A step-by-step guide to publishing an eBook on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and more.
You've written the great English novel. Or maybe it's a guide to finishing Angry Birds. Perhaps you have settled a few scores in your hard-hitting, no holds barred autobiography 'How I Done It'. Regardless, you want to get that book before as many eyeballs as possible, and it would be nice to make some cash along the way. It's surprisingly simple to self-publish these days. Cheap, too. Here we explain how to publish an eBook on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and more. (See all eReader reviews.)
How to publish an eBook: preparation
The first task is the hardest: write a book. But we're going presume you have handled that issue. Next you need to get your book into an ebook-friendly format. One thing to consider is to hire someone to format your book. This can cost up to £100 and take several weeks, however, and these days self-publishing services from the likes of Amazon are pretty much able to handle well documents. Every ebook publisher will convert a Microsoft Word- or text document into ePub. And you can always check the conversion before you publish. The best practice is to spend some time making your document as simple as possible, with a clean and clear format and layout. It is also good practice to save Word documents as .doc rather than .docx.
Things to consider at this stage: you will need a cover. A full-sized cover at 300dpi. Again, this may be something it is worth outsourcing if you have limited design skills. Don't think the cover isn't important. A good, professional-looking cover could mean the difference between a sale and no-sale. People do judge books by their covers.
On a similar vein you should prepare marketing copy to promote your book. Every eBook seller will require this, and it shouldn't be a last-minute rush job. And you may be required to produce an excerpt so people can try before they buy. Typically this should be the first 30-40 pages of your book. But don't pick the boring 'author's intro' bit. Again - put some thought into this.
I'd also recommend that you set up a website. Some eBook sellers like you to have a 'Publisher' website, but it is just good sense anyway. You want to be able to point people toward your book onsale in all the places from which you can buy it. And links are good for search. A simple website promoting your book is a good investment.
Don't forget other minor details such as having your bank account set up to receive any payments. And think about the price. Too high and you will lose sales, but too low and people will discount your book as being amateurish. I'm a £6.99 guy. Unless you have good reason, you should be too.
Finally, ISBNs. An International Standard Book Number is the unique code assigned to every book published, much like a UPC. They aren't cheap, and they really aren't required for an eBook, unless you are going to sell via the iBook store.
How to publish an eBook: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
I make no apologies for starting with Amazon. Nor should you. If you publish with just one seller, Amazon should be it. Happily, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is quite straightforward to use. You simply supply book- and author info, cover art, ,keywords, excerpts, and your DRM selection, and then send your manuscript for review. Books are generally online and available on the Amazon store within 24 hours.
With Amazon you'll make about 70 percent on your book if you price it sensibly. Amazon will also make your book available through its various foreign divisions at your request. Amazon has its own file format called KF8 (Kindle Format 8), but uploading your ePub-ready .doc file will work just fine. Inserting a table of contents is nice, but not required by Amazon. The finished book will look good both on the Kindle and on Amazon's site, with the listing page linked to any paperback versions of the book, an author page, and more. (Incidentally, if you do want to publish paper versions of your book, Amazon also has a tool called 'Create Space' which makes that simple if not always lucrative. Pretty good at this whole book business, Amazon.) See also - How to sell and promote your music on the internet.
How to publish an eBook: other platforms
On the basis that you want to meet your potential audience wherever they are, Barnes & Noble and Apple iBooks are both worth considering, although neither has anything like the scale of Kindle. The B&N system is much the same as Amazon's. Apple iBooks requires you to have a Mac, annoyingly, as well as an Apple ID. Honestly, it is a slow, confusing and painful process. And iPad users need only to install the Amazon Kindle app to get your book there. As I say, if you publish on only one platform make it Kindle. (See also: How to write a Kindle bestseller.)
How to publish an eBook: aggregators
You can take away some of that pain by using an aggregator. You fill in all the data once, and the aggregator publishes to multiple platforms. If you are intending to publish to iBooks I would recommend going down this route.
Two popular aggregators are Smashwords and Lulu (there are many more). You upload your manuscript, cover, descriptive terms, and payment information, and then the aggregator does the rest. Aggregators coordinate with the retail sites, and they sell the books directly themselves, as well. They will, of course, demand a cut. But it may be worth it for the reduced hassle and the opportunity to publish to all of the smaller eBook platforms all around the world.