Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for eBook

I don't think Jeffrey and I initially had any comprehension of how MUCH is actually involved in self-publishing and marketing your own book. It's waaaaaay more than just writing a good book and uploading the file somewhere - you have to find an editor, format it correctly (and differently for print vs. ebook), design the cover, build a website, blog, network, market, solicit reviews, design trailer videos, learn new software, panic when your computer crashes, check stats every 5 minutes, lather rinse and repeat ad nauseum... It's pretty crazy stuff!!

I'll save the gory details of most of it for another post, but here are the basics of what I've learned regarding the easy way of actually creating (and self-publishing) an ebook:

1) All eBook publishers are not equal. Most of them require completely different formatting; if you are techy or willing to take the time to learn, this is a little bit of a hassle but not the end of the world. If your tech knowledge is limited to Microsoft Office and the internet, you are best sticking to Smashwords for publishing your eBook! They will take your (properly formatted) MS Word document and run it through their "Meatgrinder", converting it to the various alternative formats - and then sending your book to multiple distribution channels! Voila. You are now selling your book at Amazon, Sony, Apple, and more - with a minimum of frustration.

2) Start your book with NO FORMATTING. None. All those lovely paragraphs you created using the tab key in Word? BAD. Consult the wonderful and free "Smashwords Style Guide" for more details.

3) Find an editor. It's easy to think you can skip this one, but trust me - no matter how wonderful your writing is, you need an editor. Check your friends & family list first to see who might qualify as a free or low-cost option; offer to bribe them with autographed copies, chocolate, booze, babysitting - whatever it takes!

4) Get your marketing started well before you actually publish your book! Create accounts on social media networks, especially Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Shelfari. Spend time there. Get to know people. Engage in useful conversation - don't just promote your book, that comes across as spammy and is a definite turnoff.

5) Publish your book to Smashwords. The process takes awhile - typically a couple of weeks to be accepted into their "Premium" category, longer if you need to fix formatting errors. Tagging your book and creating an appropriately enticing description and author bio are important, as is placing your book into the relevant categories! Give these items some thought. Also consider pricing - while some authors charge the same price as paperback novels, a majority are pricing their books at $2.99 or even $.99. There are divided schools of thought on eBook pricing; go with your gut - and check out J.A. Konrath's blog on the subject.

6) Send advance copies to reviewers! If you search the web for "indie book review", you will find a number of reviewers happy to accept your book for review. Keep in mind that not all reviews will be positive; be prepared to accept whatever they dish out with grace and good humor.

7) Announce the release of your book!! Tell friends, family, co-workers, neighbors; create and send out a quick press release to your local paper and related publications (such as Parenting Magazine for a book on "Dealing With Your Demon Child", for example); make sure a link to purchase your book (or to the book's website) is in every electronic correspondence you send out... Be the book.

8) Be grateful for the sales and reviews you get, and don't expect to quit your day job any time soon! A new self-published author typically only gets a handful of sales in the first couple months; sales increase with oodles of marketing, additional books, and sheer dumb luck.

Self-publishing is definitely a labor of love! Whether you want to make a living off writing or are just excited about the thought of seeing your book in print (albeit electronically), the world has definitely changed for writers - and the possibilities are limitless, if you are willing to put in the time and effort. But most importantly? Have fun!! Life's a game, not a race to the finish.


  1. Thank you for the great information!!!

  2. Wonderful information. Thanks for sharing your experiences. :)

  3. Great job! And thank you for all you do. :)

  4. I'm in the luck part right now. Excellent post. It's nice to meet you.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  5. Thank you, all - and good luck to you, Nancy! Nic to meet you as well. :)