How to publish your own Kindle eBook

Save yourself the frustration and sidestep the traditional publishing route, as we show you how you can be selling your book by next weekend. And you’ll have a three-year head start on your print-based rivals in which to start writing a sequel.

How to publish your own Kindle eBook

Formatting your book for Kindle

We’re using the free Sigil software to format our book. Free to download from , it’s a cross-platform eBook editor that uses ePub as its native format.

If your book is a plain-text file you can open it directly inside Sigil, but if you’ve written it in Microsoft Word, you’ll need to convert it first. From Word, click File | Save As… and choose Web Page, Filtered as the format. Open the result in Sigil.

ePub files are highly structured, with their contents described in underlying code and arranged in a particular order. Our first job is to add the book cover. You’ll need to design two covers for your book – a colour version to display on Amazon’s website, and a higher contrast 960 x 1,280 monochrome version to embed in the eBook.

Position your cursor at the very start of the text and press Ctrl-Shift-I to open the image browser. Choose the picture you want to use for the book cover and it will be added to the Images folder in the Sigil sidebar. To identify this as the cover, right-click on it in the sidebar and choose Add Semantics | Cover Image.

Images you want to embed within the text are imported in exactly the same way, but without being marked for use as the cover. In the book we’re publishing, The Sketchbook of John, Constable, we’re using a graphic timeline at the start of each chapter that would be impossible to render accurately in text.

At this early stage, your book is a fairly unmanageable tract that needs to be split into chapters. Position your cursor at the start of chapter one, immediately after the cover image, and press Ctrl-Enter to insert a chapter break. Do the same at the start of chapter two. You will now have three files in the sidebar’s Text folder with consecutive numbers: section0001.xhtml is your cover, section0002.xhtml is chapter one and section0003.xhtml is the rest of your book. Continue working through the text, inserting a break before each chapter to create new files in the sidebar.

If you want to include a table of contents in your book, use the Style menu on the left of the toolbar as you create your chapters to mark each title as a Heading. There are six heading styles to choose from, with Heading 1 uppermost in the hierarchy. Press F7 to open the Table of Contents Editor and untick any headings you don’t want to include in the table when you compile your book.

Press F8 to open the Metadata Editor and enter (at the very least) the title of your book and the author’s name, so it can be accurately catalogued by online stores. To add further details such as the imprint, ISBN, rights and so on, click More and use the Add Basic and Add Adv buttons to add both common and more esoteric metadata. The more information you add, the more accurately your book will be catalogued.

When you’ve finished formatting your book, save it in Sigil’s native ePub format. This is the format used by most eBook readers, including the iPad and iPhone, but not the Kindle or Kindle apps, which use a modified version of Mobipocket. While the Kindle Direct Publishing process will handle the conversion, for the best and most predictable results you should perform the conversion yourself and test the book locally on your own Kindle.

We’ll do this using Calibre – a free, open-source eBook library tool. When you first install Calibre you’ll have to tell it where to file your library, but beyond that all management tasks, including conversions between different book formats, are conducted through the UI.

eBook authors receive royalties far in excess of traditional authors

You can add whole books or references to them in a number of ways, from simply entering an ISBN for which it will retrieve the cover art and metadata, to importing a complete book file for reading and manipulation. We need the latter, so click Add Books and navigate to your formatted ePub.

Calibre copies the book to its library and uses the metadata you entered in Sigil to catalogue it. Double-click the book in the library to preview the contents. You should be able to click to the start of each chapter in the table of contents, and forward and back through the pages using the purple arrows. If it works as you expect, you’re ready to convert it to the Kindle’s native format.

Click Convert Books, and select Mobi as the output format from the dropdown menu at the top right of the conversion panel. The input format should already be set to ePub.

Click Page Setup to check that Generic E Ink is selected as the output profile, then click OK to perform the conversion. The progress spinner at the bottom of the library window will show you it’s working, but when it stops it won’t be immediately obvious where it has put the completed document. To find it, select the book in the library and click the link beside Path in the Book Details pane.

Connect your Kindle to a USB port and either drag the Mobipocket-formatted book to its Documents folder, or use the Send To Device button on the Calibre toolbar to upload it, then eject your Kindle in the usual way.

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