A brief introduction
I just want to make clear the subject matter is ebooks, books in an electronic format. There are plenty of sites on the Web where you can self-publish your books in print format, but all of those with which I am familiar will cost you something initially. What I’m specifically talking about below are books in various electronic forms, sometimes pdf documents or for the Amazon Kindle or other popular ebook reading devices, such as PDAs with ereading software.
The Kindle, created and sold by Amazon, is a handheld device specifically made and sold for the reading of books in electronic format. Through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform you can publish your ebook for sale on Amazon’s Web site in electronic format for the Kindle. That means your potential customers have to have a Kindle to be able to download and read your ebook on their Kindle device. You could also decide you want to become a professional publisher of ebooks and you could begin publishing the works of other writers, as long as you’ve contracted with them to publish their works.
What do you need to set up a DTP account with Amazon? Not much. A computer, of course. A bank account and a social security number or a business tax identification number. This does mean, however, you can only sell your Kindle ebooks in the United States. The Kindle hasn’t quite reached the rest of the world yet, but it soon will and I’m sure you’ll be able to publish to the rest of the world as well at that point. Also, it will be helpful if you know at least some basic html code since that coding is how Amazon ultimately provides ebooks to the Kindle. Learn the basics with the Amazon Digital Text Platform Quick Start Guide.
I’ve published a novel, two screenplays and a couple of short story collections on the Kindle. So far, my Kindle sales are pretty decent. I’m not going to get rich, but readers are finding my work available. Also, by far, the Kindle provides me with the best sales of my work. And who sets the price for your books? You do. The only restriction Amazon places upon you as an independent publisher is that you can’t sell any of your books for less than 99 cents.
Yes, it’s true. You can publish your own books now.
After the Kindle, Smashwords is my next favorite place to publish ebooks. And one of the nice things about the Smashwords site for your potential readers is they don’t need a special device to be able to read the books and stories available. Ebooks on the Smashwords sites are available for the Kindle and other ereaders, but you can also download the stories to your computer in many different formats, including pdf, html, rtf, epub and many more.
Smashwords is the easiest to use of all the ebook publishing sites listed here. It’s easy to upload your book and it’s cover, though I will suggest you download a copy and look it over to make sure it looks the way you want it; if it doesn’t, fix it then upload it again.
Another nice thing about Smashwords is that you can sell your books for whatever price you want. You can even offer the books for free, if that’s your choice. And free books can often draw potential readers to you.
One last thing: Smashwords allows your customers to read a certain percentage, set by you, of your ebooks at no cost. This makes sense to me. It gives potential customers a taste of what they could be reading. If they like what they see, they’ll buy your ebooks.
Scribd has a lot of similarities with Smashwords. It’s a site where you can upload your ebook and offer it for sale in various formats, and you can even offer your ebooks to readers for free. But Scribd is a little down on my list for a couple of reasons. First, the Web site always seems really slow and glitchy to me no matter what computer I use nor what browser I use. Second, I don’t get very many sales from Scribd.
Still, Scribd is a fairly easy to use site for uploading and selling your ebooks, and it is one more place to showcase your work. Also, of all the sites listed here, Scribd seems to have one of the best communities for budding writers and publishers.
Through its eBookBase platform, Mobipocket provides you with the opportunity to sell your ebooks to those who have ereading devices or ereading software on their computer.
I’ll be blunt. This is my least favorite of the self-publishing options available for ebook authors. Why? The uploading process is overly complicated to the point of being a nightmare. You have to download two different pieces of software, one for putting together your ebook and another just to read it, then you have to go through a lengthy and somewhat complicated process just to get your ebooks available on the Mobipocket Web site. Then there’s the fact that this site provides the least amount of sales for me. In fact, I’ve only sold two books through Mobipocket in two months. Not very impressive. And the Web site isn’t all that helpful.
Still, it’s another place to showcase and provide your work to possible readers, so I can’t shoot down the Mobipocket folks for trying. Hopefully, over time, they will provide better services.
A last note
Each of the four Web sites and companies mentioned above are different in many ways. The learning curve for publishing your books can seem quite daunting at first, but with some patience you can overcome any seeming difficulties. Don’t forget to ask questions in forums and in “Help” areas on the Web sites. These companies want to help you because they want you to make money because then they make money.
And I don’t want you going into this thinking there are not any fees at all. There are, you just don’t have to pay anything up front. All four of the sites mentioned above will take a certain percentage of your ebook sales. Sometimes it’s a hefty percentage, sometimes not. But they make more money when you are making more money.
Another thing, don’t expect to get rich from publishing your novel or whatever. Sure, it’s not impossible you could catch a sizable readership and make some money. But the truth is that even once you publish, you still have a lot of work ahead of you. After publishing, you need to begin marketing, and that can be fun, too!