Amazon’s Direct-to-Kindle program is what I call an “easy button.” It’s fast, “free,” and thousands of people are using it. A few people have even become millionaires through Kindle books. And then there are companies that charge seemingly “hefty” fees for programming a Kindle book, when supposedly you can do it yourself for free… or even upload a Word document and let KDP do it for you.
But… Is DIY really the way to go?
If you can get a Kindle book done for free through Direct-to-Kindle’s “meatgrinding” wizard, why would you pay someone like us to format that book for you? After all, Amazon says no formatting (and no experience) is necessary.
How about some truth about “easy buttons” for once? Only Staples has an easy button that actually works. And even theirs takes time. Anyone who has come up with an easy button in the writing and publishing industry is in effect ripping people off, though it may seem at first like the service providers who charge fees are the ones doing the ripping.
Let’s take Kathy for example. Her problem? She published a Direct-to-Kindle book and now she was getting emails and phone calls directly from buyers of the book wanting their money back. Why?
Because apparently they couldn’t return the eBook to Amazon for a refund, and it wasn’t readable. In fact, one of her customers said they could read less than 25% of the book! What Kathy couldn’t understand was the mini preview Amazon gave her when she created her Direct-to-Kindle book looked fine. All the text was in its place.
Here’s what happened. Amazon’s Kindle preview will only show you about four pages of your eBook. If you have a book over 100 pages, that’s only 4% of it that’s viewable by you. You are trusting Amazon’s meatgrinder for the remaining 96% of your book to look just as good. If you go this route, there’s no way for you to fully preview your eBook on your own Kindle without buying a copy after Amazon releases it. And by then it’s available for the public, in distribution, and takes time away from potential sales to get it out of distribution if there’s something wrong with it.
Here’s the other issue… In order for a book to read cleanly on the Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. it must be in error-free EPUB or MOBI formats. EPUB and MOBI are essentially giant zip files full of XHTML documents. Just like a website, XHTML in eBooks contains a lot of “junk” code, and often has errors in the code. In order for an eBook to read cleanly on a device like the Kindle, all that “junk” code must be found, eliminated or repaired.
This means it has to be hand-coded, line by line, by an expert XHTML programmer who also knows EPUB and MOBI formatting. This, just like book design, is a learned skill that is often taken for granted by those “easy buttons” of the world. And if you have a lot of extra “stuff” like images, bullet points, italics, bolds, fonts, special spacing… etc. and forgo the programmer and decide to do it on your own? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you when you start to get reports of people complaining that they can’t read your book and they want their money back.
Kindle format is great and it’s necessary today for selling books, but if it’s not done right your pocketbook will ultimately suffer the consequences. Remember, you get what you pay for, and in the world of eBooks where anyone can become an author the readability, flow, and formatting are just as important as the content. An XHTML programmer is just as important as your editor or cover designer.