With the advent of E-readers like the Kindle, the publishing industry has been blown wide open. Before, getting your book in front of somebody meant flying to New York and scaling the granite walls of giant publishing houses. Failing that, you could always go to some shady vanity publishing company, but their primary concern was separating you from your hard-earned money.
The e-book Gerda and Kai displayed on a Motorola Xoom.
Nowadays it's much easier to get your work into the hands of your eager audience. Whether you're looking to publish the next great American novel or just want to get your family cookbook on the Kindle, we'll show you how you can use a couple of free tools to get your work on the Amazon bookstore.
Step 1: Preformat Your Book
Before you can get your book on the Amazon store, it needs to be in a format that the Kindle can read. Fortunately, this isn't going to involve using InDesign or inking up any movable type. All you need is an HTML file or a Word document. We're going to assume you're working from a Word document, but most of this guide will still apply if you're working from some other program that can export an HTML file.
Hopefully, your book is already in Word, but if it isn't, move it over and get it properly formatted. This document will constitute everything between the two "covers" of your book, so make sure it's all there, including a title page, author information, and anything else you might want to include (image above). Use Word's formatting tools to get everything looking the way you want. If you want pictures in your book, simply insert them into the document.
Once everything's looking right, click Save As and choose to save as a .doc file (not the newer .docx format).
Step 2: Create a PRC File
Next, we'll turn the .doc file you created into a .prc file—the file format used for Kindle self-publishing. To do it, we'll use a free program called Mobipocket Creator. Download and install the program. When asked, choose to install the Home Edition, which has all the features you'll need. When it's installed, run the program. On the right side of the Mobipocket Creator home screen, you'll see a section called Import From Existing File (image below). In this section, select the option to import from an MS Word document. On the next screen, browse for your document, select where you want the final document to be saved, and click Import.
Once the import process is done, you'll see the book editing menu. On the left side, click the Cover Image option, then select the image you want to use as a book cover. Click Update to save your selection.
You have a couple of options for creating a table of contents for your book, if you need one. For a short book, you can create the table of contents yourself in the Word document. E-book readers can handle hyperlinks, so if you're creating a table of contents, you should link each heading to the proper place in the book. If you're just doing a few links, you can select each one by hand in Word, right-click, and select Insert Hyperlink. Then, choose the option labeled "Place in this document."
If you've got a long document, you can have Word generate a table of contents for you automatically by clicking References > Table of Contents and selecting an automatic table of contents format. The TOC is generated based on the heading styles used throughout the document—a good reason to always use the styles tool in Microsoft Word instead of manually adjusting font sizes.
If you're working from an HTML file, you can simply create your own hyperlinked TOC, or you can use the Mobipocket Creator tool to automatically generate one based on HTML heading tags that you specify.
Finally, you're ready to create your book. Choose the Build option from the top menu, and then click Build to complete the process. Unless you've changed the output settings, you can now find your .prc file in the My Publications folder inside of My Documents.
Step 3: Preview Your E-Book
When you finish building your e-book in Mobipocket Creator, you're given the option to preview it using the included Mobipocket simulator. You can do that if you like, but since we're more interested in creating an e-book for the Kindle platform, we'll preview it with the Kindle Previewer instead.
The Kindle Previewer (image above) is available for free. Download it, and open your PRC file. You can click the Devices menu to see how your book will look on different devices, including the Kindle, the iPhone, and the iPad (image below).
Step 4: Register Your Book with Amazon
Once you're happy with the way your e-book looks, you'll need to register it with Amazon. To do that go to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin and sign in with your Amazon account (or create a new one, if you haven't before). You will probably find that you need to enter additional information in your account settings before you can use the Kindle Direct Publishing service—this includes basic accounting and tax information so that you can actually get paid if you sell copies of your book on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, even if you don't intend to charge for your book, you will have to fill out these fields.
Once your account is complete, click the New Title button, which will allow you to register your book (image above). Most of the information you're asked to provide is very straightforward (we truly hope you know what the title of your book is, for instance) but take care when you are filling them out. What you write in the description field is what people will read as they browse your book on the Amazon store, so make sure that it provides a compelling description of your book and (for the love of God) double-check it for spelling and grammar errors. Even if you're publishing something like a family history and not hoping to sell the book to strangers, the finished product will look a lot better with a polished description.
If you are planning on selling the book outside your friends and family, make sure to spend some time thinking about the fields in the section labeled Target Your Book to Customers. Picking the right category and keywords will make it much easier for people who might be interested in your book to find it.
At the bottom, you'll be prompted to upload a cover image and a PRC file (image above). You've got both of those, so upload them and click Save and Continue. Fill out the rights and pricing info you want to use for your book, and finish the process. Amazon will take several hours to review your submission, and your book will appear on the Kindle store (image below).
The book Gerda and Kai displayed in this How To section was written by Maximum PC art director Richard Koscher. It was inspired by H.C. Andersen's The Snow Queen. You can find it on Amazon or order a printed version at www.gerdaandkai.com.