Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 7 October 2011

How to Self Publish eBooks - Part One

In January this year I self published my first three books as eBooks, novels that I had written over a number of years and had tried to get published the conventional routes without success.  I have since published my fourth novel, DLF, as an eBook too.

The experience of attempting to get a conventional publisher wasn't brilliant, but I expect that's just one of the rites of passage.  I also freely admit I didn't try over hard back then, I can recognise an uphill struggle when I see one and I had family and real work to focus on as a priority.

But when I realised that there was a way to publish that didn't involve handing over a shed-load of cash to vanity publishers I was hooked.  The rest, as they say, is history.

However, having recently spent a fair amount of time looking at a Kindle thread bemoaning the cost of many ebooks it became obvious to me that many ebook readers don't actually know what's involved in self publishing in terms of effort and/or costs.  It also occurs to me that there may be others out there with their own novels wondering just how hard it can be?

Well, in many way, compared to actually writing your novel, it's not too difficult at all.  I want to run through the main steps while comparing and contrasting what I think would happen in the mainstream publishing world.  I'm certain I'm going to misinform about that area to some degree so if anyone from the world of mainstream publishing wants to correct me, then please do so.

First of all, for those who are aspiring self publishers, if you haven't finished your first novel, then concentrate on that.  If you have someone you can trust to be ruthless and honest about your writing then rope them in to help you sense check the book.  The role of editor, I feel, is probably the most useful a publishing house can field and definitely one of the value adding elements.  If there's an Achilles heel in self publishing, then it's the lack of trained editors providing input.  I'm aware that some of the more successful eBook authors have paid professionals to edit their books, but for most self publishers, that's simply not a viable option.

Once your book is ready it will need formatting for the markets you want to sell in.  I sell through Amazon for the Kindle market and through Smashwords for virtually all other e-readers out there.  The Smashwords deal also gives me access to what they call the premium catalogue - the Apple iBookstore is the obvious big player there.  If you are self publishing then there is no reason to restrict your book to one market, so feel free to publish through as many channels as you wish. Both Amazon and Smashwords provide the service for a cut of the sales royalties, so if you don't sell a single book it won't cost you for the privilege. Amazon give advice on formatting and you can check how your book will appear when you upload it.  Smashwords doesn't give you a preview option but does provide access to a comprehensive guide produced by Smashwords' founder, Mark Coker.

Formatting isn't difficult but can be fussy.  Two main things to think about - first, your book may end up being read in a dedicated e-reader such as the Kindle or it may end up read on a mobile phone or on a PC - there has to be some compromises to format it so that it is acceptable to all these devices, so follow the advice provided by Amazon and Smashwords as closely as you can.  Second, each online channel has different requirements about what you have to write in the preamble to your book - just do what they say; they have good, legitimate reasons.  If you want to see what I mean pop onto Amazon and Smashwords and download a free sample of any book that appears in both stores (all of mine do, ahem) and look at the leading pages to view the differences - much easier than me listing them here.

Before you publish, you need to give some thoughts about how much you are going to charge.  My advice is not to think about becoming rich, at least in the short order.  Also, try to be consistent across channels, but I will talk a bit more about how pricing works in the next blog.

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