Amazon Kindle has done something wonderful for authors: they’ve made self publishing respectable. When working with them, a writer doesn’t have to sign over her rights to her book, so there’s very little reason for those who aren’t world famous to go the traditional route of agents and the major houses. Accomplished authors are catching on in droves.
Amazon is free and your book can be listed in their Kindle library, and available for download, within a matter of hours. You can set your own price, and the rights to your book are yours for life. Amazon offers royalties of up to 70% of your price, after their costs. As a result, lots of well-known authors have switched to self publishing after working with the big houses for years. You can find most of James Patterson‘s and Patricia Cornwell‘s titles in the Amazon Kindle Store.
So what’s the catch? As it turns out, there is one. Not because of small print or unpleasant surprises in one’s paycheck, but because of technology. The gate to the world of ebook publication world is guarded by a huge tower of babel. Different companies use different languages and platforms, and the latter don’t get along very well. What’s more, none of them automatically converts a Word doc into something that looks professional. You have to know what you’re doing when you format your original document and, in spite of lots of internet palaver, the only way to learn seems to be trial and error.
Amazon uses mobi and pdf, among others. Other companies use software I’ve never heard of. Even with Amazon, I find converting my meticulously formatted Word manuscript into a decent looking downloadable Kindle book to be an endless nightmare. I converted the manuscript to a pdf file, and that didn’t look any better than the Word file after Amazon had finished with it. Titles aren’t centered or left justified, but somewhere mid-line in your text. Pictures may or may not be there, and their arrangement on the page is always a surprise. The table of contents looks like fruit salad, pits and all. Some pages start at the top of the Kindle screen, and some prefer the middle or bottom, in spite of carefully inserted page breaks after the final period of each section. Of course I tried uninserting the page breaks, and inserting them in a variety of places, none of which helped.
So I plunged into research, and found that many well-intentioned veterans of this gritty world offer blog posts full of step-by-step advice. “Use Times New Roman and only certain fonts,” some say. Others claim that “It only really works if you submit an html file.” “No, no” someone else replies, “set your whole manuscript up with Calibre.” I learned that I shouldn’t use tabs and that Kindle can’t digest tables. I cleansed and revised and cleansed again. I’ve revised and re-uploaded my manuscript about 20 times, and the Kindle version is still a hash that makes me look like a dweeb.
One day I will find a solution short of paying an expert big bucks. No, wait, I did pay an expert $200, and he couldn’t figure it out either. Someone has to know. There are thousands of slick looking Kindle books for sale. Will mine ever be among them?