I just finished updating my Kindle e-books on self-publishing. (The last one, Formatting Pages, won’t be live for at least 12 hours.)
Having spent much of the year testing out various ways to format Kindle e-books and researching subtleties of the craft (especially, tweaking the HTML), I was finally able to apply these goodies—some of them subtle—to my books. (I haven’t updated my science e-books yet, but they’re on my to-do list.)
Here are some of the changes that I’ve made:
- Restyling the entire e-book for consistency across all devices (especially, that all-important Look Inside).
- Updating the endnotes and bullets of my Detailed Guide (Vol. 1); it had been on my to-do list for far too long. (I put in a request for KDP to enable auto-updates for Vol. 1, but so far I haven’t heard back.)
- Manually cleaning up the HTML. Actually, this turned out to be amazingly simple, using the Replace tool. (There are automatic cleaners out there, but I prefer to know exactly what’s going on. There are also some things you don’t want to clean.)
- Setting the paragraph indents in em’s instead of inches so that it looks good on any device with any font size (this had already been done on most of my books). Also, certain values don’t translate well to older devices.
- Defining font size as a percentage instead of a value in inches.
- Using special HTML characters that wouldn’t work in Word (like spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs).
- Padding certain images so that they don’t enlarge on older devices. This also controls the percentage for which smaller images fill the screen consistently across all devices. A glyph or small logo, for example, shouldn’t blow up to fill the screen of an older Kindle.
- Applying 100% width for larger images to make them fill the screen.
- Changing some images from jpeg to gif. Resizing a few images.
- Removing contradictions where a “style” or “span” statement overrides the class definition. (This can be avoided with proper styling in Word. The big problem is highlighting paragraphs and formatting that highlighted selection, instead of using styles to do all formatting). This is important for perfecting the subtle touches for the Look Inside.
- Content-wise, I also made some minor changes to my Detailed Guide.
Of course, I have a step-by-step guide coming out that explains exactly how to do this, like a cookbook, so there is no guesswork. It will be available for pre-order soon.
I sell over 10 times as many paperbacks each month as Kindle e-books, which is one reason my attention has been diverted toward paperback editions for quite some time. This year, I resolved to turn the tables somewhat. Eventually, I intend for my Kindle sales to better compete with my paperback sales (ideally, without the print sales sliding to do it).
I’ve been waiting to release my self-publishing boxed set until each Kindle edition had been updated.
It turns out that the easy way to create the Kindle edition of the boxed set was to first apply consistent styling to each of the e-books.
My boxed set is finally ready to hit the market. It will be available for pre-order shortly. A paperback will follow, hopefully later this month. It will be a mammoth paperback, instead of a boxed set of individual volumes (which I realize would be convenient; something to consider in the future).
Today’s publishing world is dynamic. I don’t think a book is ever finished. Especially, nonfiction, as the content itself must be updated periodically. In addition, formatting capabilities change as technology evolves. Then everyone, from top to bottom, learns new things or develops a different sense of style. Customers develop a different sense of style and develop new expectations, which also entails a response.
Do your best to perfect your book the first time. But what seemed perfect two years ago may cause you to smack your forehead now. Fortunately, your book isn’t chiseled in stone. Update it!
When sales aren’t so hot, another thing to consider updating is your blurb. A change freshens your product page, lets customer see your book with a new look, and helps you progress toward the ideal blurb that we strive for.
Of course, I provide a wealth of free articles about self-publishing here on my blog. That’s the purpose of my blog: to help.
Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
- Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
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