Thursday, July 1, 2021

Creating and Publishing a Book on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Using a Chromebook and Google Drive

A Day Out with Mom
That's a pretty long title for this article, especially since this article isn't going to be a long and detail-filled exposition of step-by-step how to put together a book using the online-centered Chromebook and Google Drive platforms. The truth is that it's not that difficult to independently publish your own book using Kindle Direct Publishing's program. I've used the KDP platform to publish three small books (around one hundred pages) that have been based on blog articles I've written. My last book, recently published, is the first one, though, that I've put together using Google Drive's online word processing rather than Microsoft word processing and a fully independent laptop. The bottom line is that working online with a Chromebook was a bit slower at times, that the Google Doc word processing program was a bit more limited than Word, but that once I realized the differences, I was pretty much able to do whatever I wanted to create the book. 

Here are the three books I've published through Amazon's KDP, available both as paperbacks and as ebooks:
KDP allows an author to sign up and then begin creating a book, walking the author through the steps of "Creating a New Title":
  • Book Content: You can upload a manuscript, or use our free creation tools to create children's books, educational content, comics, and manga. Get started with Kindle content creation tools.
  • Book Cover: You can use our online Cover Creator, or upload a cover of your own. Creating a great cover.
  • Description, Keywords and Categories: Tell readers about your book and help them find it on Amazon.
  • ISBN: Get a free ISBN to publish your paperback. Kindle eBooks don't need one. More about ISBNs.
I Write: Being & Writing
For each step, Amazon KDP provides guidance, and there are also usually online blogs and YouTube videos that provide insights. What I've found about Chromebooks, which don't have the memory capacity of traditional computers because information is saved online, and what I've found out about working on Google Drive's doc platform, is that there are a few speed and capabilities limitations. However, for a traditional book layout, these boundaries are more occasional nuisances than deal breakers. 

I've put together eight books since 2010 (see my Amazon author's page), using Adobe, Microsoft, and Google Doc word processing programs. The first book, a poetry book, was compiled using Microsoft Word, the next two used Adobe's InDesign, and the last have used KDP with Word or Google Doc templates. I had a friend who helped me a lot with the first three books, and we also designed the book covers using Adobe Photo Shop. For the later books, I used KDP's book design templates.

Here are some of the nuisances and limitations I've discovered using KDP and Google Docs on a Chromebook.
  • The KDP downloaded templates have a set number of chapters when downloaded. Because of my limited word processing and designing expertise, I found the process of working with the sections, rows, and columns to be a challenge, especially since I only put together a book every few years. I did manage by fiddling around to learn how to widen certain cells or add more rows in the table of contents section. I learned how to add more chapters to the book and table of contents. If I knew more, I probably could have been more efficient, though.
  • Some of what I learned through my experience with Word had to be massaged to understand for Google Docs. For instance, adding anchors for ebook navigation in Word (moving from the table of contents to the chapter and back to the TOC) was not exactly the same for Google Docs. "Bookmarks" is the Docs designation for anchors, and the possibilities for use seem to be limited in Docs. I say "seem" because it wasn't always clear. I'd read an article online of how to set up an ebook's table of contents for the Amazon Kindle platform using Docs, and then some of the directions from the article met up with the Docs platform just not having the "go to" or "click" steps available. 
  • As my book grew in length--as I inserted chapters and photos--saving the program grew a little longer. I had moments of panic when I received a message from the Kindle draft viewing function saying that there was an error in saving. What! Had I lost the entire manuscript? What I realized after a time of panic was that the movement of the manuscript from Google Drive to Kindle might take a bit and to not jump right from compiling the book on Drive to checking out what the book will look like on the preview section. The process was not instantaneous. That scare did lead me, though, to regularly making copies of the publishing draft and saving them under a new name, such as "Bear March 25," which provided the assurance that if all my compiling work did get lost or corrupted in the ether, that I'd have a copy of what I'd created.
These few insights leads me to the need to reiterate that my last three books have been collections of blog articles that I've compiled into books, listed earlier in this article. Creating the book wasn't just copying and pasting the articles into the book template, though. I mean, well, it was that, but a book is different than a blog; book chapters are different than blog articles. Time flows differently in a book than in a blog. Words like "here," "now," and "today" don't play out the same in books as in blogs. Therefore, the final manuscript for these books was significantly different than all the blog articles put together. The books are unique documents, and losing a manuscript because saving in the cloud didn't work would be a real downer. 

My blog articles were in a very real way just drafts of an upcoming book that I've shared with readers. For my first blog-to-book adventure--I Write: Being and Writing--I didn't even have the idea of putting the articles together into a book until while talking to a friend about a series of articles I was writing he said, "Hey, you know, you could put those together into a book." That may seem pretty obvious, but it was a revelation to me at the time. The concept isn't new, that's for sure. During the 1800s, Dickens and others first serialized their novels for periodicals prior to publishing them as books.

RTTC Bears in the Wild
My final thoughts on using laptops that word process primarily from online platforms--and then coupling that with online independent publishing platforms--is that regular creation of backup files of the manuscript (even if backed up online) is always a good idea. It will provide you with a sense of security. A second point is that there may be time lags sometimes, that you can't just jump from one step to another quickly. Be patient. And finally, the Google Doc word processing program may have some limitations that can probably be worked around but which might cause some frustration or even necessitate some adaptation. 

These are just my experiences, but most folks are like me, not wizards at all the ins and outs of whatever word process and publishing platforms are being utilized. It's like fixing something in our home. You fix or replace something, and then ten years later you have to do it again. "Now how did I do that?" you think, and then you have to go back and learn all over, at the same time realizing that in ten years things have changed. Oh, well! I've managed to produce a nice little book, RTTC Bears in the Wild, which I think provides some good reading and good color photos this last time around. It was a great experience to research this little camping book, to write the blog articles, and then to put everything together and make available both as a paperback and an ebook. Although not the only game in town (KDP only publishes on Amazon), I've found my Chromebook, Google Doc, and KDP combination to work fine for me. If you want to read the book, it's readily available, and I call that a successful venture into independent publishing.

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