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Author Katie Mettner

Kindle Create ~ The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Yesterday I used Kindle Create to format my next release. It doesn't release until June, but I was formatting it to get a MOBI for ARCs. I'll explain why that's important later. Since Amazon KDP has been pushing the Kindle Create on authors, I decided to try it.  I've never been happy with Draft 2 Digital's pathetic attempt at making a workable table of contents, and I was hoping this platform would do a better job. I'll walk you through how the program works. Once you download and install it, you'll open it to this screen. (Some of these pictures are a little blurry, but I had to do the best I could with getting snapshots of the pages.)

You click upload project and pick a document. You can see that you have the option of novels, essays, poetry, narrative nonfiction (can only choose doc or docx) or textbooks, travel guides, cookbooks, and music books (PDFs). Since I write fiction, I am using the novels option for this post.
While it uploads you get 4 screens telling you different things about what you'll be able to do once the program opens.

It took about two minutes for the program to upload and convert my 250 page book to the program. 

Once the program is open your title page will appear along with what they found for chapter headings, thereby making your table of contents. You can check or uncheck any they may have gotten wrong and then you hit accept. Once you've accepted, that screen disappears and opens the rest of your options.

From there you can edit directly in the document including fixing spelling errors, spacing, etc. You can change the font directly in size, color and type by highlighting the title. You can also use one of their four premade themes. 

Each theme has a different font as you can see. However, don't be taken in by the drop cap at the beginning of each one. I thought by selecting a theme it would give me that drop cap at the beginning of each chapter and it didn't. I had to go in and do it manually. 

In order to get the drop cap I had to put the cursor on the first word and click apply drop cap on the menu to the right. There it gives you options of how far you want to drop it etc. Even though I had to do each chapter separately I liked that I had the option to do it by hand and options for size. 

They also give you options to use different elements. if you put the cursor at the beginning of a section and click an element it will change the formatting to that element. There are tons of options in this program and I didn't take pictures of them all, but you could spend a lot of time playing with getting your ebook to look exactly like you want it to.

Throughout the time you're working on the document it will prompt you to save it. This program saves the file in the kpf format. At any time you can hit the preview button at the top right and it will show you the book on the Kindle Previewer. You can't change the color view on this preview, which is a downside, but you can do everything else to check and see how it will play on your readers Kindles. Once you have the document as you'd like it, you go back to that top right hand corner and click the publish button once you've saved. 

You'll get this screen. 

You can see it says it's saving it as a package kpf file. Click save and you'll see this screen. 

Once it's saved you'll get this screen.

Now from here you'll see it tells you you're ready to publish and go to your KDP dashboard to upload your book. If you go look in the file you saved the book to, you'll see this. 

You'll see the October Winds Kindle_KC. That is the actual file if you were to need to keep working on it or change it, you'd open that on the Kindle Create platform, but to upload it to KDP on  your dashboard, you click on the cardboard box icon. That has the 'package' KDP needs to convert your file on the platform. You'll go through uploading your book on KDP like you always do. Once you do that, you'll see this (I went through this process and reuploaded a Kindle Create document to a book that had already been published and republished it yesterday to find out what happens after you publish with Kindle Create.)

This photo was taken after my book was live again in the Kindle store. As you can see, where it would normally give you the option to download a MOBI for your book here, but you can't. You can launch the previewer and look at your book there, but you can't download a MOBI copy to your computer or phone. 

What is the take away of this program? I've published 30 ebooks and I've found a few good, bad, and ugly. 

The good. 

1. Ease of use. This is a great program to get a professional looking ebook for an author who is new to the game, or a seasoned author who just wants a workable table of contents without a lot of hassle. The themes aren't exactly sophisticated, but for my purposes they're more than adequate. I like a clean looking ebook that is formatted correctly and is pleasant for the reader, but I don't like anything overly complicated or distracting (as a reader or publisher for that matter). This program fits the bill for that.  

2. Control of content. D2D allows you to upload the document and they convert it. Only then do you the option to add a few things, like drop caps or decorations, but you can't actually get into the meat of the document and make changes. 

3. Workable table of contents without the hassle. This is a big thing for me as D2D always wants to make every break in my document a new chapter. It's frustrating and a waste of time for me to use their TOC, so I never do. Kindle Create gives me a professional looking TOC that works (not sure it matters in romance, but it's nice to have). 

The Bad

1. You're limited in your ability to do some editing inside the document, but it's more than you can do in D2D, so it's a good/bad take away. In Kindle Create you can fix spelling issues, make paragraph changes, choose fonts, use preset formatting options, and check your TOC BEFORE it's converted. 

2. The preview option sucks, to put it bluntly. Sure you can preview it, but you can't use the color options, which is important to check, so you have to take another step. You have to download Kindle Previewer 3 to your computer and open that. Once it's open you select the 'package' from your file and it will open it. There you can check the color options, look at the book as a whole, check links etc. but you cannot export it into any other format from Kindle Previewer 3.

The Ugly

1. This is the biggest problem I have with the program. NO MOBI or EPUB option is available once you finish! Since Kindle Create publishes a kpf file nothing will open that but KDP bookshelf. You can't send it to your kindle as an ARC. I had hopes I would upload it to KDP and get a workable MOBI file to download once it was converted, but as you saw in the picture above, that didn't happen, before it was published or after it was live in the store. 
2. There are no programs that can convert a kpf file to MOBI or EPUB, at least I couldn't find any. I tried online converters, Calibre, and several others, but nothing could convert that file for me. (If anyone knows of one please let me know and I'll update this post!)

While it worked out for me, I also have thirty titles published and I know what I'm doing. For a new author to use this program to publish a book it could be a disaster for them, unless they're dedicated to taking the time to download all the tools like Kindle Previewer 3 to go through their book closely once it's done in Kindle Create. While I enjoyed using the program and getting that nice TOC easily and quickly, not having an option to get a MOBI file either directly from the program itself or once it's uploaded to KDP is a problem. Amazon is crippling authors from putting out nicely formatted ebooks by not working that option into their programming. It would be like asking a football team to win the Super Bowl, but giving them a tennis ball instead of a football. Amazon wants quality books on their platform and develops a program like Kindle Create, but then cheats on the most important part of the program. 

Would I recommend it or use it again? Kind of and yes. 

Recommend it: I can't not recommend it because it exists in the marketplace and people will use it regardless. So I'm saying I would kind of recommend it in that there are some GREAT parts of this program and then some not so great options. As long as an author does their research and knows exactly what they will have to do in order to get a nice, and functional, ebook (and they don't need a MOBI) then I would say go for it and see what you think. However, I think you can get just as nice of a file from D2D if you're willing to deal with their pain in the butt TOC options or not have a TOC at all. They can pretty your ebook up enough to make it look professional and give you a MOBI and EPUB copy of the book to boot. For a super new author who can't afford professional formatting I would probably not recommend it. If they aren't precise and devote plenty of time to the previewing portion of it, they could pay for it in reviews from readers. For an author who does their formatting already and knows what they're doing, as well as how to preview their file, yes I would recommend it. (As long as you don't need that MOBI). 

Would I use it again: Yes, absolutely. Why? Because for me it did a nice job, gave me a beautiful ebook, a workable TOC, and was relatively fast and easy to use. However, that no MOBI option was almost a no go for me. Since I need a file for ARCs I took the original docx and uploaded to D2D to get a MOBI and EPUB file. The ARC is bare bones with simple formatting and no TOC, but for an ARC it works, for now. (I could have uploaded the basic docx to KDP and just gotten one from them too, but D2D is faster). Eventually I hope someone comes out with a way to either convert these kpf files to MOBI or EPUB, or they find a way to do it within the program. Until they do I don't see Kindle Create taking off as the formatting program of choice when so many authors need those files to download for promotional use (Disclaimer: I know Amazon doesn't actually want us to give ARCs or give away books, but we all know we have to in order to stay alive in this business).