Aaron Shepard offers solid tips for self-publishers working in Microsoft Word (review)

From Word to KindleAaron Shepard‘s book, “From Word to Kindle: Self Publishing your Kindle Book with Microsoft Word,” is a short guide, or as the author describes it, a “lengthy article,” on how to prepare your book for Kindle Direct Publishing, “for intermediate to advanced users of Word.”

Similar guides are not uncommon, but are, as Shepard asserts, “usually less helpful than they could be.” Rather, he goes by the principle that “for an all-text book, Word’s HTML is almost perfectly suited to Kindle conversion with little or no change.” That said, Shepard continues, “supposedly, as long as you start with a properly formatted Word document, you’ll wind up with a well-formatted ebook. That is almost equally wrong.”

From Word to Kindle

Obviously, much of the value of a book like this hinges on the author’s personal credibility, and at points, Shepard leans substantially on this.

On the question of tables of contents, he says: “Just follow my instructions and you’ll be fine!”—cutting through much online debate on how best to do this. But he is not afraid to let the results speak for themselves. “This ebook was produced with the same techniques it describes,” runs the text, and although the book is workmanlike rather than inspired, it is certainly solid, and demonstrates the fruits of Shepard’s impressive knowledge of the ins and outs of Word, Kindle, and the conversion process from one to the other.

Shephard himself has a demonstrable track record as an author, self-publisher, publisher, advisor on self-publishing, and advocate for the discipline, all of which speaks as well in favor of his conclusions. Some will find bones to pick with the techniques he suggests, but first-timers in the field with sufficient knowledge to handle Word at the level he describes will not be led astray.

Shepard is very conscious of his medium’s limitations. “The Kindle’s typography is primitive—especially on the hardware Kindles—so your book is never going to look great,” he warns. Also, he focuses in this book purely on good text formatting and structuring for Kindle, leaving the questions of cover design and picture insertion for other times and other titles.

All the same, with the barrage of—mostly unfair—criticism being directed at the self-publishing community these days, self-published authors could do far worse than avail themselves of this concise and extremely cheap book.

Shepard doesn’t overcharge, and he has a lot to contribute. That’s a welcome thing in publishing, self or otherwise, now as ever.

 

 

 

 

Aaron Shepard reads King o’ the Cats: Click the button above to listen

7 Comments on Aaron Shepard offers solid tips for self-publishers working in Microsoft Word (review)

  1. yoitstimothy // June 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm //

    Word’s HTML output will produce defective books on Kindle 100% of the time. While I wouldn’t expect the average author to understand that, I would hope that someone writing for Teleread would at least be able to evaluate those details before publishing an ad for such rubbish.

    From both the reading of Shepard’s book and various posts he’s made on Internet forums it’s pretty clear (as it is with pretty much every self-described eBook expert) that he’s a technical user of limited ability and doesn’t even know enough to realize that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  2. Perhaps you should compare and contrast Writing a Novel with Scrivener by David Hewson.

    Perhaps I’ll borrow it from the KOLL and read and review it myself, as soon as I finish (or get fed up with) the book I’m currently reading from there. After all, I use Scrivener on a regular basis, so I’d have some basis for evaluating it.

  3. Word’s “filtered” HTML output is pretty rancid stuff if you peek under the hood at what it makes. However, it’s good that self-publishers have the ability to DIY their books as this will lead to a more robust literary culture–much like CMS tools like WordPress and Blogger have made a more interesting internet.

  4. I just finished working with @Paul Salvette’s company to get my latest book formatted, and I just bailed off the DIY wagon in a big way. I’ll be writing a longer article on my experience over the weekend, but let me just say now that there’s a bit difference between DIY and working with someone who knows what they are doing. It’s worth every penny. (And I didn’t even have to spend that many pennies.)

  5. @Chris—I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say that I’d love to see a review of Hewson’s book. Please do consider tackling it.

    @Juli—On a similar note, I think it’d be good fun, and very use, to read a first-person account of your work with Salvette’s company. I’ll definitely look forward to it…

  6. Very recently, Calibre added the ability to convert MS Word to ePub. I would be keen to read about how good that might be.

    Regarding Word’s HTML export, there are two ways of doing that, at least on the Mac version. One is much cleaner than the other. To get the cleanest output from Word, do File > Save as web page and then select the radio button for “Save only display information into HTML.”

    The default “Save entire file into HTML” includes tons of unnecessary XML code.

  7. @Frank, I wrote about it earlier this month http://newteleread.com/wordpress/calibre/calibre-now-converts-docx-files/

    It seems to work fine for quick and dirty file conversions, but I’d hesitate to use it for anything you might want to put up for sale. ToCs are still an issue with calibre, unless you start from good HTML. Or I’m doing it wrong.

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