Your definitive guide to formatting, uploading and publishing your long-form journalism as an e-book to the various digital marketplaces.
Congratulations! Your baby has gestated through conception, reporting, writing, structure and editing and now needs to come into the world.
You have also commissioned, paid for, and received in J-peg format an eye-catching cover from a professional designer (everyone recommends this).
The hardest work is already done. For the luddites and technically-challenged (like me) it helps to have a helping hand – or at least a read-through of what fiddly stuff is next to help you get it up on various e-book platforms.
Self-publishing an e-book can be particularly useful for:
- publishing only in an e-book format
- those who have already published one or more physical books with a mainstream publisher but who own electronic rights that have never been exploited as an e-book
- previously-published authors who have not had a worldwide audience to date, but access only to readers limited by their previous publisher’s region or language
These situations may apply, generally, to published authors whose physical book contracts were negotiated before about 2008/9 when the e-book world began its surge. (Check your older contracts.)
Your older book may still have relevance out there, particularly those that have been out of print for a while.
In my case having published one e-book successfully, I intend making available electronically my first book, Cannibals, Cows & the CJD Catastrophe. This was published by Random House Australia in 1998, but only in Australia and New Zealand. Due to its age all rights have since reverted to me. But I always had the electronic rights. Although long out of print, there is still occasional demand for copies at relevant annual conferences.
Thanks to the rise of e-book self-publishing I find myself in a great position to make any or all of my previous titles available again either as an e-book, a physical book, or both.
Another plus is that the deadline is not dictated by a publisher – only me.
Platforms and formats
Thus all the set up is geared around the rules and regulations of the US jurisdiction.
After the big three there are other platform options. These include the Kobo eReader and the latest version of the Sony Reader. For now, try the big three and see if your new confidence as a self-publisher spurs you on.
Of course, just to make life difficult, there are differences between them. Nook, iBooks, Kobo and Sony Reader publish from the ePub format; Kindle from the Mobi format.
Your book is most easily converted from a Word document or PDF into both of those formats.
And your e-book cover might be required in several different sizes.
IMPORTANT TIP: You cannot self-publish into the iBookstore without an Apple Mac computer. I found it easier to upload to all three major platforms using a Mac consecutively. If you don’t have a Mac you might consider borrowing a Mac laptop or using a professional ebook converter to load your book onto the iBookstore marketplace.
It is also best to have an ISBN for your iBook if you haven’t already bought a unique ISBN for your e-book on other platforms, or a block of them, from Bowker or Thorpe-Bowker or others including this UK provider Nielsen.
An ISBN is not compulsory for Amazon or B&N publications but it is recommended.
Step 1 in publishing an e-book: Formatting
[caption id="attachment_2152" align="alignnone" width="320"] Photo: 1. Do it yourself. A good guide for the tricky little (and big) things to avoid or overcome is US horror writer Guido Henkel’s informative and detailed nine-part series, Take pride in your e-book formatting.
Alternatively, Amazon, B&N and Apple all have their own guides which are available when you set up with each platform. Or you can try the mobi format yourself with the Mobipocket eBook creator guide here.
2. Pay someone else to do it. This is the easier path – short of palming off the whole headache onto a mainstream publisher (if you have one) – that will return perhaps 60% of the gross earnings to the author. If your book is priced at $9.99 or less that is not very much. B&N provide a list of a few outfits including this.
Your choices for formatting your e-book:
Apple’s iBooks recommends several aggregators: Smashwords and Ingram in the US and Bookwire in Europe, which take all the hard work out for you. But, just like publishers take a huge earnings chunk, aggregators are paid from your continuing earnings.
- E-book conversion experts.
There are lots out there in cyberspace. Unless you want to learn the ins and outs of HTML language, use one of these. There is no need for a bad Amazon review due to nothing other than bad DIY formatting, or annoying spelling or grammatical errors.
My Fatal Honeymoon Dive co-author and I were happy with the services of Brian Schwartz at Kindleexpert.com who charged US$379 for e-book layout and conversion, a one-time upfront payment. He, like Guido Henkel and others in cyberspace, also create and link to the all-important Table of Contents.
As added extras they provide other services in relation to e-book set up and uploading should you want it done in a hurry and not want the bother of doing it yourself.
And then there is the print-on-demand option offered for those who are publishing an e-book from scratch but also want a physical book to sell to readers who prefer paper pages.
Previewing the e-book
[caption id="attachment_2154" align="alignnone" width="320"] Photo: My co-author and I again read through our already many-times read manuscript – which was now able to be previewed in the formats readers would see it.
Download the Kindle Previewer for the .mobi file for viewing on a PC or Mac computer if you don’t yet have a Kindle device. Find it under the Kindle Previewer (ignore kindlegen). And for any ePub file go to Adobe Digital Editions.
On our last read through of the formatted Kindle file we found the usual literals and small errors that miraculously jump out that didn’t before. This is quite common but worth correcting for the best possible product to upload. Schwartz was happy to correct our little errors [I sent him 11 pages of instructions so he could do quick searches and clearly see the problem words or sentences] for an extra $85 – his hourly fee. When a few more little kinks were spotted afterwards in those corrections – he fixed them in a few minutes over the phone as a goodwill ad on, for which we were grateful. Schwartz is quick and professional and, best of all, sympathetic and not patronising to luddites flailing around in the new Kindle/Nook/iPad world of e-book self-publishing. No doubt others are the same.
Now that you have your e-book ready in its correct digital format, the next step is uploading it to the various publishing platforms and stores.
Find out how to do this in Part 2.