Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | October 25, 2011

Try, Try Again – Frustrations of Getting a Poetry Book into Publishing Format

Try, try and try again, they say.

I had fifteen tries at converting a chapbook (38 pages) of poetry into the .mobi format required for publication on Amazon.

I designed the cover. Didn’t want anything else. The poetry is drawn from my Vietnam War experience and knowledge of the subject. I plan to publish on Veteran’s Day, November 11th.

There are a number of books out there about how to convert .doc files to the required format for the Kindle, Amazon’s reading device and program. All of them I’ve seen deal with straightforward novel or nonfiction text. Poetry is different. Some of the poems in the chapbook are long; some are short. Spacing and line breaks in the pieces are for poetic effect and don’t work well with conventional tools. My friends who use PCs tell me Mobipocket works well for them, so I downloaded the program to an ancient Sony Vaio. Didn’t work for me, so I went to my iMac and used a multi-step approach.

Here’s what I did:
• The chapbook was created in Microsoft Word for Mac.
• I copied the manuscript and pasted it into Pages, Apple’s proprietary word processor. Why? Pages allows direct export into the .epub format.
• After pasting into Pages, I checked page breaks and spacing, then exported into the .epub format.
• Then I opened a wonderful little program called Calibre. Check it out at The app is free, but it’s so useful, I’m making a donation.
• In Calibre, I added the book I’d just converted to .epub. Once the book was in the queue, I converted to .mobi. Note: look on the left side after opening the conversion window. I didn’t want a table of contents, so I went to the mobi line and clicked it and made my choices.
• The conversion to the .mobi format took about 15 seconds. When I clicked on it, it opened a window showing all the files. Clicking on the .mobi file opened my Kindle reader on the computer (also a free download).
• I wish I could report a success the first time. The spacing and page breaks were not what they appeared to be in Word and Pages.
• I went back to Pages, made adjustments; converted to .epub and tried again in Calibre.
• It only took fifteen failures to come up with a product I think will be acceptable. Some of the failures had full pages that were blank. One poem was a particular pain. The title was stuck at the bottom of a page while the body was on the next page. I know, in an ebook this isn’t necessarily a problem, but it looks bad. I finally had to copy to the clipboard, delete the poem and then paste it back. It worked (how? Magic.).

Let me know if you have suggestions on how this may work more easily or share your experiences.


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