Like most of us, I suspect, I upload to Amazon my Word Doc whenever I have a new book or wish to make changes to a previously published one.
However, there is a way that gives you far better control over the finished product, while being user-friendly enough for most of us: Kindle Create lets you format your manuscript using an intuitive environment with a built-in previewer and all the tools you are most likely to need.
The intent of this program seems to be to simplify the publishing process for novice authors. Instead of uploading a Word file and then having to download the result of conversion for testing, Kindle Create handles conversion, previewing, and simple formatting all in one app.
Here is a video guide on using Kindle Create:
Using Kindle Create: the Good…
I recently used Kindle Create to format a couple of documents and it was a pleasure to use:
When you select a paragraph, you can apply a number of ready-made templates on it, called Elements. These include the book title, subtitle, author name etc. A similar set of Elements exists for the book body, and the book start and end pages.
Even better, you can format individual chunks of text and insert images, page breaks, and entire new chapters. In short, it’s a breeze to use.
Furthermore, you can preview how your book will look when using the new enhanced typesetting and the Page Flip engine on Kindle e-readers and Kindle apps.
Finally, in the past, Amazon has released a number of tools you can use to make Kindle ebooks, including an epub conversion tool as well as Kindle Kids Book Creator, Kindle Textbook Creator, and Kindle Comics Creator. Kindle Create aims to eliminate all these, providing a single platform for the creation of any kind of book such as:
- Text-heavy books, such as a novel, essay, or memoir,
- Comics or graphic novels of low complexity, and
- Books with lots of images and complex formatting, such as a textbook, travel book, or cookbook
The only bug I’ve noticed concerns tabs. Word has the annoying tendency of not always formatting these as it should. You can manually enter a number to indicate how far indented you’d like your tab in Kindle Create but there seems to be little correlation between the actual number and the indentation: 1.85 can result in a greater indent than, say, 3. Which means you may have to experiment a bit and, perhaps, even manually change all tabs in the document to ensure perfect indentation and consistency throughout your manuscript.
And the Ugly
One other problem with an otherwise fine product is its non-existent export capabilities. Kindle Create uses Amazon’s proprietary format called KFX. This includes a new Bookerly font custom made for Kindles and a new typesetting and layout engine that adds things like hyphens, ligatures, and improved word spacing. Even though Kindle has several formats including KF7 (the original .mobi), KF8 (the later .azw formats), and now the KFX format, most Kindle ebooks come in AZW, AZW3, MOBI and PRC formats. However, only KFX supports the enhanced typesetting option (you can tell if a book has been updated to the new format by looking on the book’s description page at Amazon. There’s a label that shows if enhanced typesetting has been enabled.)
So, when you export, you will see a KPF (Kindle Package Format) file which is, in truth, a zipped archive of the book folder. There are no further export options, which could be a problem if you want to publish the same book as an EPUB (of course, Amazon probably considers this to be a positive.) You can preview the KPF file using Kindle Previewer or upload it to KDP.
As Howell explains, looking behind the scenes at how the program works may provide some information on the direction Amazon is going with the Kindle platform. Internally, the program uses the KPF file format, which is KFX data stored in a SQL database. The Word file is converted to KFX on import. Much of the conversion and previewing code seem to be borrowed from Kindle Previewer 3. Changes are made using a new KFX editor with limited functionality. Since the file sent to Amazon when the book is published is basically KFX, Amazon must be deriving the MOBI and KF8 formats from KFX at their end. This is the reverse of how things have worked up to now.
People seem to be of two minds about all this. One side feels that anything that locks newcomers into a closed system (Kindle Unlimited, Kindle Select, the various fixed-format templates, and now Kindle Create) is bad for them and ultimately for everyone. The other side welcomes the ease of use provided by Kindle Create and argues it’s perfect for novices who just wish to publish a book, not fiddle through countless settings.
Saved by Calibre
Regardless of your thoughts on this, what do you do if you wish to convert your KPF file to another format if you want to send a copy to a friend to review?
Thankfully, Calibre has a free KPF-conversion plugin, written by John Howell. You can install it through Calibre itself, so there’s no need for you to download anything. Just select it from the list of available plugins, install, and restart Calibre.
Is the end result perfect? No. Amazon formats are nor documented, so John has had to reverse-engineer the file to create his plugin. But it is as close to a perfect solution as you can find out there. Which is not surprising, given that it’s the only solution out there!
Kindle Create supports eBooks in Dutch, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Italian, Malayalam, Marathi, Portuguese, Spanish, and Tamil. Use this link to take Kindle Create out for a spin!
Thanks for the great overview on the Kindle Create.
But I find it difficult exporting my already prepared kcb doc to kpf sonas to enable upload on amazon kdp.
I’ve tried the suggested options for correction, but still get error message while trying to generate.
You’re right; there are still questions of compatibility between the various systems!
In his “The Bad” section the author mentions that Kindle Create only exports a KPF file for upload. This is incorrect. You can also save your whole KC project by clicking File > Save Project As…This generates a KCB file(*.kcb) which can be found inside your saved project folder. The KCB file is also your master file because it contains all the Word formatting + all the KC formatting. So if you ever have to update or fix your already published KPF file, then the KCB file is our master file for updates.
I’ve been using Kindle Create since it came pout in January 2017 and find it very simple to use for generating Amazon ebooks and paperback books. KC is very easy to use.
Well, the actual quote is, “One side feels that anything that locks newcomers into a closed system (Kindle Unlimited, Kindle Select, the various fixed-format templates, and now Kindle Create) is bad…” This is still the case with KCB.
Also, both points of view are presented: “The other side welcomes the ease of use provided by Kindle Create and argues it’s perfect for novices who just wish to publish a book, not fiddle through countless settings.”
Sounds like you fall firmly in that latter camp 🙂
I’m a novice writer. Thought to publish through Amazon. I’ve checked and checked again my Word document. But once I uploaded to Kindle Create, I found errors. So, went through and changed them. Then thought to export and update my Word document. But found out I couldn’t. But of a pain….and learning curve. Thank you for your advice though, it really helps.
Ouch. Sorry about that. We all find errors in our manuscripts post-publishing, no matter how many people have proofread them (embarrassingly enough, these are usually pointed out by kind readers). It’d be nice to have an easier way of updating our ebooks, although Amazon has made it painless enough compared to old times.
Thanks for sharing this. I may be self-publishing my next book, and this looks very interesting.
Yay! So glad you found it useful 😀
I am reading your newsletter for some years now and wanted to thank you for all the great advice you give and tips you have about new stuff. Besides writing and doing ‘normal life’ things, keeping up with the new developments on the publishing side is hard. Having it ‘curated’ by you is a big help!
Thank you so much, Gudrun! Your comment has made my day 😀
As a long-time reader of my newsletter, perhaps you can help with something: I’ve been wondering whether I should include there more links to my posts–perhaps 2 or even 3 at times. Do you think this would improve the newsletter or make it harder to read?
Listing links to previous articles/blog posts is a great idea. I barely have the time to meander through websites. I assume other writers are in a similar position. Having a list of related posts – or even unrelated ones would be very helpful!
Thank you! So glad you found it useful 😀
Thanks for the helpful information, Nicholas. 🙂 — Suzanne
So glad you found it useful, Suzanne! Thank you 🙂
EEk. I use Jutoh to format my Word doc and convert to a variety of formats for uploading. It gives me control, variety, and tons of editing capabilities. It will be nice when Kindle doesn’t have the “bad” and “ugly.” Until then, I’m sticking with what I have. 🙂 Thanks for experimenting and keeping us all up to date!
Jutoh, huh? I’m not familiar of it. If you feel like a guest post any time… 😉
I like the sound of an ‘intuitive environment’, Nicholas. But it still went right over my head! 🙂
Best wishes, Pete.
One of these days, Pete. One of these days, I’ll make a published author out of you yet 😀