Monday, 4 November 2013

E-publishing: the Best Guides to DIY

OK, so you've finished your novel. You've edited it so tightly, you can't slip another word in without an unsightly bulge. Your beta-readers have done their stuff. You've decided to go down the route of independent publication. What do you do next?
You could approach one of the companies or individuals offering services such as formatting and uploading. I've not got any experience of that route, so all I'm going to say is some of them provide an excellent, cost-effective service. And some of them don't. Do your research carefully and, if possible, get a word-of-mouth recommendation from someone you trust.

But, what I want to talk about is the DIY approach, which is the route I take, and a couple of useful guides that I always keep close by.
I publish my ebooks on Amazon for Kindle and on Smashwords for all other reading devices. Both platforms offer guidance on how to prepare your manuscript and (like many traditional publishers), they require slightly different approaches, so it's worth being aware of both of them.
Amazon offers a book called Building Your Book for Kindle. It's free and does exactly what it says on the cover. Starting with tips on formatting, which it's useful to read before you start writing, it will walk you through the different stages including preparing the front matter (copyright, acknowledgements etc.), table of contents, file formatting and conversion of the file to HTML for uploading. This may sound daunting, but if you are comfortable using Word, you shouldn't have difficulty understanding the steps needed.
The Smashwords Style Guide is written by Mark Coker, the developer of the Smashwords software. Once again, this is a free guide. It begins with a very detailed exposition of e-publishing and the Smashwords model. This is worth reading at least once, if you are new to ebooks, but the real meat of the guide starts on page 20 with pre-formatting. The detailed instructions are accompanied by screen-shot illustrations, but I have to confess to finding these less than useful, and suspect they could be confusing if you happen to be using a different version of Word. Personally, I work from the text and find this easy to follow. Again, anyone comfortable with Word will be OK.
While on the subject of Mark Coker, it's worth keeping your eyes open for his other book (also free) on Secrets to eBook Publishing Success and any of the presentations he gives, based on the annual survey of ebook sales statistics. For example, I was fascinated to hear that there is a direct relationship between the number of words in a book title and the level of sales. But more of that another day.
What's been your experience of DIY publishing? Which guides do you find most helpful?

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