How I Self Publish eBooks

Have you ever wanted to write a book? I bet you have thought about it once or twice in your lifetime.
There is an old saying that there is a book inside of everyone just waiting to be written.

I know that for many years I thought it was all too much trouble and hard work, but if I have learnt anything on this journey, it is that it is the hard things that are definitely worth the doing the most.  Heck, this whole blog is a testament to that revelation.

Now, as always, the devil is in the detail.  So in this post I am (with permission) going to share an email sent to me by Ohio Farm Girl, and answer her questions about self publishing.

I dare say that many of you may have similar questions.  If you have a book idea gaining momentum inside your brain, then this post is going to be one you won’t want to miss.

Hi Gavin! 

Liz from Eight Acres interviewed me in the same series that she did with you – I’m so glad to find your blog.

I was also thrilled to find your ebooks. I’ve been considering doing some ebooks as well – would you mind if I asked you some questions about your experience? Don’t worry tho – I don’t think we are competitors… I’m considering publishing some of my “Not Entirely Fiction.” stories: http://adventuresinthegoodland.blogspot.com/p/not-entirely-fiction.html

For the longest time I thought people were just being polite when they said they liked the “Adventure Tails” but there might be something to it. I know it’s not literature but it’s fun. So I’m interested in the self publishing process.

I know that Amazon has a program for self publishing – is this what you used?
What did you learn about writing your ebooks (about yourself and/or the process). Would you have done anything differently? Did you have an editor? How did you balance your life and everything you do normally with taking ‘time out’ to write? What activities did you do to market your books? 

And I guess the big question is.. was it “worth it?”

With very best regards, 

OFG

Well, where do I start OFG and dear readers?  At the beginning I suppose.

The thought of writing books came into my consciousness around March 2012, when I noticed that lots of co-workers brought their e-readers into work to read at lunch time.  I asked them how many books they read a month, and most replied that they read about four or five.  That got me thinking.

I did a bit more research and found that for a while now authors have been able to self publish eBooks and get them distributed via on-line retailers with a minimum of fuss.  I found a great article on c-net which documented how to self publish an eBook.

This article was a wealth of information, so I visited the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords sites because they offered everything I needed for free (my kind of price), and whilst there, downloaded their free style guides.  Here is the link for the Amazon Kindle style guide, and here is the Smashwords style guide.  Another great book that helped formulate ideas was the free eBook titled “The Secrets To eBook Publishing Success“.

I read and digested these two guides for about a month before I even began to write anything.  I wanted to make sure that I knew what I was getting myself into before I put pen to paper.  The Secrets book really helped as me follow best practices during the process.

When I felt confident enough, I issued a proclamation to the world via my blog, stating that I was going to write and self publish an eBook.  I found that by doing this, it kept me driven to strive for the prize.

From the day I announced my intent I worked on the manuscript every single night after work for a full month.  It was like having a second job.  I really burned the candle at both ends.  Luckily it was winter and there was not much going on in the garden, so I spend entire weekends writing as well.

My goal each day was to write at least 500 words, and once I got to that limit I stopped.  I didn’t review, or correct anything as I went along, I just wrote.

After three weeks, I had something that resembled a manuscript and I took a break for two days.

Then it was on with the editing.  Early on, I found that by reading aloud, which really helps by the way, I found so many spelling and grammatical mistakes and had to rewrite entire pages so that they made sense.  It took me an entire week of late nights to edit the first book “The Greening Of Gavin – My First Year of Living Sustainably”.

Once I thought I had edited it to death, I printed it out and handed it to Kim to edit it further.  She is great at editing because we have a relationship where we know that we can be critical of each others work and not hurt the other persons feelings.  If you are thinking of writing a book, seek out a person like this or hire a professional editor.  I guarantee that it helps make the final product more readable.

I rewrote entire chapters and even added some new ones.  I gave it back to Kim who, after some minor editing, gave it the big thumbs up.

I then sent it through to Kim’s mum, Pam.  Pam is retired now, however during her career, she used to proof read scientific papers, so I took up her kind offer to proof read my final manuscript.

I was amazed at the spelling and grammatical errors that she picked up.  I swear that I read that manuscript aloud twice and found nothing before I sent it too her!  Anyway, I fixed up all the mistakes and then began to format the book, following the style guides.

It took about two days to get this to a point where I was ready to upload the book.  However, in my haste I had forgotten a blurb and a book cover.  Many references state that after writing a bloody good book, you need a bloody good book cover.  Otherwise potential readers will just pass over the book in whatever catalogue you have it listed in.  I used MS PowerPoint to create the book cover and converted it into a JPEG file, resized it to the correct dimensions and then showed it to a few people for feedback.

Long story short, I gave it my best shot and hit the upload button.  Smashwords has this converting program, called the meat-grinder that takes an MS Word document and converts it into most eBook formats.  It reports back any formatting errors for you to correct.  I reckon it took three more revisions and uploads before I got it right.

With the book now published on both Smashwords and Amazon KDP, I started marketing.  A really great marketing guide is the one available free on Smashwords called “Smashwords Book Marketing Guide“.  I followed the guide meticulously, because I had little experience in marketing.  One of the best tips that I learnt was that after you have written your first book, you should write another, then another, etcetera.  Once people have read one good book that you have written, they will more than likely read another.  Your first success will lead to many more successes.

Launching an eBook can be quite difficult because there is nothing physical to tout.  It is not like you can do a book store tour or anything like that.  A blog post was the best method I could think of, so I wrote one and found that it was well received.  Subsequent books had better launches.  My latest eBook launch of “Build Your Own Backyard Oven” was the best so far, and it even had a podcast embedded in which I read a few chapters of the book, and the video I made when I built the oven.  It was the best eBook launch ever, not that I am biased!

I also promoted the book on social networks, which got shared around and helped with sales.  I also came across the term ‘build a platform’ which basically means that even before you decide to put pen to paper, a budding author needs to have a means of building a following.  Unknown authors do not sell many books.  Authors with a following do sell books.

I only have to cite the example of Rhonda Hetzel and her fantastic book “Down To Earth” as evidence.  Rhonda whipped up a frenzy on her blog each week as she documented the entire process of writing and publishing her now famous simple living book.  It kept people interested, turning them into book fans.  From what I have read, she sold out the first run of 12,000 hard-cover books and the publisher is printing another run.  She is a lovely person who deserves every success.

The big question is do I think that it was worth it?   Well, I believe that a resounding Yes is the answer.

From a personal perspective, I have a great sense of pride knowing that I am now a published author, and pride from the knowledge that I did it mostly myself.  It was hard, but rewarding work, and I am chuffed to bits really that people take the time to read them.

From a financial point of view, which was very low on my success criteria, self publishing has been pleasing.  However, don’t expect to become a millionaire overnight.  Even Stephen King took many years to establish a following and financial success.

After six months, I am selling about 80-90 eBooks a month via many on-line retailers.  Royalties range from 35 – 75% of the book price, which is much higher than via a regular paper book publishing house.  I consider the cash flow as a nice little annuity as I slow down and focus on things that really matter to me.  If the Internet is still around in years to come, it will help during retirement and keep the chooks fed.

Update: May 2013.  Since this post was originally written, I have implemented a shopping cart system for the PDF file delivery section of my eBookstore.  It uses e-Junkie whereby you create an account, upload the book files, and everything is then handled for you, including payment, delivery, and invoicing.  Great value at US$5 per month for my needs, and there are larger plans available.  Click on the icon below for more information.

E-junkie Shopping Cart and Digital Delivery

My final word of advice for all budding eBook self publishers is that you should go for it.  The only barrier to entry is your own self doubt (and lack of a good book)!

Is anyone considering writing their own book, or mulling it over?

Note: You can browse through all of my eBooks over at my eBookstore. I recently priced my first eBook free!

Addendum:  One thing I forgot to mention was that as these two distribution companies are located in the US, I had to apply for a US tax file number.  The process on how to get an EIN (Employee Identification Number) by filling out form SS-4 and how to submit form W8-BEN to Amazon and Smashwords is located at this link on Amazon.com.  If you are a US citizen then you can just use your Social Security number.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Gavin, I’m so glad you “met” OFG! I had much the same questions, so thanks heaps for sharing. I have been thinking about writing something, but hadn’t really settled on a topic and wasn’t sure if I had time, so its great to know the process that you used. I’ll have a look at those links you’ve included and keep thinking about, I’m sure I will come up with something eventually :) cheers, Liz

  2. says

    Perfect timing! We have spent the last year travelling around Europe in a motorhome – we kept a blog of our travels, mainly for friends and family, and a friend has suggested that we turn the blog into a book. I knew you had written a few and made a mental note to check out your blog posts about them – then along comes all the info I need in one place.

    Who knows whether I will actually do it (would anyone really want to read it?) but at least if I do, I now know how – thank you.

  3. says

    Hi Gavin, There are many things I liked about this article, the first of which is I am reading from someone like me who did it! The second are that you respond to the postings on this page.

    So, I have a completed manuscript, which is a fiction novel on a couple who come to Canada from Africa! So much goes down, and life takes – off with unexpected twists and turns.
    I’d like to e-publish/self publish and open a blog that will help people who are in the same position, but I have not so far.

    Thanks again for your article, I will have to step -up.

  4. says

    G’Day Gavin,

    A friend in your neck of the woods/world put me onto your article, thank you to both of you.

    For myself, I wrote my book first and creating an e-Book was secondary at the time. My book, The G.O.O.D. Plan – Get Out Of Dodge, is a non-fiction guide to help individuals and families plan their evacuation in the event of a natural disaster or man-made crisis. http://thegoodplanblog.blogspot.ca/ For a taste.

    My challenge has been with formatting. The conversion process has not gone smoothly at Kindle. I have am not employed where I once was and no longer have days to dedicate to a line by line correction of the uploaded and converted product. The conversion process was no smoother with a PDF version or a MS Word version. I believe the fast easy process is when you are working with novels or other works that do not have charts, pictures or diagrams. I will checkout your suggestion at Smashwords.

    Thanks again for laying out the process that led to your success!

    Cheers,

    Mountainman.
    aka Andrew.

  5. says

    Thanks for this post Gavin.

    I don’t comment much, but I have watched as you first announced you were going to write a book, and then wrote it – and several more! It’s interesting to hear the process you went through.

    Although professionally I have been working in the public service in web management (and before that worked as a massage therapist & teacher), writing has always been my first love. So now that I have taken a redundancy (woohoo!), it is definitely something I plan to do more of. Building up a “platform” though, that’s what I’m working on now (while still writing on the blog, of course, and working on the garden. And parenting!) :)

    • says

      Hi Kirsten,

      Congrats on your redundancy! From what I have notice following your blog, your platform looks quite strong already, and an eBook would be a great asset to your site, and of course the personal satisfaction of being an ‘Author’.

      Gav x

  6. Anonymous says

    Hi Gavin,
    I’m really enjoying reading your blog, which I found from the Western Water newslaetter/email. I will be downloading your ebook in a few minutes, and I also live in Melton and have a great interest in developing the garden (seeing as the landlord said I can do whatever I want). I have been keeping diaries on raising and breeding fish and haven’t known where to start with publishing the information for others on the internet…
    I will be taking on much of your advice and upgrading from wheelie bins to water tanks for water storage.

  7. says

    Hi Gavin,
    thanks for sharing I have been attempting to write my memoirs over the last ten years or so I’m afraid not very discipline with myself and, your blog has thrown a different light on how one can achieve their dream with E-book publishing through determination thank-you

Trackbacks

  1. […] I used Gavin Webber’s “How I Self Publish Ebooks” as my personal pep talk read on days when the going got tough.  It’s almost like having someone hold your hand to walk you through the process. Find it here: http://bit.ly/10l6QN7 […]

  2. […] I used Gavin Webber’s “How I Self Publish Ebooks” as my personal pep talk read on days when the going got tough.  It’s almost like having someone hold your hand to walk you through the process. Find it here: http://bit.ly/10l6QN7 […]

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