With the advent of e-books anyone can now be a best selling author. No longer do you need to beg a publishing house to take you on. Those days are long gone. Self Publishing means it now takes around four minutes for the words on your page to be accessible to anyone around the world.
One success story is Mark Dawson who has sold over 300,000 copies of his crime series and regularly returns yearly revenue in the six figures.
So what are the steps involved in successfully publishing an e-book?
Step One – Write!
All writers are faced with the tyranny of the blank page but writing regularly and churning out words is something you just have to go through. You don’t need to download a fancy programme to write. A simple word document (.doc, or docx) is fine – you can Zamzar it at a later date to put it into the right format.
Some writers aim to write a certain amount of words every single day whilst others prefer to write when they are inspired. Find out what works for you and then get into a routine and stick to it.
Whatever route you go down you have to get the words onto the page, unless you plan on releasing a book like this.
Step Two – Design your Cover
Almost as important as the content you write is the cover you design. To stand any chance of your book being downloaded it has to stand out. Amazon has over four million self published titles for users to download to their Kindle and so with competition that fierce you need to grab the shoppers’ eye. If you are not blessed with a paintbrush then you can use a service such as 99designs to get a professional looking cover done for little money.
All you need to do is create a spec for what you want the designers to create – include your favourite existing titles, and styles that you like – and set a price for how much you are willing to pay. Designers then put designs together and you pick your favourite. The great thing about 99Designs is you can give designers feedback so that they can tweak their designs to meet your needs and at the end of it all if you don’t like any of the designs then you don’t pay!
At the lower end of the price bracket is a service like Fiverr where you can pick up a design for $5. But, as you might suspect, designs can be very hit and miss so do your research and find a designer on Fiverr who comes highly recommended and produces designs that catch your eye.
Depending on where you are publishing your book, your book cover will have to be in a certain format. We’ve got you covered as you can convert any of your images into the required image format.
Step Three – Pick the right self publishing tool
Pick the right self publishing tool for you and this means you may want to consider cost and ease of creating the book, distribution and finally how much of a cut do you get when you make a sale. There are two types of publishing channels available to you – single channel and multiple channel – and you need to decide which of the above criteria is most important to you as you pick your preferred publishing channel.
Single channel distribution is as it suggests – distribution via one retailer via one device. For example, Kindle Direct Publishing for Amazon. Picking this option allows you to retain almost total control of your book, and its profits, and you can generally produce a book cheaply but the onus will then be on you to try and sell it and get momentum. Single Channel is also best for those who like the DIY side of creating a book – i.e. creating your cover and formatting the book yourself. It is also the route taken by those who write novels and whose books contain text only, rather than a bunch of images. If you’re creating a book that’s packed full of multimedia then you may want to consider heading down the multiple channel route.
Multiple channel is best summed up as a middle man who pushes your work out via various channels. So you write the book, upload it to a site (or create it on the site using their editors) like Smashwords, LuLu, Blurb or BookBaby and then your book is pushed out to multiple retailers. However, you tend to have to pay either an upfront fee or give away a large slice of your book to these multiple channel distributors. Multiple channel is often recommended if you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of having to format and convert your own book. If instead, you want a nice tool that allows you to drop text and images into pages from a template then this could be the solution for you. Multiple channel is also especially good if you have special layout requirements or there’s various multimedia being used. For example, if you’re creating a coffee table book full of pictures then a service like Blurb would probably be best for you. This CNET article takes you through the pros and cons of all the different multiple channel publishers if that’s the route you are leaning towards.
Step Four – Convert your file
No matter what service you decide to use it needs to be in the correct format. The three most common formats for e-books are EPUB, MOBI and PDF. You can use Zamzar to convert your word document into any of these formats, or any other e-book format. EPUB is considered the global standard for e-books and works on almost any device as it is an open e-book file format. MOBI is the format that is ideal for the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks. For a full list of e-book formats head over to our file format pages where there’s a more in-depth appraisal of all of your e-book file format options.
Step Five – Format your book
Formatting your e-book is key. There’s nothing worse than someone downloading a book of yours only for the formatting to be skewed, words spelt incorrectly or a whole chapter missing!
Use a tool such as Calibre to format your book after you have converted it. If you’ve decided to head down the multiple channel route then you’ll find that some publishers such as blurb have a built in editor that you can use.
Step Six – Publish and then get to work!
So you’ve written your book, created your cover, gone through all the different publishing options, converted your work into the right format and then checked that you’ve not accidentally omitted a key chapter; you’d think that’d be you done right? Wrong! Depending on the ambitions you have for your book the really hard work starts now and that is the marketing you have to do to make sales.
As we said earlier there are four million e-books on the Kindle platform alone. So it’s hard, really hard, to stand out from the crowd. Some people will update their Facebook status and send out a couple of tweets and think that’s all the promotion they need. But for you to make serious money from your book then you need to create a website, which you can do via a service like Wix or SquareSpace. One self published author, Ben Galley, said of a website “Some people survive off Twitter or a blog, but you need an online presence. Most people who buy your book want to find out more about you and they can’t find that from your Twitter feed,” he says. “A website is a sales platform, it’s a marketing platform and it’s a global presence if you do it right.”
Next, identify all the key people (bloggers, journalists and people of influence) within the genre that your book sits within and approach them. Remember to make the pitch personal [avoid calling them the wrong name!] and punchy – make it stand out from the crowd. Maybe offer them a free or discounted book and try and offer them something in return, for example, offer them a guest blog post for their site and maybe share their works on your website. Get creative. Ultimately if you want your book to gain momentum it needs to get a groundswell of support and therefore needs good reviews which are only likely if people of influence are talking about it.
Run giveaway competitions. For example you may want to give away your book for free to the first 1000 people who share it or review it. Again, creativity will win the day here but the more you can get people to talk about your book the greater chance you have of it being a success. Fifty Shades of Grey began as a simple free PDF that gained momentum like a runaway train – in the UK E.L. James, the author, has sold more books than J.K. Rowling.
Finally, when you use social media – and you should use it extensively – and partake in forums don’t just spam users. Users will spot a spammer and probably go out of their way to submit negative reviews or press which can ultimately kill your book.
Instead, engage in conversation, play the long game. It’s an awful lot of work and there’s no quick way to success but given you’ve already slaved away on the book a few more months of hard work makes sense.
As you can see publishing your own book has never been easier, but publishing a successful book still requires lots of hard graft and a little luck.
The Zamzar Team.