Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Adventures in Mobi Creation

No, not the whale, but the program that creates the digital book for Amazon’s Kindle (though at the moment I’m ready to put the great white whale’s last name to the whole evolution and refer to it by the crude vernacular). Since readers have their accounts set up and click a button to download their Kindle Book to their Kindle device all in a matter of seconds, an author needs her book in the Kindle Store. To get it there, she must create her masterpiece in .mobi format.

Getting my latest novel, Camellia Creek, a gothic mystery/suspense set against the backdrop of  Presidential Reconstruction at the end of the War for Southern Independence, into mobipocket, .azw format, took days, untold hours I wish I’d actually recorded so you could more clearly understand how absolutely anal I am. For those of you who have looked at my blog for “technical” advice, no matter how unintentionally spurious, you know that over a year ago I blogged extensively about my creation of the files required by MobiPocket Creator to build a mobi book. With those files—sitting in the folder for each individual book in the “My Publications” folder associated with MobiPocket Creator—I managed in 2011-2012 to upload my first four books and get them in the Amazon Kindle Store. Camellia Creek, thought I, will be a piece of cake.

Wrong. Oh, I created the files easily enough based on templates I’d created from my first four books—the .html version of my book, the .ncx file, a proper version of the .opf (MobiPocket Creator creates an .opf file automatically from whatever data one feeds it—if one feeds it no extra data, it creates it from the .html file itself and it always overrides whatever .opf file you place in the folder so you have to keep checking and cutting and pasting your good one over the one it makes. Suffice it to say, that evolution is time consuming and frustrating.). Then I added my only two graphics—the cover and my logo.

For four days I tried to get MobiPocket Creator to build my book. Now, I didn’t sit in front of my computer uploading and re-uploading the same files over and over during that time with the expectation of one time getting a winning result. That folks, is the definition of stupid. I’m just sorta stupid for sticking with it all that time. I’d make changes to the .opf and tried different renditions; I checked and rechecked all my files, my headers, my content, my “#$!%” html. I even removed MobiPocket Creator and reinstalled it—on both the computers I own with access to the internet. One thing I did discover was that every time I took the “failed” build and removed the .ncx from the mix, the book built. I knew the problem was with the .ncx or the .opf (which references the .ncx). I went to the online forums and studied and tried to replicate individual methods of inserting files into MobiPocket Creator and overcoming the Creator’s frustrating habit of messing up my .opf. At one point I created a .zip file of Camellia Creek’s files and attempted to insert that into the My Publications folder. That didn’t work either—works for epub, but not mobi. I kept the .zip file anyway.

Finally, on the fifth day, I removed the publisher version of  MobiPocket Creator and downloaded the “Home/Family” version. The MobiPocket Creator website said it was simpler to use. Personally, I didn’t see much difference from the “use” angle, but one thing that simple little sucker did when it, too, failed to build on my first try was point out one tiny error in the spelling in the “content src” for chapter seventy-four in my .ncx. I’d spelled “seventy” “seveenty”. I fixed it and Camellia Creek build on the next try, .opf, .ncx and all.

I don’t know that the misspelling caused all those wasted hours, not to mention stress, but the results rendered after its fixing indicates that was the problem. So why didn’t the “publisher” version point it out to me when the “simpleton’s” version was so quick to do so? Maybe the publisher’s version thinks publishers should know how to spell or are such thorough proof readers there is no way they’d let a screwball thing like three “e”s in seventy get by—this in a work of 79 chapters and an epilogue (Camellia Creek is twice the length of my previous books).

Oh, and now comes the really, really good part. I start uploading to Amazon—I get to Part 5 at the “Upload Your Book” window. The little pinwheel is purring, there’s a window there that says “uploading your book, this may take a few minutes” and wahlah—the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform rejects it. The window says, simply, that I used software other than that approved by Amazon. I’m confused—I sent them the .prc. KDP didn’t need to build my .prc. I SENT it one already done, darn it! And fifteen months earlier the KDP platform had accepted four of my .prc books built the same way—ok, this one was built with the “simpleton’s” Creator, but what the heck.

I go to the “formatting guide” offered in the rejection window. Sure enough, .prc’s aren’t listed. I go to the Amazon “techies”. “Yes they are,” the “techies” say. Two day’s later the “techies” have it figured out—I needed to use KindleGen to build my .prc, not MobiPocket Creator.

During that two-day interim, I went back to that “zipped” file I’d fortuitously saved during my nightmare of working with the publishers version of MobiPocket Creator and uploaded it at Part 5 of the Upload Your Book window. It uploaded fine. Camellia Creek is at the Kindle Store.

Next, my pathetic adventures using KindleGen.

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