Ready to publish your book? Avoid these 5 headaches with Kindle, Audible, IngramSpark and Leanpub

Robert Mion
4 min readSep 26, 2020

Lessons learned after helping a friend publish her book, Power Switch Parenting

Great news first

  • If you can write a book — and preferably hire an editor — then you can publish it yourself without paying a publisher.
  • Most publishing platforms provide the tools needed to produce the files needed for anyone to purchase, download and read.
  • If you do the necessary formatting work in your original document — preferably Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) — then the rest of the publishing process will go much smoother.

Bad news

  • Each platform will likely require you to start from your original document, instead of playing nicely with book files you may have generated from another publisher’s tool
  • Self-publishing through these popular tools will feel like ‘Form hell’. In their defense, that is likely the most accessible and inclusive way to design these tools for the broadest audience of amateur authors.
  • There is a lot of publishing jargon you’ll encounter throughout each process. Be prepared to spend more time researching foreign terminology than formatting your manuscript.

5 platform-specific headaches you can avoid

#1: Kindle Create doesn’t let you edit tables

It will recognize the tables in your source file just fine.

But if you didn’t spell-check first, or think of the smallest detail you’d like to change once editing in Kindle Create…you’re shit out of luck.

#2: Audible has strict requirements for audio file type

Audible’s introductory content leads you to believe you are free— though strongly discouraged — to narrate your own book.

If you think you can record yourself reading your book into your iPhone and upload those raw files, sadly you are mistaken.

iPhones generate M4A files.

Audible requires MP3 files of a certain quality:

“Each uploaded audio file must:

  • Be a 192 kbps or higher MP3, constant bit rate (CBR) at 44.1 kHz
  • Contain only one chapter/section that is shorter than 120 minutes
  • Section header must be read aloud
  • Have room tone at the head and at the tail
  • Be free of extraneous sounds
  • Measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS
  • Have-3dB peak values
  • Have a maximum -60dB noise floor”


Here’s what I had to do to convert M4As into qualifying MP3s:

  1. I have a Mac and used iTunes
  2. I changed my Preferences for MP3 importing per the screenshot below
  3. I added each audio file individually to iTunes
  4. I converted to MP3
  5. I dragged the new file from the iTunes list into the correct folder
  6. I uploaded that new MP3 file to Audible
iTunes > Preferences… > Import Settings… > Custom…
Select the original recording and convert to MP3 using your custom settings
Wait for conversion to complete
Drag the new recording to your folder

#3: Leanpub will make you learn a few rules to properly format your book for their platform

Thankfully, Leanpub offers a browser-based tool to format your original document.

Even better, Leanpub will generate common book files you may be able to use elsewhere: ePub, Mobi and PDF.

But in order to publish on Leanpub and generate those files, you will have to use their tool…which makes you write in a mark-up language called Markua, a Markdown-style language for books.

This means you’ll be expected to mark your chapter titles, headings, tables, links — and anything that isn’t just a paragraph — using potentially unfamiliar characters like #, {}, (), ---, | and more.

In my opinion, this is a minor inconvenience for the reward.

#4: The Cover Creator tools expect you to use one of their templates, unless you are a Graphic Designer with the proper tools and know-how

If your book doesn’t need a flashy cover — one with nothing more than the title of your book, your name, and a description — then this gripe won’t apply to you.

Before publishing, I designed a custom cover for my friend’s book, based on a pun and analogy derived from her book’s title:

One of the covers for my friend’s book

Since I opted to design a cover outside of these platforms’ dedicated tools, I had to get creative with removing elements and setting my artwork up correctly to match sizing and placement requirements.

Again, you may not have this issue.

#5: IngramSpark demands your Word document be formatted a certain way before uploading

This includes:

  • Style each chapter title as a heading
  • Add page breaks after each chapter
  • No title page or table of contents

To be fair, these are good practices to keep in mind as you write your book.

But if you are not already following them, this can be a headache of a process.

Let’s recap

  • Self-publishing has become much more accessible thanks to platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, Audible, IngramSpark and Leanpub and their respective book formatting and publishing tools
  • Sadly, with increased accessibility comes strict formatting guidelines and requirements. If you weren’t prepared to format your manuscript ahead of time, you’ll hit several annoying snags.
  • You may not have to hire a production company for your audio book, but you will likely need to pay a freelance technologist to convert your iPhone recordings into Audible-ready files