I’ve had the chance to work with Kindle Create and put it through the paces. For benefit of other authors interested in it, I’ll share my experiences. For reference, the download and help tutorial is here, and the help overview is here.
Before, I’ve never had a problem uploading Word manuscripts (either to Smashwords or Amazon) that I wasn’t able to figure out. However, when I uploaded Deplorable Diatribes on August 17, Amazon choked on it. This isn’t too surprising, since the manuscript is enormous – exactly a thousand pages in Word. So then I tried getting it saved as an .EPUB file, but the formatting got all chewed up. What I had to do instead for the time being was export as a .PDF, and that one I was able to upload to Amazon. The problem is that some of the formatting was lost even though the .PDF looked as it should be. It does warn you that the results of converting from that format might not be great, and it’s true. Furthermore, it probably wouldn’t have been reflowable text, which is the preferred standard in a reader.
After that, I put together the printed manuscript. It was quite an adventure, getting all the technical nuances right (page size, margins, etc.), converting hyperlinks to footnotes (I found a macro which saved me from getting carpal tunnel syndrome), etc. There are specific page limits, dependent on page size, but I managed to get it to work with 10-point type which I figure is a safe minimum for readability.
Then I returned to the ebook version, hoping to make it prettier. That’s when I got Kindle Create, figuring it might succeed where simply uploading the Word document had failed. So I installed it, and waited a while for it to import the Word doc. (Again, the manuscript is HUGE – longer than The Brothers Karamazov. Also it contains lots of content pasted in from the original web pages I wrote, and also with graphics and different styles.) I should mention that Kindle Create presents a choice in the beginning of whether to import a Word doc or a PDF. The latter produces text that won’t reflow, but also allows embedded content such as audio and video files. Perhaps future versions will give you the best of both worlds?
In the beginning, it goes through and tries to parse out the chapters, and applies a default style to them. All my chapters were the same, indicated with the Word “Heading 1” or “Heading 2” styles. Still, the process wasn’t perfect, and missed some chapter breaks. Fortunately, you can insert them as needed and put the chapter heading style on it. One thing that I couldn’t figure out how to do is to modify the default style so it applies globally; it would be a nice feature. It also has a way of inserting a table of contents. I couldn’t figure out how to do that, but fortunately I already had one.
As for the text style, you have the choice of three fonts: the default Bookerly, a sans serif font, and a monospaced font. That’s not quite a tremendous number of choices, but at least it’s something. So there’s not much variation here. My original manuscript was in Times New Roman except for article introductions which were in Arial. That didn’t carry over after I converted it. For the introductions, I had to apply the sans serif font, and there was less visual contrast than I would’ve liked.
You can put in bold, italics, etc. manually. You can change text justification. You can type inside the document. Other than that, I couldn’t get the text color to do what I wanted it to do; some of my hyperlinks are blue, others are red (which is an artifact from the original web documents). It could use a search/replace feature too. All told, Kindle Create is not too powerful – a little less so than Wordpad – but at least it does its job. I found out that it wouldn’t let me make any changes inside of bulleted lists. I’m not sure why, but it is what it is.
All of the graphics did import. However, a few of them came out somewhat distorted. I doubt it’s any kind of a transparency problem, since I’d made some of them myself in MS Paint and didn’t do anything too fancy with them. (It’s not like I was gluing together a birth certificate for Barack Obama in Adobe PDF Creator or something.) You have four choices for the graphics as they appear – small, medium, large, or full (which usually fills from one side to the other). So you can’t pick specific sizes, play with the aspect ratio, or crop them on the fly. You do get the option to add alt text to the pictures, which I did to my wicked heart’s content. One little problem I found was that if I was putting in alt text and a “save your work” prompt appeared as I was typing, the picture gets deleted. One time, the “undo” button didn’t work after that – oopsie! There is a way to insert pictures, but that proved to be a bit difficult to get to work.
All told, it took a day to get everything the way I wanted it, or as close as I could get. That much isn’t the fault of Kindle Create; rather, I was working with an enormous manuscript that needed lots of tweaks. Anyway, so when you’re done, you do the “publish” option and it binds it all into a .KPT file that you can upload. I’m not sure why, but it turned out to be nearly 40% larger than the Word doc, which wasn’t even a compressed .DOCX file. After that was the moment of proof. I uploaded it to Amazon, and it took it! If what the previewer shows me is accurate, it converted pretty well, though the indentation is a little inconsistent.
So Kindle Creator is a pretty good tool if you’re struggling to get a manuscript that Amazon’s server likes. The learning curve wasn’t too bad on it. There are a few bugs, as well as some features that it could use. Still, it’s pretty handy if you need something like that. Future versions may be better yet.