Saturday, April 2, 2016

Making an "In One Weekend" Kindle Book

Over the last few months my side project has been a series of three Kindle mini-books on ray tracing.   Ray tracing is a computer graphics programming area to produce nice images and ray tracing has been hot lately (most computer animated films are now ray traced, are are many of the special effects shots in regular movies).   This post is not about those books specifically, but is instead describing my experiences and encouraging others to write similar mini-books on other subjects. I promote and document the books at If you have something (book, youtube, blog, whatever) to help people learn something in a weekend, let me know and if I can learn from it I will promote it on my site!

Here are the books at Amazon: 

Ray Tracing: The Rest of Your Life

I set my price for each book at $2.99.   Conversions for other countries Amazon does automatically for you.   You get 70% of the sales if your book is priced from $2.99 to $9.99.   Amazon will let you give away the book for free for five days every quarter, and I began each book with a free promotion.   So far since early 2016 when I started, I have sold about 700 books and given away almost 3000.

CALL TO ACTION: It is easy and fun to make such books, and they make money, and give others a mechanism to see if they love the same things you do with just a weekend commitment.   I will show you the mechanics of how I wrote my instance of this.

THE MECHANICS WRITING THE TEXT:  Just write a Word file or a Google Doc and “download as” a Word file.    Really that’s it! Here is an example of my book on the Amazon cloud reader:
Two kindle pages with code screen shots, ray tracer output, and limnu drawing

THE MECHANICS OF CREATING FIGURES:  For drawings I used the shared whiteboard program from    I drew the figures on a tablet, and then opened them on my laptop (limnu stores your boards in the cloud so no file copying needed), and did a screen capture of the part of the image I wanted to make a figure (command-shift-4 on a mac), and then dragged the file into google docs.    For code samples I just screen-captured the code from vim. Here is my favorite limnu figure in the books:

THE MECHANICS OF CREATING A KINDLE BOOK:  Go to and create an account.    Upload the word file.    Upload a cover image which must be tif or jpeg.   Amazon also has some tools for cover creation. It is all super-easy and has a great interface and here is a screen shot of the style of data entry:

ADVERTISING THE BOOK:   I used word of mouth and twitter and hackernews and facebook.   I also created a website to promote the book.    If you do a book and I try it out and like it, I will make an article about your book and point to it.   You can feel free to use the “in one weekend” phrase in your title.

IT IS THAT EASY!   And now I feel like I have done some good spreading how-to information, made some cash, and helped my resume.   And it was surprisingly fun; I looked forward to working on the books when done with my other work.   I encourage you to try it, and if you write one please let me know and I will see if I can learn something new in a weekend.


EpSiLoN74 said...
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EpSiLoN74 said...

I am thinking to buy my first e-reader. These three e-books could be the right motivation to begin with a kindle but I am uncertain about color reproduction on the e-reader. What is your feeling about this?

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