Self-Publishing: Best File Formats for Upload to Amazon/Kindle/Nook/CreateSpace

Vik RubenfeldFor Writers0 Comments

UPDATE 10-6-2012:

Everything in this field is evolving all the time, so it’s time for an update to this post.

I’m now using Jutoh, an application that takes your source file and exports it in different formats for upload to Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, etc. It makes it easier to get the table of contents right in the various different formats, and makes it easier to produce proper eBook files.

Here’s my workflow.

  • Edit book text in MS Word.
  • Print to PDF for upload to Createspace.
  • Save in .doc format
  • Open .doc format file in the free program, OpenOffice.
  • Save from Open Office in .odt format.
  • Open .odt file in Jutoh.
  • For Amazon Kindle, Fire, etc:
    • “Compile” in Jutoh to .mobi format
  • For Nook:
    • “Compile” in Jutoh to .epub format
  • For Smashwords:
    • Set Jutoh to create table of contents “by itself” and compile to .odt format.
    • Open .odt file in OpenOffice.
    • Save file in .doc format

it still ain’t easy. But it’s improving all the time. 🙂

OLD AND NOW OUTDATED TEXT OF THIS POST, 12-6-2011:

I spent last week getting my new novel ready for download from all the top websites, and along the way I learned a few things that I’ll post here, just in case they may be useful to other authors.

At first I thought the cool technique was to export my novel from MS Word to html, and then hand-edit the html. But it turns out you can do all the formatting you need in Word. After reading one book and a lot of websites on the subject, I found that the advice in Aaron Shepard’s discussion worked very well for me:

One of the most common methods of preparing Kindle Books—and one of the most highly recommended by Amazon—is to start with a Microsoft Word document, convert it to HTML, and then submit it on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing site for final conversion to Kindle format. You can find instructions for this around the Web and in books on Kindle publishing. Most often, these instructions are based on the premise that Word’s HTML output requires extensive alteration and cleanup before submission.

This is exactly wrong.

At least for a text-only book, it turns out that Word’s HTML is almost perfectly suited to Kindle conversion with little or no change. Yes, Word’s export generates a lot of excess code, but not as much if you choose the right option—and the excess that remains is ignored by the Kindle converter. Meanwhile, the best way to control the limited kinds of formatting available for Kindle Books is with formatting you apply to the Word document itself. You might never have to open the HTML file at all!

Now here’s the bit I can add. Different sites prefer different file formats. Here’s what I used:

  • Amazon: save the MS Word file as HTML with UTF-8 encoding selected in the Save As options. Compress the file to a .zip archive. Upload the .zip archive to Amazon.
  • Smashwords: save the MS Word file in .doc (not .docx) format and upload that.
  • Nook: same as Smashwords.
  • CreateSpace. On a Mac, save the file as a PDF, in order to capture all the fonts. Then upload the PDF. On Windows, MS Word has an option to include all fonts in the file. Then you can upload the MS Word file to CreateSpace.

I hope this is useful to others.

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