Preface: Like any software and process, these contents are time sensitive. But that doesn't change the joy of discovery. Also, with the exception of Microsoft Word 2011 for OSX, I used open source or free tools instead of professional publishing tools. I expect any problems described here not to exist with the professional publishing tools.
A harrowing tale of high adventure in which our hero, me, battles epic forces of formatting and tools only to discover that a little elbow grease and some manual tweaking ultimately saved more headaches; And, a substantial climax about how I now, at least momentarily, want to make my own ebook conversion platform because I have yet to find a convenient solution.
To begin, I enjoyed FeedBooks as a quick, down-and-dirty platform because it was so darn easy to use. Granted, content must be transcribed through their UI, but that was it and everything looked pretty good. No muss, no fuss, albeit with nowhere near the advanced features of other platforms and tools. When it came time to sell, a friend suggested I try Smashwords, and during that time I learned quite a bit about cleaning up my word formatting as I tried to get it to pass their online validation tools. In the end I was happy with the conversions, and I liked that they distributed to other platforms. Except Amazon.
And I wanted my book on Amazon.
No problem, right? Just clickety-click to Kindle Direct Publishing, follow some help text, and Presto! A ... er, no. Ok, back to the magical Calibre tool and - Negative, Ground Control. Google around a bit, find various suggestions to use Sigil for massaging the ePub prior to converting in Calibre. No dice. For some reason, no matter which tutorial or help text I read (except the manually-compose-everything variety, which, while helpful and interesting, required more time than I wanted to spend per book/story) I could not create a version of a document, html, EPUB or MOBI that the Kindle Direct Publishing platform wouldn't choke on. Either the TOC was missing, the cover was missing, or the formatting was munged. To add to the fun, the tool support in and out of Word vary for OSX, such that the transitory results weren't consistent.
Prior to uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing, I verified any EPUB version with Sigil, previewed Calibre's MOBI versions with the Kindle Previewer app, and previewed the MOBI file on a Kindle Fire. Nonetheless, after uploading, something was off in the post-KDP preview: Cover, toc, or formatting. Then, I tried the kindlegen tool from Amazon, and was then able to replicate the problems some of the times, but not always. If I ran kindlegen on certain HTML versions, the produced MOBI previewed fine. However, when uploaded, same problem. Alternately, I wound up running the kindlegen tool against the content.opf file from the exploded EPUB from Calibre, and could then reliably reproduce the problem. Keep in mind the issues I kept running into were either due to Word formatting or the contents, and I think there's some cleanup than could be done in kindlegen and KDP to make this a whole lot easier on authors.
The process I followed to upload a MOBI file to KDP that didn't have cover, TOC, or formatting problems follows.
1) If starting from Word, save the Word document as filtered-HTML (per Amazon's and many other's instructions).
2) Import the resulting HTML file into Calibre.
3) Set the cover and metadata information for the book in Calibre.
4) Publish the Calibre book as an EPUB for Kindle. I tried every hint and tip about Calibre I could find, but could never get the built-in options to work successfully for me, so in this case just take the defaults.
5) Explode the Calibre EPUB (right click on the book, select Tweak), and copy the EPUB contents to a temporary directory that is convenient to access via the console.
6) Edit content.opf and verify the TOC reference is included in the guide. For example: <reference type = "toc" title = "Table of Contents" href = "HarlotsEight_Vol1_KDP_split_002.htm#TOC" />
7) Verify the image dimensions and quality, particularly for the cover, are expected. If not, copy the original images back into the exploded directory.
8) If any images were modified, edit content.opf and titlepage.xhtml to specify the correct file name and dimensions for the cover, and/or edit corresponding content files for other images which were updated.
9) Edit the content file with any TOC anchor, and verify that only one TOC anchor is specified. Delete any anchor reference after the first.
10) Run kindlegen for content.opf to create a MOBI file.
11) Preview the MOBI file in the Kindle Previewer and verify the cover, toc, and formatting are expected. Make sure the cover and TOC are accessible via the UI, not just navigating back and forth in the contents.
12) If available, preview the MOBI file in a Kindle by copying it to the Documents folder via USB or email.
13) Upload to KDP.
14) After conversion finishes, download the preview copy and verify the preview copy in the Kindle Previewer.
During this discovery process, I found Sigil and Calibre to be extremely useful, though ultimately did not need Sigil for the final successful process. I would have preferred not to use the kindlegen tool, but I was not able to create a MOBI with both cover and TOC without it. I did try MobiPocket, but did not have much success with it. I went through an excessive number of iterations of MOBI and EPUB files that looked just fine in the Kindle Previewer prior to uploading to KDP, so there are still some inconsistencies between Amazon's own tools which made this exasperating at times.
And, after all of that, my fantasy novel Harlot's Eight is on Amazon.
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