Two Important Lessons

Two Lessons I Learned Building My First Book for the Kindle

As an engineer I always think I can figure out anything given enough time and patience. Self publishing should not be such a difficult task for someone who spends all day making computers behave should it?

I started with a bunch of short stories that I had sitting around from my writing and critique group. I compiled them into a single book of collected short works. Let’s call it Short and Very Short Stories Shared Among Friends. A nice descriptive if somewhat longish title.

I logged on to Amazons kindle publishing site and download the kindlegen program. I read all of the formatting information they provide and tried to follow it exactly.

OK here it got a little technical. I had to run it in a DOS window and supply some file paths, but being an engineer that was not so scary. Was it?

Whoops, it wants a cover. Not a problem. I have an account at Hop on over there and find something nice. A girl, sitting in a chair, reading a book by the fireplace. How cozy is that?

Photoshop elements and a little messing around and I have a cover! It’s all black with red letting to match the photo. Looks like a book cover.

I ran the kindle gen program and made the .mobi file. It took a little while but I finally got it to work.

Get the kindle viewer and take a look at the file before you upload it. You will be able to see what it will look like to your reader and you won’t embarrass yourself. I uploaded mine before I figured that part out and then had to buy it to get it on my kindle!

So now it is on the kindle store and I downloaded it and looked it over. The index is all wrong. Now what?

Now that I have the Kindle viewer I know what it will look like. I can’t figure out how to get it right with the Microsoft Word editor. I decided on Open Office. I read someplace they have nice templates that make it simple.

I tried half a dozen of them each one with varying degrees of success. Finally with a lot of work I got it right. Now to convert it again.

This time I used Calibre. That is a nice program that only takes a while to learn but it generates the .mobi file without having to do ANY DOS commands. Sweet!

Well not as sweet as I thought. I still had to mess with the XML data to get it just right. Eventually I have it and I like the index and all of that stuff. Great, now I have the file ready again.

Back to Amazon and upload the new ebook. There we go, it should be better now.

Now off to CreateSpace to make a print copy.

They want a PDF copy of the interior of the book. They have templates that help organize everything as well along with the margins and page left and page right and all of that nifty stuff.

It only takes me a few days to get a handle on all this and produce a nice PDF file. I upload that to create space and get a preview of what the print book will look lkie right?

Nope. They want a cover too.

OK they have the cover creator. It has lots of nice pre-made cover art that must be nice, but I can’t find anything I like. I download a template for cover art that is made exactly for my book since we now know how many pages are there.

Back to Photoshop and soon we have a cover that meets the specifications. I upload that and get a preview. Everything looks nice now and I only had to re-do the interior five or six times.

I push the OK button and get a nice message saying they are going to review my work and decide if I have gotten everything right.

While all this is going on, I am working with the artist to create the cover art for the next book I am working on. I can not find anything I like, so we’re going custom here.

I get the email notice saying I am not a total failure at book design so please go ahead and order your proof copies before we commit to print. I order 10 and it says 5 max. OK I’ll take 5 copies then. Push Buy Now and we’re on our way.

The next day I get a cover layout from my designer (and my son). It makes the cover art I did look like kindergarten finger painting. I don’t know how to make it look nice, but I sure can tell when I see nice.


If you are not a graphics designer DO NOT do your own cover art. You will regret it.

So now I am sitting here with 5 books working their way to my house. All the while I am hating the cover art that I designed for them. My Son is working on a better cover design with the spine and back and all of the stuff you need on a print book that you don’t need on an e-book.

Once he gets the artwork done I have to re-load the cover art to the CreateSpace site so we can get a nice cover on the book.

Never mind that though, when I proofed the book, I realized I forgot to put any links there that point the reader to my web site so that they can purchase any future books I write.

Thank goodness for the ugly cover art. At least now I get a chance to fix THAT before print.

I am still waiting for the new cover art. You can see the book here.
Short Stories For the Kindle Reader

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One Response to Two Important Lessons

  1. Alexandria says:

    Thanks, James. It is a steep treacherous learning curve to design a book, paper or ebook. If you need another place for covers, try and its sister company & ask for Brenda if you need help. They’re free to join & have hundreds of millions of photos (that doesn’t count illustrations, which I think look cheap on books so never use them). Good luck with new covers. Alexandria, RockWay Press

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