The first step to internet publishing success is writing – and above all editing – an excellent book. You can find HEAPS of excellent advice on writing by clicking on “Writing Craft” to the left of this screen.
My own book was a product of National Novel Writing Month 2010 (followed by two and a bit years of editing). Like the rest of my books, it’s a fantasy adventure for young adults.
The next step, chronologically speaking, is to commission a cover. Spelling errors and a dodgy cover are the clearest signs of someone who isn’t worth reading. If you’ve ever spent half an hour looking at ebooks for sale, you’ll know this already. You really can judge a book by its cover a lot of the time – and if you can’t, you can judge it by the free sample. A cover will cost you $30-$200, and will take at least a few weeks.
I have written several books, but I chose to publish SEE THROUGH because I knew the opening grabbed reader attention immediately.
And that’s where I abandoned all sane advice. My own cover is taken from a photo I shot myself (and no, I’m no professional photographer!) I happened to have a photo of Canberra (the setting of the book, which is important for marketing) that lent itself to an easily-readable thumbnail cover, had two natural spaces for the title and author text, and had a slightly ominous feel because of being taken at night. You can judge for yourselves whether I made a glaring rookie error or a choice that works for this book at this time. (For the Canberrans out there, it was taken from a boat on Lake Burley Griffin looking towards Rydges.)
Step three is picking where to publish – Amazon is the biggest (in fact the only place you can directly buy ebooks from a Kindle) but Smashwords gives a better cut (70%) for books bought directly from their site, and if your formatting is up to scratch you are labelled “Premium” and sent to just about every other ebook retailer around, including Amazon.
I chose Smashwords. It means that when copies sell directly through Amazon, I don’t get much – but I do get exposure, and my readers get convenience.
Step four is the scary one – formatting. There are two basic rules: Keep it simple; keep it consistent. Most people fall down over paragraph indents. Tabs are a no-no, and so is pressing spacebar a bunch of times. You can choose to simply leave a line between paragraphs (as I’ve done here) or you can do as I do and take a manuscript with tab indents (classier and more popular than block paragraphs) and change them to automatic indents (then go back and manually fix chapter headings and first paragraphs, which shouldn’t be indented). Smashwords helps you through the process with their terrifyingly long formatting guide. (Don’t worry – it’s got plenty of extraneous information that is easy to flick through – it also tells you where to find cover artists or how to design your own). You will need several hours free (and maybe a lie-down or two).
Step five is getting paid – hopefully. Smashwords pays you quarterly (as long as you’ve made at least $10), and Paypal is the easiest payment method. Americans get a LOT of their wages taken by the IRS, and non-American writers need to fill out a long and terrifying form to say, “Hey, I’m not from the USA. Please don’t tax me.” You can register your Paypal address and find information on the Form Of Death through the Smashwords FAQ. You can start a new Paypal account here, and easily link it to your bank account.
Step six – which is really step five – is promotion. I’ve been tweeting and facebooking short stories for five years, so my first port of call was letting my existing readers know what was happening. Step two was this blog tour (hello!) I’ll be working on local paper and radio exposure, getting the book into libraries, and so on for at least the next couple of months.
Right now there’s a giveaway on my blog – an actual real-life print copy of the book, properly bound like any regular book and not available through any means other than buying the ebook and emailing me at fellissimo at hotmail dot com to register an entry.
You can enter too – just buy the book here. The first 20% is free, and the rest is $2.99 (US).
Update: Here’s the link to Louise’s blog.