Writing the book is the hard part...

I've seen quite a few people online who have indicated an interest in self-publishing, but who are afraid about what it involves, and don't think that they can do it. Take it from me – you can. Writing the book is the difficult part. That's the part that occupies my thoughts, my time, and that is as it should be. Usually...actually publishing a book takes me less than half an hour from start to finish. There's no need for it to take any longer, especially if you are prepared.

First, obviously, I need two things to start – the first is a completed draft of my book in LibreOffice format (OpenOffice or Word will work just as well) and a cover. This cover needs to meet the requirements of Amazon for a cover upload; if you hire a good cover artist they'll know those details well, but it's worth checking. Once you have those, you can begin. (Note that there is nothing permanent about the book, though. If you find something you need to change tomorrow morning, say that you forgot to put in the link to your mailing list, you can add it and update the file whenever you want.)

The first step is to make sure that I have a clean file. That means going through and making sure that all the page breaks are in the correct place; this is critical, because you never know how your book will be read. Different font sizes, different screen sizes – my philosophy is to keep it simple and clean, keeping fancy work to a minimum. Indents are my biggest headache at the moment; I'm using Google Docs, and when I work on the file, I often have to re-indent an awful lot. Still, this isn't a long job, just a tedious one.

Once that's done, you need a conversion program. I know a lot of people hire out to convert to ebook format, but in my personal opinion, for a novel this really isn't necessary. If you have some sort of special requirements, lots of pictures, for example, then it might be a different story. Normally, however, if you can use a word processor you can do this yourself without trouble, and save time and money. (Paperback formatting is different; that process is rather more involved, and there I would recommend hiring a professional.)

The program I've always used is called Alkinea; it does the job very well, and is smooth and quick to use. You simply enter the location of your file and your cover, fill in your title and author information, and click one button. Simple. (This produces .mobi and .epub files; I obviously only use the .mobi, as for the present I am only publishing through Amazon.) Now, it would be total foolishness to publish now – so we come to the next step.

You need to read your book again. If you haven't got the Kindle for PC program, get it; then scroll through the book. This actually is a quick process, because you are looking for formatting errors. Indents in the wrong place, chapters that run on, that sort of thing. I've never managed to get this right in one yet; there's always something wrong that needs fixing. It is important to fix everything, no matter how small – because you never know how much that might be magnified on a different reader. Once I've got the file right, I then check it on my actual Kindle – I do the PC one first because I can scroll through the pages with my mouse more quickly.

Then, the time comes to upload. You'll need a blurb ready – you do have one, right? That usually takes me ages to do, so I like to have it ready before I even start this. Amazon's Bookshelf is really quite self-explanatory – you need to upload your cover file and your book, enter your blurb and the details of the book – title, contributors, and the like. Then you need to set the price, and while that's a whole other story, there is one thing I will recommend – don't use the automatic feature to set the prices for books in non-US markets.

You see, currency rates change, all the time – and though it might only be a small change, it will mean that all of your books are on sale in, say, Amazon Germany at completely different prices. It looks unprofessional if one book costs five pence more than the last, which itself cost three pence more than the first book you sold. Round to the nearest 50 pence/cents – it might cost you a few pennies, but it's more than worth it.

Amazon has a spellcheck feature that is worth using at the last minute, though I've never found anything with it – the few it has highlighted have always been names or the like. There's another viewer that is certainly worth using, though hopefully by now you've got everything right. Then – hit publish, and sit back and wait. It will take a few hours for the book to appear. I often hit the button in the evening, on the idea that by morning, it will be on sale...though it does tend to make sleeping that night rather difficult!

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