Amazon Blog series Kindle books Self-publishing Writing Tips

Self-Publish on Amazon: Using Kindlegen & Kindle Previewer

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As promised, today I’ll explain the uses of Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer. Both FREE APS are provided by Amazon. Their purpose is to view a book as it will appear on Kindle readers and other devices. This allows you to spot formatting glitches and correct them before you upload to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Amazon says: “Books that aren’t properly formatted may impact your sales in the form of negative reviews from readers, and in some cases, be removed from the Kindle Store.” More at:

Before I go any further, I must warn you that using Kindlegen requires knowledge of html code. If you do not know html, or have a relative or friend who can help, you’d do best to avoid Kindlegen. There are alternatives I’ll mention later in this post.

So, what does Kindlegen do? It converts a book file from HTML, XHTML, XML (OPF/IDPF format), or ePub source into a mobi-formatted Kindle Book. In order to do this, you first must construct an OPF tech file that contains all the book chapters, the book cover image, a TOC (Table of contents), an ncx toc, etc. It’s technical, too technical for me, but luckily I have a computer programmer son who sets up this stuff for me.

Why do I bother with Kindlegen when I could go an easier route? To put it simply, I’m a perfectionist and a worrywart of the first order. I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my books will upload without formatting glitches. In order to be sure of this, I need to proofread it on the Kindle Previewer.

Again quoting Amazon: “Kindle Previewer makes it easy to preview the layout of a book and make sure its text displays properly for any orientation or font size. This tool is recommended for publishers, eBook conversion companies, and individual authors in combination with KindleGen to produce the highest quality Kindle books.” The only way to feed my books onto the previewer (downloadable version) is with Kindlegen.

To learn more about these two applications go to the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines. You will also find links there for downloading both FREE aps.

One thing you should keep in mind is that Kindlegen is a command line tool, meaning you can’t just open it and automatically connect it to your book file. You will need to open it from your Start menu, which brings up a black command prompt window. Once there, you will follow specific steps to find your book and run it through Kindlegen. Note: you must have a book cover included in your tech file or Kindlegen won’t complete the process.

Simpler Alternatives:

If you choose, you can just upload your html (or Word) book file to the KDP platform. Here is a link to a tutorial video that takes you through the steps: Once your book file is uploaded you can preview it with the online previewer. Many, if not most independent authors go this route because it’s faster and easier. The problem is, if you discover formatting errors, or your book cover looks terrible, you will need to remove your book, make the necessary corrections, upload it again and hope everything works right. If not, you’ll have to repeat the whole process again. Amazon has provided Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer so we can avoid those headaches.

There is still another alternative: hire a service to convert your book for you. Many will also do the formatting. Just be careful who you hire. DO NOT sign a contract giving the conversion company any royalties or rights to your book! You should pay a one-time flat fee for the formatting/conversion job. Amazon lists a number of reputable conversion services:

I hope all this is a little clearer than mud. At least you’ll know what I’m referring to when I mention Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer in future blogs. See you soon with part three: Creating a Book Cover. Bye for now!

2 comments on “Self-Publish on Amazon: Using Kindlegen & Kindle Previewer

  1. texasdruids

    I had no luck with Kindlegen either until my son took over. I’m lucky to have him. It sounds like you have a good system going, so why change it? I’ve heard of Calibre but haven’t tried it. Glad to hear it works well for you.

    Happy writing!


  2. I couldn’t get kindlegen to work at all but I was using a notebook with some strange obscure version of Windows. So, now I use sigil. It makes very simple html which I can turn into lovely clean .mobi and .epub files using something called Calibre. I still use mobisoft to do the kindle files though and upload a .prc… one day I’ll have time to do this stuff properly…




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