I originally posted a slightly different version of this over on my personal blog as E-publishing 101, so readers following me here from there (thank you) have already seen it, but for new folks, here are the goods (And, yes, I’m still hoping it’ll be helpful enough that people will print it out and post it on the fridge):

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 a freelance 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 errors!

2. Create cover art

If you’re artistically talented, you can do your own cover art, but most of us will want to hire someone (or bribe a graphic-designer relative). The cover art is the first thing readers will see. More, it may be a scrunched up version of it, one of ten or twenty “thumbprints” they see in a list of books. Yours has to stand out! If it’s not appealing, potential buyers won’t click on it and will never see your brilliant blurb or 5-star reviews.

You can find cover art designers by word-of-mouth (ask other indie authors or check the writers’ cafe in the Kindleboards forum) or by posting a job on the Deviant Art Forum. You can also check out a post I did a while back on affordable cover art designers. The fellow who did most of my covers, Glendon Haddix, is listed there, and there are more artists who left their information in the comments section.

If you have money to burn, and want a number of original cover images to choose from, you can post a job on 99 Designs. It’s a graphic design site where people post projects and numerous artists take on the project, competing with each other for the prize (your payment). The artists are usually designing corporate logos and such, so you’ll probably get a lot of interest for something fun like a cover for your murder mystery.

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 a couple of links to free guides online:

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. For keywords, pick the topics or genres/sub-genres that most closely match your book (i.e. historical fantasy, steampunk, space opera, etc.) as these can help visitors find you when they search for those niches/genres on Amazon.

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 — some folks have used Open Office too — 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 personal blog that can get you started, and make sure to subscribe to Savvy Self-Publishing to get the latest and greatest tips as well.

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

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