Saturday, December 22, 2012

How easy is it to self-publish a Kindle eBook?

Only a few days have passed since I published 'Free to Flourish' at Amazon, but I am already starting to think that it can't have been as difficult as it seemed at the time.

If I didn't have any end notes or images it would have been easy. The book, 'Building Your Book for Kindle', published by Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is easy to follow and provides adequate guidance for a publication with no end notes or images.

My book contains a substantial number of end notes and images, and I wanted the end notes to be 'active'. The advantage of active end notes is fairly obvious. They enable you to click on a number, read the note, click return to get back to the spot you were reading, and then read on without any problems. By contrast, without active notes, you first have to find the note you want to read, which may require you to go back to the contents page first to find what chapter you were reading. After you have found the note and read it, you then have to get back to the spot you were reading. This is manageable with a printed book if you can remember to keep a finger inserted in the relevant page, but you can't insert your finger into an eBook.

I found Scott Locke's book, 'The Kindle Publisher's Guide', particularly useful for instruction on how to deal with notes and images.

Scott Locke recommends use of kindle-notes, freely available third party software, to make footnotes active. It is necessary to get the text in the required format for this purpose, but the time-consuming part of the exercise was restoring punctuation in the document after it had been processed.

After processing in kindle-notes, my document was returned with just about all punctuation other than full stops and commas replaced by question marks. This meant that it was necessary to look at every question mark in the document and decide whether it was meant to be a question mark, inverted comma, a dash, a colon or whatever. I tried to do it quickly late at night, made a lot of mistakes and then had to correct them (with the help of my editor). This is not a process that anyone would want to go through more than once per book. Once in a life-time might be enough for me!

Scott Locke recommends the use of Mobipocket Creator to insert images back into the document prior to uploading at KDP. I found that to be good advice. The alternative method recommended by KDP (creating and uploading a zipped file) didn't work for me, possibly because I had a substantial number of images to deal with.

In retrospect, I can't claim that it was enormously difficult to publish a Kindle eBook with a substantial number of end notes and images. The process was just more tedious and time-consuming than I thought it would be. This was despite the warnings I had been given by others (including the suggestion that it might be wise to use an aggregator, alluded to in an addendum to a guest post on self-publishing on this blog in October).

I still don't understand why publishing an eBook is a much more tedious and time-consuming process than publishing pdf documents and web pages. No doubt the technology will improve. At this stage, however, direct publishing of eBooks with a lot of notes and images is not a piece of cake.

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