Tag Archives: scrivener

Amazon Delivery Fees and Reducing the File Size of Your E-Book

Starting out as an indie author

One of the things that isn’t often mentioned in discussions on preparing your book for publication is the fact that Amazon charges a delivery fee for the books it sells for you. This fee comes to $0.15/MB on every eBook sold in the US published under the “70% Royalty Option.” You can find the complete list of delivery fees for all Amazon stores here:


15c may not sound like a lot, but think about what it means if you have a boxed set with thousands of pages of text and several cover files prefacing each book. Depending on how many books and images it has, a boxed set can easily come to four or five megabytes or more. And when the delivery fee starts getting close to seventy or eighty cents per sale, it is definitely something to take into consideration when preparing a book for publication. If you’re not careful, Amazon’s delivery fees can significantly cut into your profits. A case in point: the challenge of delivery fees is one of the reasons I have not yet tackled trying to make my one and only travel book, Life in the Fjord Lane, into an eBook. It is mostly photographs with little text, and trying to optimize every single one of those photos would be more trouble than it’s worth to me. It sells several copies a month in paperback, and I find it hard to believe it would sell much more as an eBook. I might be wrong, but I don’t think the work involved would be in any way compensated financially, since the price of the eBook could not not be significantly lower than the paperback if I want to make a profit. I could always choose the 35% royalty option to get around the delivery fees, but that too makes all the work involved in turning a paperback book full of photographs into an eBook less likely to be worth my while.

Books priced under $2.99 are automatically in the 35% royalty category, so if you are reducing the price of your book for a sale, you are in no danger of owing Amazon delivery fees once the sale is over. No worries on that point. 🙂

How do you make your eBooks smaller?

This is the real question, and I have to admit that I don’t have all the answers. And while you might remember how I was raving about the beautiful eBooks produced by Vellum — the file sizes of their compiled books are much larger than those produced by other methods I have used. I’m losing about 30c per sale on Chameleon in a Mirror formatted through Vellum. Is it worth it to me? It is. But I have nonetheless been looking into ways to reduce the bloat a bit.

Here are some of the things I have attempted to keep the file size down.

Reduce the file size of your images

The only image that many fiction books have is the cover, and for Amazon you do not need to upload a file with the cover included, since it will automatically be added later if you don’t have it. But if you are creating only one epub file for all vendors, you don’t have to use the highest quality jpeg for the inside cover. According to what I was able to find out when trying to reduce some of my own images, saving a jpeg at 60% instead of 100% should be adequate for any images you have inside an eBook. In Paint.net, for example, (a free graphics design program) all you have to do to reduce the quality — and with it the size of the file — is to open the image, click “Save As,” rename the file, and in the “Save Configuration” box that pops up, slide the quality down to 60%. In Photoshop, this option is available when you “Save for Web.” There you can simultaneously reduce both the image size and the quality to create a smaller file for the interior of your eBooks.

Just remember, before you start messing with reducing the file size of images — make sure to save a copy! When it comes to covers, you will still want to have that full resolution, 100% quality image on hand when creating the Print on Demand (POD) version of your book.

For interior images other than the cover (for which most stores have minimum size requirements), the actual size in terms of length and width can also be reduced. Don’t overdo it, though — you don’t want the images in your book to be tiny little boxes that add nothing to the reading experience.

One very simple way I have found of reducing image sizes is a free online app called JPEGmini:


Upload your image and download the result — that’s all there is to it. The results tend to be at least half the size of the original.

Here is some further reading from someone who is much savvier about images than I am:


Upload an epub rather than a mobi file to Amazon

Theoretically, it shouldn’t make any difference what type of file you upload to Amazon, since they take any epub file you upload and convert it to mobi, but I have seen significant differences in file size in books I uploaded this way. I used to compile mobi for Amazon and epub for all other vendors as an easy way of keeping them apart. But then at some point I noticed that I wasn’t making as much on my Big Fat Fantasy, Yseult, as I thought I should be making, and I soon realized it was because of the file size. After messing with the map, to little effect, I decided to try uploading the epub file, which was a lot smaller, after all.

I reduced the size of my 200,000 word epic by half.

This method may not be as successful for you, but at least it’s worth a try.

Try different ways of compiling your eBooks

While I was researching this topic, I learned that compiling eBooks with Calibre supposedly results in the smallest file sizes. Since I have no experience with that, I am simply passing the information along for what it’s worth. If it’s true, there may be differences between other methods of creating epub files.

As I mentioned above, I see a big difference in file size between Scrivener and Vellum. The difference is logical enough, since Vellum uses fancier fonts, more elaborate formatting, and ornaments to indicate scene breaks. It turns out you have to pay for that beauty coming and going. You’re the only one who can decide whether it’s worth it for you.

Do the math, and figure out the best royalty rate for your eBook

What if your book isn’t a novel that is all text except for one measly map? What if it’s a children’s book with elaborate color illustrations? Or a travelogue, like my Hurtigruten book (that I have little interest in trying to convert to an eBook because of the challenges involved)?

As I already implied above, your best bet may be to go with the 35% royalty rate, where you are not charged for delivery fees. You can choose this royalty option regardless of price. 70% sounds better, of course, but if you are selling your book for $4.99, and your delivery fee is $1.75 or higher, financially you would be better off at 35%.

Try not to be too discouraged by all of this, though. If you are just starting out, it’s good to be aware that size matters. It was well over a year after I had seriously started my own self-publishing adventures before I even found out about delivery fees, so obviously it hadn’t really hurt me yet at that time. It might well be the same for you. You can always do some adjusting and fine-tuning once you figure out how much it affects you, and how much time you want to spend trying to make 15 or 20 cents more on each eBook sale. 🙂

Using Vellum for formatting e-books

Ever since I started going indie and publishing books on my own rather than through a traditional publisher, I have been using Scrivener to create the epub and mobi files required by most retailers. Okay, not ever since — my very first experimental attempts were uploading Word docs to Amazon and Smashwords, and they were resounding failures. But once Scrivener added epub export to its many wonderful writing tools, that is what I have been using as my default e-book formatting program.

I have a new program for that now: Vellum.

Vellum is beautiful — and expensive. And it only works on a Mac. I am a PC user — pedestrian, mundane, and mostly immune to the Apple Cult. My smartphone is a Samsung. Hardware is not a status symbol for me. Yes, Apple makes pretty hardware, but it is outrageously expensive and somehow lives almost on reputation alone, which I find mildly baffling.

But — I broke down and bought my first MacBook back in the day when Scrivener was only available on the Mac. I have been a devoted Scrivener user ever since — and was incredibly relieved when Literature and Latte finally brought out a version of Scrivener for Windows. Oh joy, I would never have to use a Mac again!

Fast forward almost a decade — and me drooling over the beautiful e-books of some of my colleagues created using Vellum. So I finally broke down again and bought a refurbished sleek and shiny little MacBook Air on sale. And it really is amazingly lovely, I have to admit — even though I’m not a Mac fan. 🙂 I would much rather carry it around than some designer handbag. If only it acted a little more like a PC …

I haven’t used Vellum a lot yet, but it seems to be fairly straightforward, with a minimal learning curve (except for the fact that it is on a Mac). Not only does it create very professional looking e-books, it will generate different e-books for a number of stores simultaneously (iBooks, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Google Play), so you don’t have to do that yourself. And if you use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or Smashwords, it also has a “generic” epub option. It does involve some setting up for the various retailers, but once that is taken care of, you can compile the e-books for all the stores where you sell your books at once.

There are several styles to choose from, designed to suit different genres.

Once you have chosen a style, the final formatting recognizes simple scene breaks like *** and transforms them into into the ornamental break associated with your choice.

Vellum is free to download. You don’t have to pay until you generate your first book. You can either pay $29.99 per title, $99.99 for ten titles, or get an unlimited license for $199.99.

I have only uploaded one book formatted with it so far, and I had some problems with the file for Kobo, so I am definitely not the expert. I intend to switch over anyway, though, gradually replacing the files for all the books I have already published. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t seem to update the look inside feature with the newer, prettier e-book format, so one of the advantages I had hoped for is gone. But at least in future, my newly published ebooks will look more professional. And if they ever add a print function, as they claim to be thinking about, that would be a huge time-saver. (You can read about how I format for Print on Demand here.)

If you found this blog post helpful, perhaps you would be interested in the book, Starting Out as an Indie Author! You can learn more here.

If you’re interested in learning more about Vellum, here are some links to folks who are savvier regarding the program than I am (and have images to share *g*):

Review: Vellum, the ebook generator for Mac with added prettiness




Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author

A dear friend of mine recently got the rights back to a novel she published some time ago, and she is now nearly ready to brave the waters of indie publishing with it. Many of the questions she had, however, were not things that I immediately and / or spontaneously had answers to. So I promised her I would try to organize what knowledge I had in a series of blog posts. Of course, my experience is not exhaustive, but I hope it will help others as a starting point for getting their books out there.

Ebook format

The most common format required when submitting an ebook to online distributors is EPUB. There are many different ways of creating epub files for ebooks, and this list naturally only includes a few of the many available options. The prices for the various programs are as of July 2014.

1) Scrivener – This is what I use. It is extremely simple to create an epub file with Scrivener — all you have to do is compile your manuscript as epub. Scrivener has the added advantage that it’s also a great writing tool. Windows $40, Mac $45 (more features). More on compiling epubs with Scrivener here:

Youtube Tutorial

Scrivener: The Ultimate Guide to Exporting Ebooks (Kindle, ePub, etc.)

– Note: If you’re starting from a fully formatted DOC or DOCX file, rather than a file you have been writing in Scrivener, you need to divide the file up into sections at each chapter (Ctrl+K) and make sure the compile options in the meta-data pane are all checked (Include in Compile, Page Break Before, Include As-Is).

2) Mobi Pocket Creator – I tried this long ago but never had much luck. Others swear by it though — and it’s FREE. 🙂

3) Atlantis – Atlantis is a word processing program that will also compile documents as ebooks. Worked pretty well for me when I tested it a while back, but I did lose some formatting. It also has the disadvantage that it is yet another word processing program, of which I have too many already. $35

5) Jutoh – I haven’t tried it, but check out this discussion for a lot of rave reviews. $39

6) Sigil – I have no experience with the actual conversion to ebook with Sigil, but I do use it for testing the epub format of the files created by Scrivener. FREE

7) Calibre – I have not used this method, but a tutorial can be found here. FREE

Whatever method you use, it is important to validate your epub file before you upload it. You can do that here.

Formats accepted by various distributors

While ePub is the most common format required for ebook publication, a number of retailers also accept other formats. Here a list of some of the most important, including guidelines and my experience (if any):

Amazon – KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

Formats accepted:
Word (DOC or DOCX)
ePub (EPUB)
Rich Text Format (RTF)
Plain Text (TXT)
Adobe PDF (PDF)
Guidelines: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2MB3WT2D0PTNK
My experience: When I first experimented with publishing to Amazon, I uploaded a DOC file, since that was what I needed for the aggregator Smashwords. (I will talk about Smashwords and Draft2Detail in more detail in my next Indie Beginners post.) It was a mess. Luckily, soon thereafter Scrivener added the ePub compile option to their Windows version, and I haven’t had a problem with Amazon uploads since, with the exception of a bug with the Kindle Paperwhite a while back. I talked about that here.

Barnes&Noble – NOOK Press

Formats accepted: Word, HTML, Text, ePub
Guidelines: https://www.nookpress.com/support
My experience: After my experience with a Word file with KDP, the only file type I have uploaded to B&N is ePub. From what I can see on the Barnes and Noble store, my books there look fine. One problem with B&N for many writers is that it is so US-centric. For a long time, you could only publish if you had a US address and bank account. They have since expanded to the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Nonetheless, that still leaves out many writers who have to find other means to publish there, such as through Smashwords or Draft2Digital.

Kobo – Kobo Writing Life

Formats accepted: .epub, .doc, docx, .mobi, .odt
Guidelines: http://download.kobobooks.com/learnmore/writinglife/KWL-Content-Conversion-Guidelines.pdf
My experience: I have only uploaded ePub files to Kobo, but that works fine. I sell next to nothing through Kobo, however, which makes me wonder if I should switch my books to an aggregator to earn the minumum amount for royalties to be paid out more quickly.


Formats accepted: Only files uploaded through iTunes Producer
Guidelines: http://www.apple.com/itunes/working-itunes/sell-content/books/book-faq.html
My experience: None. I do not use a Mac, and since ebooks for iTunes can only be submitted through the submission app, iTunes Producer (requires OS X 10.8 or later), I have to rely on an aggregator. For authors with more serious sales, it might be worth it to buy a Mac just to be able to submit to the store yourself (and not give up the ~10% of your profits that aggregators take), but for me it is definitely not worth it at this time.

Google Play – Google Books

Formats accepted: PDF
Guidelines: https://support.google.com/books/partner/answer/166501?hl=en
My experience: None. I’m still wary of Google Play because of their policy of randomly discounting books. Lindsay Buroker has a good summary of why authors should still be careful about publishing to Google Play here.
I may eventually try and experiment with one or two of my short stories or collections that don’t sell all that well. That way, a deep discount and a price match by Amazon would not be a big loss of revenue. Naturally, if I do so, I will blog about that too. 🙂

For my next post in the Indie Beginners series, I intend to blog about aggregators (Draft2Digital and Smashwords), how you use them, and why you might want to.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Finally branching out: Kobo and Pubit

This week, I finally got a big item off my to-do list: I set up accounts for myself on Kobo’s Writing Life and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit platforms and uploaded my first two books on each site. But while B&N had my books available in less than a day, much like Amazon, my books on Kobo are still “publishing.” Oh well.

The good news is, it was easy enough to sign up, redo the books without the Amazon links, and upload, but as with all things, it just takes time. These are systems I haven’t used before, after all, and I have to get used to the navigation, etc. For both sites, I also had to redo the covers of my books because of different size limitations. But at least for B&N, I can now announce two “new” books:

Never Ever After on B&N

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur on B&N

Another project on my to-do list that I finally got around to doing this week was to set up a mailing list. Right now, the only sign-up page I have is on Facebook (it’s tied in to my author page there). Getting that squared away probably took nearly as long as signing up as an author in two new online stores and uploading two books each! That’s why I haven’t gotten the mailing list set up for my blog here yet. I really needed a break, and a chance to get some writing done again.

A couple of readers have asked me whether I plan to get some more books up on Smashwords again. I’d like to, but it’s a bit of a problem. Now that I’ve moved all my final drafts over to Scrivener, uploading to Smashwords would be a lot of extra work. First I would have to export from Scrivener to RTF, then I would have to import the RTF into the Smashwords DOC template I made when I first started experimenting with ebook publishing and go through and assign all the correct styles. That’s an awful lot of work for a couple of sales a month. The beginning of this year, Mark Coker (the head of Smashwords) said they would have epub implementation by the end of the year, which is only a couple more weeks away. I hope it happens. I doubt if I will get around to uploading more books on Smashwords soon otherwise.

But with all those projects (which I really had to get done before Christmas), the progress on Ygerna has slowed down quite a bit. It’s presently coming in at 60 pages, of a target of 200. I’m shooting for a short novel for this prequel, something that won’t hurt as much to eventually give away for free as an incentive for people to start reading The Pendragon Chronicles books. Yseult is such a Big Fat Fantasy (~190,000 words) the idea of permanently giving it away for free does not appeal to me at all. 🙂

And now a question: I’ve been referring to the WIP by the name of the main character, Ygerna, a Celtic version of the name Igraine. But I’m pretty sure I will have to give the book a different title because of the similarity to the name “Yseult.” I don’t think I have to rename the character, since Yseult isn’t even born until after the events of the WIP are over. But having two books in a series named Ygerna and Yseult is probably not a good idea. What do you guys think?

I hope everyone has a great week!

Latest free run for Yseult and some thoughts on KDP Select

My sales this month have been pretty pathetic, and that after awesome months in August, September and October. Partly it might be due to the fact that I was gone for over two weeks, plus frazzled before and jetlagged after. My online presence diminished to near-invisibility, and I can’t help but think that played a role in my diminishing sales.

Another thing that’s hurting me (and others) is that free runs are becoming increasingly ineffective for boosting sales. There have been a number of discussion threads about this on the Kindle Boards, but what it comes down to is that with the glut of free ebooks from all the authors in KDP Select, readers aren’t grabbing everything that looks remotely interesting anymore. Add to that a change in algorithms on the part of Amazon, in which books given away free count a lot less towards popularity and bestseller status than they had previously.

Fewer books given away + unfavorable algorithms = limited sales after free run

Take my most recent freebie, for example, my fantasy collection Dragon Time. Short story collections are notoriously hard to sell, but when it was free in February for two days, I gave away over 3,000 books. In the weeks following, I then sold over 100 copies. The last free run it had in October, I only managed to give away about 350 copies. Since then, it’s sold one copy and been borrowed once. With results like that, KDP Select is useless as a marketing tool. As a result, I have decided (once again) to slowly start pulling my books from KDP Select and try getting them up in other stores. The last time I did that, with Yseult in May, it was a disaster. Smashwords took forever to publish it, and when it did, it wasn’t approved for extended distribution. After six weeks and seven whole sales, I took it back down again and returned to KDP Select.

The plan this time is to go directly to B&N and Kobo, the stores that account for most sales outside of Amazon. Those stores also allow the author to upload epub files, which I can generate with Scrivener, rather than the elaborately formatted doc files Smashwords requires.

That said, I’m having a surprisingly good free run with Yseult this time. As I write this, it is at #106 in the free Kindle store, and doing very well in it’s categories:

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Arthurian
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy

And that all without getting picked up by the “biggies” Ereader News Today and Pixel of Ink. But I’ve been featured on a lot of smaller blogs, one of which, XTME, has led me to mark my best showing on Amazon.de to date.

#22 on Amazon.de

I also want to thank all these other wonderful folks for helping me get the word about about Yseult. Perhaps some of it will help sales pick up in the last part of the month:

Kindle Books and Tips
The KindleBoards Blog
Free Ebooks Daily
Kindle Buffet
Daily Free Ebooks
e-Literati (another German site)

The need to do a bit of promotion has sidetracked my Nanowrimo project a bit, my Pendragon prequel. Ygerna is presently at 12,092 words. I know that for a “novel in a month” that’s a pretty poor showing, but I’m not too worried about it. It’s coming along well, and I’m having fun with it — that’s the main thing.

New draft of Chameleon in a Mirror finished! (And various other writing news)

Chameleon in a Mirror, my literary time travel fantasy to the era of Aphra Behn, is now done in the new version, coming in at 110,000 words. This is not DONE done, just a completed draft. I still need to do a revision pass, taking notes on motives, plot threads, and characters in Scrivener as I go. I’m hoping that will help me make the plot more cohesive before I send it to my critique partner.

I continue to track hours and activities, but I don’t know yet if it’s making me more productive, although it’s certainly looking good. In addition to getting this draft of CIAM finished this week, I’ve started brainstorming both the short story for the Kindle Boards anthology and the novel for NaNo (working title, Ygerna, a new novel in the series The Pendragon Chronicles).

My flash fiction piece “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey” got a nice mention on another blog. Check it out!

I wish everyone a happy and productive week!

Ebook Madness: Preparing “Yseult” for Kindle

Yseult has now passed review and is available on Amazon as an ebook. It took me a lot longer than expected, but in the next few weeks I want to try and get a couple of collections of my previously published stories up, so perhaps with practice it will no longer seem quite as complicated.

I know there are lots of resources on creating ebooks out there, but everyone’s process is different, and perhaps my experience can help some folks who tend to work more like me. Here are the steps I took in creating the ebook version of Yseult:

1) Prepare DOC file

Since Smashwords requires books submitted to their site be in Word format, and they have a very good instruction manual for preparing documents, that’s where I started — even though I ended up opting for KDP Select. (In three months I can offer the book elsewhere, and I already have the file for Smashwords.) After “Looking Through Lace” finally turned out looking ok as an ebook (after the second try), I used it to create a template. But according to Those Who Know, Smashwords will soon be accepting other formats, and then, hopefully, we will have a little more control on how our ebooks turn out.

The “Smashwords Style Guide” suggests opening the text in Wordpad and cutting and pasting from there in order to strip the word document of unnecessary coding. I find this much too time consuming, because it also takes out all italics, which then must be manually put back into the document. I have the advantage that I still do a lot of my writing in that old dinosaur Word Perfect, which doesn’t add as much junk formatting code. So in order to get a clean copy of the text without losing the formatting I still want, I convert my Word Perfect document to html and open the html file in a text editor. Using search and replace I get rid of all the unnecessary formatting commands. Here I also change underlining to italics and replace the scene break I usually use (#) with the one preferred by Smashwords (* * * *).

Once the html file is cleaned up, I open it in my word processor, copy the text, and paste it into my template. This might work for Word as well, but as I recall trying to do something like this with Word long ago, there’s a lot more junk to clean up than with Word Perfect. For Word, an option might be to mark the italics etc. with placeholders (e.g. xxx & yyy), use a text editor to strip the html code, and replace xxx & yyy with html code for italics.

NOTE: em-dashes have caused me a lot of grief in the ebooks I’ve uploaded. One time they even disappeared entirely, which makes it very difficult to fix. Here’s an article on what to watch out for and how to make it work, at least for Smashwords.

There’s still a lot of cleaning up to do, however — while I have my styles for chapters and quotes and etc. defined in my template, I still have to go through the text and assign the styles. Depending on the text, this can involve a bit more work. While I was formatting Yseult, I realized that I had a lot of narrative written in letters. I didn’t want to mark every letter as a new scene, so I defined a new style for correspondence that would add extra space before a letter.

2) Add marketing blurbs, title page and cover

On the first page, I put a smaller version of the cover, since I myself think it’s nice to open the ebook and see the cover first.

On the page after the cover, I have what I call my blurbs. If you have quotes from reviews of previously published work or any other bragging rights, this is where they could go. Alternately, if you’ve solicited blurbs from more well known writers and don’t want to litter the cover with them, those could go here.

After the blurbs, I have the title and copyright page. For a Smashwords ebook, the Smashwords disclaimer goes here. In addition to my own copyright, I also include the copyright for the cover design.

3) Metadata

Before you upload, you should probably give some thought as to how you are going to describe your ebook in as marketable a way as possible. For Yseult, I put this in a text file so I would have it handy when I upload the book to different places. Common metadata includes:

Publication Date

The most important for marketing purposes is the description, but be aware that different sites have different length limitations. Amazon allows 2000 characters, so in addition to the description, I also include quotes and a bio. Smashwords requires both a short and a long description, short 400 characters, long 4000. If you know anyone with experience in marketing, you might consider asking for their help when when creating the short description. This is what I came up with for Yseult:

For the price of a truce, Yseult is sent to a world where magic is dying – to marry the father of the man she loves.

Yseult of Eriu stands on the brink between two ages. The daughter of the Queen of the Tuatha De Danaan, she is an Erainn princess with the power of the old race, but when her family is taken hostage, she is married off to the British King of Dumnonia, Marcus Cunomorus.

Marcus’s son Drystan would have saved her from a loveless marriage, but Yseult cannot endanger her relatives and must go through with the marriage. The tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan plays out against the backdrop of a violent world threatening to descend into the Dark Ages – only Arthur’s battles to push back the Saxon hordes can save what is left of civilization. With her background, Yseult could act as a bridge between the old age and the new – but will the price be too high?

If anyone has any suggestions, I can still change it! That’s one of the joys of ebooks and being your own publisher.

4) Create Ebook

According to Amazon, ebooks can be uploaded as Word, epub, plain text, mobipocket, HTML (zipped), PDF, or RTF. For my first attempt with “Looking Through Lace” I uploaded an edited DOC file based on the one I had uploaded to Smashwords. And it looked horrible.

I don’t remember anymore exactly what experiments I tried before I got it semi-right, but I do know that the method that finally worked for me was to make an epub file myself and upload that. I’m still experimenting with the best way to make the actual epub file, so all I will offer here are some of the options. The best method depends on the file you want to convert and how much formatting you still need to do.

a) Scrivener – You can make a great looking ebook with Scrivener, but the problem is that with the Windows version, it creates an automatic table of contents, and I don’t want a table of contents including every single chapter. The Mac version supposedly has the options I would need. You can find out more here:

Youtube Tutorial

Step by Step Scrivener to Kindle Tutorial

If you’re working with a completely formatted DOC file, you need to divide the file up into sections at each chapter (Ctrl+K) and make sure the compile options in the meta-data pane are all checked (Include in Compile, Page Break Before, Include As-Is).

b) Mobi Pocket Creator – Couldn’t figure this out myself, but others swear by it.

c) Online converters – Haven’t tried many of these, so can’t say which is best for which type of file. Would love some info on which work best!

d) Atlantis – Atlantis is a word processing program that will also compile documents as ebooks. Worked pretty well for me, but I did lose some formatting. It also has the disadvantage that it is yet another word processing program, of which I have too many already.

e) Jutoh – This one requires Open Office (see comments on Atlantis above). I haven’t tried it, but check out this discussion for a lot of rave reviews.

f) Sigil – I couldn’t figure out how to do the actual conversion to ebook correctly with Sigil, BUT it did solve my problem with the unwanted table of contents created by Scrivener. All I had to do was open the epub file I compiled in Scrivener, move the table of contents to where I wanted it, delete the Scrivener TOC and replace it.

In all of this, I still lost some formatting, mostly in the epigraphs before each chapter, so obviously I don’t have the perfect solution yet. But once I do figure it out, I can replace the file I have up on Amazon now. (BTW, the preview on Amazon looks pretty messy. The actual ebook looks much better, so if you want to see how it came out, download the sample for your Kindle.)

Here are some other articles that might also be helpful to others struggling with creating ebooks:

Kindle guidelines

eBook Formatting Series

Ebook formatting

Smashwords checklist

Step by Step Kindle Ebook

Smashwords and Nanowrimo

I’ve mentioned any number of times goals of “getting this or that up on Smashwords.” I haven’t followed through on very many of those goals, but today I got my first Paypal payment from Smashwords! It wasn’t much, barely enough for a dinner out, but perhaps it will motivate me to follow through on a few more of those ebook goals.

The other motivator at the moment is Nanowrimo, that collective writing insanity that goes on during November. I wasn’t intending to do Nano this year, but then, so many people I know decided to, and you know, the company is good, and it’s fun to be hanging out with a bunch of crazy writers. So on the weekend I got all the notes and plot ideas and characters sketches for my latest novel set up in the Nanowrimo edition of Scrivener. And If you don’t know Scrivener yet, give it a trial run. It’s brilliant. I already bought it for the Mac a couple years back, even bought a used Mac for the sole purpose of writing with Scrivener, but now I’m giving the new Windows version a shot, and even after two days, I already know that I’m going to have to buy Scrivener again. (The Mac and PC versions are separate products, unfortunately.)

So good luck and happy writing to all who are plunging into Nano-month!