When you decide to publish your book, you have several options for what medium and what distribution channels to use. While many authors think only of the traditional paper bound books, eBooks are becoming more and more popular by the day. With new apps for phones, iPads, tablets, and other reading devices which have become everyday items for almost every age group, choosing the eBook path is a smart option.
eBooks are less expensive and faster to market, and they are more accessible to readers. Plus, you, as the author, are able to control much more of the process than you would with a traditional paperback or hardback print.
Why choose eBooks?
Let's first discuss why going the eBook route is a very good idea for people who are self-publishing. Typically, with hardback and paperback prints, an author can expect to get from 4% to 10% of the list price for each book sold. If you're publishing your own book, however, you'll have to make up the upfront costs before you can really count anything as a profit.
With eBooks, the upfront costs are minimal and you receive up to 50% of the list price for each book sold. This is a pretty compelling reason to self-publish an eBook! On top of the much bigger commission, the time it takes to get your book to the masses is much shorter. Printing books on paper can take from six weeks to four months to get your book from your desk to a retailer for sale. With an eBook, the time to market is only a fraction of that time.
eBooks are the books of the future. While those of us who love the tactile sensation of turning physical pages as we become engrossed in a story are sad to see the decline in paperbacks and hardbacks, eBooks are here to stay and will take us into the future.
This can be a good thing, though, when you publish your eBook. If your book can go or be anywhere within mere moments, then your reader base can jump in size exponentially. So really, eBooks are basically your only choice to reach as many people as possible.
Choose your platform: How to format your eBook
We all like choices. We want to feel like we are in control of our life and our destiny. So, when it comes to choosing a format for your eBook, why does it seem like such a chore? Well, I say it doesn't have to be. With the low cost of entry for eBooks, you can choose more than one option. Here is a quick list of popular eBook formats.
- ePub This is the basic technical standard for eBooks. It was developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum. eBooks in this format can be read by almost any eBook reader, from the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook to Apple's iBooks app and Google Books app. Since it is a standard in the industry, this format has become the most widespread eBook format. There are many free online tools that will convert your .doc (Word) files into the ePub format.
- iBook Apple created their own eBook format called iBook. This is based on the ePub standard and has restrictions on where you can sell. These eBooks can only be sold on Apple devices.
- PDF This format is structured around the standard "Portable Document Format" that was created by Adobe. Many programs have PDF creation capabilities built in, so creating documents in this format is probably the easiest.
- Amazon Kindle This format is called KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing. This format has some HTML and CSS3 built into it, which can help your eBook to look good on Kindle devices.
First decide what platform you want to sell your book on, and then choose a format that will fit that platform and the devices that you think people will use to read your book. You could even create a website that is your book. Building an HTML5 website is much easier today than it used to be now that there are websites designed to help you to create your own site with minimal or no programming experience.
Preparing your manuscript
One aspect of getting ready to self-publish that many authors either ignore or don't think they have the resources for is editing. Having a professional editor go through your manuscript to eliminate inconsistencies, typos, formatting issues, and more is an essential part of your eBook's success. It is well-known that it's nearly impossible to fully edit your own writing, so having a neutral party examine your writing is a must. If you don't have the resources to hire a professional editor, then there are some other options to help you to still get some of the benefits from this step.
- Get a friend to read the eBook. If you have a friend who reads a lot or has experience with your genre, ask her to help you out by reading the book. Take her notes and implement the changes you feel improve your book.
- After taking a short break from the material, take your text away from where you normally write and read through it again. This will help give some separation between you and the text, which helps errors to pop out at you more clearly.
- Read the text in a different format than you normally would. For example, you could print the pages out on paper and read them, using a pen or a pencil to make notes on things you catch. You could also change the font size to something much larger than you have been using, which will cause misspellings and typos to more easily jump out from the page.
- Hire an editor to go through just the first couple of chapters. Take what they find in those chapters and use that knowledge to look for specific things. For example, they might find that a certain word is misspelled often or maybe you used two different names for the same character. Having a specific idea of what to look for will help you to self-edit the rest of the book.
- Read the manuscript from the ending to the beginning. By taking sentences out of context or order or by looking at each word on its own, your brain will disengage from its normal process of filling in the blanks. Instead of skipping over words that may be misspelled, those errors will become apparent to you.
If your book has a lot of pictures or drawings, then you will want to first make sure that you have the right permissions to use those images. If they are your own photographs or drawings, then copyright isn't something you need to worry about. If you have downloaded the images from a stock photo website, then you'll want to make sure you have the correct license.
If you are creating a comic book or a graphic novel, then a tool like Amazon's Kindle Comic Creator might be a good option for you. This tool was designed specifically for formatting books with comic images.
With children's books, you also need to use a tool that can help you to properly format the images with the text so that it comes across clearly on electronic book readers. Amazon also has a tool specifically for children's books that is called the Kindle Kids' Book Creator.
Designing a cover
We all know the old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover." But in this modern day of digital print and marketing, the cover makes a huge difference in whether or not someone clicks on your book to buy it. Just like with advertisements, the book cover must stand out on many screen sizes.
Regardless of what genre your book is in, your readers and potential readers should know almost immediately what your book is about. Here are some of the main tips to create an effective eBook cover design.
- If you can afford it, hire a graphic designer, such as one from ServiceScape.com, or use a design competition site to have designers give you their ideas for a cover based on your story synopsis. Telling someone else about your story and having them show you what images that brings into their mind will help you to identify what the cover should show. Is it a true representation of the main character? Should the focus be on the setting of the story? Or are there symbols and ideas that are the main concepts of your book?
- Consider your font carefully. While some of the flowy, curvy fonts are fun to look at, people browsing on Amazon aren't going to be able to read it. Even though the title of your book will be there, viewers' eyes are drawn to the picture first. Make it stand out!
- Once you have a design, test it out in a size similar to what you see on Amazon or other eBook stores, such as Barnes & Noble and iBook, to make sure it can stand out in the list of books. If the image isn't clearly communicating the topic of your book when it's in a small size, then book browsers are likely to pass right over it.
- All of the above are wrapped into one main concept: keep it simple. You don't want to have an image with a hundred different things going on. You want something that very clearly and instantly shows the main point of your book.
Gather your information
When you feel ready to submit your manuscript to an eBook publisher, be sure that you have all the necessary information with you.
- Book Title This needs to be exactly as it is on the cover.
- Sub-titles You don't have to have a sub-title, but this can be a good place to include keywords that will be searchable.
- Description This will be just like the synopsis you would normally see on the back cover of a paperback. Be sure it includes the main topic of the story, maybe one or two main characters, and a twist or a catch that grabs the reader's attention.
- Contributors This is usually the place where you would put your name as the author, and any additional co-authors, translators, editors, etc.
- Keywords If there is an option to enter keywords, you will definitely want to take advantage of this option. These will act just like keywords for a website—this is how people can easily find your book.
One final note before you publish is to carefully consider the price of your book. Make sure it's in a good range for the genre and platform, and be sure that you feel it is a price you feel comfortable with. Don't sell yourself short, but don't alienate readers by setting the price too high. Do some research on what is out there already, and you will have the right information to set your own perfect price.