If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a bit of an author, there’s never been a better time to dive in and try your hand at writing that blockbuster novel. Amazon, self-publishing and Kindle e-books have revolutionized the way books are bought and consumed, and the result is there’s more opportunity than ever before.
One of the problems with creating a Kindle ebook however is the need to produce a title which meets the formatting standards of the mighty Amazon machine. There are services around which will do it all for you and leave you to concentrate on your creative skills, but they’re not exactly cheap, which can be a factor for a first time author.
Kindle Book Maker is an interesting alternative to these bespoke services. It’s a free online formatter, which gives you a step by step approach to creating a book which will be accepted by Amazon. Once you’ve signed up and signed in, you’re faced with your bookshelf, at which point you can start building your book.
The heart of the service is an HTML formatting engine which takes your text and outputs it in a format that Amazon is happy with. We found that the best way to use the service is to copy and paste your text from a standard word processor – we used LibreOffice – making sure to create the right chapter headings and sections you need. Unfortunately there is zero documentation supplied with the app, so you’re very much working on a trial and error basis, but we assume that’s because it’s such a new app.
Once you get into the flow however, it all becomes fairly easy to understand. If you think of sections as Chapters and inside these you create Pages, it starts to make sense. It’s different to normal book creation in that ebooks don’t really rely on structured pages the same way that print does, so you can paste in long chunks of text (plus an image per page) and the prose will still flow properly.
The only thing you have to be aware of is the fact that the layout of a Kindle is very precise, and so you need to keep checking the preview that you have everything laid out the way you want it to be. Once you have added all the text you want, the next step is to press the Build Kindle button at which point your formatted zip file will be downloaded to your computer ready to upload to Amazon KDP.
Because the output is all in HTML you can edit it to clean up any glitches before upload to Amazon (and in fact afterwards too, since Amazon helpfully supply a handy download HTML file link on their book publishing page). All uploads need to be in zipped file format. There are also a number of tools included in Kindle Book Maker which are useful, like an HTML Cleaner which you can use to scrub out any nasties in your HTML coded document, and a Styles Manager which lets you change to overall look of the formatting, fonts and colors in your book theme.
The service comes with two pre-built themes, one dark and one light colored, and you can make and save your own custom theme as well. Overall we found that even without a user guide, it was fairly easy to produce an ebook for the Kindle reader in a surprisingly short time. Of course the bigger your book the longer it’s going to take, but the principles of the service really do work. There were a couple of glitches along the way, but for a new application the whole thing works surprisingly well.
As a Kindle book maker author you get a bookshelf on which to store your books, but as far as we can tell it’s only the first book you create that is free (although we set up two titles with no problems in our test). This is clearly the project of a lone developer, which makes it even more impressive as far as we’re concerned, and we hope he gets enough users to continue his development and flesh out the service properly with documentation and more support.
The bottom line is, if you’re a budding author, this is an absolutely great way to let you test out your market, and produce a title without risking your capital on bespoke services. Remember Amazon don’t charge for publishing to Kindle either, so you could actually build a career with almost no financial outlay at all. We’re not 100% fans of the interface, there are a few too many buttons to push to navigate around from section to section for our liking, but at the end of the day it does the job. Recommended.