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Self-publishing e-books: How to get started

Johanna Ambrosio | March 26, 2014
It's not difficult to put out your own e-publication, but there are several decisions to sort through first.

Self-published e-books are all the rage. Authors are finding it much easier and much quicker to get their stories in front of a wide audience when they do it themselves, versus waiting to find an agent or traditional publisher willing to take them on. There's also an advantage in having control over where your book is sold, what it looks like and other issues that a traditional publisher usually has the final say on.

According to Bowker, the bibliographic information management company that hands out the ISBN tracking codes used to track books created and sold in the United States, some 40% of books published in 2012 were self-published e-books, versus just 11% in 2007.

Overall, e-books made up around 20% of books sold in the total trade category -- which includes fiction and nonfiction for adults — in 2012.

But even considering all that, the decision to self-publish our 10-year labor of love — Charcoal for Lunch, a guide for teens living with a parent who has a major mental illness — was not an easy one for myself and my co-author, Lynn T. Kerner. After all, to many writers, a book still isn't real unless it sports a cover and is blessed by a known publisher.

But we got over it. The tools are here, the Web can help readers discover our book, e-readers and tablets are tailor-made for book freaks, our targeted audience of teens and young adults is certainly made up of online readers —and here we all are.

We're at the beginning of our journey with self-publishing, but have learned a few things that could prove useful to businesses and individuals who are thinking of taking the same route.

Note that, like any other field affected by technology, the e-publishing world is moving and changing quickly — so what was true a year ago isn't necessarily the case today. If your book-in-the-making won't be ready for some time, make sure you check the e-publishing landscape before you decide how to share your masterpiece with the world.

So you've embraced the decision to self-publish. Now what?

Which format(s)?
Most writers create their manuscripts with word processing packages such as Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, or sometimes output them as text files. But those formats won't work as an e-book.

In fact, for your book to achieve any measure of success (eyeballs, downloads and/or revenue), it will need to be available in at least a few of the most popular e-formats: Kindle Format 8 (KF8) for Amazon's Kindle Fire, AZW (based on MOBI) for older Kindles and ePub for most others, including Apple devices, Barnes & Noble's Nook and most Android e-reading apps. Apple also supports the proprietary iBook format.


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