MF 423 : Writing series: how to create a short form ebook (part 2 of 2)
Updated: Apr 24
Today, I conclude the short form ebook discussion with a deep dive into photos, creating a cover, and publishing your ebook on KDP. Part 2 of 2. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
I. Gathering the pieces of your ebook
Formatting your photos (if applicable)
Photos are a simple yet powerful and effective way to communicate. If you’re using visuals to accent or communicate important points in your book, consider which to use and the format.
If your book is based on pre-existing content such as a blog or article, you can save time by reusing visuals (provided they are yours or you have the licensing rights or copyright for them). If your pre-existing content is video, test out screen captures. Keep in mind that ebook photos should be sharp and high resolution, especially since ereader devices and apps include the ability to zoom in on them. For screen captures, they should be HD or 1080 resolution, at a minimum. For older videos filmed in non-HD, this isn’t a great option as we discovered.
For our tutorials, my dad recreated the steps while I snapped photos on my iphone. This took about an hour or so, mostly to capture as many different angles as possible. I didn’t end up using all of the photos as each chapter had between one to four at the most, but wanted to have a wide selection to choose from.
You can also use drawings or colorful graphics, which you can design on platforms like Photoshop or Canva. I like the latter as it’s user-friendly, has a ton of robust tools in the free version, and doesn’t require a lot of technical know-how. It’s designed for the novice but also great for experts.
Regardless of which type or format you choose, your visuals should tell the story or aid in teaching a lesson or point.
When it comes to formatting, I recommend keeping it to high res JPG as it’s the most versatile format in terms of compatibility across graphic design platforms and KDP. For iPhone users, the native format for photos is HEIC, which is high resolution but incompatible when to comes to editing and graphic design suites. Most platforms such as Canva won’t recognize it. So, you will either need to convert those photos to JPG or you can switch your phone’s camera settings to shoot in JPG by default. For our first tutorial, we spent a lot of time converting files. For the second and third, having the iPhone default to JPG shaved off a lot of time.
As mentioned, for editing, I use Canva and keep the photos simple. Based on the text, which are mostly instructional bullet points, I decided to use a basic 3-2-1 configuration, meaning that photos in the ebook would either be triples, doubles, or singles. First, I created a rectangular canvas and used Canva's photo grids to create the triple and double frames. This kept it simple and proportionate. Next, I uploaded the photos and placed them within the frames accordingly. I also added arrows, circles or short text as needed to emphasize or call out points.
When you download the photos, you’ll want to maintain the highest res possible. For Canva's free version, the JPG resolution is pre-set at a decent level but not quite the best for ebook pictures in my opinion. If you want to download at a higher res, you’ll need to upgrade to Canva's premium version. Otherwise, for the free version, you can download as PNG files, which are naturally higher res, then convert them to JPG on your desktop. Alternately, you can download as PDF print, which is high res, then convert to JPG. This second option is particularly useful for covers, which I’ll talk about next.
When it comes to ebook covers, keep it simple. As this isn’t a long form book, you don’t need a fancy cover or to hire an artist. For this type of book, it’s perfectly ok to design it yourself.
Option 1: KDP ebook cover designer
KDP has a native cover design platform built in and it’s pretty good. They give you a lot of templates to choose from with fonts and tools to customize them, including the ability to upload photos and graphics. This may be the easiest option for you if this is your first ebook.
Option 2: Canva, Photoshop or other graphic design program
Alternately, you can use a third-party platform like Photoshop or Canva to design your ebook cover. I’ll mostly be covering Canva but there are many options out there. First, I recommend check out the KDP cover specs and then hop onto Canva and create a custom canvas that matches. While Canva does have an ebook template, it's not an exact match though it comes pretty close.
Next, you can either design one from scratch using your own photos and graphics plus any extras available on Canva or you can pick from one of many templates and customize it to your needs. Have fun with it and design something that reflects your book or the skills you will teach through it.
Once you’re done, export the cover as PDF print, then convert that to a high res JPG.
II. Publishing on KDP
At this point, you should have all the pieces to your ebook ready to go. To recap where we are:
You should have written text, which for this kind of book should be short, mostly bullets within short “chapters.” I recommend your organize your text within a KDP paperback template. Even though we won’t be publishing a paperback version, the KDP publishing templates are great for organizing the buildings blocks of a book, namely your front matter-body-back matter. Also, you’ll find a generic copyright statement which you can tweak as needed.
Your visuals (put these into a folder and here’s my organization hack: label them according to chapter, example ch 1.1, ch 1.2, etc.) should be edited and formatted in high res JPG.
Finally, you should have your ebook cover, which should be formatted to the correct size and in high res JPG.
Since we’re strictly publishing a ebook version (and focusing on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace for purposes of this miniseries), I recommend use the free Kindle Create platform, available for Mac or Windows.
Kindle Create is a user friendly publishing platform that allows you to easily format the different building blocks of your book, including the front matter, body, and back matter. To simplify for our short form ebook, the front matter will consist of your title page, copyright statement, and table of contents. The body will be the chapters, which collectively should be about 20 pages or less. Finally, the back matter will be your author’s biography (if you wish to have one). There are more parts to front and back matter, which I won’t go into or aren't necessary for purposes of a short ebook but if you a more in depth review of the parts of a book for standard length books, check out the book writing miniseries.
First, open Kindle Create, create a new project, and save it to a folder. Next, import your KDP formatted document. Kindle Create will organize these according to chapters and blocks. You’ll have to go in and tweak them since it may not be 100% perfect but the platform is user friendly and straightforward so you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring it out. If you’re comfortable with Docs, Word, or any word processing program, you’ll be able to figure out Kindle Create quickly. You can adjust the fonts, add or delete sections such as chapters, and more. If you need a more detailed deep dive into the platform, check out the Kindle Create Tutorial.
Once you have edited your text and arranged your pieces properly, go through and insert the photos where they need to be within the chapters. You can adjust the size to small-medium-large-full. Keep in mind, since this is an ebook, readers can zoom into photos so this is why you’ll want to use high res photos. Also, Kindle Create only accepts JPG format, which is why we had to go through this conversion process in step I.
Tweak your front matter and back matter pieces, including copyright statement and author bio, both of which are fill in the blank forms for Kindle Create projects. Optional: add an author’s photo to your bio. You can also add other blocks such as additional books (if you’re written more than one), acknowledgements, etc. Again, most of these pieces aren’t necessary for a short form ebook, which is why I’m not covering them in this miniseries. If you are writing a traditional long form book, check out the book writing miniseries.
Kindle Create does have a quirk when it comes to bullet point markers. When writing your text, I recommend you not add the actual bullet point marks but keep them in plain text using a hard return to separate them. Once you’ve imported your doc into Kindle Create, format bullets manually using a dash (-), asterick (*), or other symbol. The reason is that pre-formatted bullets on Word don’t always translate correctly into Kindle Create and once they’re imported, you can’t remove or add any new ones as they’re hard coded (both symbol and text). So, either make sure it imports 100% correctly, which is a bit of a gamble, or format bullets manually. I discovered this when I was creating the Kindle version of The Poshmark Guide, which has bullets and lists throughout.
Preview the finished book on Kindle Create, tweak or adjust as needed, and once it’s to your liking, save it and export it as a Kindle project file (.kpf).
Publishing on KDP
If you haven’t already, set up your free KDP account. Final steps below:
Create a new ebook.
Fill in the information, including author information, description (sales copy), key words, etc.
Check off the DRM box (optional but can only be set once) to add an additional layer of copyright protection.
Next, upload the Kindle Create project file (.kpf) you exported.
Upload the cover file or create one using KDP’s cover creation platform.
Price your book and set the distribution.
Once you’ve hit publish, KDP will take anywhere between one hour to a day (or two) to review your book. If there are any issues, they will notify you. Otherwise, your book will go live and voila, you’ve published your first (or next) book!
Optional: if you’re creating a series of books that go together, you can create collections and tag or add books to that collection. This is perfect for skills that go together or books that are part of a series.
First, you don’t have to use Kindle Create. You can do this manually using a doc or pdf file if you prefer. However, I find Kindle Create makes the formatting a lot easier, despite its quirks and limitations.
Second, the process shouldn’t take very long from start to finish. We’ve now published three short ebooks as part of my dad’s "Sewing Education Series" and each one has collectively taken about 4-6 hours total, including recreating steps, taking photos, drafting the text, formatting, and publishing.
Third, don’t overthink this. The point of this series is to give you food for thought when it comes to writing and publishing your first book. These episodes are aimed at those who have wanted to write a book but have struggled to get started (or finished), those interested in converting pre-existing content into an ebook, and those interested in teaching a useful skill or sharing other useful content in written form.
Books don’t have to be several hundred page endeavors that take over a year to write and publish. A short form ebook may be a better, more time efficient way for you to get your first one done and out there. From there, you can create a series of books or advance into writing a long form book. Enjoy the process, and whether your book is five hundred pages or 15, be confident that you have something to share that’s worth sharing: a skill, lesson, or experience that someone will benefit from. Now get to it and move forward!
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