Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More E-Readers Means More Writers

Well with all of the e-readers coming down the street I think it is best to not assume that the written word is dead. I just got my Kindle Fire that I couldn’t wait to blog about but here is a different slant on the e-reader craze, but how do you get yourself read? More over with Christmas coming you know everyone is out there trying to buy and sell these things too. With all of the different formats out there that you can e-publish yourself, where is a good starting point for your own writing to take off? I will make it easy for you.

Online you have some tools and toys at your disposal but I can’t see why you would even go through the agony of writing and then trying to format it all in a way that everyone can get their hands on it. I personally have used two different online companies for all of my independent publishing needs, LuLu and Smashwords, which probably are no secret to anyone, but I figured I would promote anyway. Whereas LuLu will print your books for a reasonable price with no upfront overhead, don’t fool yourself. Their chosen format of epub is great if you want to copy protect your books, but is reasonably unusable unless you want to sell your soul to another Adobe product. Where Smashwords is the easiest way to get your e-books out there with a large customer base and all formats supported for your book, it isn’t going to give you that print copy that your relatives that “just don’t get that computer thing” expect your autograph on. That makes it official to them after all, and don’t act like it doesn’t mean something.

I’ll start with Smashwords because it is just the easiest and most effective. My e-books almost always end up for sale not only on Smashwords but in Barnes & Noble as well. Supposedly Amazon is supposed to start picking up your books but I have never found any of mine on there and I doubt their algorithm is so good that they can tell my e-books suck, so I will just assume they don’t pick them up all that easily. Smashwords takes your Microsoft Word .DOC {not .DOCX so keep that in mind when you format it} and converts it to every popular format for you. I suggest you read over this free e-book The Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker just to make sure that it is formatted correctly. It’s an easy read and will save you a lot of agony. After you have it all ready you simply submit it using a very simple form. They even have a cover maker for your book but I suggest you make your own. Once submitted your e-book is live and with a little self advertising you should start selling it.

Now as I noted before LuLu does a fine job printing and binding your books, and even though they will make you and .epub publisher, don’t limit yourself to that format. Aside from the fact that most people who look for your e-book will be sold on a different format, it’s just not the place people go for these things. LuLu will sell you all kinds of additional services that will supposedly put you on the map but I can’t see anything more than a tool to get yourself real looking printed copies of your book without any cost to you. Originally I thought to myself that I would publish an e-book and make a fortune but there are people out there that don’t take you seriously at all without a hard copy of your book to look at. Fact of life.

Where Smashwords makes it really easy you may assume that this is equally as easy and it is not, so I will help you understand a few things. Most importantly you better order your first book after you are done with it because it could be a disaster and you will never know it. The font size you use matters quite a bit. Too small and it looks silly and nobody can read it, too large and the book cost goes through the roof. You will be safe with an 11 point font assuming it is a normal font, and nothing too crazy. You have to send these to LuLu in PDF format {which your same old copy of Word will do} and you need to format it so it will fit in the book. Don’t go crazy with the margins because it will increase pages and add to the cost. A half inch margin is perfectly fine but a one inch margin will make it look like a kids book, as will a font that is above say 12. LuLu does have templates that you can download so that your book will fit the book formats that they use. Don’t go crazy with the extras and just use plain old book print and not the premium paper or anything.

Now don’t go crazy here. We hear it enough that the world is not all about wasting money anymore, unless you can convince the federal government to buy your books. You will need to push your books to get people to buy them. You aren’t just going to publish it and wait for everyone to come and get it, but if you have a good enough product then the word of mouth should sell a few of them. I have learned that often just getting your name out there is a huge step. Don’t sell yourself short and assume that you won’t be read by anyone. I have found many people read my crap, and it surprised me every day just who does. I can only wish that everyone can have that pleasant surprise one day and all it takes is to start. Head on over to Smashwords and buy a couple of .99 cent books that look interesting and then see how easy it is to be a publisher. Then go out and do it, so that you no longer have to say to yourself, if only?