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The Amazon Kindle Experience

March 23, 2012

Now that I’ve been through the process of adding a book to the Amazon Bookshelf, I thought I would share a little feedback about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Amazon side of things was painless and intuitive, but getting to that point was a nightmare because of Word’s formatting tendencies. I wrote the manuscript for The One Rider in a standard submission format of Courier New, 12pt., double-spaced. I had to change the format to Times New Roman, 12pt., single-spaced. Easy enough. These were global changes that were accomplished with the push of a button. Everything else became a struggle.

First things first – turn on “reveal codes.” That’s the little paragraph symbol on the “Home” tab. You’re wasting your time if you can’t see the formatting symbols. For some reason, my paragraphs were inconsistent, and many of them had leading tabs which had to be removed. After working at that by hand, I decided to automate as much as possible. Using the “find&replace” function, I entered the code for tabs, ^t, and left the replace field blank. Success! All of the tabs were deleted, and those paragraphs showed up in block format. I wasn’t able to reverse this globally because I have a poem or saying at the beginning of each chapter that had trailing line breaks. To work around this problem, I highlighted the text in each individual chapter, opened the paragraph dialog box and set leading indents. This worked great, but I made sure to scan through the entire manuscript to look for anything that was missed. These seem like little issues, and that’s the problem. I had to spend way too much time on irritating details, and it made meeting my deadline very work-intensive.

I didn’t have to deal with other known conversion issues such as a table of contents, so the above corrections brought me to the conversion process. I used MobiPocket to create the html file, and it also built an e-reader file that I will be uploading to Smashwords for sales and distribution. Amazon accepted the html with no errors and The One Rider appeared on my Bookshelf in about six hours. They warn that the conversion, review, and publishing will take from twelve to twenty-four hours, but I had much better luck. It must have been a slow day.

All in all, I found the Amazon side of things to be nothing compared to the problems I caused with my own formatting ignorance. So, to avoid these issues in the future, I’ve saved a template with settings that will cause the least amount of back-end work. Turn off auto everything-grammar, spell check, etc. For a standard book with no special formatting, like poetry, set the paragraphs to leading indents. Don’t use curly quotes – the conversion hates them! Most important of all, be consistent in your typing. Your text should auto-indent a new paragraph when you hit return (enter.) Extra returns will cause you headaches when you go back to edit the formatting. The good news is that MobiPocket will flag most of these errors, and you can go back and edit.

Add your own experiences or comments. The idea is to help others avoid problems and make the experience as painless as possible.

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