I recently self-published my first novel. The venue I chose, CreateSpace, has been exemplary in its ease and user-friendliness.  Dare I say even pleasant?

However, the process of converting my book to Kindle has been fraught with potholes. Here are the major problems I experienced — not to vent or flame, but in hopes that the software improves, and to enlighten other budding authors what to watch out for…

  • Documentation
    I felt the docs that describe the many parts of the Kindle Direct Publishing’s (KDP) conversion process were not as good as CreateSpace’s docs.  In researching their own documentation, I found 4 separate ‘how-to’ docs, all with different ways to get your Word/txt/odt/PDF/etc. to Kindle. But they all seemed lacking in the area of tying it all together into a single holistic ‘how-to’ experience.  Other instances of their own docs used terms, buttons and functions no longer supported in the current KDP interface. I found that most discouraging, and wonder how many authors would quit where I chose to slog on.
  • Converting PDF to Kindle
    Once you’ve got your PDF picture perfect, the software that converts it to Kindle isn’t, and it will not preserve every jot and tittle in your work. I had to go through two passes of corrections, until the Kindle version was viable. Things that the conversion messed up:
  1. Graphic Items
    – graphics were not centered, even though they were explicitly made so in the PDF. They were converted to left-justified.
    – Sizes of graphics were not honored. I used my own design in a .jpg to separate sections within a chapter, and set it to be approximately 1/4 the width of the page. The conversion process made it 100% width.
  2. Double and single quotation mark problems
    – If a paragraph started with a quotation, the Kindle conversion mangled it in two distinct fashions. If the quotation was more than a single word, it would make the opening quotation mark very tiny. For example:
    <font size=-2>“</font>Don’t you think this looks rather awkward?”
    – If a paragraph was a single word quotation, the converter would split it into two separate paragraphs. For example:
        The first man said, “Did you remember to feed the cat?”
    – For every instance of an apostrophe at the end of a plural possessive, the converter flagged it as a spelling error. For example:
        The armies’ weapons melted.
    The word “armies” is flagged as misspelled.
    What made this even more aggravating, was that the email was sent to me as a file that resisted every attempt to copy&paste to an editor.  I instead had to resort to saving the large and ungainly doc as a screen-save .jpg, and visually double-check all the red-herring ‘errors.’
  • How the Kindle Converter Helped
    In Kindle’s defense, there was one feature that I did like about the editing process — KDP sent back the file for repair in the form of HTML, which I can easily edit — by hand!  I hold my nose in the presence of most so-called ‘easy’ HTML editors, and wave naughty bits in their general direction!  One thing this HTML feedback allowed me to correct was mishandled close-quotes.  Apparently, both Word and Open-Source spelling and grammar checkers failed to catch mismatched pairs of left-hand and right-hand quotation marks. By looking at the HTML, it was easy (for me) to see that every &ldquo in fact did not have a matching &rdquo. Same for &lsquo and &rsquo.
  • What I learned
    I now have a small cadre of Shell, C, Awk, and Perl scripts to clean out these and other errors before and after the Kindle conversion process.  I will most certainly use this on all my future books.  Maybe I should market this as a business service to other authors?