Monday, February 20, 2012

Tech Journal: How to Publish Your Own Book on Kindle

Tech Journal: How to Publish Your Own Book on Kindle

By Amit Agarwal

I have been writing my tech blog Digital Inspiration for about eight years, and in that time I have come across hundreds of websites that provide information as well as solve actual problems.

Some of these sites, or web apps — like Pixlr (image editor), Creately (diagrams creator) and Home Styler (3D designer) — are almost as powerful as their desktop cousins, such as GIMP and Visio.

I wanted to put these “gems of the Internet” in a reference book and was faced with two choices: I could either go down the traditional route and create a print version of the book, or take the other less complicated option of self-publishing in digital format. The latter made more sense because e-books can be updated anytime (Internet related books are otherwise outdated very quickly) and second, the only investment required in creating an e-book is time. There are no upfront costs.

Here’s some advice for any wannabe authors looking to do likewise:

Where to publish?
There are several platforms for publishing and distributing eBooks. The most popular is obviously Amazon’s Kindle store, but there’s also the iBookstore of Apple, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK store and the Sony Reader Store, among others.

The iBookstore requires a U.S. Tax ID even for international publishers, but you can still get your book listed in Apple’s marketplace through third-party aggregators like Lulu or Smashwords, who take a commission per sale. The iBookstore is still not widely available in India — for instance, you can only download free books from the iBooks app but none of the paid titles are available. Kindle, on the other hand, is global and, best of all, offers reading apps for all platforms, so even non-Kindle users can enjoy the book on their desktops and mobile phones. I decided to go the Kindle way.

Step 1: Prepare

Preparing the book is easy using common tools like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. It’s just like writing a regular document, but avoid complex styles. Stick to common fonts like Arial or Times New Roman, don’t experiment with colors, keep your images centered (don’t align them left or right) and don’t add headers or footers as they’re not supported by the Kindle. Even tables and bulleted lists may not look right, so avoid them if possible.

Once your document is ready, save it in HTML format (Word offers that option) and then use the free Mobipocket Creator tool to convert your document into a Kindle file. You should also create a 600×800 image that will act as a cover for your book. Remember to use big fonts because the Amazon store will only show a thumbnail image of the cover and the book title should still be readable at that reduced size.

Step 2: Test

Next you need to test the layout of the eBook. If you have a Kindle device, it’s possible to simply send the file to your Kindle email address or transfer it manually using a USB cable. Alternatively, use the Kindle Previewer software to test the eBook on your desktop.

Step 3: Publish

If things are looking good, it’s time to hit the publish button. Go to, sign in using your Amazon credentials and upload the eBook files (if your book has images, put everything in one zip file.) You need to set the price of your book at this stage: Amazon will pay you 70% if your book’s price is $2.99 or higher, but for anything cheaper, the royalty rate is only 35%.

The overall workflow is extremely user-friendly, but it’s disappointing that Amazon charges international customers a $2 Whispernet tax even when they use Wi-Fi (and not 3G) to download the book. Thus, if you have set the book price at $2.99, customers outside the U.S. would have to shell out $4.99, which is a damper for lower-priced books.

When I first uploaded the raw files to Kindle Publishing, it took a few hours for the book to appear in Amazon’s store (someone probably manually reviews the book but the process is super quick.) I made a few corrections, re-uploaded the book and the updated version also became available in an hour or two.  It doesn’t get much easier.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.