Where to begin?
I first heard back from KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and they approved the file, but when I downloaded a copy and tested it on a couple of devices (Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet) it didn’t look that great or consistent. After reading through a couple of sites, it seems the .mobi file type Amazon uses is a variant of ePub with some of the formatting choices removed. And on top of that, there are a two different iterations of .mobi, and your ebook will look different on different Kindle models.
A couple of the help sites, podcasts and books on Indie publishing recommend a book by Guido Henkel called the Zen of eBook Formatting: A Step-by-step Guide To Format eBooks for Kindle and EPUB. It’s a quick read, and breaks down how to create an ebook from the ground up using HTML and CSS. Basically an ebook is nothing more than a nicely wrapped web page. Wich, if you’ve never programmed (not even sure if that’s the right term for using HTML) in HTML, he walks you through step-by-step on how create a book this way. After two days, I have a great looking ebook. Unfortunately, in order to get the ebook to behave like an ebook, i.e. flip pages, load into e-reader apps, etc… you need to run it through a program called Calibre. The main thesis of the Zen of eBook Formatting is, “Garbage in Garbage out” so starting with a “pure” file will make the end product you produce nice and clean.
And you know what? The .mobi file looked great, and behaved well on the different devices. So did the ePub version. However, as soon as I loaded it into the Apple’s ibook store application, it kicked back a whole series of errors. After some digging I found a way to look at the source code Calibre was kicking out, and it added a ton of junk. I’m not even sure why. The area’s it added code to were insignificant.
Another day passed as I tried to figure our how to correct the coding in Calibre, and eventually gave up. I can spend weeks working on stuff like this and have nothing to show for it except a healthy dislike for coding. So I went back to my writing application, Scrivener, and exported the novel as an ePub file. It worked great. I can’t see the code, but since it looks good and Apple approved it, I don’t need to.
Honestly, I can’t speak more highly of Scrivener as the tool to use for writing.
Oh, and the cover art was approved with one change. The CreateSpace team said my spine was too big and it needed to have a small buffer on both sides, but they went ahead and corrected it for me. The image they sent was crazy. All they did was reduce the with, which compressed the text and looked ridiculous. As a result, I uploaded a new file with a solid back cover (same color as the spine) and gave a small margin on the leading edge. Hopefully this works, but I’m kind of suspect since I followed their guide to the “T”. This update was approved within a hour and I ordered a proof copy. It’s supposed to arrive on Monday.