How to Turn Your Book Into an E-Book
It took over 6 months to find the right way to get my books into ebook format. For those who understand the technology it's relatively simple, for the rest of us it's very hard.
This guide offers you the way to do this free of charge and for those who just get exasperated this offers the best value I have found to sort various issues out. Prices may fluctuate but are correct at the time of going to press.
1. Writing the book.
Though I will not go into how to write your book, it is important to note that editing your book is vital.
a. The Free way: get two people to read and comment. But be clear about what you are asking them to do. Proof reading is not the same as editing and commenting on your book and the story itself. Be clear about what you are asking. You are looking for friends who have a good understanding of the English language - punctuation, grammar etc.
b. Pay. There are many proof readers about. The cheapest I found was going via oDesk.com and looking for proof readers. I found a British lady in Italy who proof read my book for US$50. I believe that was the best value I found.
Summary: edit/proof read your book. Once it is published it will be a real pain to do this and you will get bad reviews for poor editing (trust me I know).
2. Formatting the book/publishing
It seems that each e-book requires a different format. The best way to get the format right even if you don't want to use this company is Smashwords.com. Their guide to formatting e-books is second to none. In fact once I found them (and unfortunately for me I had already self published on amazon two books) it was obvious that this was by far the easiest way to publish my e-book worldwide. Smashwords have formulated a simple and easy to use their website that is free to use and that will distribute your book worldwide to all the major e-book companies. It can't get easier than this.
My tips are the following:
a) The free way: Read and digest the guidelines and reformat your document as they suggest.
b) To pay: If you have already written your book (ie not followed their formatting) then I would recommend that you use one of their listed people to reformat it for uploading. I spent hours trying to reformat my books that were already written to keep it free only to end up paying US$40 to have them reformatted, usually within 48 hours. You can pick which you want to do.
c) If you haven't started writing your book and you want to convert your book into an ebook then start with the right formatting at the beginning. This will save a lot of heartache at the end.
3. Cover photos
a) Free: Do your own photo and follow the formatting on Smashwords.com. I have tried doing my own, some of which have turned out OK because I find this technology more easy to use. I would note though that the photographs I've used taken by myself do not have the same impact as those taken professionally and though I kidded myself that they were good people could easily see which ones I had done myself. If you do not have the time/finances to pay for a professional photo, it's worth going to iStock.com and buy one of their photos. Cost varies from US$10=US$50. You will still have to format the photo.
b) If you cannot follow the format required, then use Smashword's list for making a cover page.
c) Note: Photographs are the cheapest way to do this. However you can of course pay to have a designed cover. Both Smashwords do this and again you may want to venture into the world of http://www.oDesk.com and hire someone who might be a lot cheaper. They key to this is to be really clear on what you want. Therefore it would be better to have drawn up how you would like your cover page, include examples of covers you like and anything else that you think is important. Being clear on a brief helps enormously with cost and getting what you want.
4. Marketing your book.
There is no easy way to self-market a book. Just because you have written and published a book, it doesn't mean that you will have hundreds of thousands of people flocking to buy your book. Though it pains me to say.
Once you enter the world of self-marketing, it is interesting to take a moment to understand why the distributors of books take such a large percentage. This is a business and very hard work in itself. However if you are willing to plug away some things always happen.
a) The first thing is to decide that you are in this for the long haul. This means a commitment on your part to keep the faith and more practically how much time are you going to put into marketing. Decide and stick to it. I would suggest at least 3 hours/week is used to focus on marketing your book.
b) Amazon. Amazon is of course one of the places you will be able to put your books. You will have to decide if you are going to use amazon exclusively (as that allows you to join various schemes, like their lending scheme). A tip with amazon is to find writers who are writing the same genre and ask to a) write reviews b) buy eachother's books and then write a review. It is really worth doing this. I went from being a millionth on their list to 500,000th The jump is huge but of course you are still low on the list, but that was from one exchange.
c) Smashwords. Smashwords has a guide to marketing and again this is comprehensive and worth reading and incorporating.
d) Make a plan. So what does your plan think about: website, blog, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn plus more and more sites and suggestions that come up. The reality is that unless you intend to this as a full time job you can't do it all. I would suggest dividing your time up 80-20, meaning put 80% of the time you have decided to allocate to the main few things and 20% to looking around to see what else is going on, trying some new outlets. What is clear is that consistency is very important. Just because no one likes your page immediately on Facebook, it doesn't mean you should give up on that angle. This social networking, though it is drummed in that it is instant, the principles of marketing still remain. Consistency, who is your market, what things are you going to write about that make people interested in wanting to buy your books.
e) What are you going to spend, if anything on marketing. Will you use these advertising techniques on the web - Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google ads etc? It's a minefield out there. You can usually get free google ads offer to begin with. It's worth trying but don't do any advertising until you know what you are trying to do and if you do, do write down what you are targeting so you can see if it works. To be honest at this point, it may be better to hire someone and again I would point you to http://www.oDesk.com. The most important thing with this part of the marketing plan, is how much do you want to spend on both time and money, bearing in mind how much your book will sell for. It is a hard decision to make, but worth at least having an idea at this point.
f) Review this plan at least every three months and look at each time you sit down. This new technology can confuse and take you on all sorts of journeys that will waste your time
5. Other cheap resource available
There is an organization that I found recently called oDesk. This is an online temp agency that allows you to employ people anywhere in the world to work with you to complete projects. As I write I working with someone to help with cover graphics for a comedy podcast I do (in India), and working with someone from the Philippines on my website with (http://www.albalewis.com) and marketing of my own books. It is very reasonably priced and I would not be able to do this without this system. If you want a recommendation email me at my website.
Please note: This is not a free resource. But I have found it incredibly useful. This is not for everyone and I would urge that if you use it you take the one to one training offered so that you are clear on the best way to use this system.