The worst experience I ever had with ebook formatting was last year when I commissioned – my usual professional ebook builder was ill – a manuscript to let it format by a person in South Africa which I had “met” on social media. She promised to deliver within days.
I paid in advance for .mobi and epub, and received both versions after a wait of almost two months! and dozens of emails. I immediately transferred it to our distributor. He refused the epub version as it contained 63 !!! technical errors – which they offered to fix for just $50. When I reported this to the “formatter”, she emailed me after a couple of days that she charged only for .mobi – and the epub version was only a complementary version… which was certainly not true, according to my order and her invoice. In the end, she wrote me an email and called my inquiries “nasty”. Well, I should have been warier of her work, as in her first attempt she even did not know how to hyperlink the TOC’s. My own fault – cannot blame anyone else!
Ebook formatting is a never-ending topic in writer circles, forums, and blogs since the dawn of self-publishing. And many authors have their fair share of hit-and-miss, and of experiences with so-called “professional” formatters.
Popular DIY programs to format ebooks are:
- Vellum (for Mac)
Read also Author Alex Hallatt shares tips on how to produce ebooks using the Mac-only Vellum software, including books with lots of illustrations. Many authors need formatting for their new books only two or three times a year at the most. However, the more they use the software, the more competent they will become.
The New Kindle Create:
Amazon Kindle recently launched a new free app, called Kindle Create, which provides a simplified conversion process for formatting Kindle e-books from Microsoft Word. When you finish your manuscript and upload it, Kindle Create (Beta) automatically converts the file into a Kindle-compatible file. Then it will help you format it. A rich illustrated conversation instruction will help you. For example, building a TOC manually can be time-consuming. Kindle Create automatically scans your file for chapter headings and builds a table of contents for you.
You can download the software for Mac or for PC.
The program is still in Beta, which means it will take a while to perfect it.
Some features are not available yet warns Amazon early users:
Limited support for lists and tables: Kindle Create (Beta version) will allow you to import your document, but you may not be able to edit the lists and tables. Lists and tables are marked as ‘un-editable content’, however, you can still publish the eBook and the list or table will display as depicted in the previewer.
Limited support currently also for modifying images. Kindle Create (beta) will import documents that include images and will place them as block images. Re-sizing, re-positioning, and deletion of images is not supported.
If your document includes hyperlinks (external to the World Wide Web, or internal to other locations in the document), those hyperlinks will be preserved, but can’t be edited in Kindle Create (Beta).
Editing Lists, Tables or Images is Difficult.
Under “Beta Limitations,” it states that you may not be able to edit lists or tables for example – you need to go back to Microsoft Word and start the whole Kindle formatting again. Upload a Word .docx or .doc file. Open your file in the previewer on all devices to see if they format well enough for you in the previewer, before you go ahead with your file in Kindle Create.
Same with images: you can’t reposition, or delete them. Preview these right away or go back to Word and get them right before proceeding with Kindle Create. Hyperlinks cannot be edited too. Test them in the previewer after loading in Kindle Create to make sure that you’re happy with the links before you do anything else in Kindle Create. These are just a few, read more technical tips on Chris Mullen’s blog post.
Previewing is Important!
Kindle Create Has its Own Previewer. Or you can download the Kindle Previewer 3.0 that shows books with enhanced typesetting.
Please, give your input to help with beta testing and to improve the program, visit the Kindle Create page, use the Feedback link, complete the survey or email KDP.
If you’re looking for a simplified conversion process, and if your ebook formatting is not too complex, this tool may be worth exploring. If you visit the Kindle Create page, click the link called, “So how does it work?” You will find some important information.
BTW: Another, relatively new offer is KDP Paperbacks, that might retire CreateSpace soon. Check out this article by John Doppler.
Even Better: FREE Formatting
Another route for authors is to use the conversion services offered by certain distribution platforms, for example, the FREE service at Draft2Digital. They are one of the most author-centred and customer-friendly distributors I have ever encountered: they answer emails and calls promptly, manuscripts are formatted in hours, corrections are made immediately – and they deliver .mobi and epub.
They do not work with Amazon, even they deliver you a free .mobi version, so you can upload it yourself – which has its benefits: it makes it easier to create your Amazon author page and your sales page. Or if you decide to switch in and out of KDP Select and their associated perks, you don’t need to go through the distributor, which may be a pain or not work at all.
Draft2Digital distributes your book for free to Apple, Kobo, as well as to Barnes&Noble (good for non-US authors) and many other online retailers. You receive immediately the direct link to your ebook’s sales page – something that is not common or even possible at other aggregators.