Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kindle Book Conversion: One Author's Story

Francis Hamit is the author of The Shenandoah Spy, a book he recently converted so that it could be sold for the Kindle. He sent me an e-mail about her experience and some of the pitfalls he encountered. I figured others would want to hear the details, particularly self-published authors who are considering the same conversion process. He graciously agreed to do a short blog interview and here's what he had to say:

JW: What kind of files did you use for the interior process and what sort of problems did you run into with those formats?

FH: We tried the PDF we used for the print version. The front page border separated into another page that was otherwise blank; just a big rectangle. The logo disappeared entirely. Amazon does not like other people's logos in their space. We couldn't get either the border or the logo into HTML and the interior map had to be made into a GIF before it would appear. It was a dispute about this logo and some concerns about quality that led us to cancel the CreateSpace edition despite the higher potential revenues.

JW: How about the cover? Did you have any challenges on that front?

FH: Again, Amazon was very top-down about it. The file had to be converted to RGB. The original image simply did not come up at all, Our designer, George Mattingly had no trouble doing it, but it added another cost to the process.

JW: What are the most valuable lessons you learned in this process?

FH: Amazon reserves the right to set the retail price, Regardless of your suggested retail price they pay 35% of that. If you set the price higher, you get paid more. Do not try to compete on price. You have no control over it anyway. Set the retail price that will pay you fairly for the copies sold, at least equivalent to what you make on your printed editions.

Also, looking for what else had been loaded up the same day I found that Amazon is adding about a hundred public domains works a day to the Kindle catalog and charging the minimum of 99 cents each. It's a brilliant move on their part, but you're competing with Charles Dickers, Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare, among many others and the fees are pure profit for them . It's a bonanza for the casual reader who carries a Kindle . New authors are at a disadvantage since we are priced the same as best sellers. Load away, but don't expect much in sales until your print editions catch fire.

JW: What advice do you have for other authors who are considering porting their content over to the Kindle format?

FH: Go tot their preferred format, even if you have to pay to have it converted. It saves time and aggravation. Use type for your logo on Kindle editions.


Joshua Tallent said...


Francis' problems are typical for the average independent author attempting to do a book conversion into the Kindle format on their own. The problem is that most of the issues he had could have been taken care of, he just didn't know the ins and outs of the Kindle format.

For instance, a logo can certainly be included in a Kindle book, it just has to be made into an image, which can be done easily if you know how.

A big problem, and one which Francis mentioned, is that many authors expect the Kindle version of their book to look exactly the same as their hard copy. That is not only impossible, it does not fit the nature of the device. While some of the design work that is present in the print version can be reproduced in the Kindle, a Kindle book will by necessity look and feel different. For example, the device only has one font available, content cannot have borders, tables are impossible unless you make them into images, and floating text is not possible. Kindle books should be made to fit into the mold of the device, where content is king and the prettiness of the page design is just not as important.

Regarding price, Amazon does set the price at which they will sell the book on their site and on the device, but Amazon still pays the author 35% of the retail price, regardless of the markdown.

Regarding new content being added: Amazon is a retailer of Mobipocket books. Anyone who creates a Mobipocket book and puts it up for sale through the Mobipocket system can ask that it be listed on the Amazon site, just as they can ask that it be listed on a large number of other sites. That is where the majority of the Kindle catalog content actually comes from, not from Amazon doing the conversions themselves.

Joshua Tallent

Joe Wikert said...

Hi Joshua. Excellent points. Thanks for weighing in on this. And I like your Kindleformatting site and blog!

Francis Hamit said...

Amazon also owns Mobipocket and anyone can post a public domain work anywhere. The copyright has expired. I have no quarrel with them putting this stuff up, but those considering the Kindle format should be aware that this material is there; classic at minimum cost. It does compete with new material for the customer's attention, but that would be true at any bookstore.