How to Publish an E-book

I was recently asked how to make an e-book available on Amazon. The short answer, I said, was to go to Kindle Direct Publishing and go from there… and then I promised to write a post explaining the long answer. So here’s that post.

The first step… well, the first step is to write your book. But we’ll assume that part’s already done. So the first step toward publishing it as an e-book is proper formatting. For this, I follow the Smashwords Style Guide. It’s free, and although it’s specifically written for getting your document ready to run through their file conversion software, their guidelines also work nicely for prepping your work for conversion to the Kindle’s proprietary Mobi file format. One caveat is that it has to be a Word doc. But although this guide put’s a lot of emphasis on formatting your manuscript in Word, I used Open Office Write to format Restless Spirits and saved it as a Word doc, and that worked just fine.

Once your book is formatted, it’s ready to upload to Smashwords. This part is simple—just fill out the publication info, upload your Word doc and submit. Smashwords’ “meatgrinder” program will then do its magic and convert it into every e-book file type that there is, and automatically make it available in their store. I recommend doing this step because a) it’s free, b) it’s really simple, c) it helps your work reach a wider audience than just Amazon (Smashwords will also distribute your book to and the iTunes store), and d) you can then take advantage of Smashwords’ coupon generator to give away free promotional copies, run promotional discounts, participate in site-wide sales, etc. Really, there’s no good reason not to upload your work to Smashwords.

But to get your book on Amazon takes a few extra steps, which you can find outlined in detail in the Kindle Publishing Guide. When I published Restless Spirits last summer, I had to save my document as an HTML file and then use a free program called Mobipocket Creator to convert it to a .mobi file, and then it was ready to upload to my KDP account. But it looks like things might have changed a bit since then, so follow the guide to be sure. The first step to Kindle publishing, though, is to create your own account at Kindle Direct Publishing, click “Add New Title,” and go from there.

There’s one more marketplace you can upload your book for free, and that’s through Barnes & Noble’s PubIt web site. Of course, you can just wait and let Smashwords submit your book to, but doing it yourself through PubIt is faster, and it makes it easier to track your sales. It’s also super-easy—just fill out the information on your book and upload your Word doc, and you’re done.

A couple of things to remember before you go forth and publish: first, each marketplace has different speeds at which your book actually becomes available in their store. Smashwords tends to be fastest, taking only minutes, whereas Amazon’s vetting process typically takes two or three days before they approve your book for sale on their site.

The other thing is a word on ISBNs. Each site will assign its own ISBN (or in Amazon’s case, an ASIN) to your book at no charge. You only really need to consider purchasing your own ISBN if you want to publish the book under your own publishing imprint or, in the case of paperbacks (which are a whole ‘nother post), you want to be able to distribute it to brick and mortar book stores and libraries. For new authors especially, my advice is to take the free ISBNs; that way, unless you spend money on professional services like cover design or editing, you end up making pure profit. And you can always go back later and reprint the book under your own ISBN if the need arises.

So that’s how you publish an e-book. Any questions?

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