Amazon has recently started pushing a new tool called Kindle Create as their preferred method for creating ebooks for the Kindle ecosystem. I have had a chance to try it out with my recent publication of the second edition of my book, An Unlikely Hero. Overall, it worked pretty well, though it’s got a few quirks.
So, why is Amazon changing the ebook generation process? While I don’t have any special access to Amazon insider secrets, I think it’s part of a general push to:
- Make it easier to produce ebooks for non-technical people.
- Improve the ebook reading experience with a more consistent interface, real page numbers (instead of meaningless numeric units), etc.
- Begin supporting Amazon’s latest KFX format, Amazon’s latest update of their mobi format.
I’ll cover some prerequisites, an overview of the tool’s design philosophy, my recommendations for an ebook layout that will work well with Kindle Create, and some step-by-step directions that I used to create my first ebook with the tool.
You’ll need to install Kindle Create. It’s a free download from Amazon and is available on both Windows and Mac systems.
It’s a relatively new tool and the initial versions were a little buggy. This was mostly resolved in the February update to the tool. However, the initial download is not typically the most recent update with the latest fixes. Within a short time of starting the application, Kindle Create typically does a version check and, if a newer version is available, offers the chance to upgrade.
If an upgrade is offered, you should upgrade.
Kindle Create assumes that everything in your document can be bundled into three different areas:
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
You import your Word document and the tool does its level best to figure out what elements should go in each area. It even builds your Table of Contents (TOC) automatically. Your input document has become a project within Kindle Create.
That’s only the start, of course. Next, you’ll fine-tune your ebook within Kindle Create. You can move elements around, put them in different areas, etc. You can also customize the TOC, so that some elements don’t appear, e.g. – my Copyright and Dedication pages should not be listed in the TOC.
Kindle Create includes a preview capability, so you can review your ebook and make sure it’s working the way you want it to. It works pretty well.
Since you’re doing a lot of customization within Kindle Create, it’s inevitable that your content in the tool will begin to deviate significantly from your original Word document. Fortunately, you can save your project, so you can make changes later without having to re-import, repeat your fine-tuning efforts, etc.
Assuming that you’ve got everything tuned the way you want it, you export your ebook as a KPF file. This output file is what you upload into Amazon KDP’s online interface as your ebook.
Your ebook is a different beast than your print edition. For me, some of the elements of my books will appear in a different order than they do in the print edition. As a result, I typically take the Word document for the print edition and create a customized copy for the ebook edition.
My ebook format looks like this:
- Front Matter
- Image Credits
- The Chapters of my Story
- Back Matter
- About the Author
- Books by Author (with clean Amazon links)
Left out…the Preview I usually put in my print books, i.e. – a chapter of an upcoming publication.
There are a few quirks.
Kindle Create expects your title page to be text, and even provides a handy form to define your title page. I like to use title graphics so my title page typically matches the title on my cover, albeit in black and white. Haven’t found a way around this issue yet.
Kindle Create seems to import PNG graphics just fine. But if you need to add a graphic within the tool, it will only allow you to use a JPG.
There’s also one big benefit. Kindle create will store within your generated ebook a map of where each page begins. It’s this map file that allows Kindle devices to show the reader the page they are on rather than some meaningless, strangely calculated numeric position.
Here’s my detailed process:
- Create the print edition first.
- Copy the Microsoft Word document for the print edition to a special ebook edition.
- Make strategic changes, e.g. – moving elements to match where they’ll be in the ebook.
- Remove some unnecessary pages that space out the print edition, such as blank pages used to ensure that chapters always start on odd pages. Also get rid of hypens that were added to break words across lines.
- Import the Word document into Kindle Create.
- Move the front matter pages into the Front Matter section within the Kindle Create project.
- Move the back matter pages into the Back Matter section within the Kindle Create project.
- Review the ebook using the built-in previewer.
- Save the project.
- Export as a KPF file.
- Upload the KPF file to KDP.
I hope this helps you get the most out of Kindle Create. Despite its quirks, I think Amazon has done a nice job creating a tool that will help a lot of people create better ebooks.