Introduction: Self-Publishing for the Kindle

Did the Templars kill JFK? Is BigFoot living in the trailer next door? The world must know! Self publishing is easier than ever with the arrival of the internet....all you need is a story. There are dozens of sites which offer eBooks for sale and like all content publishers what they need is content.

Assuming you’ve already made the decision to self-publish, there are some very good reasons to go with Amazon and the Kindle. The Kindle is the dominant dedicated ereader device currently on the market, and the ebook market has been growing at a rate of around 400% year over year since 2007. It’s simply too large a market sector for authors and publishers to ignore. Publishing your book in Kindle format via Amazon’s DTP is free, and doing so gets your work onto the virtual shelves at Amazon in a matter of days.

Also, it’s no longer true that only Kindle owners will be able to buy and read your Kindle book: Amazon has released free Kindle reader “apps” that run on PCs, Macs, smart phones, the iPad, the iPod Touch, the iPhone, Blackberrys, and numerous other devices.

About the only people left out of the Kindle book party are those who only read ebooks on competing, dedicated devices (e.g., the Sony Reader). Releasing a Kindle edition of your book can be a very cost effective trial for a book you’re considering releasing in print formats.

This instructable covers the basic steps to prepare your document for publication on the Kindle eBook reader. The process itself is pretty straightforward, once you have the document. Which is, not surprisingly, the hard part.

Step 1: Getting Started

You're going to need a few things. You're going to need access to a computer and the internet. If you don't have a computer or high speed internet access you can probably use systems at your local library.

You're going to need a word processing program of some sort to prepare your manuscript. Here you have to make a decision about your publishing future. If you plan someday to distribute your document in print format you may want to take advantage of many advanced formatting and other features of a higher end word processor such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice (free from

If, on the other hand, you plan only to publish eBooks then you are much better off to use a WYSIWYG HTML processor such as Kompozer or the SeaMonkey HTML editor.

A comprehensive comparison of HTML editors can be found on wikipedia.

You're going to need a graphics editor to prepare your cover art. This can be as simple as Microsoft Paint or something far more complex such as Adobe PhotoShop. I generally use the GNU Image Manipulation Program (free from for image editing.

You'll need a program to convert the HTML file into the Kindle format. There is a conversion program available from Amazon for PC, Mac and Linux users. It is called KindleGen and may be download for free from the Amazon DIgital Text Platform site. You will also want to download the Kindle Previewer so you can double check the formatting.

Choosing this option means you will have to manually create the table of contents file using a text editor.

For PC users the Mobi Pocket Creator ( also free ) is a better choice. This includes file import along with a Table of Contents wizard that makes the process of creating the TOC trivial.

Once your book has been properly formatted and a table of contents prepared your book is ready to be uploaded to Amazon and sold to the general public.

Okay so new that we've downloaded the software we're ready to begin.....

Step 2: Register With the Amazon Digital Text Platform

First things first, you must have an account at, you may use your existing account or create a new account for publishing.  So let's go ahead and login or sign up for the Amazon Digital Text Platform program.

When you publish your book you will have to provide a tax ID number (i.e., social security number). Don't get concerned about this, all authors must provide their social security or a valid tax id number. If you don't want to provide your social security you can apply to the IRS for a tax ID number to use in business. This is called an Employer ID number and information is available here.

Optionally you can provide bank information in order for Amazon to pay you your author royaltie by direct deposit. If you are uncomfortable with this select the "Send me a check" option.

Once you've completed your registration click the ‘Help’ link, and avail yourself of the Getting Started Guide, Formatting Guide, FAQ and Additional Information links. Also feel free to peruse the Ask The Community user forums, as many specific questions, concerns, tricks and tips are also discussed there.

Also make sure you have the final draft of your book ready. Do not publish anything via DTP that you would not feel comfortable seeing on the shelf at Barnes and Noble with your name on the cover. This is the time for a final, completely polished draft that
you’ve ‘locked’ against more revisions.

Your manuscript should contain all the same content you would expect to include creation of a paper book: publication details page, title page, table of contents, dedication page, etc. Because Amazon requires a .ncx file a table of contents must be prepared even for fiction.

At this time make a working copy of your manuscript. The Kindle publishing process may radically restructure the layout of your document so its best to preserve the original and work from a copy for the DTP release.

Step 3: Create Your Cover ART

Kindle store customers judge the lack of cover art, or the presence of unaltered stock-photo cover art, to be a hallmark of the non-professional. You definitely want some nice cover art for your eBook. And it should match the cover art of any other editions.

Anything from a greeting card program to MS Paint can get the job done, but of course a dedicated graphics package such as GIMP or PhotoShop will generally offer more and better options.

In general you can use any public domain or purchased clip art in your cover image, but you may not use graphics copied off the internet unless their creator has explicitly given permission for commercial re-use of the image(s).

Size your cover art for 4"x6" at 300 dpi ( that 1200x1800 pixels ), it must be saved in JPEG or TIFF format with RGB ( not CMYK ) color mode set. This is different from the formatting requirements for image which appear inside the document.

Aside from stock photo collections, if you intend to use pictures where anyone’s face is recognizable, you must have a written and signed release from every living person who is identifiable or their estate if any of those people are celebrities.  It’s best to stick with purchased clip art and stock photos.

Per title, the average publisher spends  anywhere from $400 to $2000 for professional book cover design. That's a lot of money and they probably know what they are talking about.

So take some time, cruise the net. Try searching for 'Cover Art' or 'Book Cover Art How To' to find ideas and suggestions for your book cover.

Here's a YouTube video that shows how to make a 3D cover using GIMP free software:

The good folks over at BookCoverPro have done a fantastic job of putting together a book cover editing package for around $100. They also have an eBook design special for $29 that might be worth considering.

Even if you decide to create your own the BCP web site has dozens of template examples that can provide a comprehensive layout concept.

Other interesting sites include for $27 ( on sale at the moment ).

Step 4: Write Your Description

Your next step will be to organize what you are going to say about it in your description You are only given 4000 characters, including spaces, for your book description in the Kindle
store, which will appear on your Amazon product page. Look at a few such descriptions for bestsellers to get some ideas of how to approach this.

Create a separate Word or .txt document just for the description, so you can spend some
quality time working and reworking it until it’s exactly what you want. Writing the basic elements down in an outline format will help you to organize your thoughts.What will you include? The following guidelines should help.

Let's assume for the moment that you've chosen a work of fiction. We'll start with a description of the book. The description should include such elements as:

1. The setting—where does the story take place? Is it a real place or an imaginary one? If the author does not tell you exactly where the story is set, what can you tell about it from the way it is described?
2. The time period—is the story set in the present day or in an earlier time period? Perhaps it is even set in the future! Let your reader know.
3. The main character(s)—who is the story mostly about? Give a brief description. Often, one character can be singled out as the main character, but some books will have more than one.
4. The plot—what happens to the main character? WARNING! Be careful here. Do not fall into the boring trap of reporting every single thing that happens in the story. Pick only the most important events. Here are some hints on how to do that. First, explain the situation of the main character as the story opens. Next, identify the basic plot element of the story--is the main character trying to achieve something or overcome a particular problem? Thirdly, describe a few of the more important things that happen to the main character as he/she works toward that goal or solution. Finally, you might hint at the story's conclusion without completely giving away the ending.

The four points above deal with the report aspect of your work. For the final section of your outline, give your reader a sense of the impression the book made upon you. Ask yourself what the author was trying to achieve and whether or not he achieved it with you. What larger idea does the story illustrate? How does it do that? How did you feel about the author's style of writing, the setting, or the mood of the novel. You do not have to limit yourself to these areas. Pick something which caught your attention, and let your reader know your personal response to whatever it was.

What about non-fiction?

If given the option, you might have chosen a non-fiction biography, history, or a factual text on another subject of interest to you. In that case, the descriptive section of your report should include:

1. subject—an initial statement on the general subject of the book.
2. summary—your summary of what the author had to say about the subject. Again, pick only the most important points to discuss. For a biography, describe some of the key events in the person's life. For a history or other subject, describe some of the main points made about the subject. If the book is divided into different chapters, you can often use those divisions as a guide to what the main points are.

Step 5: Format the Document for Kindle

In the course of reformatting your document keep a couple of things in mind:
  • The Kindle device isn't really fond of CSS
  • Don’t worry about margins or losing your page numbers, as the Kindle automatically regenerates digital page numbers and re-formats the layout according to user preferences each time it loads a file.
More about CSS:

You can use a stylesheet to format your book, and I do suggest that you use CSS as much as possible. There are some CSS rules, however, that are not supported at all or only supported minimally in the Kindle: margins, different fonts, font sizes, and colors are a few. The best control over font sizes can be achieved using heading tags.

The {left-brack}big{right=bracket} and {left-brack}small{right=bracket} tags are not as robust as they are in HTML, but you will find that they allow you to adjust the size up or down a couple of sizes.
The font-size property in CSS is essentially useless

Also it's actually a good idea to use color images in your eBook. While the  Kindle device can’t display color, reader apps that run on other (color) devices do, and it’s highly likely a future Kindles will have a color display. Your color images will display properly, though  only in grayscale, on the current Kindles, but will be shown in all their full-color glory in the apps that do show colors. And when a color Kindle comes out you can just sit back and relax.

With that out of the way we're ready to edit our document.

Now using your HTML editor we've got to clean up the content:
  • Delete any blank pages that were inserted into the original manuscript for purposes of ‘facing pages’ formatting.
  • Delete your headers and footers
  • Insert a Title Page at the front of your manuscript with your book’s title, your name and any copyright information
  • Just in front of that, insert a 4x6” 300 dpi color image of your book’s front cover, in color and at a resolution of 300dpi, as the very first page of your file. Put the Amazon start bookmark immediately before it:
    {left bracket}a name="start"{right bracket}
    and a page break immediately after it:
    {left bracket}mbp:pagebreak/{right bracket}
  • Delete the table of contents if you have one. In the same location put a hypertext bookmark to indicate where the TOC should go:
    {left bracket}a name="toc"{right bracket}

This one is tough, make sure all the text has the same style.Often in the course of cut and paste it is commonly to manually adjust paragraph formats by means of the buttons and tools provided. It is very important that all paragraphs which are similar ( headers, body text, captions ) have the same style. This means going through the document, selecting the paragraph and setting the style using the stand menu and removing any custom options.

Edit any internal graphics to conform to Kindle requirements. Verify that each graphic file used within the body of your book is no larger than 450 x 550 pixels at 300 DPI and  its file size is no larger than 64kb. If you have no idea what any of this means, you lack the skills and knowledge needed to include graphics in your Kindle book; you can omit them from your manuscript, brush up your graphics editing skills, or get a more knowledgeable person to edit the images for you.

Next surround any full-page size images with Amazon custom page break tag:

to force each one onto its own page. Surround any other images with carriage returns, to prevent text from wrapping or flowing around the images. Note that while inserting the carriage returns may result in large areas of white space around your images, the white space is far preferable to unpredictable text wrapping around the image when the user decides to re-size the font displayed on his ereader device.

Now we're going to mark our table of content entries. Make sure that all table of content entries are marked with appropriate header tags (This should also be preceded by the AMAZON page break custom markup as this will cause each section/subsection/chapter to start at the top of the page.

Each tag needs to be assigned a class attribute for the Table of Contents Wizard. The TOC wizard in MobiPocketCreator provides up to 3 tiers for the TOC entries. I normally assign Heading1 to class section, Heading2 to class subsection and Heading3 to class chapter. The final markup looks something like this:

{left bracket}mbp:pagebreak/{right bracket}
{left bracket}h1 class="subsection"{right bracket}

Okay now we can save our document and create our ebook using MobiPocketCreator

Step 6: Convert the Document Into Kindle Format

As I working on this I realized that this could be a complete instructable by itself. As may be, now that you've reformatted your book to make it Kindle friendly you need to convert it into the actual Kindle format including a Table of Contents file ( required even for fiction books ). The Table of Contents file ( also called an 'ncx' file for its extension ) is a special purpose XML file that is described in great detail...elsewhere.

For now it is sufficient to know that producing a Kindle format book requires either the use of MobiPocketCreator and its wonderful Table of Contents and Guide Wizards or you can use KindleGen and construct the TOC ncx file manually. Good luck with that, let me know how it turns out.

So having downloaded and installed MobiPocketCreator ( hereafter called MobiPC ) lets convert our file.

The first step is to import the formatted HTML you have created. So go ahead and click on 'Import HTML document'. This will bring up a standard Windows file browser which you can use to locate and select your document.

This will take you to the document creation wizard, along the left hand side you will see a menu that we will go down one by one.

The first step is publication files, this shows the list of files you have imported. If your book is in more than one HTML document go ahead and add the additional files using the 'Add Files' button.

Otherwise select the 'Cover Image' option. This will bring up the 'Add Cover Image' wizard, you can select the 'Add a Cover Image' to import your image from the file system or use drag and drop to import it.

Once you've imported your Cover image its time to set up the table of contents. Remember the class codes we added to the document headers? Now we will tell MobiPC to use those classes to construct the TOC. You can also use special purpose tags and/or attribute types with whatever content you find appropriate. The TOC wizard supports up to 3 levels of TOC entries but it is not required to use them. In our example we're using the attribute named 'class' which has the values 'section', 'subsection' and 'chapter'. Once you've updated the table click the 'Update' button to save the values and use the 'Preview in Browser' link at the top of the page to verify that your TOC is complete and laid out correctly. If not edit your HTML file as appropriate and regenerate the TOC ( just click update ) to verify the new layout(s).

Next is the book type information. This includes such things as font and document type ( ebook, blog what have you ) and a flag to indicate whether or not this is a dictionary. Modify these fields as appropriate and click the 'update' button to save.

Next is the metadata, this includes things like title, author, description and price. These elements are discussed in detail elsewhere in this instructable and should be cut and pasted here ( if appropriate ).

Next is the optional guide. This is used to provide navigation within your ebook. Here you enter a description along with link information to bookmarks within the document. These are standard bookmark entries so any navigation you want so be added to the HTML as named anchors.

Okay once we've updated all the information we're ready to generate our e-book. Click the Build icon at the top of the page, this will bring up the build wizard. Select your encryption and compression options as appropiate then click the 'Build' button at the bottom of the page. The build wizard will assemble the pieces and generate your final '.prc' file for upload to Amazon.

NOTE: MobiPC also supports publishing directly from the tool ( the 'Deploy' button ). That requires that Digital Rights Management be enabled. Since that wasn't appropriate for this project ( and may or may not be for yours ) I didn't select. Consequently I was not able to take full advantage of the MobiPC capabilities.

Step 7: Publish Your Book to Amazon

Okay now your eBook is ready to be posted to the Amazon Digital Text Platform. This video is from Amazon and walks through the process in detail.

One key area to consider is pricing for your book.

Bestsellers that are only available in hardcover in the ‘regular’ book store tend to be
priced at $9.99 in the Kindle store, and those available as trade paperbacks in the
‘regular’ bookstore usually run between $6.99 - $8.

For indie authors, it seems as if the pricing “sweet spot” for a Kindle book is $2.99.
When mainstream-published author JA Konrath began self-publishing some of his works
via the DTP, he did quite a bit of experimentation with price points. In the end, he found
that pricing his Kindle books at $3.99 or higher seemed to discourage some purchases,
while reducing them to $1.99 or less didn’t seem to stimulate additional sales to any
significant extent.

You can try experimenting with price points, but be remember: any
change you make to t your Kindle book, even if it’s just the price, will require re-publishing the book and and it will be unavailable for up to three business days.

Once you've uploaded your eBook the status in your Bookshelf will go to 'In Review', it can take up to three business days for Amazon to review and approve your submission. Once its approved your submission is marked 'Live' although it may take up to 5 days for all of Amazon's in house systems ( such as linking the hardcover version with the eBook) to be complete.

Once your book is live, complete and available for sale in the Kindle bookstore you can login at any time and review the status by clicking on the 'Reports' link.

Amazon does not require that you have an ISBN number for your book but I suggest that you get one anyway because things are changing in the ebook world. Retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBookstore already require ISBN assignment and while Amazon doesn’t yet think it’s only a matter of time .

ISBNs can be purchased individually or in blocks at for about $150 for a single ISBN/barcode block.

If money is simply too tight for you to be able to afford an ISBN for your Kindle book,
then go ahead and skip it. But be prepared for the possibility that at some point in the
future, Amazon may require you to provide an ISBN for your book.

Good luck with your publishing efforts and I hope you change the world.