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Kindle-izing the Backlist, Headaches & Headlines

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My journey into Kindle-land continues, and the tedium-monster (“it’s alive!!!”) has an endless appetite. Actually, I’ve made good progress. But since I promised a step-by-step account, this entry describes my AHA-discovery of a week ago regarding the HTML worry.

You see, in a paper book the table of contents (TOC) set down in black and white in the front matter proves easy enough to review. Most nonfiction books also include an index for additional help to access must-know information. That saves the reader from flipping through tons of pages to get to the really good stuff. I don’t know about you, but my favorite reference books also sport a bristling array of Post-It book marks that highlight the information I may want to easily find. Even in a fiction book, folks use bookmarks to remember where they left off reading the day before or (gasp!) fold a page corner as a reminder.

Enter the Kindle (or your flavor-of-the-month E-reader). Without physical pages to flip or fold,  the reader instead must scroll through the pages to find the information that floats their boat. As with Webpages, the text can be coded to allow shortcuts to “jump” from a particular keyword to a “bookmark” later in the text, typically using HTML code.

If I got the details wrong, please don’t jump down my virtual throat–I am not a techie, and am lucky to have even this wispy grasp of the subject! Until now, all I wanted to know about computers was where to find the “on/off” switch. Ahem.

In any event, in debating whether to take the Kindle-leap, I debated about purchasing HTML software. Or perhaps, I thought, turning the file into a PDF version (complete with color photos?!) could work? Uh…nope. The folks at Amazon Kindle have kindly created a forum for would-be self publishers and a quick search there revealed that a PDF version must be translated into something else before being uploaded to another something else and…

Suffice it to say, PDF means more work. The HTML software programs costs $$$ that I’m not interested in spending on an experiment meant to cost only time. Others may feel differently (I can hear the technorati folks snickering. Yes, I mean you!). I do know a bit of HTML coding, simply from keeping my website updated. But I learned by cut-and-pasting existing code, with trial and error. You can do the same, in a blog post like this one, by clicking the HTML button to reveal codes. But good gosh-a-mighty, I really don’t want to deal with all that crappiocca when time could better be spent updating the content. It involves first typing (text) your TOC, inserting a bookmark code/hyperlink to a keyword in the TOC that’s then tied to that same word (chapter title, for instance) that appears later in the text. Yikes!

The good folks at the Kindle Forum noted that the MobiPocket (another E-reader) can be used as sort of an interim step to add the HTML coding to your manuscript, in particular the TOC. So quick-like-a-bunny, I downloaded the free MobiPocket Creator software and took some time exploring that avenue. It still looks like a good bit of work.

Meanwhile, as I revised the manuscript, I made an effort to keep the chapter titles, headings, and subheads consistent simply for looks. There’s a nifty tool in Microsoft Office Word 2007 for text styles that I like, and mine defaults to the “normal” setting. There also are templates you can use for “title case” and “heading 1” and so on that work well. As it happens, I discovered that if you use these templates for your headings, they AUTOMATICALLY CODE for HTML when you later use the Table of Contents tool (on the “references” tab). I didn’t need the MobiPocket after all!


With the stroke of a key or two, my TOC appeared already typed, coded, and ready to rumble. Here’s what you need to know, though. DO NOT use the “title case” as it doesn’t seem to appear on the finished TOC. I used the “heading 1” to type each chapter heading, and then “heading 2” for the subheads, and even “heading 3” for further divisions. That’s as far as the TOC auto-setup appears to work to code the bookmark HTML. If you need to change or add anything later in the text, you also can simply “update” the TOC and it will insert or remove automatically.

Therefore, rather than getting your tail in a twist over TOC and HTML, investigate the potential of your current wordprocessing software. I’m a PC (as the commercial says) but have no doubt that pretty much any popular wordprocessor has similar capabilities.

Next installment–pretty pictures and more!

Happy Kindle-izing!


About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

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