Kindle Conniptions: How I Published My First E-Book

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this makes it far easier to locate them when you’re searching for the anchor text for the internal hyperlinks—another tip from the talented Mr. Tallent.

Let’s fast forward to the end—assuming you’re still with me. What you get, with enough endurance, is a stripped-down HTML file that will look nice almost anywhere, whether in a Web browser window or on an e-reader. Amazon’s Digital Text Platform lets you upload this HTML file to Amazon’s servers and specify a title, a price, and other details. If you do everything correctly, your e-book shows up in the Kindle Store and on within three days or so, and you can start your career as a best-selling e-book author.

I’m a geek who is comfortable with, though not totally fluent in, HTML, and this project severely tested my patience. I spent an estimated 10 hours trying to figure out how to do this, and then another 30 or 40 hours doing the grunt work to make it happen. So I think it’s safe to say that until somebody comes up with a way to automate e-book production, we won’t see a huge flood of authors self-publishing for the Kindle or the other e-book platforms. Perhaps I should have hired a consultant. Tallent charges a reasonable $60 per hour, and says he can convert a typical novel to Kindle-ready HTML in 1 to 3 hours and a longer non-fiction title in 3 to 6 hours. But then I wouldn’t have had this wonderful story to tell.

The situation is unfortunate, because part of the promise of the digital publishing revolution was that it would finally give authors a way to bypass the old literary establishment—the agents and editors and publishers whose job is to make sure that trees get sacrificed, and costly marketing campaigns get mounted, only for the most commercially viable titles. The way things are now, only big publishers, or maybe authors with some money to burn (and how many of those do you know?), are going to go to the trouble of getting their books onto the major e-book platforms.

Of course, all that’s needed to solve this problem is for one clever programmer to come along and build a usable e-book editing program. That’s roughly what happened on the Web back in 1995, when Cambridge, MA-based Vermeer Technologies introduced FrontPage, the first successful WYSIWYG HTML editor. Microsoft eventually bought Vermeer and FrontPage for $133 million, and I bet that the first company to build a decent e-book editor would get snapped up by Amazon or Apple. Entrepreneurs, are you listening?

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