Make your illustrated Kindle book easily – with Mac, Calibre & Seashore! 1

It can be easy to produce your own Kindle book yourself; Calibre and Seashore are as cheap as ‘free’ (though you’d want to contribute), and you can do it even if, like me, you don’t even own a Kindle!

However, it’s only ‘easy’ when you know how, and to be really easy, EVERY stage needs to be described thoroughly, and I’m sorry but I’ve never seen that done before. Otherwise it’s merely ‘do-able’, still requiring much experimentation and questioning on web forums, as I had to.

My method does use a Mac, and the Seashore graphics program needs that, but the html preparation details, and the Calibre instructions should be useful whatever the platform. Seashore is a sort of “Photoshop-lite” that allows you to select areas not just by borders you define geometrically, but also by colour. It also uses layers. However it has two shortcomings: it cannot draw curves, and the manual, which is absolutely execrable, 1) should not be tackled without a skilled mental health therapist by your side, and 2) should not be tackled at all. For drawing curves, we save the picture file, re-open it in the also free Paintbrush, then, after drawing the curve, save and go back to Seashore. (If you grab a transparent layer in Seashore, and open a “New from clipboard” image in Paintbrush, we find that Paintbrush can indeed operate on an initially transparent layer. It can’t do multiple layers of course.) For understanding how to use Seashore, we use the rather good Seashore video tutorials offered by Andy Roberts. From that link, later Youtube episodes in his series are findable.

I really would not recommend Kindlegen: the program Amazon offers to help get your book into the .mobi format Kindles use. Calibre can replace it and is much more user-friendly; Calibre will help convert quirky characters nicely into .mobi, and we’ll also make use of the free editor Bean along the way. Neither Word nor NeoOffice/OpenOffice required. Nor, you may be glad to hear, the dreaded NCX and TOC – they will be involved, you just won’t have to deal with them directly yourself.

I’m offering the first 11% plus further snippets of my book The Secret Dinobird Story as working material, downloadable below, including some images. For practice and guidance, they can be combined, using Calibre, to create a .mobi file (or lots of other types). If you don’t have a Kindle or other e-reader, download Kindle Previewer, or Kindle for Mac, which is a luscious platform for reading .mobi’s. It’s free, it’s colour, and you can widen the screen and then view in double column!

N.B.: AFTER DOWNLOADING THE FIRST OF MY FILES BELOW, CHANGE ITS FILE EXTENSION FROM .gif TO .txt OR html. No point trying to open it directly by simply clicking on it. (WordPress doesn’t let you store html files.  It’s cunning enough to stop you even storing txt files that contain html.  But not cunning enough for people prepared to resort to gif! 🙂 .)

These others have the correct extensions:

(The .pdf above is a reasonable approximation to the final .mobi version, and will help interpret the html file.)

The files above need to be put directly in the same folder for Calibre to use them; the cover, below, can be but could be elsewhere:

You’ll be able to check the formatting of various bits of it, and substitute your own material into your own production. “Sealwyf”, detailed near the end of the next posting, offers her book of dragon stories for doing this, which helped me a lot, but I hope to make it even easier using my material.

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