Monday, June 19, 2017

Kindle Book Publishing

I just published my C-Sharp programming manual on Amazon's Kindle.  The process was easier than expected.

First, some history as I understand it:  On Kindle (or Nook), authors can upload MS Word documents and the software will convert it to the e-book reader's format.  Page numbering, chapters, etc., are all figured out during the upload.  The end result is a document that changes the number of pages, depending on the size of the device and on the magnification of the font.  Things like indenting, columns, and other such formatting are ignored.

I admit I have not actually done this because I knew my book -- a text book -- would die during the conversion.

Technical and illustrated books do not tolerate a simple text conversions.  Page-numbering, page-breaks, and especially illustrations come into play, and the e-book cannot re-format the document without causing harm to its structure and design. For the same reasons, children's book and comic books also require special care.

Enter Kindle's new (beta) software -- "Kindle Text Book Creator."

This tool takes your already-formatted, book-ready-PDF, and makes it an e-book.  Pagination and illustrations survive and the resulting e-book is exactly as the PDF.  Download and install to your workstation as a local application.  There is no cost.



Steps:

1.  Download and install the textbook creator program.
2.  Launch.  File-New, Open the PDF.  Then choose "Package."  The result is a "kpf"  (kindle package file).

3.  Login to Amazon.com's Kindle Direct Publishing Site: https://kdp.amazon.com

4.  Click "Create a new Title "+Kindle eBook" - not Paperback.

5.  Upload the kpf and follow other on-screen prompts.

Within 24hrs or so, the book is available in their catalog, ready to sell.



A Beginner's Guide to C-Sharp - A la'carte

My book was so obscenely big*, no traditional publisher accepted it.  Plus, the market is saturated with similar titles.  For these reasons, I thought I'd try Kindle and self-publish.

*how big, you ask?  3 volumes, 28-chapters, 1,800 pages, 1,000 illustrations.  Untold code-block examples.

As an experiment, I decided to be different.  Each chapter is published as a separate "book" and each chapter was priced at $2 or $3 dollars, depending.  This way, students could pick and choose which chapters to download and would not be forced to buy three volumes all at once.

This design is causing me troubles.  The books are hard to differentiate from each other when browsing them on a tablet.  The price is not displayed on tablets or smaller devices, obliviating the benefit of my chapter-by-chapter design. From the web, it flows a little better.

Success?

Success will be judged if anyone buys the book.  With Amazon taking a 70% cut, there is no real profit here.  An average chapter earns less than a dollar.  Having only done this work today, it is too early to tell.  I will come back to this article and update my status.

If you are curious, search on Amazon for "ABGC" (A Beginner's Guide to C-Sharp).  Ignore all those other similar publications -- mine is clearly better.


Lessons Learned:

I have since revisited the uploaded chapters and made three changes to them: 

First, each chapter got its own graphic.  Although all 28 chapters are from the same book, each chapter needed its own graphic.  On a phone or tablet, each chapter's title was truncated and since the graphics were all the same, it was hard to tell which chapter-was-which. (If I published the book as one giant document, this would not have been a problem).


Secondly, each chapter began with a Table of Contents for the entire volume - 8 pages.  When Kindle readers downloaded a sample, they would only get the cover page and the TOC -- and could not see the document.  I removed the TOC from all of the intermediate chapters, leaving it only on the first chapter of each Volume.  This was not a perfect solution, but not bad.

Finally, the low-cost per chapter is again hidden on the smaller devices and the low price is not discoverable until too late.  In the first page of each document, on the first paragraph, I mention the low-price per chapter.  Later, I will update the introductory text and make this more prominent.  Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to change the prices -- sales and price increases will now require multiple edits per document.

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