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[ Using a Mac and OpenOffice to format for a Kindle, a Tutorial ]

Table of Contents

Title page including copyright notice and disclaimer
Creating chapters that work
Creating a collection of short stories <<< (NEW SECTION!!)
and a Table of Contents that also works
Alkinea, an .odt to ePub utility
Editing the ePub
Using Kindlegen to generate the .mobi
Cover image, size and where to stick it
Trouble shooting if something goes wrong


After joining Amazon's KDP I struggled for weeks trying to create my first ebook. It seemed like it should be an easier process than it was turning out to be. Many people, myself included, try and make it more difficult than it really is. Creating your first ebook is easy, if you just follow this tutorial.

The real problem is not that creating an ebook is hard to do, but that it's complicated, involving many steps. To make it more complicated there are other ways to create an ebook, all equally valid, but the steps can be different for each. What works for one method might not work for another. After a lot of frustration, I decided to be more methodical about my testing. I think I now have a reasonable answer. What I present here is the way I'm doing it, and it is both fast and straight forward. In fact it is easy, and if you follow my procedure you will avoid the pitfalls so common in Kindle publishing.

I have an iMac and a Macbook Air, and I make a point of avoiding anything labeled Microsoft, so I use OpenOffice and utilities built for the Mac. I create all of my books and stories using OpenOffice. Keep in mind that ebooks are very simple, so don't use fancy fonts, colors, backgrounds or headers and footers. I stick to Courier New and size 12 for the font.

I have been told that the default fonts used in ePublishing are Arial for sans-serif and Times New Roman for serif, all fonts you use are converted to these two fonts, unless you embed fonts into your document. You can not legally distribute either Microsoft's or Apple's fonts in your document, so don't embed them.

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Title Page

The very first page is my title page. I put the copyright notice and disclaimers on the same page as the title in order to reduce the number of pages the reader has to flip through before getting to the meat of the story. Do NOT try and center the title page (or any other page) vertically, it will not work. Put the title at the top of the page, on the very first line, and put no blank lines after the last printable character. I set the title using Heading 1 style so it will show up in the table of contents.

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Begin all chapters with an Insert->Manual_Break->Page_break and on the very-very first line put the chapter heading (style as Heading 1). I usually center it (but DO NOT USE SPACES OR TABS! Use the center button on the tool bar). Blank Lines are not a sin, unless they're between a page break and a printable character, then they are most heinous. I think space between paragraphs improves readability, and isn't that what we all should be striving for?

I recommend NOT putting a blank line between paragraphs, instead define it in the Style, try these settings: set the default paragraph format to: Before text 0cm, After text 0cm, First line 1.00cm, Above paragraph 0cm, and Below paragraph 0.35cm.

Treat any Forward, Prologue, Introduction, etc, as a separate chapter, just give it the pertinent Heading 1 style header.

Put NO spaces, tabs or blank lines after the last printable character on any chapter or page, else you risk putting blank pages into your ebook. Immediately following the last printable character of the previous chapter is where you insert the page break followed by the header for the next chapter.

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Collections of short stories (or breaking a large story into manageable pieces)

One of the problems with collections of short stories is that it's so easy to just include the original short story source into the collection. But then you have the problem of maintaining the short story in two different places. Include it again in say a 'Best of' collection and you now have three versions to maintain.

The solution is to define a separate Section for each short story. Start with an Insert->Manual_Break->Page_break, and on the top of the new page do Insert->Section... An Insert_Section dialog box will open. Under the Section tab, under the words New_section type the section name, call it whatever you want but a good choice is to name it the same as the short story. Then click the Link checkbox and click the browse button (...) to locate the short story you wish to include. Under Write_protection click the Protect checkbox (this prevents you from editing the short story in the new collection, you will have to edit it in the original document). Finally click Insert and then close the Insert_Section window.

Whenever you open the story collection for editing OpenOffice will ask if you want to Update all links? if you click Yes the included sections are reloaded into the collection (including any changes you've done to the included file).

You can insert as many short stories (Sections) as desired, and after updating the table of contents (see the following section), it will include all Heading format types that are in the short story. All of the short stories wil be protected in the collection, and can only be edited in their original document.

As well as short story collections, OpenOffice Sections can be used to divide a large document into a few smaller, but more manageable pieces. You could put each chapter in its own OpenOffice .odt file and then insert that into a Section in the encompassing document, or put a few chapters into a small OpenOffice .odt file which would be then inserted into a Section. Either way editing a large document is much easier.

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Table of Contents

When your book is complete, it's time to create the table of contents. At the end of the front matter insert a page break. That will put a blank page before the first text page. This blank page will be your table of contents. On the table of contents page insert a bookmark with the name toc, nothing else. Do NOT hit Enter or you risk a blank page before the Table of Contents!

Follow these steps for the Table of Contents:

  1. Click on Insert->Indexes_and_tables->Indexes_and_tables, and a window will pop up with the table of contents dialogue
  2. Make sure Title and Type are set to Table of Contents (which they should be)
  3. Click on the Entries tab
  4. Click inside the little rectangular box to the left of the small E# button
  5. Click the Hyperlink button
  6. Click inside the little rectangular box to the right of the small E button
  7. Click the Hyperlink button
  8. Click the small T button and Delete it (using your computers Delete button (not backspace))
  9. Click the small # button and Delete it the same way
  10. Click the OK button
And that's the table of contents done, the Title page, all Chapters and any Foreword, Introduction, anything with a style Heading 1 will be in the Table of Contents.

The default font for the ToC heading is rather bland, but you can change it by unchecking the Insert->Indexes_and_tables->Protect against manual changes box. You can then change the font for the ToC just like any other font change. Just be careful you don't change something you shouldn't. And be aware that if you click Update_Index/Table the font for the ToC heading goes back to the default and you'll have to change it again.

If you need to update your table of contents after you change chapter headings, or add or delete chapters, all you have to do is go to your current table of contents, right click on it anywhere and then click on Update_Index/Table and the ToC will reflect the changes, though you'll have to manually change any numbers you inserted into the chapter headings...

Using manually created hyperlinks to bookmarks DOES NOT WORK for a table of contents IN THIS CONTEXT.

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I use Alkinea to generate the ePub and Kindlegen to convert the ePub into the mobi. Alkinea is fast and it generates the ePub correctly, it does exactly what it's supposed to do. In Alkinea a pointer can be set to Kindlegen, and if you do so Kindlegen will be run automatically.

The advantage of running Kindlegen on your Mac is that it generates the .mobi on your Mac, just the way it gets generated in KDP. You can see any problems before putting your book on the Amazon KDP website.

Alkinea will only work with the OpenOffice created ToC using their Insert->Indexes_and_Tables. The ToC will be wherever you put it in the document.

Well almost only.

If you only put Heading 1 styles at the start of each chapter, but do not use OpenOffice to generate the ToC, Alkinea still has enough information to generate the ToC. In this case Alkinea will create one and put it at the very front of your document.

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Editing the ePub

If I need to edit the ePub I use Sigil 0.6.1 (the latest version that will run on my version of OSX 10.6.8 - later versions of OSX can run the latest version of Sigil) and then run Kindlegen manually on the ePub in order to generate the mobi.

I have never needed to edit the ePub, though I thought I had to on occasion. There is always a way to fix any problem at the source, which is where it needs to be fixed. Keeping Kindlegen on your desktop makes life much simpler.

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Using Kindlegen

If you put Kindlegen into Alkinea and run Alkinea, you should never have to explicitly run Kindlegen, but if you use Sigil to edit the ePub then you will.

It's simplest to have both Kindlegen and your ePub on your desktop. The mobi generated by Kindlegen will also be put there. On your desktop open a terminal window, drag Kindlgen to the terminal window and drop it there, then drag your ePub to the terminal window and drop it there, click on the window to make sure it's active, and hit the enter (return) key and it's done. The only reason I've ever edited the ePub was to see if I could change the title of the ToC, and I could, easily and simply, using Sigil and Kindlegen.

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Cover Image

Do not put a cover image in your source file, or give it to Alkinea, since Amazon's KDP will strip it out anyway. If you make your own cover images, make them KDP's recommended size for best quality, 1563px X 2500px (width X height) and pass them to KDP (via Step 4 browse for image button ) when you publish your book. If your cover image is 1563px X 2500px you know exactly what will be on the cover. Other size images will work but they'll be scaled up or down and/or cropped. If you don't have your own cover image, you can use KDP's Cover Creator beta, it works really well and has a reasonable selection of images and cover layouts so you even get one that is quasi-unique. If you have your own photo that you want to use, you can pass it to Cover Creator beta and it'll create the cover using your photo, with KDP's cover layout, fonts, etc it's really kool.

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Trouble Shooting

When trouble shooting, make >1< change at a time and generate the .mobi and check it. The .mobi never has to leave your Mac.
  1. Using manually created hyperlinks to bookmarks DOES NOT WORK for a table of contents IN THIS CONTEXT.
  2. A word of caution: if you ever get a .mobi and some of the page breaks are missing or ignored, use OpenOffice and edit your document, then look at the Paragraph format at the very beginning of the new page. Specifically, click on the Text Flow tab and make sure that Breaks->With Page Style is NOT checked. Alki had to help me find that one...
  3. Put NO spaces, tabs or blank lines between the Page Break and a chapter heading, else you risk putting blank pages into your ebook.
  4. Put NO spaces, tabs or blank lines after the last printable character of any chapter or page, else you risk putting blank pages into your ebook.
  5. Do NOT try and center the title page (or any other page) vertically, it will not work, and you risk putting blank pages into your ebook.
  6. Occasionally a page break disappears, even though it is in the .odt file. If that happens go to immediately after the last printable character of the prior page, insert a new page break, and delete the old one. It should now work. (also see 2. above)
  7. And finally, in a file that has been heavily edited:
    1. It seems that a word processor can leave font size declarations in your source file even though there may be no text in that declaration. Sometimes this confuses the later conversion to the Kindle format. So, if you're having trouble with font sizes changing and you can't see why, select the entire document and set the font size. Keep in mind that this will effect headers and possibly other elements that should be a different size so you may have to go back and correct those individually.
    2. If your font is bold or italics, when neither was selected, you may have to delete the text from before the bold or italics to after, and re-enter it.

I did no testing with images and other objects embedded in the document, so I can't comment on them.

The mobi generated by Alkinea and Kindlegen works great in both Kindle previewer and Kindle for Mac, as well as on my Kindle 2 and Kindle Voyage.

I can go from an OpenOffice *.odt file to a fully functional *.mobi in about 3 secs (for a 100 page -real 8 x 10 printer pages- novella).

I hope this helps people avoid the frustration and hair-pulling that I had to do...

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To sum it all up, or how to make your very own ebook and get rich in 18 easy steps...

  1. in OpenOffice open a new text file
  2. on the 1st page, and each on a separate line, type:
    • Title
    • by Name
    • copyright notice
    • disclaimers
  3. click Insert->Manual Break and click OK (a new page)
  4. click Heading 1 (for style) and enter Chapter 1 header
  5. enter all of the text for chapter one (text body or default style)
  6. click Insert->Manual Break and click OK (a new page)
  7. click Heading 1 (for style) and enter Chapter 2 header
  8. enter all of the text for chapter two (text body or default style)
  9. ...
  10. click Insert->Manual Break and click OK (a new page)
  11. click Heading 1 (for style) and enter Chapter last header
  12. enter all of the text for chapter last (text body or default style)
  13. go to beginning and the absolute end of title page (immediately after the last printable character) and Insert>Manual Break and click OK (a new blank page is inserted between the Title page and Chapter 1)
  14. with the cursor on that page, click Insert->Indexes and tables->Indexes and tables and follow the proceedure detailed above under Table of Contents (it is really easy and fast once you know how)
  15. run Alkinea on your .odt file giving it the file name, Title and Author
  16. check your .mobi to verify that it is perfect
  17. publish the .mobi on Amazon's KDP
  18. rake in the proceeds from your hard work and bask in the glory accorded all authors
Ha-ha-ha that last bit cracks me up!

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Andrew N. Messent, C.C.B.W., any questions email:Andrew at Parallel Worlds
Click here to go to Parallel Worlds home page:
Click here to get OpenOffice:
Click here to get LibreOffice:
Click here to get Alkinea:
Click here to go to Amazon's KDP:
Click here to get Kindlgen:
Click here to get Sigil (deprecated downloads, I needed Sigil 0.6.1 since it is the latest version that will run on Mac OSX 10.6.8):

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Copyright Notice

All documents, stories, and artwork presented on this web site are copyrighted. The copyrights are held by the artist or author responsible for the creation of the artwork or story, unless stated otherwise. The stories or artwork may be used for your one-time, personal use, but may not be copied or reproduced in any manner. You may not post them to any other web site or distribute them in any way without the author's prior written permission.

Email:Parallel Worlds