I haven’t written any how-to’s on how to create an ebook because I assumed there were countless how-to’s out there already. I was both right and wrong; there are lots of people providing helpful information about text-based ebooks such as novels, but there are not that many devoted to graphics heavy ebooks.
This distinction was brought home to me when one of my blogging friends needed help with a picture book. He was trying to create an ebook with both pictures and carefully formatted text.
It can be done, but the digital technology we have at the moment is limited when it comes to integrating text and graphics.
Before I start on possible solutions, and/or workarounds, I want to explain what those limitations are, and why they cause problems with graphics heavy ebooks.
Things ordinary ebooks can do
Ordinary ebooks are great with text but just barely okay with pictures. That’s because they’re not really ‘books’ at all. They’re more like rolls of toilet paper with words projected onto them. The story literally unrolls in an ebook.
This has significant advantages. For starters, as ereaders don’t care about the size or number of words shown on their screens, the reader can make those words as big, or small, as they please…for the whole ‘book’. I use this feature all the time because my eyesight ain’t what it used to be.
Things ordinary ebooks can’t do
Unfortunately, the very flexibility of ebooks can create problems when it comes to adding pictures to the text. Pictures don’t ‘flow’ the way text does, so getting them to fit the screen requires that they be sized for the screen.
But which screen? There are dozens of different digital devices from smartphones to dedicated ereaders to tablets of various sizes. Making an image to fit one screen almost guarantees that it won’t quite fit another.
Another problem with pictures is that not all digital devices are in colour. Dedicated ereaders, such as ordinary Kindles and Paperwhites, only do grayscale.
To display a picture in colour, the digital device has to be some kind of tablet [like the Kindle Fire] or a mobile phone. So again, which device should you optimise for?
And finally, because of their ability to ‘flow’ the text, ebooks don’t do precise formatting. Unfortunately, graphics heavy books like memoirs, cookbooks, picture books etc, look best when the formatting is controlled and the pictures are in colour.
To work around this fundamental problem with ebook design, Amazon created a number of specialist programs:
Kindle Kid’s Book Creator
Kindle Comic Creator
I took a quick peek at Kindle Kids, and I couldn’t quite work out what it was doing [the manual approach]. I suspect it’s a lot easier if you use the PDF option and simply pour everything into the app in one go.
Of the three, Kindle Create is the one I find most useful. In its current iteration, it is actually two programs in one:
The first allows you to ‘format’ Word .doc and .docx files into text-based ebooks like novels. There is help for creating a Table of Contents as well as Front and Back matter pages, and you can add pictures although the image manipulation is basic to say the least.
The second is the old Textbook Creator app. which turns a PDF document into an ebook.
Kindle Create for text based ebooks
This version of Kindle Create allows you to include all the standard elements of a book as well as pictures, but all you can do with pictures is adjust the size, and sometimes the location. That’s it. You can make the image small, medium, large, or full, but you can only adjust the placement of small or medium images. Large and full images seem to be placed automatically and can’t be changed.
One nice thing is that Kindle Create automatically wraps the text around the image as shown below:
But again, only if the image is small or medium.
This does not constitute ‘total control’ over the way text and images display, but it’s not bad. More importantly, when I did a preview of the page, it seemed to display quite well on tablet, phone and Kindle devices.
Something I was not expecting was that the colour image was automatically changed to grayscale on a Kindle device:
Given that this option works with standard .doc or .docx documents, I was pleasantly surprised by how it put everything ‘together’.
The old Textbook Creator
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to call the second option of Kindle Create by its old name – Textbook Creator.
Textbook Creator doesn’t try to integrate text and pictures at all. It creates an ebook out of a sequence of pictures.
If you’re nodding your head and saying, “Ah, she’s talking about PDFs”, you’d be right.
To quote from one of my own how-to’s:
PDF stands for Portable Document Format. With PDF documents, each page is like a ‘snapshot’ of the original Word page. That’s why it’s called WSIWYG – what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
Basically, everything on the Word page becomes a composite ‘picture’ that cannot change. This is how you make sure that what appears on the screen of the digital device is exactly the same as what you originally created, including the positioning of both graphics and text.
It’s the difference between ‘some control’ and ‘total control’.
“But…PDFs can’t be edited.”
That would normally be true, if you were dealing with a PDF document as a whole. But Textbook Creator cuts the original PDF document into its component pages, and each one those pages can be swapped out, individually.
To make this a bit clearer, let’s say you have imported a 20 page PDF document into Textbook Creator. Then you discover that you made a small error on page 15.
Rather than redoing the whole, 20 page document, you can:
go back to the original,
make a change to page 15,
export page 15 as a new PDF document
swap the new page 15 for the old page 15 inside Textbook Creator, and voila!
Okay, I admit the process is convoluted, but it does make working with PDFs a little less frustrating.
So what is the downside of using Textbook Creator?
The text in the ebook created by Textbook Creator cannot be resized. You can pinch-and-zoom to see details at a larger size, but you cannot specify that the text in the entire ebook be at a certain size.
This means that the original document has to be designed in such a way that it will suit most readers and most ereaders.
In paperbacks, this is kind of standard, and expected, but not so in digital devices. Plus getting the document to fit can be rather tricky.
Getting the size right
As mentioned before, there are a lot of different ereaders out there, and screen sizes are not the same either. Designing a document to fit all of them is a case of picking something ‘average’ and basing the sizing on that.
But what do I mean by ‘sizing’?
The easiest way to explain is to show you. The following is a preview of this post, in Textbook creator:
Can you see how tiny the text below the image is?
All I did was export a standard Word file to PDF and then import that PDF into Textbook Creator. The font size of the Word document is 12.
Now have a look at this preview. Same document but with a font size of 28:
To get the document to display like that, I had to radically change how the Word document was setup. Basicallly, I simulated the Kindle Fire screen in Word so that I could place text and images to their best advantage.
The following screenshots show my page setup in Word 16.
1. Paper size
The dimensions circled in orange create a page size that exactly fits the screen of my Kindle Fire 6.
Again, those margins are designed to make reading the Kindle Fire 6 screen visually ‘comfortable’ without wasting too much space.
Note: there are no settings selected in Layout. You need clean, minimal formatting in the original Word document. This includes not using things we normally take for granted, such as manual ‘spacing’.
For best results, you should always create styles – for the effects you must have – and use only those styles in the formatting.
Because Word is an old program, and Microsoft never throws anything away, it simply buries it under new code. This means that there is a lot of…[expletive deleted]…junk in Word that lurks in the background and can seriously mess with other programs that attempt to read/use Word documents. So keeping the document ‘clean’ is important.
But wait…there’s more. Remember how I said I’d changed the font size to 28? The next screenshot is of the Normal Style I created just for Kindle Fire 6 documents:
I can’t tell you why translating text from Word to a small digital device shrinks the text. All I know is that it does, and we have to manually compensate for it.
The other thing you might want to notice is that the alignment is set to ‘Justified’. Not only does it make the text look more professional, it also saves space on the screen.
To change the Normal Style on your own version of Word, right click on the style [on the Ribbon] and select ‘Modify’ from the drop down list of options [see here for step-by-step details]. That will get you to the Modify Style dialog box shown above.
Once the Modify dialog box is open, change the font size and alignment and then click ‘Save’.
We should now have a document that is optimised for an ebook.
Once the Word document is as perfect as we can make it, save the document as a Word file, and then Export it as a PDF.
Your book is now ready to import into Textbook Creator.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the Textbook Creator software.
Here in Australia it’s December 1 already, so Nanowrimo is over for another year. I didn’t even come close to winning Nano this year, but my heartfelt congratulations to all those who did. 50,000 words in 30 days is a great accomplishment, so well done. 🙂
For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, Nano is still in its final hours, and I imagine a lot of you will be furiously writing to catch that November 30 deadline. I congratulate all of you as well. No one can ever take this achievement away from you, but memories fade, so I suggest that you print the page that contains your 50,000th word and frame it. I did that with my first Nano; the word was ‘gut’. Not exactly poetic but hey…-shrug-
And finally, a word for those who didn’t make it. I know you’re probably feeling pretty disappointed at the moment, but you have to remember that winning Nano is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Your writing doesn’t have to end on November 30. Use what you started as the jumping off point for the story you’ll write all through 2019.
Win or lose, this next bit is for everyone. When your Nano story is polished to perfection, you will probably want to publish it. If you decide to self-publish your work, you will have a number of options:
publish as an ebook
publish as a paperback
publish as both an ebook and a paperback
If you decide to go with options 2 and 3, then I can help. ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing‘ is my step-by-step guide to publishing a paperback with KDP. In it you will find information about trim sizes, bleed, PDFs, formatting, Amazon distribution, royalties and heaps more. Each step is illustrated with screenshots and examples, close to 150 of them so even complete beginners can follow the instructions.
I should probably stretch these promotions out but…meh, let’s have some fun. 🙂
Okay, from October 23 to 24 [2 days], the ebook version of How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing and How to Print Non-Fiction with Kindle Direct Publishing will be free on Amazon:
The difference between the two books is that the How to…Novel is pitched at absolute beginners while the How to Non-Fiction is for self-publishers who have to deal with lots of graphics. Oh and the How to Non-Fiction has a new Index of Links at the very back. You can find it by looking at the bottom of the Table of Contents.
If you’re just interested in the KDP side of the equation, both books cover the same information. This includes three appendices that contain information specifically for Aussie authors.
Both how-to books are in colour and fixed layout:
Although you can pinch-and-zoom with fixed format ebooks, you can’t change the font size to suit your comfort zone. That’s why I made the font size 24. On my Kindle Fire, that size is like a normal size 12 font in a paperback. I also made the pictures as ‘visible’ as possible so you wouldn’t have to keep zooming in and out all the time. I haven’t tried either book on a phone so if anyone gives it a try I’d love to know how well [or badly] it works.
Fixed format ebooks can only be read on one of the Kindle Fires or via the free Kindle app. You can get the app. for a variety of devices at this web address:
The free promotion should start at midnight tomorrow for the Northern hemisphere. For us Aussies, it will begin at about 6 pm tomorrow. I genuinely hope lots of people download the books, and I would really, really appreciate the odd review. 🙂
There used to be a number of individual Kindle applications you could download and install, now there’s just one: Kindle Create.
When you open Kindle Create on your computer, you’ll be presented with two options – text heavy novels or graphics heavy non-fiction:
The one I use is ‘Textbooks, Travel Guides, Cookbooks, Music books’. It requires a PDF file and allows me to control exactly where and how text and graphics appear on the page [of the ebook].
Termed ‘fixed format’, these ebooks behave almost exactly like print books in that the size of the e-reader screen is the size of the ‘page’, and the text and graphics have to be sized to suit that page.
The screenshot below was taken from within Kindle Create and shows how the fixed format ebook will appear on a Kindle Fire:
The three things you should notice are:
The page is in colour,
The page contains a graphic image that fits exactly within the margins,
The page contains a hyperlink.
All three elements, and their placement, were set in the original Word file, before it was converted into a PDF. Kindle Create then imported the PDF and converted it to a proprietary format called .kcb. [When the file is ready to be published to the Kindle, it will be converted to its final format which is called .kpf]. The important thing to note is that all three elements are retained in the .kcb file, including the hyperlink.
You won’t be able to do much in the way of editing, but you will be able to create a Table of Contents. The TOC is bog simple, manual and only allows for one TOC entry per page. It also allows for only one level of TOC. Effectively, this means that you will be able to create a table of chapter headings and not much else. And, of course, there is no option for creating an Index.
The lack of a deep TOC and no Index means that non-fiction ebooks are kind of hard to dip into and ‘browse’. Yet that is precisely what most non-fiction readers need. How was I going to make my e-textbook more user friendly?
The answer was kind of obvious, once I thought of it. -sigh-
As mentioned before, Kindle Create gives you the option of preserving any hyperlinks present in your PDF. This means you can tap a link inside the ebook and be taken directly to that location…both inside the ebook and out.
-cue light bulb moment-
What if I added a list of hyperlinks to my Word document before I converted it to the PDF?
If Kindle Create preserved all those hyperlinks, I’d end up with a list of links in alphabetical order! I’d end up with an Index of Links!
As with all great ideas, mine turned out to be a wee bit harder than expected.
I started by creating a simple two column table in Word.
Then I printed off the Index pages of the paperback and marked the most important Index entries. I then typed those into the left hand column of the table with one Index entry per cell.
Next, I trawled through the print Index a second time, marking the most important ‘Subentries’. They went into the right hand column with one subentry per line.
Finally, I selected a subentry, opened the Insert tab and clicked Link:
The screenshot above shows the ‘Insert Hyperlink’ dialog box in Word 2016. If you have text selected before you open the dialog box, Word will automatically make that text the ‘Text to display’ [see two linked orange circles]. In other words, you will see that text rather than the hyperlink itself.
The orange circle labelled as ‘A‘ shows that ‘Place in This Document’ has been selected as the general location of the hyperlink.
The orange circle labelled as ‘B‘ shows the TOC sub-heading selected to be the actual location of the hyperlink.
Wait…’TOC sub heading’?
Yes. When you create a link within a document, Word looks for the same heading styles that are used to generate a Table of Contents. As my document contains five levels of heading styles – i.e. from Heading 1 through to Heading 5 – those headings are the locations I can use for my hyperlinks. Effectively, I’m using all the TOC levels Kindle Create won’t let me put into its Table of Contents to create an Index of sorts. It’s not perfect, and this work around does entail a lot of work, but…a fudged index is better than no index at all.
In case you’re wondering, this is what the Index of Links looks like in Kindle Create:
Apologies for yet another how-to post, but I was kind of pleased with my little solution. 🙂
Just a quick post to let you know that ‘How to Print your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing‘ [ebook version] will be free in the US from 12:00am, September 26, 2018 till 11:59pm September 26, 2018.
For the Eastern seaboard of Australia, 12:00am Seattle time [Amazon] translates to 5:00pm Melbourne time. So for us, it’ll be sometime after 5:00 pm tomorrow, Thursday September 26, 2018.
Gah…I hate timezones.
Now, the ebook uses a fixed format so all the pictures fit properly. BUT. That means the ebook will only work on:
…Fire tablets and free reading apps for iPads, Android tablets, smartphones, PCs, and Macs.
Sorry, but it simply won’t work on ordinary Kindles. I will play around with a different format, to see if it works, but I’m not holding my breath; Kindles are great for text heavy books, but I suspect their ability to ‘flow’ will cause merry hell with pictures…
Anyway, even if creating a paperback of your book is still nothing but a rosy fantasy, grab a copy of the KDP how-to for future reference. 🙂
My thanks to Chris the Story-Reading Ape for pointing out that some readers might prefer an ebook version to beta. Well, here it is, almost:
Please ignore the price. Once the ebook is live on Amazon, I’ll gift up to 5 beta readers with the ebook.
Before anyone volunteers, however, there are a couple of constraints to consider:
In order to gift you the ebook from Amazon, I’ll need an email address. I will not use your email address for any promotional activity such as ads or newsletters, but in the current climate, I like to put that point up front.
The ebook will only work on tablets and mobile phones – i.e. it will work on the Kindle Fire, but it will not work on the ordinary, black & white Kindles.
The step-by-step instructions were written for absolute beginners – i.e. I assumed that they would know nothing about POD publishing. If you are already experienced in POD, you may find the degree of ‘help’ too detailed.
Zooming in. Because the ebook was created using KDP’s Textbook Creator, you will not be able to change the size of the font, but you will be able to zoom in on the screenshots. I figured that would be a smallish price to pay for colour images and layout control.
The Table of Contents is very basic and only links to the chapter headings. Once the ebook version is finalised, I’ll go in and add at least another layer to the TOC, but I didn’t want to go to so much trouble when things could change a lot.
Okay, I think those are the only warnings I need to deliver. Ah, except for one: if you are not one of my beta readers, please do not buy the ebook as it will change before I’m finally happy with it. I hope the changes won’t be too substantial, but my betas may discover a glaring hole in either my knowledge or the way I’ve explained things so…
If anyone’s interested in becoming a beta for the ebook version, please contact me on:
“An absolute beginner is someone who has yet to learn all the little things everyone else takes for granted.”
Unfortunately, it’s always the little things that trip people up. That’s why ‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace’ takes nothing for granted. Examples, screenshots and step-by-step instructions guide absolute beginners through the entire printing process, from start to finish.
The only pre-requisites are a basic knowledge of Microsoft Word, the ability to save and retrieve files, and an internet connection.
With patience, nothing is impossible.
‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace’ is available as a paperback or as an ebook. The ebook is available on the following devices and apps:
You can find ‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace’ on:
Now everyone knows why I don’t do poetry. But my prose ain’t that bad, and it so happens that the very last episode of Innerscape is now available for free download from Amazon. This is where you can get it:
And in the spirit of giving…or is it bribery?…the very last competition is now also up and running. As always, at the end of the competition, all the correct entries will have a chance to win a $20 gift voucher from Amazon.
Entering the competition is dead easy. Start by reading the ‘Look Inside’ below [just the first few pages]. There you will find the answer to the multiple choice question for this episode:
Drum roll…and the multiple choice question is:
Where is David and Jane’s wedding to take place?
Once you know the answer, write it [or just the number of the correct answer] in comments and that’s it. Just one entry per person though. 🙂
The free download and the competition will both end on December 18, 2016. After that, the price for Episode 5 reverts to 0.99 cents till the end of the week. And after that, every episode, except for no. 1, will rise to $1.99. Episode 1 will stay at 0.99 forever, or until I can make it permafree.
So please, take advantage of the free dowload and the competition while you can.