Writer on the Side #5: Digital Publishing

This is an excerpt from my new book Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job.The book is meant to help anybody who has been struggling to fit their writing despite having a sometimes brain-crippling full-time job. This excerpt briefly introduces the concepts of digital publishing. Nowadays, anybody can become a published author using some important online tools. Check out the links on the right column to purchase the book here or at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

Smoothing Out the Edges

If writing a book is like running a 26.2 mile marathon, touching the book up to smooth out any rough edges is like the guy at the finish like saying “oh, we’re actually running 27.2 miles this year.” Which is to say that editing is a tedious but not necessarily long process and that if you don’t do it you won’t truly be finished.

While your book may be quite long, your best first bet is to read the entire thing out loud to yourself (or to a friend if they’ll sit there that long). This process will take care of over half of the syntactical errors and most of the typos. Keep in mind, that even if you’ve spellchecked a document, you will run into many instances of typing the incorrect but properly spelled word in a given situation. Hearing the book read out loud takes care of those pesky situations.

The next step is to have someone with editing experience look the document over. If you have a close friend who is a freelance editor, you may be able to get a decent rate on the project (plug for Ashley Daoust, look her up). If not, you will either have to shell out a something over $100 or you’ll have to do the project in trade. It stinks to spend money when you’re not sure if a product will get you any in return, but it is very important to have your book fully edited and ready to go when you decide to publish it.

Once your book has passed the reading test and the editing test, it’s time to give it to a few friends for; you guessed it, “the friend test.” If you are worried about what your friends might think, just send it to your more encouraging friends. There is no time for a “negative Nancy” opinion when you’re trying to publish your first work. Once it’s published, “those people” can tell you all the downbeat things they won’t about it.

Make any good changes that your friends suggest and ignore the silly ones. When you’ve gotten all the feedback possible, give the book one last read through out loud. If it passes this final test, you are ready to self-publish your book on the independent market! 

How to Publish Your Digital Book

There are several different approaches you can take when you publish your book digitally and the most effective way to earn money from your book is to use them all. Author JA Konrath is one of the most successful digital book authors of our time, selling thousands of his thriller books every day and inching closer to a seven-figure income every year. Crazily enough, this is only after two years of having been self-published. One of the reasons (and there are many) he has been so successful is that he is using multiple platforms to distribute his book.

While Amazon Kindle sales have given him the most income, he also has received money from books sold through Amazon’s CreateSpace, a service that changes digital books into print versions and through Smashwords, which is a service that sends digital books to many other publishing services like the Apple and Sony eBook stores. Another method for digital book selling is through your own website using a hosting service like e-Junkie to sell the book as a PDF.

For all of these methods, the websites involved have extensive help sections with many Frequently Asked Questions that I won’t cover here. I’ll give you some of the basics that helped me through the process of publishing and you can refer to those websites specifically for any problems you find yourself running into. 

Side Note: Creating a Cover

When I first embarked upon self-publishing, creating a cover for the book worried me. Fortunately, my girlfriend is a former freelance designer and it was not too difficult to convince her to do it for me. If you do not have anyone living with you who is a digital guru, you have a couple of other options.

There are some eBook cover designing programs that aren’t too expensive, though they don’t create anything beautiful enough to write home about. You can try to do it yourself using a program like Adobe Photoshop, though if you aren’t skilled at the process, it may end up looking disastrous. The most effective and most expensive method is to outsource the project completely.

Go on an eBook selling website and look through the covers. Find a few that both fit your genre and style and see if a simple Web search will get you the name of the designer. Contact the designer directly for a quote on a book cover. This can run you over $200 (sometimes over $500) but a fantastic cover can go a long way to selling your book for you. Let the designer know which sites you plan on submitting the book to so that he or she can give you the most appropriately formatted file. 

Amazon Kindle

While I was at first very confused by the submission process to Amazon, it’s actually quite simple once you stumble through it a few times. Simply go through your document and change all of your chapter headings (like Chapter 7: Going All the Way) to a style like Heading 1 using a program like Word or OpenOffice.

For any subheadings (like Amazon Kindle) you want to use a different heading like Heading 3. This will create your table of contents for you, so there is no need to put one in the document itself. Add a page break at the end of each chapter. Save your document using the file type “Web Page, Filtered.” Search the Web for the program MobiPocket Creator (which the Amazon Kindle site links to directly). Import your document (which is now an HTML file) and click on the Cover section to import your cover file. Click on Table of Contents and place “h1” in the top left box and “h3” in the middle left box. Click “Build” to build your book into a Kindle file.

Download the program Kindle Reader and then import the file you created. Here you will be able to see if there are any formatting mistakes for your document. Change the errors in the original Word or OpenOffice document and then repeat the same procedure.

When you sign up for the Amazon Kindle publishing service, all you need to do is create a new book listing, upload your cover file, upload your book file and fill in information like the book description, price, etc.

I have simplified the process largely, but this is essentially all you have to do. Do not let tedious tasks like this slow you down, for the sooner you have the book online, the sooner you can call yourself an author. 

To continue reading Writer on the Side and to learn about how to publish on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and CreateSpace, buy it today! Click the link to get to the sales page. Thanks for reading! 

Done with Writer on the Side? Go back to the Home Page.

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Written by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.
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