs. Check out the Kindle Preview now. Better? Hell yeah it is. Did you click on the "Cover Image"/"Table of Contents"/"NCX view" on the top ribbon of the Kindle Previewer and still find them missing? The following free E-book Reader programs will ensure the Kindle Platform will identify them. CJ's website can also walk you through the process, and includes a great explanation of the NCX file in this guest article by Araby Greene.

SIGIL

Sigil is an Ebook editor that has been around since 2009. The program is free for download, although donations are definitely accepted. They feature user guides to help you on your way to create an EPUB document out of your manuscript, denote a Cover Image, and write the Metadata, which will establish the Table of Contents and NCX view, without you  having to write any separate coding files. After you have saved your Microsoft Word manuscript as an HTML "Web Page, Filtered" document, start here to create your E-book publication in Sigil, which will then be saved on your computer as a EPUB document. Important things to check: 

1. You have added an existing file "Cover Image" to your Sigil manuscript.
2. You have right-clicked on the Cover Image, and using the Semantics option, have identified it as "Cover Image"
3. You have inserted the Cover Image into the start of your document.
4. (Optional) Under Edit, you selected MetaEditor and decreed basic copyrights, title, ect.
5. You have generated a TOC (Table of Contents) from the Headings.*Very Important* Underneath the TOC in the Book Browser, you can see the different code files Sigil is creating for your Ebook.
6. You have saved it as an EPUB document.

There are a number of different options, too, such as creating chapter breaks to make your book easier to organize. However, since you established page breaks in Microsoft Word, this is not mandatory, nor does it hurt the final layout if you do. Now we need to convert this EPUB document into the MOBI format required for Kindle.


Calibre E-Book Management

Calibre is another free E-Book reader for download (donations accepted) that can be used to read E-Book files as well as convert them and play with the Metadata. This program should be used as the final stepping stone toward the polished, ready-to-read E-Book. Again, these great people have also created a user manual to become familiar with the program here. To quickly convert your E-Book, follow this succinct article by Paul Brookes: http://ebookconversion.paulbrookes.net/converting-files-with-calibre/.

 Here is the essential gist of how to convert your E-Book from EPUB format to MOBI: 

1. Add your book to the Calibre Library using the button on the top left corner of the Ribbon.

2. After you Add your book and select it, you can click on the Convert books option on the ribbon. This will open a window. 

3. On the top left, you see the current format of your book: EPUB. On the far right, you can see a range of options to convert your E-Book to. Once of them is a MOBI document. 

4. After you select MOBI, and then CONVERT, Calibre will show it is creating the finished MOBI product in the little JOBS box on the bottom right corner of the screen. 

5. After the JOB is finished, you can have your final E-Book MOBI document in your Calibre Library. Open Kindle Previewer and click through the now familiar "Cover Image"/"Table of Contents"/"NCX View" buttons on the top ribbon. One by one, they will all pop up! Preview the rest of your E-Book. Looks good?* You are ready to launch it on Kindle. 

Note on the final Kindle uploading process

You've uploaded your manuscript. Wahoo! Now, Amazon.com will ask you to select your Cover Image for upload. You have followed the Kindle instructions to have a Cover Image that is at a minimum of 625 pixels on the shortest side and 1000 pixels on the longest side (1.6 ratio) so it will look awesome. However, when you upload the image, the little preview it shows you looks blurry and distorted. Is this the thumbnail that readers will see when browsing for your book?? NO. If you used the Kindle Previewer, and the cover image appeared sharp and clear, then don't worry-- the cover thumbnail will, too. The best part about publishing with Amazon.com? There is flexibility, if you upload your final copy and realize mistakes have been made. You can reload images or MOBI manuscripts.

It has been the goal of this post to provide a compilation of resources for aspiring E-Book authors. An enormous thank you to the creators of these resources, I cannot give you enough credit! Good luck on your writing projects, everyone!


Part II: Creating a Cover Image...in Powerpoint


Very few people are blessed with mad artistic skills as well as writing ability, which leads most indie authors to dread the cover image creation process. That small little rectangle on the screen with your title and name scrunched in is the first impression readers will have of your e-book, before they even get to the book description. That being said, the text and sharpness of image must be just as clear on the product description page as it is on the e-reader. Make sure to check your final cover image on a variety of views in JPEG format by zooming in and out.


Cover Image Requirements:


Amazon.com: 625x1000 pixels, for best results use1563x2500

Smashwords.com (Imports to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, ect.): 1600x2400 pixels


Cover Image Options:


1. Hire A Cover Designer 

Quick Steps: Check out your favorite self-published e-books. See an Indie cover you like? Look who the cover design is by. Contact them via email to receive quotes.The cost will range, depending on what you want done. Some packages are available for $100-200. Other professional designs that include custom illustrations can range from $500-1000.

No idea where to start? The Kindle Boards have a list of artsy folks:

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,123703.0.html


2. Create the cover yourself using public domain images/stock photos

Public Domain Images: free images for use that are not under intellectual property rights. Always examine a "public domain" image carefully for licensing agreements, however.

Stock Photos: a collection of random images to be used for creative purposes-at a cost, available on a variety of websites. Stock photos can be as little as a dollar to hundreds of dollars, depending on the size and resolution. Make sure you read contracts carefully to understand what the copyright limitations are for that photo. If you are using a stock photo with a model who is identifiable in any way, make sure the website has negotiated a model release, meaning the model is giving their permission to use their image to create and sell. (This is also important if you've decided to create your own original artwork and are using a friend as a model, for example.)


www.istockphoto.com 

I have worked with www.istockphoto.com for my book covers without complaint. The website can be on the pricier side, but a little extra for imagination and quality will matter that much more to readers. Plus, istockphoto.com always negotiates model releases, gives you a legal guarantee, and offers a wide range of how the image can be used for e-book authors. (In print, the image can be used for book covers up to 499,999 times, before it requires one of their extended licenses.)


Create the E-Book Cover:

Most Important: At the beginning of the post, you noticed that Amazon.com asks for your final book cover image to be 625x1000 pixels, while Smashwords.com recently changed their cover requirements to 1600x2400. Always keep these in mind when buying images, as stock websites like istockphoto.com will offer you a variety of photo sizes to choose from. You might have heard the saying, it's easier to scale an image down than to make it larger, and it's true- no one wants to try and resize their cover image pixel count in Paint and wind up with a blurry image. 

However, I bought  the original YEAR OF THE WOLF cover at 1132x1696 pixels and was able to make it work for both retailers. How? I followed fellow author William King's steps for creating an e-book cover yourself in Powerpoint. I give full kudos to Mr. King for his clever thinking and conciseness: 

http://www.williamking.me/2012/02/22/create-your-own-ebook-cover-step-by-step-with-pictures/

Mr. King has written instructions for importing a Kindle cover to Amazon.com. For Smashwords.com, when you are setting up the slide's dimensions, simply play around with the ratio. For example, I set my slide's dimensions to 16.7 by 25 inches (Under Design Tab, and then select Page Setup), and then followed Mr. King's steps. When I saved the slide as a JPEG photo, it clocked in at 1603x2400 pixels.


Check Your Pixels: 


Unsure about the pixel count? Hover over the JPEG image icon to see the dimensions. Or open the image up in Paint and check for the Pixels--PX--count along the bottom blue tab. 


Public Domain and Stockphoto Websites: 


Ready to shop around for cover images? Start at these websites:

1. www.istockphoto.com

2. www.dreamstime.com

3. www.shutterstock.com

4. www.publicdomainpictures.net (free and commercial use)

5. http://www.public-domain-photos.com (free)

6. www.flickr.com (check licensing restrictions)

7. www.sxc.hu (free)

8. http://www.stockfreeimages.com/(varied)


Tips for Indie Authors on creating your own book cover!

Create Layers

Here's some tips for creating layers in Powerpoint, if you have two or more images you'd like to combine.

1. Assemble the Pieces

Let's create a basic romance cover as an example. Here is a screenshot of my cover components laid out in Powerpoint. I have the title, genre, and author name laid out on the left. I have my background image of a romantic beach laid out in the middle. I have my overlaying image of a lovey-dovey couple on the right. 

The Page Width and the images should be set to 6x8 width by height. Click on the "Design" tab on the top and then click on "Page Setup" on the ribbon to set the dimensions for Page Width. Right click on the picture and click "Size and Position" to set dimensions for images.



2. Set the Top Layer as Translucent

 Now here's the fun part, where you can play around with your top image and how it looks. First, move the top image (lovey-dovey couple) over the background image (beach). Next, select the top image. Right-click on the top image. Scroll down the pop-up menu and select "Format Picture." In the Format Picture menu, select "3-D Format" from the column bar options.  That will bring you to the screen shot shown below.


Here you notice the section called "Surface" under 3-D Format. Click on the "Material" drop-down arrow. You can now change the material to be "Translucent" so the the background beach image shows up underneath. Try it out! I selected the middle "Translucent" option under "Material." It's the middle of the three Translucent options. After the image turns translucent, notice that you can play around with the color/other image effects on the 3-D Format menu. For example, I clicked on "Lighting" and then selected the middle coloring option under "Warm." This makes the cover colors seem warmer and cozy. Play around with the different options under "Lighting."  Notice how many different ways you can alter the image under "Angle," "Contour," and "Bevel," under the 3-D Format menu, in addition to all the other ways you can change image brightness/coloring/contrast/artistic effects on the regular Format ribbon!


3. Add Text


Now that your top image is translucent, add the text to the cover. Make sure you've right-clicked on each text box and chosen "Bring to Front." That way the text will be the top layer and won't get hidden behind the images. Drag all of your text boxes over and position them--and presto, you have a basically layered cover that screams, "I'm a romance!"

Photo Credit:
Lovely Couple © Fredgoldstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

Text Font Websites:  

Obviously the color choice for the title may not be the best choice--yellow doesn't stand out well--but to amp up your creative font style to match the genre of your book, check out some of these websites for exciting font downloads (majority should be free):

1. http://www.dafont.com/

2. http://www.urbanfonts.com/free-fonts.htm 

3. http://www.fontspace.com/



*If you are a cover designer who would like to be featured, send me a message.


Sources:

1. Amazon Kindle. Building Your Book for Kindle. Amazon.com, Inc., April 15, 2012, accessed 12/27/2012, http://www.amazon.com/Building-Your-Book-Kindle-ebook/dp/B007URVZJ6. 

2. Brookes, Paul. "Converting files with Calibre (Kindle)." eBook Conversion, 2011, accessed 12/27/2012, http://ebookconversion.paulbrookes.net/converting-files-with-calibre/.

3. "CJs Easy As Pie Kindle Tutorials." Blogger.com, 2012, accessed 12/27/2012, http://www.cjs-easy-as-pie.com/. 
 
4. Goyal, Kovid. "Calibre User Manual." Calibre - E-book management, December 21, 2012, accessed 12/27/2012, http://manual.calibre-ebook.com/. 

5. King, William. "Create Your Own Ebook Cover, Step by Step, With Pictures." 02/22/2012. Accessed January 2013. http://www.williamking.me/2012/02/22/create-your-own-ebook-cover-step-by-step-with-pictures/.

 6. Sigil: The EPUB Editor. "Sigil User Manual 0.6.0 Draft." Sigil - The EPUB Editor, 2012, accessed 12/27/2012, http://web.sigil.googlecode.com/git/files/OEBPS/Text/introduction.html.  


 


2 comments:

  1. Thanks! I really have to give props to CJ and William King--their blogs offer invaluable advice!

    ReplyDelete