Publishing your own e-book is a bit tedious, but not technically difficult, if you follow these ten steps:
1. Write your text: Type the text for your e-book. Don’t worry about how it looks. You’ll format it later. For now you’re better off using a simple text editor like Notepad ++ because it saves files with no formatting, that is, as .txt files, and that’s what you want. If you do use a word processor, like Microsoft Word or Open Office Writer, make sure to save your copy as .txt.
2. Prepare your images : If your e-book will have illustrations, save these as .jpeg files and size them to 500 pixels on the longest dimension. If you don’t have a photo manipulation program, use the Paint application to size them, which is found in the Accessories folder of a Windows PC. Keep in mind that in portrait orientation (where the longest dimension is the vertical one), an illustration displayed on an e-reader like a Kindle or Nook, will take up a whole screen. On the other hand, landscape oriented graphics, if they are displayed at the top or bottom of a screen, will allow some text to be displayed also, but not much. If you want captions for your photos, make them part of the picture itself. The Google app, Picasa, will help you do this, making a broad border area at the bottom of a photo, where, using the “text” button in Picasa, a caption can be added. (See an illustration of the result to the left.)
3. Place images in the copy. Format the text of your e-book first; then put in your pictures or other graphics
4. Submit your copy to an editor. He/she will not only correct grammar, and the spelling or typing errors you missed, but may also suggest ways to improve your copy by reorganizing it, striking parts, or adding others. Accepting an editor’s’ critical suggestions is likely to be painful. You may not want to change what you’ve worked so hard on, partly because you don’t want to write anymore! But if you’ve found a good editor, follow his/her recommendations. And how do you find a good editor? If you know a published writer, ask for a referral.
5. Rewrite your copy, according to your editor’s suggestions.
6. Format your copy. Hooray! The hardest part is over. Now you’re ready to format your e-book. There are basically two kinds of e-book files, one for the Kindle (.mobi), and one for all other e-readers (.epub). There are many ways to produce .mobi and .epub files. I like to upload my formatted copy to Smashwords.com, which has an automated e-book maker called “the meat grinder.” This turns a Microsoft Word file (.doc) into several formats, including .mobi, .epub, .pdf, and several others. One advantage of publishing your e-book at Smashwords is that it provides formats for a wide variety of e-readers, computers, and smart phones. Be advised, however, that the meat grinder is very picky and won’t give your e-book a “Premium” rating unless you follow all the steps in the Smashwords style guide. Download the Style Guide and follow it carefully.
7. Prepare a clickable table of contents. (The Style Guide tells you how to do this).
8. Upload your formatted .doc file at Smashwords.com. Very shortly you will see a report, telling you whether your copy cleared the “auto vetter” without needing corrections. If your copy does require corrections, follow the auto vetter’s directions. Then re-upload the corrected copy. You may need to repeat this step several times before your .doc file finally passes the auto vetter inspection. Then you can submit it to human beings at Smashwords, who will give it, in about three days, a Premium rating (the token of a well-formatted e-book!) Smashwords distributes Premium-rated e-books to a very wide group of affiliate marketers.
9. Check the Smashwords .epub file. Smashwords advises you to check the .epub file generated by the meat grinder, to make sure it looks right. Smashwords recommends that you use the free program, Adobe Digital Editions, to view the .epub file. I discovered, however, that Adobe Digital Editions does not present accents over letters correctly (as are used in many languages besides English). So I recommend you download the free app, Calibre, to check your .epub file from Smashwords. Calibre converts e-reader files from one format to another, a very handy tool!
10. Upload your well formatted .doc file to Amazon.com. Going through the Smashwords.com submission process will give you a well formatted .doc file, which you can then upload at Amazon.com’s KDP department (standing for Kindle Direct Publishing). Before doing that, however, take off the “Smashwords Edition” notation on your title page. The process of Getting your e-book published at Amazon.com takes twelve hours at the most. KDP would like to market your e-book exclusively, but don’t check the box that gives them exclusive marketing privilege for ninety days. Especially at the beginning of your marketing, you will want your e-book to be available for the widest variety of reading devices, and Amazon services just one: Kindle. So leave that KDP box unchecked. KDP will bug you by email to check that little box, but don’t. Wait a while. Save exclusive Amazon sales for a later stage in your marketing strategy.