How to Format a Textbook or Workbook for Kindle

FORMATTING A TEXTBOOK FOR KINDLE

I’ve published several workbooks and a few textbooks in both print and Kindle, and I’ve written a few detailed articles about using Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.

Today’s article adds something new: I’m using my experience to compare three different methods of formatting a textbook or workbook as a Kindle eBook.

Let’s suppose that you wrote a textbook or workbook using Microsoft Word and have already formatted it as a print-ready PDF, and now you wish to convert it to an eTextbook for Kindle.

There are three viable ways to go about this:

  1. Simply run your PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator. Like magic, in a few moments you will have a KPF file that you can preview within the Kindle Textbook Creator and then upload to KDP. This is by far the most convenient option for the author or publisher. However, a book that looks good on paper and runs through the Kindle Textbook Creator is often inconvenient to read, especially on smaller screens, and the eTextbook won’t be available across all devices. If the customer must pinch-and-zoom frequently to read the text, this will become tedious quickly.
  2. Modify your Word file and create a new PDF file optimized for the Kindle Textbook Creator. This isn’t as convenient for the author, but it’s not too inconvenient, really. Once you convince yourself that it’s worthwhile and get started, it isn’t that bad. The benefit is that it can improve the customer’s reading experience. Back in Word, you can set all of your page margins to zero, since that just wastes space on a Kindle device. As a result, it makes the text slightly easier to read. If it’s viable, you can consider significantly increasing the font size and reformatting the pages to accommodate the change (as it will alter the page layout significantly). If the text is large enough, customers may be able to read your eTextbook on more devices without using pinch-and-zoom. Also, if you have images that include text, see if it may be viable to make the text larger in those images.
  3. Create a reflowable eTextbook. Most Kindle eBooks are reflowable. The few exceptions include fully illustrated children’s books, comic books, and richly formatted eTextbooks. All novels and text-heavy nonfiction books are reflowable eBooks, meaning that the customer can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing. If it’s formatted well, this can make for the optimal reading experience. The main reason that eTextbooks are often formatted as fixed-format rather than reflowable format is that it’s much more convenient to run a PDF through the Kindle Textbook Creator than it is to reformat a textbook as a reflowable eBook. Plus, a richly formatted textbook presents more formatting challenges: If you don’t navigate the reflowable Kindle design challenges well (including bullet points, equations, callouts, sidebars, multiple columns, tables, figures, and page layout), any formatting mistakes can make the result worse than what you would get with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

EXAMPLE 1: REFLOWABLE VS. KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

In my first example, I will compare options 1 and 3.

My most recent math workbook, Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers, includes 20 chapters and 256 pages.

Each chapter begins with a concise review of essential concepts and fully-solved examples with explanations.

There are several equations that wouldn’t format well in Kindle without turning them into pictures.

Every chapter ends with a set of practice exercises.

At the back of the print edition is an answer key with the answer to every problem plus intermediate steps, hints, and explanations.

This definitely qualifies as a richly formatted textbook.

I formatted this book two different ways:

  • I ran my print-ready PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • I converted my Word document into a reflowable eBook using the same methods described in my Word to Kindle Formatting Magic book (to be published later in February, 2018, hopefully). I also moved the answers to the end of each chapter instead of putting them all at the back of the book. This makes it easier for the reader to find the answer key in the eBook (and I also added each chapter’s answer key to the active table of contents).

After creating both versions of the eTextbook, I decided to publish the reflowable version.

Above, you can see two sample pages of the preview of the KPF file shown in the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Here are a few features that I like about the version I created with the Kindle Textbook Creator (shown above):

  • It was quick and convenient for me to make.
  • The pages are well-defined. Sometimes, it’s nice to control the page layout and make content “fit” on a page. An entire problem set or example can be made to fill all of the space on a page.
  • I can refer to figures, equations, or sections by page number (like “see page 94”).
  • The Look Inside would look fine on Amazon, basically showing how the book looks on printed pages.

Here are a few features that I don’t like about the Kindle Textbook Creator version (shown above):

  • It’s inherently much harder to read. On many devices, some of the content requires using pinch-to-zoom, which would be inconvenient for customers.
  • Customers can’t adjust the font size, font style, or line spacing. This is the main limitation with trying to make a fixed format book easily readable.
  • The eTextbook wouldn’t be available on all devices. This limits your audience (and occasionally upsets customers).
  • It’s not as easy to make hyperlinks work. Plus, the last time I tested internal hyperlinks (like for an active table of contents), the hyperlinks didn’t work in the published eTextbook. Device navigation does work though (and you can enter the table of contents for device navigation directly in the Kindle Textbook Creator). Unfortunately, a few customers are used to finding a page of clickable hyperlinks, and either don’t know how to find device navigation or don’t want to do that (or have an older device).
  • It’s black and white. (But that’s my fault and would have been easy to fix. I could easily change the pictures to color in Word and create a new print-ready PDF.)

Above, you can see two sample pages of the preview of the converted MOBI file in the KDP previewer.

Here are a few features that I like about the reflowable version (shown above):

  • It’s easy to read on any device with any size screen.
  • For any equation that was too complex to simply type on Kindle, I reformatted the equation as a picture so that it would be easily readable across all devices (you can see the large equations in the picture above).
  • Customers can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing to their liking. You can see this in the picture below, where I show the effect of adjusting the font size. The customer can’t do that when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • It’s available on every device, so any customer who owns a Kindle device, Android tablet, Android phone, PC, laptop, Mac, iPad, or iPhone can read the eTextbook.
  • Creating all kinds of hyperlinks, internal and external, is easy. Both kinds of hyperlinks work, and you can easily make an active table of contents with clickable hyperlinks.
  • A few pictures show in color on devices with color displays. Since I took the time to reformat all of the pictures for Kindle, I added color shading to the pie slices.

Here are a few features that I don’t like about the reflowable version (shown above):

  • It took much more time to format the eBook (but it wasn’t insurmountable).
  • Depending on the display size and the reader’s choice of font size, font style, and line spacing, you never know when a page break may occur. This can begin a new example at the bottom of a screen, or it can leave a lot of blank space when a large figure doesn’t fit on the current page, for example. Overall, I think it came out well in many cases, but this is the main design challenge with the reflowable format: You can’t control the pagination or page layout nearly as well as you can with fixed format.
  • The pictures don’t scale with font size. (It is possible to do that with SVG images, but not all devices support SVG, so you have to do that with media queries, which entails extra work, and even then some customers will still see it without scalable images.)
  • I had to find any references to specific page numbers and find another way to say where that section, figure, table, or equation is. (You could achieve this with hyperlinks though.)
  • Since I made equation pictures large enough to read on any device, in the Look Inside feature at Amazon, and with the default font settings of certain devices, I don’t like how the equation pictures have text that is much larger than the font size. As you can see below, in some cases it is more pronounced than others: It varies with the customer’s choice of font size. But I felt that easy readability on any device was important: That was a major benefit of choosing the reflowable layout.

EXAMPLE 2: REFLOWABLE VS. KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR VS. OPTIMIZED KTC

This example will compare eTextbooks made using all three options:

  1. Simply run your PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.
  2. Modify your Word file and create a new PDF file optimized for the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  3. Create a reflowable eTextbook.

This time, instead of adding sample pictures of each case to my article, I will include a link to an example at Amazon.

You can explore Amazon’s Look Inside for free, or you can read the free sample using a free Kindle app (like Kindle for PC or Kindle for iPad) or a Kindle device. The free sample will let you better preview how it looks as an eBook. (You don’t need to buy the book to see how it looks.)

For Option 3, you can click the Free Preview button in the picture. Unfortunately, for Options 1 and 2, this button doesn’t work in Amazon’s Free Preview picture. However, you can view the free preview by clicking the hyperlink below the figure to visit Amazon and then viewing Amazon’s Look Inside.

Note that the Look Insides of Options 1 and 2 look fine when you view them on a PC, laptop, or other device with a large screen.

However, if you read these eBooks on most Kindle devices or the actual eBooks with one of Amazon’s free reading apps, then the text for Option 1 is much harder to read.

The text for Option 3 is easy to read on any device or app, though it doesn’t come out as good in the Look Inside. That’s one of the misleading quirks of Amazon’s Look Inside feature displaying a Kindle eBook as a scrollable webpage on a PC or laptop display. It’s surprising that they don’t show all Kindle Look Insides for reflowable eBooks using Page Flip or the way that you see Option 3 when you click the Free Preview button. While that isn’t perfect, it portrays a reflowable eBook more realistically.

Option 1: Simple PDF conversion using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

For the following book, I took the print-ready PDF and simply ran it through the Kindle Textbook Creator with minimal changes.

This is the most convenient option for the author, but it’s not as easy for the customer to read.

Trigonometry Essentials Practice Workbook with Answers

Option 2: Optimized Word file for the Kindle Textbook Creator before creating a PDF.

For the following book, I zeroed the page margins, changed the page size and aspect ratio, and significantly enlarged the font size. After this, it took some time to improve the page layout.

Then I ran the new PDF file through the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The result is easier to read across all devices without having to pinch-and-zoom.

However, as with all fixed format eBooks, the customer can’t adjust the font size, font style, or line spacing, and with the Kindle Textbook Creator, the eTextbook isn’t available across all devices and apps.

Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills

Option 3: Converted Word file to reflowable format.

For the following book, which I just published two days ago, I invested a great deal of time converting my Word document to a reflowable Kindle eBook (following the instructions in my book, Word to Kindle Formatting Magic, to be released later in February, 2018, hopefully).

It wasn’t as convenient for me, but the result is readable across all devices, the eBook is available across all devices, and the customer can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing. Plus, there is an active table of contents with clickable hyperlinks that work.

Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Kindle Create: Amazon KDP’s New (Free) App to Convert from Word to Kindle

Curtains from ShutterStock. Kindle Formatting Magic cover designed by Melissa Stevens.

KINDLE CREATE

Amazon KDP launched a new free app called Kindle Create, which provides a simplified conversion process to format a Kindle e-book from Microsoft Word.

You can check it out here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/AIEDQZJ8TVWZX. Available for both Windows and Mac.

It’s not foolproof. And it won’t do everything that you can dream of. But if you’re looking for a simplified conversion process, and if your formatting isn’t too complex, this tool may be worth exploring.

If you visit the Kindle Create webpage, be sure to click the link called, “So how does it work?” You can find some important information there.

Although Amazon KDP has other free e-book creation apps (the Kids’ Kindle Book Creator, the Kindle Textbook Creator, and the Kindle Comic Creator), this new app (Kindle Create) is the first that would be appropriate for an e-book like a novel (or a nonfiction book with a few pictures).

I have a few notes and tips in case you decide to give Kindle Create a try:

  • Under “Beta Limitations,” it states that you may not be able to edit lists or tables. If these display fine in the previewer (for all devices), that’s okay. But if you decide you need to edit a list or table, you need to go back to Microsoft Word and start over with the Kindle formatting later. So if you have lists or tables, I would first open the file in the previewer to see if they format well enough for you in the previewer on all devices, and if so, I’d proofread those lists and tables to make sure that you’re 100% happy with them before you do anything with your file in Kindle Create.
  • Images are automatically placed as block images, and you can’t crop, reposition, or even delete them. So if you have any images, you want to be preview these right away and make sure that you’re content with them, or else go back to Word and get them right before proceeding with Kindle Create. If you decide you need to edit or delete an image, you have to go back to Word and then start all over with Kindle Create. (If you have a very rich file like a textbook, or if you have an illustrated children’s book, check out the Kindle Textbook Creator or the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.) If an image displays larger than you would like, add padding to your image (add white space border around the picture for JPEG, or a transparent border for .GIF format) by doing this with image software of your choice (and then go back to Word and change out your image—before doing anything in Kindle Create). Most images you probably want to display large with no padding, but if you have a little logo and it displays much larger than you had in mind, you might pad that, for example.
  • Hyperlinks should be preserved, but can’t be edited. Test these out in Word first, then test them out 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.
  • Upload a Word .docx or .doc file. (If you feel that PDF may be appropriate—it certainly is NOT if you have a novel—you should also try using the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator or Kindle Textbook Creator to see if they meet your needs better.)
  • Once your file is loaded (and you’ve approved or corrected your chapter titles), place your cursor in any paragraph. Once your cursor is positioned in a paragraph, you’ll see options on the right which are otherwise hidden. There are two tabs on the right panel. One tab is called Elements, and assigns paragraph styles for different types of paragraphs in your book. This is how Kindle Create simplifies the paragraph style process (which causes tons of confusion and leads to many e-book formatting mistakes when a Word file is directly uploaded to KDP). The other tab is called Formatting, which lets you create a modified paragraph style or format a portion of a paragraph (rather than the entire paragraph). If you want to format just a part of a paragraph (like making one sentence in bold), highlight the text and apply the formatting changes. To make a whole paragraph have a different formatting style than other paragraphs, first associate one of the preset styles with the paragraph (whichever you feel is the closest match), with your cursor already in the paragraph to begin with (but with nothing highlighted), and then apply formatting. It will change the name of the paragraph style to include a + sign (like Body+ instead of just Body). If you change your mind on the paragraph formatting changes, press the Clear button.
  • Kindle Create includes its own previewer. You may also wish to download the Kindle Previewer 3.0 that emulates books with enhanced typesetting. It’s available here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/A3IWA2TQYMZ5J6.
  • If you use Kindle Create, be sure to visit the Kindle Create page (https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/AIEDQZJ8TVWZX), click the Feedback link, and either complete the survey or email KDP (or both). If you would also share your experience in the comments section below, I would appreciate that (and so would other authors who visit my blog). If you want to mention the name of your book in your comment, you’re welcome to do so. 🙂

After I’ve played around with it enough times, I might post more information about Kindle Create in a future article on my blog. We’ll see.

AMAZON AUTHOR INSIGHTS

There are so many new features at Amazon.

Another of them is Amazon Author Insights: http://amazonauthorinsights.com.

You can find some helpful articles there from successful indie authors, experts, and even from Amazon. Check it out.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Amazon Specifically Mentions Warnings Appearing on Product Pages

Warning

WARNING MESSAGES FOR KINDLE E-BOOKS

I posted more about this a few days ago:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/warning-messages-for-errors-in-amazon-kindle-e-books/

The only direct evidence we have gleaned from Amazon is on their KDP help pages:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1MMQ0JHRBEINX

This page appears to have updated in the past couple of days.

I and others had read this page carefully and thoroughly when we first noticed the updated KDP help page about a week ago.

But now there appears to be new information on the page:

“A moderate amount of Distracting or Destructive Issues can result in the book remaining available for sale, but with a temporary quality warning displayed on the detail page of the book on Amazon.com until corrections are made.”

There had been mention of Critical Issues previously, and there had been mention of possible removal of the book.

But there hadn’t been mention of Distracting or Destructive Issues. (I updated my post from a few days ago to reflect the new language.)

And there hadn’t been an explicit notice that a quality warning would be displayed on the book’s product page. (We had specifically searched for this language when the product page first updated.)

There has always been a KDP help page mentioning quality issues like formatting. But the page that had been there for years was much shorter and more vague. The current page is much more thorough, mentioning more specific details and consequences.

So it’s not so much a new KDP help page, as a greatly updated one. (Updated at least twice in recent days.)

If you read the recent KDP email newsletter, you will see specific mention that the KDP help pages have recently updated.

It’s not a public announcement from Amazon, describing new quality control practices and consequences, but finally we do have writing from Amazon clearly mentioning quality warnings displayed on product pages for Kindle e-books.

But it doesn’t answer all the questions that we have about this.

They do classify three kinds of issues:

  • Critical Issues result in the removal of the book from sale (until corrections are made). Critical issues render the book incomplete or unusable.
  • Destructive Issues (don’t you love the language?) “prevent the reader from understanding the author’s intended meaning.”
  • Distracting Issues “briefly remove the reader from the author’s world.”

If Destructive or Distracting Issues are deemed “moderate,” the book will remain available for sale, but with a warning message displayed on the product page.

If they are “excessive,” the book will be removed from sale until corrections are made.

Now for the big questions:

  • Exactly what is considered moderate, and what is considered excessive?
  • Exactly what constitutes a Destructive Issue?
  • Exactly what constitutes a Distracting Issue?

The KDP help page mentions a dozen possible issues, such as typos, formatting, duplicated text, problems with links, and even a vague Disappointing Content.

But it doesn’t come right out and say exactly when each of these issues will be deemed Critical, Destructive, or Distracting.

We hope that Amazon will be reasonable in assessing issues, deciding on a course of action, and considering an author’s possible explanation.

I have no reason to expect otherwise.

But it’s hard for writers, especially fiction writers, not to imagine several hypothetical scenarios gone wrong.

If there happen to be any issues with your book, you should receive an email from Amazon KDP, and you should have an opportunity to fix them. Hopefully, you’ll have an opportunity to respond with an explanation, if needed.

In the meantime, the best you can do is keep writing and keep marketing.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Optimizing Amazon’s Free Kindle Textbook Creator Publishing Tool

KTC Trig

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Amazon’s new free tool, the Kindle Textbook Creator, is very convenient for e-textbooks and other e-books with rich formatting and complex layouts.

(Illustrated children’s e-books work better with another free tool, the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, and comic books work best with the free Kindle Comic Creator. However, books that primarily consist of paragraphs of text, such as novels, function best as a simple conversion following Amazon’s free guide, Building Your Book for Kindle.)

I recently published my trigonometry book, Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills, using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

I did more than simply upload my print PDF to the Kindle Textbook Creator. I spent a little time modifying my file in order to optimize it for the Kindle Textbook Creator. Later in this article, I will show you exactly how I did this.

If you would like to see an example of an e-textbook created using the Kindle Textbook Creator, feel free to check out my trigonometry e-book and see how it looks: http://amzn.com/B0106X7NL4. Note that the Look Inside shows the paperback edition. (Update: That may change soon, as KTC published books are beginning to generate automatic Look Insides.) If you want to explore the Kindle e-textbook, download the free sample to a device, or download the free sample with one of the Kindle apps (like Kindle for PC); you’ll get the best experience with a Kindle Fire HD.

But remember, your book won’t look quite the same unless you take similar steps to optimize your file before publishing.

PROS AND CONS

Here are the benefits of using the Kindle Textbook Creator to format an e-textbook:

  • The strongest benefit is convenience. You put a PDF in and very quickly get a Kindle-friendly e-book out. (Unlike conventional Kindle e-books, PDF actually converts very well in this context.) The alternative, converting a complex layout with rich formatting into a reflowable e-book, is very tedious and time-consuming. Many e-textbooks don’t sell frequently enough to warrant weeks of work on the e-book conversion (or paying a hefty fee to have the conversion done for you).
  • The output is amazingly good for starting from a PDF file (usually, PDF is the worst file to begin with to create an e-book, but this is an exception). The structure of each page is preserved, which preserves the complex design and layout of most textbooks, yet it’s much better than just converting every page to a picture. The device will recognize the text on each page, which would never happen in an image. In my experience, images can come out nice and sharp, much better than converting each page to an image (but you need good quality to begin with).
  • Students can highlight text, make notes, and use similar features that are very handy with e-textbooks. For example, if you highlight a word on the screen, the device will pull up windows for a dictionary, Wikipedia, and even translation. There is even the potential for flashcards.
  • The e-book will support pinch-and-zoom. This is a necessity when text or images wouldn’t be readable on the screen, which is possible, since the screen size may be much smaller than the page size of the printed textbook. Pinch-and-zoom is what makes the Kindle Textbook Creator viable.
  • You can add navigation to your PDF file so that Kindle devices will have a working table of contents on the device (but not a clickable table of contents in the e-textbook).
  • Audio and video clips can be added into the e-textbook using the Kindle Textbook Creator. That’s pretty cool.
  • A new feature recently added is an image pop-up. Most of your images you probably want to show on the page rather than to pop-up, but if for some reason you want to insert an image file and have the image pop-up, that is possible now.

Not everything is ideal, of course:

  • E-textbooks created using the Kindle Textbook Creator are only supported on limited devices:
    • Kindle Fire HD 8.9″
    • Kindle Fire HD
    • iPad
    • Android Tablet
    • PC/laptop using Kindle for PC
    • Mac using Kindle for Mac
    • Smartphones: maybe (Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for Android Phone are listed on my product page, but these options were removed from the Kindle Textbook Creator’s preview, so they may not be available for all e-textbooks made this way)
    • First and second generation Kindle Fire: maybe (these formats are listed on my product page, but again, they don’t show up in the preview)
    • The Kindle Textbook Creator does not support e-Ink devices, such as Kindle DX and Paperwhite
  • Audio and video features are not yet fully supported. Presently, they are only supported on third-generation Kindle Fire tablets.
  • No Look Inside is available for e-textbooks created using the Kindle Textbook Creator. Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate automatic Look Insides. I published a KTC book on December 18, and on December 19 it had its own Look Inside on Amazon’s website (FYI: there is no print edition, and it has no ISBN). The Look Inside is an important selling feature. Customers can download a free sample to supported devices, though it’s not nearly as convenient as a Look Inside. The remainder of this paragraph may now be irrelevant. [However, if you have a print edition of your textbook (you can make one using CreateSpace), you can get the print and Kindle editions linked, in which case customers will see the Look Inside of the print edition. (This may not be automatic. You might have to place a request through the Contact Us feature of KDP. It can also take weeks for this to be activated. Be very clear in your request. If they think you’re asking for a Look Inside, they will tell you that e-books made with the Kindle Textbook Creator don’t get a Look Inside. What you want is instead for the Look Inside of a linked print edition to show for your Kindle e-textbook on Amazon.)]
  • If the text is so small that customers must pinch-and-zoom to read, this can become quite tedious if customers must pinch-and-zoom to read every page of the e-textbook. Some textbooks are very expensive in print, so substantial savings with an e-textbook may help to offset possible inconvenience. However, if the text is somewhat small, it’s not too hard to enlarge the text. I’ve done this and will show you how later in this article.
  • Kindle’s page numbering may differ from your page numbering, so if your pages have numbers or if you include a table of contents with page numbers, this can be confusing. However, it’s not too hard to either remove your page numbers all together (as you don’t really need them in an e-book) or at least change your page numbering to match Kindle’s page number assignment in the navigation. I go into further detail later in this article.
  • File size is a possible issue, but it depends. I just published a 127-page trig e-textbook with about 60 images, and file size wasn’t an issue for me. My PDF file was 3 MB, the Kindle Textbook Creator made a 6 MB file, but all that really matters is that the final converted .mobi file size was back down to 3 MB. (It’s common for the final .mobi file size that you find on page 2 of the publishing process at KDP to be significantly smaller than the .kpf file that you upload to KDP. When you see the .kpf file size, don’t worry about it: Wait until you reach the pricing info page to find out what the file size really is.) If you have a very large .mobi file size, the file size will cut into your delivery cost if you choose a 70% royalty (for an extremely large file size, you might see if the 35% royalty is actually better since that involves no delivery fee); the delivery cost is 15 cents per MB (subtracted from your 70% royalty; the customer doesn’t pay a delivery fee) in the US. You can upload a file as large as 650 MB. I’ve never had a file larger than 50 MB; I suppose if you add a bunch of video clips that generous limit will come into play (and that would be a hefty delivery fee, definitely needing the 35% royalty option). It’s not just the delivery fee that matters. At some point, it takes significantly longer for customers to download and takes up more room on the customer’s device. A few MB aren’t a problem. 50 MB is rather significant. Somewhere in between, maybe around 20 MB, is where you might start to have concerns, but if your book provides good features, like awesome images or video clips, the content may make it worthwhile.

OPTIMIZING TEXT FOR THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

With regard to text, I changed a few things (see the list at the end of this section for more details):

  • larger font size for easier reading without having to pinch-and-zoom to read
  • removing the gutter (i.e. it looks funny to have a larger inside margin in the e-book)
  • narrower margins to maximize the use of the space on a limited screen size
  • narrower page size to more closely match the target e-reader device
  • use of color to help key terms stand out better

Many textbooks have 8.5″ x 11″ pages with a size 12 font. That’s great for the printed page, but just imagine if that page gets compressed onto a smaller screen. In that case, the text would be unreadable on many devices except when the customer uses pinch-and-zoom. If the customer must pinch-and-zoom (and then scroll around to read left to right, top to bottom) to read every page in a long e-textbook, that will quickly become tedious.

For many textbooks, it wouldn’t be too much work to reformat the file with a larger font. It depends in part on the complexity of the design and in part on how much attention you like to put into typographic features like widow and orphan control. (A nice thing about using the Kindle Textbook Creator is that you can use the same font from your print book—though you should check on the font licensing, which may be more strict for an e-book than it is for print books—and you can preserve typographic features like kerning and hyphenation. However, it wouldn’t be suitable for a book that mostly consists of text, like a novel.)

I originally published two print editions. One of the print editions has large print. The cool thing about increasing the font size and making a second version of your print file is that you can use it (A) for a large print paperback edition and (B) optimizing the text for the Kindle Textbook Creator.

However, I still made some changes to the file from my large print paperback edition to my Kindle Textbook Creator edition. I’ll get to that shortly.

My original file was a Word document (.docx). I first formatted this for a 6″ x 9″ paperback, and converted this to PDF.

Next, I saved my Word file with a new filename, increased the font size for the large print edition, went page by page through the file to improve the formatting (since the layout changed significantly after increasing the font size—I also made the large print edition 8.5″ x 11″, which is very transparency and document camera friendly on top of having larger print), and converted this to PDF for the large print paperback.

Finally, I saved my Word file with a third filename, and reformatted this for the Kindle Textbook Creator edition. Here is what I did to optimize the text:

  • I made the font size very large. I used a font size of 24-pt for the body text. This may have been overkill: Size 16 or 18 pt may work well enough, depending on the font style. Try out a test page, convert the test page to PDF, upload that to the Kindle Textbook Creator, and preview how it looks on different screens; and repeat as needed until you’re satisfied with how the size looks. If the font size is readable across most devices, customers won’t have to pinch-and-zoom on every page just to read your e-book.
  • If you used Word’s built-in styles (in 2007 and up for Windows, you find these on the top right half of the Home ribbon), changing font size is very simple. I simply changed the body text styles to 24 pt and those sections updated automatically, then I changed headings to size 36 pt, and so on. Presto, Change-o!
  • I also changed the page size from 8.5″ x 11″ to 7″ x 11. Most print textbooks are 8.5″ x 11″, but that’s much squarer than most e-readers. The result will be large gaps at the top and bottom of the screen on a Kindle device. 7″ x 11″ is close to the aspect ratio of the Kindle Fire, but may be a little too narrow: It leaves small gaps at the right and left sides on an iPad. Obviously, you can’t get the aspect ratio to match every device, since e-readers have a variety of aspect ratios. 6″ x 9″ is common among trade paperbacks and probably comes out right without any adjustment. What’s your target device? You could either make the page size match your target aspect ratio, or you can compromise and use an aspect ratio that’s somewhere in the middle of what e-readers have to offer.
    • Kindle Fire HD’s have an aspect ratio of 5:8. Starting with an 8.5″ x 11″ book, if you change your page size to 6.875″ x 11″, it will match the Kindle Fire HD.
    • iPads have an aspect ratio of 3:4. Starting with an 8.5″ x 11″ book, a page size of 8.25″ x 11″ matches the iPad. It’s probably not worth the hassle if your main target is iPad, but 8.5″ x 11″ will look very square on the skinny Kindle Fire.
    • Somewhere in between, like 7.5″ x 11″ may offer a good compromise.
    • Another option is to find a Mac, format a separate file for iBooks designed around the iPad, and publish a Kindle edition designed for the Kindle Fire HD. (Note that iPad users do buy Kindle e-books and use the Kindle for iPad app, though if you use a Mac to format an iBook, this gives you some nice formatting options for iBooks.)
  • I made the margins narrower for the e-textbook than I did for the print editions. Wider margins come in handy for making notes in a print book; that margin is pretty useless in an e-book (where you can add notes without having to use the margins). I left a small margin for aesthetic reasons.
  • Most print books have a larger inside margin than outside margin, sometimes referred to as a gutter (though Word lets you make a wider inside margin, add a gutter, or both). This looks funny in an e-book. If your print book is like this, you can adjust your inside margin to match the outside margin (with the gutter field in Word set to zero).
  • In the print edition, I used boldface to help key terms stand out. In the Kindle edition, I used color text to make them stand out even more.
  • I removed the page headers from the Kindle edition. I could have kept them: Sometimes it’s nice to look at the top of the page to see what chapter you’re reading. But it would be silly to have the name of the book on odd-numbered pages and the chapter title on even-numbered pages in the e-book. If I had opted to keep the page headers, I would have made every page header show the chapter name (which really isn’t hard to change).
  • I plan to add video clips for a separate interactive edition at some point. Presently, it looks like video is only compatible with third-generation Kindle Fire devices, so I’ve saved my interactive edition for last since that narrows the audience significantly. On the other hand, there aren’t many e-books with video, which could help yours stand out. (You might want to add clear notes in the description and near the first video clip so that customers on other devices aren’t surprised to learn about features not working for them.)
  • I also made changes for images and for navigation, as I describe in the following sections.

If you have a very complex layout, or if you are meticulous with the subtleties of typography, changing font size, page size, or margins can become very tedious. But for many books, it’s not too much work to make a better reading experience.

Toward the end of this article, you can find some images that illustrate the changes that I made to my file for the e-textbook version. And, of course, you can check out my Kindle e-book (find the link in the first section—see above, and also read the note near the link regarding the Look Inside and sample).

OPTIMIZING IMAGES FOR THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Amazingly, KDP’s FAQ’s for the Kindle Textbook Creator don’t specify a recommended image size.

I’ve spoken with the Kindle Educational Team, and with a few other authors who have asked Amazon, and those recommendations were insane, like 4000 pixels, which is overkill. I suspect those recommendations are made with future-proofing in mind. Even in the reasonable future, 2000 pixels should be ample resolution, maybe even that’s too much. Many images 1000 pixels across forced to display full-screen appear fine on a screen 2000 pixels across, and right now it’s hard to find a screen measuring more than 2000 pixels across.

Most authors using the Kindle Textbook Creator already have a PDF file for their print book, and almost all print books require or recommend 300 DPI. If your image is 300 DPI, even a small book size like 5″ x 8″ will be 2400 pixels along the longest dimension if the image is full-page. You don’t really need 300 DPI.

But let me back up. Forget DPI for a moment.

Here’s what I do: I take my print-ready PDF, upload it to the Kindle Textbook Creator, save it as a .kcb file (you don’t have a choice), don’t change the file at all, check how the images look in the preview, package the book for publishing (this creates a .kpf file; you don’t have a choice), login to KDP, upload the .kpf file, preview the images there also, complete the minimum info so that I can move onto page 2 of the publishing process, and look underneath the pricing table to find the converted .mobi file size. (Don’t waste time doing anything to your file or filling out the fields carefully. All this work is just to see what the file size is, to help you determine whether or not it’s even worth fussing with the images. We’ll go back to square one and do everything right later.)

If your print PDF was 300 DPI and your converted .mobi file size that you see on page 2 of the publishing process is reasonable, leave well enough alone. 300 DPI on paperback sized pages should have ample resolution for your e-book, and if the file size is reasonable, it’s probably not worth a lot of effort redoing images to try to trim the file size. (But if you noticed problems with how your images appeared in your preview, that might be worth addressing. It could be because the device you’re viewing the preview on has limited resolution, though most monitors should measure enough pixels across for that not to be an issue, so chances are that if your images look blurry, it’s worth looking into the cause. Do they look sharp in print?)

In most cases, your print-ready PDF’s images will be fine for your e-textbook, and you won’t need to resize them.

Of course, what really matters for an e-book is the number of pixels. DPI is irrelevant for e-books. But what I’m saying is that if you already have 300 DPI images suitable for a print book, that’s probably plenty of pixels for the e-book.

Now forget the file that you just made. Go back to your source file, save it with a new filename for your e-book version, and touch it up for the e-book. At the end of the previous section, I listed a variety of features that you might change for the Kindle edition. If you also want to adjust any images, make these changes when you change the page size, margins, font size, or anything else that you elect to change.

If you want full-screen images for the e-book, first you have to realize that it’s inherently impossible for them to fill the screen on every device because different devices have different aspect ratios. The best you can do is choose on device to target, like the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, which is 1200 x 1920. But that will look narrow on an iPad, which is 1536 x 2048. But the iPad size will look short and wide on the Fire.

For the image to be full-width or full-height on a device, it must be full-page in your PDF file, i.e. there should be no margins around it. Unlike a print book, you can actually have pages of different size. So you could take your .jpeg image file and convert it to PDF, then insert that PDF image into your .kcb file with the Kindle Textbook Creator, and that image size can be, say, 6.875″ x 11″ (with the Kindle Fire HD aspect ratio), while your other pages are 8.5″ x 11″. (It might look a little funny to suddenly see a different size page though. That’s something you can test out and get feedback on. I’m not saying you should do this; just that you can.)

In most cases, what images are good enough for print are more than good enough for e-books, so you probably don’t have much work to do with your images. Unless… unless you have a lot of square images, like for an 8″ x 8″ book, and you want to redesign them to be tall and narrow like the Kindle Fire. Square images don’t make effective use of the narrow Kindle Fire screen, so this could be worthwhile. But then you have a lot of work to do. It might not be worth all that work if you have many images. (Don’t just change the aspect ratio as that will distort your pictures: You need a redesign, or just accept the square images and leave it at that.)

Design Tip: Browse for print replica e-textbooks on Amazon and check them out. You can see the different possibilities. You’ll probably see some samples (remember, any Look Inside may be showing the print edition; if so, you need to download the sample to check the formatting out). Traditional publishers don’t use the Kindle Textbook Creator, so you may find some print replica files that were made another way, but you’ll be able to find design ideas. And you’ll probably encounter some design problems, too. Sometimes it’s good to experience those as a customer before designing your own e-book.

The absolute best measure of how your images look comes from actually seeing your e-textbook on a device. The preview helps, but nothing is better than the real thing. Once you publish your e-book, the best thing is to be your own first customer and see exactly how it looks. (In the worst-case scenario, you can quickly unpublish until you can resolve the issue.) Of course, there are many different devices, but something is better than nothing. If you don’t have a Kindle or iPad, maybe you can find a family member, friend, or even a coworker who does.

OPTIMIZING NAVIGATION FOR THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Note that there is a distinction between a table of contents and navigation.

  • A table of contents is an actual page in your book. In many e-books, the table of contents has clickable hyperlinks (but not when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator).
  • Navigation refers to a different sort of table of contents. Not one appearing as a page in your book, but one that shows up on the device itself when the customer accesses the navigation feature. Customers can click on the navigation links to jump to any chapter of the book.

Note that Amazon refers to Table of Contents in the Kindle Textbook Creator when it’s really talking about device navigation.

This causes some confusion. You can’t make a clickable table of contents with the Kindle Textbook Creator. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks), though this is still different from device navigation.

What you can do is build in navigation for the device. This is what Amazon is referring to when they mention Table of Contents in the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Adding device navigation is easy. Don’t bother trying to do this in your PDF; most likely that won’t translate to the Kindle Textbook Creator anyway.

When your PDF is ready for Kindle publishing, open it up in the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Go to the pages you’d like to bookmark for navigation, such as pages with chapter headers (like Chapter 5), and important front or back matter sections, like the Introduction. On that page, you’ll find a checkbox on the right side of the Kindle Textbook Creator, which says, “Include page in Table of Contents.” Check that box on any page you’d like to work in device navigation. In the space below the box, type the name of the chapter or section (like Chapter 4 or Introduction). Check your spelling carefully; you’d hate to have a typo in the navigation menu.

Remember, this won’t give you a physical table of contents as a page in your book, and this won’t give you a clickable table of contents. (You can still have a physical table of contents page in your e-textbook; that’s up to you. If you want one, you should put it there before you make your PDF. For the e-book, it’s not as helpful as a print book, since there is device navigation. But you can’t make the table of contents page clickable.)

Now there is a peculiarity in the way that the Kindle Textbook Creator numbers pages for the device navigation: The Kindle Textbook Creator numbers every page in order starting with 1. But many print textbooks number the front matter with Roman numerals (while some pages typically aren’t numbered at all), and then call page 1 the first page of Chapter 1. If your print book follows that convention, the page numbers shown on the pages won’t match the page numbers shown in the navigation menu.

You may not like Kindle’s page numbering, but you can’t change that (well, you can send in a suggestion to KDP). You can, however, change your book.

Here are your options:

  • Eliminate the page numbers from your file before uploading your PDF. E-books don’t really need page numbers. Unless your textbook frequently says things like, “See page 42.” Then you either need page numbers, or you need to change it to say something like, “See Chapter 2,” or, “See Sec. 4.2.1.”
  • Renumber your pages to match what the Kindle Textbook Creator does. (You don’t have to number every page. If there is a page number, change the numbering.)
  • Leave it the way it is. Many customers probably won’t even realize that there is a difference. I wouldn’t pick this option unless changing the page numbers would be a major hassle. If you have many instances of page references like, “See page 101,” it could turn into a major hassle. (I now have the habit of writing textbooks where I’m very reluctant to refer to pages by number. I generally prefer to write things like, “as shown in Chapter 8,” as it’s more Kindle-friendly.)

Here is one more thing to consider: Did you insert any pages into, or remove any pages from, your file for the Kindle edition? If so, that will add to the challenge of making actual page numbers match up with the navigation page numbers.

Personally, I prefer to use Roman numerals for front matter, but then call Chapter 1’s first page whatever that number happens to be. For example, if I have 8 pages of front matter, they would be pages i thru viii, and the first page of Chapter 1 would be page 9 (but I don’t put actual numbers on all of those pages; check some traditionally published books to see what some of the common conventions are). Then this matches up with the Kindle Textbook Creator. Many textbooks begin Chapter 1 with page 1, however, and then it’s an issue.

You can check the navigation functionality in the Kindle Textbook Creator’s built-in preview function (but don’t expect to find it in KDP’s preview after you upload your .kpf file).

ADDING SPECIAL NOTES TO CUSTOMERS

You don’t have to, but you can add a note to customers, either in the description, a page in your e-book, or both.

Not all customers know how to use their devices. Not all customers are familiar with print replica format (that’s what the resulting e-textbook created from the Kindle Textbook Creator is called).

I would avoid including a note about the format or features unless there is a specific issue in your e-book that makes this worthwhile.

Let’s say that you have images that look great when the e-textbook is held in landscape mode, but on most devices are hard to make out in portrait mode. Some customers are in the habit of holding the device only one way, and it just doesn’t occur to them to try it a different way. On the page after your first picture where this is significant, you could insert a new page with note suggesting that a better reading experience will result from holding the device in landscape. (For most books, that won’t be the case; this is just an example.) You could even add a picture showing the device held both ways as a visual illustration of this.

Or maybe you’re using the new audio or video features that are only available on limited devices. You might want to clarify both in the description and in the e-book where the first audio or video clip is reminding customers that these features only work on certain devices (to try to prevent frustration).

EXAMPLE ILLUSTRATIONS

Here are some illustrations of how I modified my print file to create a different PDF to use with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

KTC Trig Q4

The image above shows a few differences:

  • I used grayscale for the paperback, but color for the Kindle edition.
  • The page numbering is different with my Kindle version redesign.
  • I removed the page header for the Kindle edition.
  • The image appears slightly larger on the Kindle screen.
  • (Although the text appears slightly larger in the Kindle edition, it’s actually more than it seems in this side-by-side picture.)

KTC Trig m

In the above image, you can see that the Kindle edition has narrower margins than the paperback. That’s not automatic. I specifically changed my file to have narrower margins on the Kindle edition, where those margins are less relevant, but which waste valuable space.

KTC Trig p

The print edition includes practice exercises at the end of the chapter. You can write in the paperback, so customers may want space here for their solutions. However, you can’t write solutions in an e-book, so I removed this extra space from the Kindle edition, as shown above.

Also, the answer key for the paperback is at the end of the book, which is inconvenient for the Kindle edition, so I put the answers on the page after the problems for the Kindle version. Customers just have to turn the page to find the answers in the e-book. It’s easy to bookmark the answer key for the paperback though, so I tabulated the answers in their own section for the paperback.

KTC Trig F

You can see what I mean about navigation built into the device in the above illustration. I took this picture with my iPhone’s camera; it shows my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ with the navigation window open. On the bottom left, you can see the Introduction followed by the chapter names, with corresponding page numbers to the right. Note that these page numbers are automatic, and only match the actual numbers shown on your pages if you go to the trouble to make them match.

Inside Outside Margins

The above picture isn’t a Kindle Textbook Creator e-book. It’s a paperback book showing that some print books have a wider inside margin than outside margin. That might look funny if not changed for the Kindle edition of an e-textbook made using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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An Index of Cover Design, Blurb, Editing/Formatting, Marketing, Writing, and Publishing Posts

Having seen a few followers hunting through old posts, I thought it might be handy to make an index for potentially useful posts on my blog.

The index page is divided into 6 parts:

  1. Cover Design
  2. Blurb
  3. Editing/Formatting
  4. Marketing
  5. Writing
  6. Publishing

(I haven’t yet included my poetry and related posts.)

You should be able to find the index page over to the right (on the sidebar). If you have any trouble finding it please let me know. It includes a date so you will know when it was last updated. If you know anyone who you believe would find some of these posts helpful, please feel free to direct them to the index.

If you check it out, please share any comments, feedback, or suggestions. The index is for anyone who might find those posts useful; especially, you. So if you have any requests, please share them. 🙂

Kindly,

Chris

 

Hy-phen-a-tion: How a Teeny Weeny Line Can Make a Huge Impact

Almost all traditionally published books and eBooks are justified – i.e. a computer program varies the width of the spaces between the words such that the right and left edges of the text are aligned. Books that are instead aligned left are said to be “ragged right” because they are not aligned at the right.

Left-aligned books often give an impression that the work is amateurish. Many new writers do this intentionally because they don’t like the gaps that they see between words when the text is justified (others do this accidentally, simply using Word’s default settings). On the other hand, setting the alignment to left doesn’t remove the gaps – it simply puts the spaces at the end of the line instead of spreading them out between the words. Book designers and editors prefer the look of justified text.

Large spaces in justified text do pose a formatting problem. There is, however, a simple way to reduce them: hyphenation.

Manually hyphenating a word at the end of a line where the gaps are large reduces the gaps. Don’t hyphenate manually until the manuscript is complete, edited, revised, and perfected. Otherwise, after revisions to the text, words that had been hyphenated may no longer appear at the end of a line, and new lines may need to be hyphenated. Consult a dictionary to find the natural breaks between the syllables.

Watch out for Word’s AutoCorrect tool: If this tool is on, one or both fragments of the word may automatically be respelled when the hyphen is inserted. For example, if a hyphen is inserted in the word “invented” to make “inven-ted,” Word will change this to “invent-ted.” Why? Because Word sees this as two separate words, “inven” and “ted.” Word automatically corrects (so it thinks!) the spelling of “inven” to make “invent.”

It isn’t actually necessary to hyphenate manually. Microsoft Word, for example, has an automatic hyphenation feature that can be activated. In Word 2010, find this on the Page Layout tab.

When using Word’s hyphenation tool, go into Hyphenation Options and increase the Hyphenation Zone to about 0.3” to 0.4”. Otherwise, there will be hyphens all over the place (including headings that span multiple lines).

Those who have used WordPerfect and Word may be aware that WordPerfect’s hyphenation is aesthetically a little more appealing. But it’s not necessary to buy WordPerfect: Word actually has an option to hyphenate like WordPerfect. In Word 2010, go to the File tab, scroll down below Help to find Options, select Advanced, click Layout Options at the bottom of the list, and search for the line that starts, “Do full justification…”

Note that Word won’t hyphenate words that its dictionary doesn’t recognize. It’s necessary to search for lines where it may be possible to hyphenate a word at the end of a line for which Word doesn’t have a hyphenation key.

Also making an eBook? If so, it’s necessary to make a different edition of the file without hyphenation. Therefore, any manually hyphenated words must have their hyphens removed. Some eReaders actually hyphenate words for the reader, but not the Kindle. Since an eReader can have a large font and a small screen, the gaps on justified text are nicely reduced on the screen when the device automatically hyphenates it for the reader.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Editing/Formatting Checklist

Here is a list of what to look for when editing and formatting a book.

Formatting checklist for a paperback book:

  • Same style and size of headers, footers, and page numbers throughout.
  • Chapter headers on even-numbered pages match the actual chapter headings.
  • Pages are numbered correctly and the style is consistent throughout the book (except for switching from Roman numerals to Arabic numbers).
  • Look for strange page breaks, line breaks, changes in alignment, changes in font style or size, inconsistent indents, and inconsistent vertical spacing.
  • Check the page references in the contents and index.
  • Match the contents entries with the chapter headings.
  • Consistent heading and subheading styles.
  • Check that all references to pages, figures, tables, equations, etc. are correct.
  • Consistent bullet formatting.
  • Examine page borders, figures, equations, tables, captions, and textboxes.
  • Quickly thumb through the book to verify the vertical justification.
  • Manually deal with hyphens, widows, orphans, and rivers when editing is complete.

Editing checklist for a paperback book:

  • Inspect the title page carefully.
  • Match the title and contributors on the cover, spine, title page, and copyright page with published information.
  • Check copyright page and front matter carefully.
  • Spelling and grammatical mistakes, and word confusion (like homophones).
  • Repeated words like the the (can also search on the word processor).
  • Punctuation, like proper use of -, –, and —.
  • Storyline, plot, character development, chronology, etc.
  • Quotes face the right way.
  • Inappropriate changes in tense and person.
  • Passive writing that may function better as active writing.
  • Too many –ly adverbs.
  • Too much use of to be (is, was, been, etc.).
  • Useless words and redundancies.
  • Overused words.
  • Long paragraphs, good variation in sentence length and structure, readily flowing text.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers