On the other hand, the forums are full of people saying how difficult it is, how their book looks so awful, and so on.
Was it easy? Yup.
Did I stumble across any problems? Of course. I didn't expect it to be a one-click process.
Once again I refer to Catherine Ryan Howard's 'Self-Printed' which helped iron out a few gotchas. I'll be saying this time and time again: if you're thinking of self-publishing, you have to get yourself a copy of this book and read it before you start the whole process.
Firstly, Kindle: following Amazon's guide, I downloaded MobiPocket then downloaded the Kindle viewer (I have my own Kindle, but this just emulates it on the PC so you don't have to transfer the files by wireless or USB).
First conversion: Pretty good, but there were many strange characters which I had to sort out. Blank lines had acquired the underline character, and some odd non-standard characters had been replaced with ‑ (for example).
One of these was easy to fix: in the original MS I'd included some Chinese characters which didn't convert well at all dropping them was simple, with no adverse effect on the book.
The others (the 8209s) were an odd Word formatting thing - where hyphens had become em-dashes (or similar). I just did a global search and replace: replacing ‑ with -
The unexpected underlines were actually simple too: my chapter headings were all underlined, which meant that when I inserted some blank lines above the chapter heading, the blank lines were underlined: not visible in Word, but certainly visible when converted to HTML.
There were also a few lines where the indent was incorrect. It's essential that paragraphs don't start with tabs - you must strip them all out before you begin. Thankfully, Word is very good at understanding that you just want first-line-indent on new paragraphs, so I didn't need to delete any tabs at all, but still some paragraphs indented incorrectly. These are easy to spot when you scan through the book on the Kindle previewer, but it does mean you have to look at every page.
The next step was to set all first paragraphs in every chapter, and all after a scene break to not be indented. Kindle formatting automatically indents every first line, so you have to get down and dirty with HTML here. It's not too difficult, but it is a little time consuming. Again, Amazon gives clear instructions on how to do this (you set the indent to 0).
And that was about it. All that was left was to design the cover (I'll discuss that in another post), but for testing purposes I just used a quick downloaded image off the web and put the title on it. (Note: you know, of course, that you can't use this for your actual book? You need to either buy the rights off one of the stock photo sites or take the photo yourself - which I what I eventually did).
With the Kindle version ready, it's time to move on to the paperback version...