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How To Create and Publish an Ebook

For those of you who couldn’t make it to our ebook class, here’s the handout.  Enjoy!

By Katherine Cerulean

NOTE: Most of the information below is about how to publish an ebook on Amazon.com.  That’s what I first tried and it’s worked so well for me that I haven’t looked further.  But for those opposed to Amazon, lulu.com and nookpress.com/ebooks are other popular ways to bring your ebook into the world.  Gumroad.com is another option — it allows you to sell files directly to your readers.

First of All . . .

Creating a great ebook begins long before you start an Amazon Kindle account, create a book cover, or hit the ‘upload’ button.  Like everything we do, it starts with great writing.

Deciding to publish your own ebook is the first step in one of the most dramatic examples of ‘you get out of something what you put into it’ that you’ll ever experience.  And on one shoulder you’ll see the angel of ‘professional, traditionally-published books’ — inspiring you and disheartening you by turns with their high level of perfection (more specifically formatting and proofreading than necessarily content).  On your other shoulder is the devil of ‘DIY {shrug} good enough books’ — temping you to give up and accept a ‘sort of’ professional book that’s still better than 50% of stuff out there (BTW — I think in any venture you should shoot for [and can hit] the top 90% to 95% percentile of awesome).

The best way to rise above the ebook crowd is to have a great book to start with.  An amazing story, interesting or helpful information, or unforgettable characters.  You want to have the same high standards a traditional book publisher would have, and press yourself for another rewrite if it’s not quite up to par (actually, we’re aiming for birdies and eagles here, if you remember).

Now, I know what you’re thinking — “I know about writing.  I came here to learn about creating an ebook.”  Fair enough, but understand this: sending out an unpolished, error-filled, ‘good enough’ ebook into the world will do no one any favors.  Instead, honor yourself and spend the time, effort, or money (if you decide to hire an editor and/or proofreader) to get it right.  I promise you that the feeling of pride you get will make your effort worthwhile.

So to sum up: Remember to have a perfect copy first — PERFECT.  Every tiny mistake, added line, and misspelled word can make a huge headache later.  Every time I’m like ‘I wish I’d edited more’ — every time.

What are You Publishing — and Why?

If you’ve ever submitted a query letter to an agent or publisher, you know things like word count and genre are integral parts of that communication.  But what about when you are in charge; do those things matter at all?

The short answer is: Somewhat.  The long answer: They should matter to you for the main reason they matter to traditional publishers — audience expectations.

Ebooks allows total freedom in word count.  You can publish a 80,000 word self help book, a 2,000 word short story, or a 1,o00,000 word epic fantasy novel — but should you?  You have to charge at least 99 cents on Amazon for your book, so something as short as this blog would probably be a disappointment to most readers.  Conversely, I might also want my 99 cents back after slugging through a novel nearly twice as long as War & Peace.

So don’t worry too much about length, but don’t use your freedom with word count to become unprofessional.

As for that other language of query letters, what about genres?  Here you’ll get to decide, and you should educate yourself about different genres and find the books most similar to your own.  Don’t call your book ‘young adult’ just because it’s a hot category.

The last question you should ask yourself is ‘Why do I want to publish an ebook?’  Some people want to be as successful as J.K. Rowling.  Well, sure.  But in the here and now, wanting to share your story, or your grandmother’s story, is a more attainable goal.  Wanting to make a beautiful, polished ebook and doing something you’ve never done before is a wonderful thing to want, and a very satisfying thing to achieve.

How to Format Your Manuscript

Everything from this section is from Catherine Ryan Howard’s wonderful book Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (now in its 3rd edition).  I really can’t recommend this book too strongly to anyone interested in self publishing.  This is just a taste of the details and steps she takes you through — I really wouldn’t do a project without it!  Spending $15 is a very worthwhile investment in your ebook.

First make two copies marking one ebook and one paperback (e.g. ‘othergodsebook.doc’).  Make another called othergodsebook2.doc or something just in case things go horribly wrong.

Keep it simple, something that it can easily convert and look good on many different devices.  No crazy fonts, line breaks, bullet-lists etc.

Some books don’t work as ebooks (photography, cooking, etc).  Novels are a little easier to convert than other types of books.

Turn off ‘Track Changes’.

Things that have to go (if you’re using Microsoft Word)–

  • Headers and Footers (the numbers that tell us what page we’re on and what book we’re reading)
  • Title page
  • Copyright (we’ll change it for the ebook)
  • Tables, columns, and other non-fiction elements

 

Go ‘nuclear’ by taking away all formatting by copying your file and pasting it into NotePad, TextEdit.

Copy and paste that back into Word.  Eliminate blank lines (two at the end of each chapter is fine).

Copy all and go to Format -> Style then modify it to Times New Roman, 10 Point, left-aligned and single space.

Then go to Format -> Paragraph and set it to left-aligned with first line indent to 0.3″.

Add front matter like this —

OTHER GODS

By Katherine Cerulean

Kindle Edition | Copyright 2015 Katherine Cerrulean

All rights reserved.  No part of this e-book may be reproduced in any form other than that in which it was purchased without the written permission of the author.

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

http://www.KatherineCerulean.com

 

Then create a new style called ‘Front Matter’ and center your text, and use Paragraph to not have indents.

You’ll eventually have two files, one for Smashwords and one for Kindle, but you can do that at the end.  The ‘Kindle edition’ section in the front matter will be the only difference.

Only insert page breaks after the front matter and after each chapter.  Place one paragraph before and after the page break.  Create the break by going to Insert ->Page Break.

Go back and add in italics and bold.

Then add end matter like this —

THE END

###  — always end your ebook will these three marks

(Other Possible End Matter) —

Author’s Note

Something very important about your book, such as historical clarification.

Acknowledgements

In an ebook these go at the end.  Time to thank all the good folks that got you here.

About the Author (should look something like this)

Katherine Cerulean grew up in the countryside, home-schooled near Athens, GA.  She has been writing seriously for sixteen years, starting with screenwriting and then moving into novels.  Her completed novels are Other Gods (a fantasy) and A Caged Heart Still Beats (a love story).  She is the founder of the Athens Writers Association.  She is also the author of How to Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living the Life of Your Dreams.  Her next novel Fall Street, a coming of age story, is in progress.

Read the first chapter of Fall Street at http://www.katherinecerulean.com/my-novels/fall-street.com

http://www.KatherineCerulean.com

You can also create a ‘live’ table of contents.  I did not bother with this for my self improvement book, but for a longer non-fiction it could be an advantage.

Your Ebook Cover

The best cover I could make . . .

The best cover I could make . . .

. . . and the cover my sister, who is an artist, made.

. . . and the cover my sister, who is an artist, made.

Your cover should be a JPEG image that is at least 1,000 pixels wide on the longest side and ideally a height/width ratio of 1.6 and Amazon recommends 2,500 pixels on the longest side for best quality.

You can make an easy little cover with Word or Publisher but remember to buy  a picture from the stock image websites or use your own — never anyone else’s.  You could also get written permission (say, if you wanted to use an old photo your mother had taken of your grandmother).

BUT — You get what you pay for.  I learned the hard way that you really need a professional’s eye (or at least an art or design student’s).  In Athens it should be easy to find someone who has the skills you’re looking for.  Remember, you have skills too; maybe you could proofread their term paper in exchange for their time and effort.

Uploading To Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

Creating an account is super easy and free.  You will need to enter your name, address, and social security number (for tax purposes).

Then Add New Title  — (getting exciting here!)

Add your cover photo, description, and book file.  Search my name and ‘amazon descriptions’ if you would like to read my three-part series about writing a good listing.  BAM!  You’re done and your ebook listing should appear on Amazon in a few days.

Other Info

Smashwords.com is a free site where you can also sell your ebook and get in on Barnes & Noble’s website, Kobo website etc.  It’s harder to get a ‘passing grade’ than with Amazon, but if you’re serious you should eventually do it.  It’s also can be hard to get your book off those sites if you decide you want to take it down to do an exclusive Amazon promotion.

Quick Notes About Creating a Paperback:

Createspace.com is the perfect venue to use if you want to publish a paperback and an ebook.  It’s a part of Amazon and for free you can create both a paperback and an ebook (you’ll still be uploading two different files so it’s still twice the work).

The paperback is a separate beast, but one only somewhat more gnarly (and snarly) than its ebook cousin.  Paperbacks add in page numbers, fancier chapter headings, white pages to denote new sections, and more appealing lists.  All of these can make a self published book look very professional.  And all can make you want fall on the floor weeping.  A book like Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard, can teach you how to format your paperback and in the end, a few day’s work is well worth it when you see how beautiful your book can be.

In the End

The most important takeaway is that you CAN publish a ebook.  It’s not magic.  It doesn’t take a million dollars.  What it takes a little time, a little practice, and a whole lot of patience (or coffee).  But you’ll come away with a powerful new skill, a beautiful book, and a wonderful way to share your story with the world.  Let me know if I can help.

For questions — contact me at katherinecerulean@gmail.com.  Or visit —      Katherinecerulean.com

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About katherinecerulean

Novelist, founder of The Athens Writers Association, and enthusiast of all things awesome and magical. Need my help with ANYTHING? Just ask!

4 responses »

  1. Kathryn Kyker

    I didn’t know enough to know what I didn’t know, but thanks for the overall considerations as well as the specific “how-tos.” No immediate plans to e-publish but filing away for reference.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: So You Want To Write a Fantasy Novel? | Athens Writers Association

  3. This detailed explanation ALMOST wants me to try to publish to Kindle again. Oh, but it’s so much work. And the little old ladies who make up the majority of my tiny audience have no interest in it. And it’s so much work. But I suppose I should. And whether or not I do, thanks for this kick in the butt towards the very scary E platform.

    Reply
    • It’s funny; I think paperbacks are more work! But getting the formatting to work across multiple platforms is supposed to be a pain — I really just concentrated on mobi. And you’re right — end of the day it’s about knowing what your audience wants and needs.

      Reply

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