E-publishing 101: How to Get Started

| Posted in E-publishing |


Judging by the comments on this blog, there are lots of folks stopping by who are just getting into e-publishing (or thinking of getting into it), so I thought a basic checklist post might be in order. If you print it off and put it on the fridge, let me know. I always wanted to be fridge material.

Here we go, how to get started with e-publishing:

1. Get your short story, novella, novel, etc. into as good of shape as possible

I know this sounds obvious, but, judging by the reviews, ebooks on Amazon are rife with typos and grammar faux pas. I see slow pacing, repetitiveness, and plot holes mentioned a lot too.

Finding other writers to trade critiques with will help you polish the story, and an editor can do a final pass to look for typos and grammar nits. Trust me, no matter how many times you read over the story yourself, there will still be typos!

2. Create cover art

If you’re artistically talented, you can do your own cover art, but, for most of us, it’s worth hiring someone. The cover art is the first thing readers will see, and, when they’re surfing Amazon and your book comes up in the search listings, they may not even click on it to check it out if it’s not appealing.

Check out my earlier post on affordable cover art designers if you’re looking for someone. I mentioned two folks, including Glendon Haddix who’s done most of my covers, and there are more artists who left their information in the comments section.

3. Format your ebook

This is one of those things you can learn to do yourself if you’re looking to save money. Unlike editing and cover design, it doesn’t require oft-practiced skills — just a willingness to follow directions and learn the ropes (I’m a little lacking in that area myself, so I pay someone to do my novels and use the Smashwords meatgrinder for my shorter works).

If you’re a DIY type, there are several ebooks out there with instructions, some costing less than $3. Here’s an Amazon ebook and also a link to a long, but thorough how-to guide on the web (free):

4. Get your ebook online

Head to the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing site and go through the two-page wizard that leads you through uploading the mobi file, the cover art, and inputting your chosen categories, keywords, sales price, etc.

Do the same thing at the Barnes & Noble PubIt site.

To get into other stores, you can work through Smashwords (they won’t accept the files you worked so hard to create, but their meatgrinder will take your Word document and turn it into epub, mobi, pdf, html, etc. files so anyone with any e-reader can peruse your books). Once it’s been approved for the “premium catalog,” they will  distribute your ebook to Apple, Sony, Diesel, and a couple of others. Make sure to read their free style guide for tips on formatting your Word document.

5. Promote your ebook!

Ah, we could write whole books on this. What works? What’s a waste of time? There’s a lot to learn when it comes to marketing online. Here are some articles from my own site to get you started:

Further reading (ebooks from successful indie e-authors):

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Comments (18)

Tons of great advice in this post. Thank you for the wealth of info, Lindsay. You’re the one that encouraged me to start down this road. So, I’ll tout myself as a bumbling protoge. 🙂

I’m working on my marketing plan … sort of. Been spending most of my time working on two WIPs. Waiting for my cp’s to get back on the other I intend to publish first. But I intend to compile a list of sf book reviewers.

I have a video already, and ended up doing the cover, as I had stock art from the video. My video gal has photoshop and did the title for me – as it has fancier gadgets than my graphics program. Then I tweaked it a bit. Later on, I’d look for someone to do covers … once I’m making at least enough to finance the expesnses.

I was going to go beyond simple copy editing for at least the first story – the in depth stuff. Maybe it’ll be overkill, but that’s OK. I’d rather err being a bit too cautious.

Although, the feedback I’ve gotten so far on the free stories has been quite encouraging. I’m finding the experience fun and very positive, so far.

Sounds good! Yup, it’s totally possibly to have pretty, clean lines and a story that doesn’t make any sense. *g* The big-picture editing can get expensive, but it’s good to have someone with an eye for that stuff on your team!

As a former editor and an admittedly neurotic reader, I’m so glad to see you list editing first. I’ve known a lot of writers who think they don’t make mistakes or that they’ll just edit their own work, and it ALWAYS shows. Errors in spelling, grammar and syntax are a surefire way to label yourself as an amateur.

I agree with number 1! Please don’t edit yourself! It just doesn’t work, you’ve look at it too much!

Thank you for the guide 🙂


Send me whatever you want formatted: mobi, epub, smashwords, whatever. I’ll do it for free. I figure I owe you with all the free advice you’ve given me on your blog over the last few months.

Thanks, Paul!

Oh, I’m adding your site to my list up there. I didn’t realize you had such neat and tidy formatting guides up over there. Congratulations on the recent release of your ebooks too!

[…] E-Publishing 101: How to Get Started […]

[…] Indie authors in Melbourne By Ben Hourigan On 2011-11-2 · Leave a Comment var addthis_product = 'wpp-262'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true,"data_track_addressbar":false};if (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];} Melbourne Writers has a great post today about e-Publishing, with a link to a “getting started” article by Lindsay Buroker. […]

Hi Lindsay,

I just want to make sure I understand – you can e-publish your books on several sites at one time?? You mention publishing with Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Does this mean each site published a copy of the same book? And do they all give ISBN numbers to each book? I currently have a book published in paperback and ebook on a POD site but they charge too much for the ebook. I own all rights. Can I also publish an ebook with Smashwords too?? Sorry, but I’m new to e-publishing.


Absolutely, Deanna!

For Amazon, you need a mobi file, and it’s a two-page wizard to get it published in the Kindle Store. For Barnes & Noble, you’ll need an epub file (here’s a good lowdown on ebook formatting or you can hire someone to do it for you too — should be $100 or less if you go that route), and its also a two-page wizard to get published in the Nook Store (just Google PubIt for their site).

You do not need an ISBN for Amazon or B&N.

For Smashwords, you can just upload a Word doc file, and they’ll convert it into the various ebook formats for you. They can also submit it to iTunes, Kobo, and some of the other stores that are hard to get into on your own. They will provide you a free ISBN to use in the stores that require it (iTunes, for example).

For all these stores, you get to set the price and call the shorts. They’re all free, too, as the companies simply take their cut out of the book sales (if you price your ebook from $2.99 to $9.99, you’ll get around 65-80%, depending on the store).

You definitely want your work out there in as many places as possible, but Amazon especially is the big kahuna.

Good luck!

Thanks so much – this is a great help! 🙂

[…] -E-publishing 101: How to Get Started.  [Lindsay Buroker] […]

Hey Lindsay,

I’m like Deanna – just starting on the self-publishing-ebook journey. Everything you’ve said has been incredibly helpful, even though I’m still trembling in trepidation at attempting doing all this on my own. My own computer skill are okay, but it all appears very daunting.
Recently I’ve spoken to the Amazon people – they rang me from the USA – & quoted a whole range of prices for publishing with them, from ebook to POD. The latter one costs quite a bit depending on which service you buy. I’m happy to go ebook, & keep costs down but it’s nice to be able to hold a physical version of your own book in your hands. And besides, I don’t know if I trust myself to do it all alone.
I’ve enlisted the help of a local graphics designer to create my book cover, but all up it’s going to cost me.


Hi Lindsay,

I’ve been reading your blog since I started spending long nights on my middle grade fantasy novel. You blog is full of good advices!
Converting my book to kindle and nook was not easy, and I found the result quite bland.
So I decided to write my own converter. It takes a book in LibreOffice (OpenOffice) and converts it to epub and mobi.
It is designed to be very easy to use.
You can try it here:
It’s not a final product, as I intend to add more features. Of course, it’s free.


My question is about using multiple self-publishing services.
Could this lead to problems?
I’m wondering, especially, about the paper version of this. Could it be problematic if there were different services you authorized to put paper versions of your book in book stores?

I never really paid attention to the epublishing part, but now that I got my first novel nearly done myself, thanks to NaNo I will give it a try! And already I am more them confused as to what font, spacing etc to use. Got the links thanks to the NaNo contest, and got Scrivener too… and here is where the confusion starts. With all the freebies that had been offered to the winners, there are too many choices it seems. Lulu, Createspace, Tablo… with different settings all over. Whom to choose? What to choose? It seems easier to write then to publish!

Glad you’re showing this to others but please remember that If you load up to Kindle Direct, then they have an exclusive for 90 days. Even if you distribute to them via bookbaby or lightningsource, you’ll have to wait to load up to others. Lightning source not take your digital if you’ve been within amazon in the past 12 months.

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