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I’ll attempt to tackle the question about how to get your ebook published on Amazon’s Kindle – very briefly.
Step one: write your book.
Step two: edit and then proofread your book. And then either hire a professional proofreader, or get as many readers as possible to proofread your book. I have five or six people reading my book, and everyone finds different errors and typos, so that the more eyes on the page, the cleaner the copy will be.
Step three: prepare your manuscript for conversion into an ebook. What you are doing in this step is setting up your text so that when it is converted into an ebook it flows smoothly without blank pages or oddities in the text, that may cause Amazon or other ebook publishers to bounce it back to you with error messages.
There are software apps that you buy that will do this for you. One is an Apple computer only program called Vellum. It costs $265. Some authors teach themselves how to program in HTML and then use the free program Calibre to make their own epub. You can also let Calibre convert your word processor program into any of the ebook formats, but unless you know what you are doing and what all the terms mean, you are probably best to leave this process to Amazon, or Smashwords. For Google Play Store you do have to create your own epub, and I do so with Calibre’s default settings, except that I use version 2 instead of version 1, the default setting, since version 1 returns an error for me.
All that said, I would recommend just letting Amazon or Smashwords create their ebook document from your word document. They know best what they want. However, to create the best looking ebook, and avoid errors, you do need to set up your word document correctly. For example, you may have your word processing document set up to include page numbers. You don’t want page numbers in a document that will be converted to an ebook, since the number of pages changes depending on size of text that the reader of an ebook selects. In addition, there are a number of other things that should be set up for ebooks as well. All of which can be found in the free ebook by Mark Coker; the Smashwords Style Guide which you can download here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52 While this was written for people planning to upload and publish their books on Smashwords, I have used its procedures without any problem with Amazon Kindle as well.
Mark Coker takes you in a numbered, step by step process through creating a document that will make certain that your book is acceptable to the Smashword’s process of turning it into an ebook. It is not a daunting process. If you are only producing a non-illustrated work of fiction, half of the book will not apply in your case, so don’t let the page count scare you. I use this process for all my books.
They style book sets out guidelines for things like how many blank lines you should have between chapters, the size and style of your text and chapter heading, how to format the pages of your manuscript, and how to eliminate invisible characters that may affect how the text appears once it is converted into an ebook. It tells you how to set up a table of contents, however, this is optional and I just let the publisher’s process create one for me automatically.
The book is written for people using MS Word. I write my books in LibreOffice, but I have found that while the terms and options may look a little different, the programs have basically the same functions and it’s easy translate the directions. Coker also suggests that you might want to make sure your text doesn’t have any unnecessary invisible characters that word processors use in the text to indicate things like a paragraph break, and such. It is possible that some of these unseen characters (unless you toggle them to be visible) might’ve crept in during the writing process and might affect the results of the conversion. This involves copy and pasting your story into a simple text editing app, and then back to your word processing app, the details of which are in the book.
Once I’m done with all this, I use the option in LibreOffice to save the manuscript as a Word 97 document, and then upload it to both Amazon and Smashwords, changing only the “edition name” to match the ebook store I’m uploading to. If you work in MS Word, you’re set to upload your book.
On Amazon that there are several options for what you can upload and publish. I believe that they even have a dedicated ebook maker that you can upload your document into and tinker with online. But, of course, you can just upload the manuscript in the current version of MS Word as well. I use the old version of Word, the “.doc” version, since it works, and why fix something that works?
Step four: uploading your nice clean ebook ready manuscript to Amazon and/or Smashwords. Besides your manuscript, you’ll need a separate JPEG image of your cover in the suggested size. Both places will ask for the manuscript and cover to be uploaded separately. You will also need a blurb, and you’ll have to decide what categories that you want your book to appear in, plus come up with some keywords that will lead people searching those keywords to your book. On both platforms the process is pretty straight forward. With Amazon you’ll have a choice to publish only with Amazon, which gives you some special deals, and automatically lists your book in their Kindle Unlimited program where readers can borrow your book with Amazon paying you for the pages readers read. If you want to release your book on other platforms, this option is not open to you, so be sure to read the instructions carefully.
Step five: select your price and push the publishing button.
Step six: start counting your money. You’re going to need a lot of it to promote your book, but that’s another story.
Hey Chuck … thank you for this. I’ve mostly published via Amazon’s Kindle platform (and CreateSpace for paperbacks back before they merged the two). I tried Smashwords with my first novel and found that a bit more complicated. But that also was almost 10 years ago. Maybe Smashwords is more user-friendly now?
These days, it seems that the Kindle plublishing platform is almost an automatic thing. I don’t really do anything special with my manuscript, just upload it at the right time and an e-book comes out the other end. That’s not to say there likely aren’t things I could do better. For instance, I’ve yet to include a table of contents, complete with hyperlinks. Why? You don’t get that in a real book, why provide one in an e-book? It just seems like more trouble than it’s worth. I’ve never used a TOC in an e-book I’m reading.
Thanks for walking us through your process.
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I started with Smashwosrds in 2015, and it hasn’t changed much.Still, it is a pretty straight forward process — upload your word doc, and your jpeg cover, cut and paste your blubs– one short for Smashword’s listing of your book and one long one. Select your categories and publish.
These days I actually move more books on Apple (via Smashwords) than on Smashwords itself. Still, it is useful to be able to offer one’s books on Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and a number of other services without doing more than uploading to Smashwords. Though I think most people find that they make more money going all in on Amazon and its Kindle Unlimited program. The downside is that you have all your eggs in one basket and Amazon can, and sometimes does, pull the rug out from authors for reasons they don’t care to specify.
I agree,, a table of contents is useless in ebook fiction as it automatically opens up to where you left off — and there are bookmarks as well. A reference book, is a different story.
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I may try Smashwords again so I can get on all those other platforms. When I tried it with my first novel, I got one sale — to a friend who has a Nook instead of a Kindle.