How To Format a Children's Book for the Kindle

Update: Many people seem very interested in this topic, but I have heard from people who are still not comfortable enough with the process to do it themselves. If you want my hands-on help formatting your ebook, please see my One-Step Shortcut for eBook Formatting blog entry.
Update #2: Due to ongoing changes in e-reader technology and platforms, I have posted a Children's Book Formatting for the Kindle: Updates blog entry.
Update #3: A newer blog post, my Introduction to Crenel Publishing, offers the most up-to-date information about getting help with formatting your children's book for the Kindle — or other types of books, for all e-reading platforms.

Before the end of the year, I wanted to complete a "to do" list item that has been nagging at me too long. The task: Release my children's book (Two Boys, Two Planets) for the Kindle. As a non-color, text-oriented reading tool, the Kindle was originally not well suited to children's picture books like mine. With the recent release of the Kindle Fire, however, and the ongoing availability of color-enabled Kindle apps for various platforms (PC, Mac, iPod Touch, etc.), I now believe it is less likely to be a waste of time to convert the print edition to a Kindle edition. I also found it encouraging to read of the success of other children's book authors publishing for the Kindle platform.

Today, I set up the book file in KDP, so by this weekend I expect the Kindle edition of Two Boys, Two Planets to be available for purchase through Amazon. Now that I've gone through the process, I thought it might help to share what I did, for the benefit of other authors wanting to do the same thing. The rest of this blog post will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare your children's book for the Kindle. (This does not discuss why you would want to or other "editorial" issues, or how to create a KDP account or set up a title in KDP. This is just a technical how-to for creating the book file to upload to KDP.)

Requirements: A simple text editor (even Notepad in Windows should suffice, although there are certainly better editors out there), an image editor (e.g., GIMP, Photoshop, etc.), software to create .ZIP archives (e.g., WinZip, 7-Zip, etc.), and the digital versions of all of your illustrations. If you don't have them digitized yet, do that first and then return here.

Assumptions: This approach assumes that you are interested in publishing for the Kindle only. It does not discuss publishing for other readers, and relies on the Kindle-specific "mbp:pagebreak" tag. It assumes each page has one image that dominates the page, with text below the image. Text is to be treated as text (so that the Kindle can process it as text, not as an image of text). This approach also assumes the "portrait" orientation of the page, but if you prefer the "landscape" orientation, use 800 instead of 600 in the steps listed below.

Remember: "Your mileage may vary." You will almost certainly need to make adjustments to this procedure for your book. However, this should provide a good starting point.

Steps to Format Your Children's Book for the Kindle

  1. Use your image editor to create 600-pixel-wide copies of all of your illustrations in JPEG (.jpg) format with sequentially-numbered file names.
    1. Open your image editor.
    2. Open your first illustration.
    3. Scale the image to 600 pixels wide. Let the image editor calculate the height to preserve the "aspect ratio."
    4. Use the "Save as" option to save a new copy of the image in JPEG format, using a name like page_NN.jpg (replacing NN with the number of the page where the illustration appears, such as 01 for page 1, 02 for page 2, etc.).
    5. Close the image and then repeat those steps for the remaining illustrations.
  2. Open your text editor. Copy and paste the following code into your editor:

    <html>
    <head>
    <title>Your Title Here</title>
    <style type="text/css">
    p { text-indent: 0px; margin-bottom: 1ex; }
    .p_ctr { text-align: center; }
    </style>
    </head>
    <body>
    <!-- PAGES HERE -->
    <p>Other content here</p>
    </body>
    </html>

    Save your file in the same folder (directory) as the image files, using a name like My_Title-Content.html (for example, if your book title is Three Feral Bovines your file would be Three_Feral_Bovines-Content.html).
  3. Change the text Your Title Here to your book's title. Save again. (Get in the habit of saving regularly!)
  4. Count the number of pages in your story, i.e., those with illustrations — do not include things like a dedication, copyright notice, note to parents, etc.
  5. In your text editor, delete the text <!-- PAGES HERE --> and copy and paste the following code in its place:

    <img src="page_NN.jpg" width="600" />
    <p class="p_ctr"><!-- PAGE TEXT HERE --></p>
    <mbp:pagebreak />

    Paste it once for each page of your story (i.e., if you have 30 pages, paste it 30 times). If you're using 800 in place of 600, make that change in the first copy that you paste, then copy that and paste it for the rest of the pages.
  6. For each page of your story, edit the page_NN.jpg to use the correct number (i.e., page_01.jpg for the first page, page_02.jpg for page 2, etc.).
  7. For each page of your story, replace <!-- PAGE TEXT HERE --> with the text of the story from that page.
  8. If you have non-story content in your book, include it in place of the text Other content here and use <mbp:pagebreak /> anywhere you want to force a page break.
  9. Save your file again and close your editor.
  10. Create a .ZIP archive file containing your .html file and .jpg files, using a name like My_Title-Kindle.zip (e.g., if your title is Three Feral Bovines your ZIP file would be named Three_Feral_Bovines-Kindle.zip).
  11. Log in to (or create) your KDP account, start a new title, and when you "browse" for your book file, select the ZIP file created in the previous step.

As mentioned above, this probably won't be a perfect process for your book, but it should give you a good starting point. Considering this is the first time I've done it and I'm relying on the preview tool in KDP, I may have changes for this process later. I will update it as needed.

Your comments on this process and your experience publishing children's books for the Kindle are most welcome!

By Stuart Whitmore

Comments

Stuart Whitmore, you're my hero. I've been doodling some owls using an app I downloaded on my Kindle Fire. I thought hey, I'm going to add some witty dialogue and publish these adorable birds as a 'zine, by the Fire, for the Fire; how hard could it be? OMG. Luckily the sketch app saves the drawings as 600x1034 .png files, so I was able to get them on my MacBook. Then what? Four hours on the Internet, downloading the KF8 and Previewer from Amazon, reading all the Help files and "how to" guides I could find... still no closer to knowledge. What format? What size? What next? Then Google finds you and the gift you've shared here of all the work you've done to figure this out. I can't thank you enough.

I'm glad the info here was useful for you. Good luck with your project! :)

Thank God for one like you. God bless you for sharing these things. I am struggling to find ways how to write and publish one.

I love making up stories for children and talented enough to draw funny pictures for kids.

At present I am working as a nanny and loves my job but want to earn more income with the things I like to do like this in my spare time.

Wishing you all the best! God bless!

Vicki

I followed these directions to the letter but, in my preview it looked exactly like the html format. It never added the images or formatted the text.

What did I do wrong?!

If you're seeing the actual HTML codes in your preview, my first guess would be that you used a word processor to create a Word document instead of a text editor to create an HTML document. Different computer file types have different formats, even if their purpose is the same. For example, a .jpg and a .png file are both image file types, but the internal data to store the image is different. Similarly, a Word file and an HTML file can both be used for text content, but the internal data structure is quite different. For these instructions to work, you need to use a plain text editor, like Notepad (in Windows), TextEdit (I think?) in OS X, or one of countless such programs in Linux (vi, emacs, nano, gedit, etc.). Using such an editor, it's up to you to structure the internal data of the file to fit the HTML format, and these instructions will ensure that you do that.