I Want to Do an Ebook, Where Do I Start?

By far the most common question I get these days from people is about ebooks. It seems many of you are writing them and good for you! Ebooks can be a good source of income for freelancers and a good way to build or support your brand. If you’re thinking of doing an ebook and wondering where to start, here are some resources for you.

Now, it should be said that this is a place to start. It’s not an all-encompassing guide. Maybe I’ll do one of those. As it stands, there is really good information all over the place right now, so I’ll try and give you some things I’ve heard are good and some that I’ve used myself. But remember what I always say about writing, there are a lot of different ways to make money at it, and ebooks are no exception.

Here’s a good starting place for you, tho.

Traditional Versus Indie Publishing

First, decide if you want to publish traditionally or not. Do some research. You might decide that indie publishing is the right way to go for you, or not. But you need some info first. Just because ebooks are easy to do doesn’t meant they are the right step for you right now. They might be. I don’t know. You need to decide. One place to start is at Nathan Bransford’s blog.

Where to Start?

I’m told there are a couple good resources (which I didn’t use personally but still have heard positive things about). One is the Smashwords guide (it’s free) , which tells you how to format.  Smashwords also helps you upload your books to Amazon and B&N if you’re feeling as if it’s too difficult. I didn’t use them, but even if you don’t I’m told the guide is still very helpful on its own.

Amazon also has a helpful guide on getting started. If you look to the left of that link, it has chapters for formatting and pricing and rights… etc. Read through it before you begin and it will cover all the basics.

Cover Art

A good cover will help sell your book. Yes, people judge a book by its cover! So make sure you have a good one. Joe Konrath has some really great resources for covers on his blog (scroll down on the right side) of that link, and it will show you who he used.

A professionally designed cover does cost money, and if you decide that’s not right for you, just remember to use something that you have permission to use! I can’t stress it enough. Even if you purchase a stock image, make sure you have rights to publish it with an ebook. You can see some of my covers at my Amazon store, and admittedly, many of them are boring and/or ugly. I’ve designed covers myself and also have a couple that I made extremely dull (like my Twitter book). But I like to give you examples to learn from (and sometimes you can learn from my mistakes – so take a look at what’s good and what stinks. If you see a cover that turns you off, that’s one thing not to do for your own book.)

Obviously, a good cover will help you sell your ebook. The cover art should be separate from your manuscript, meaning that you will upload it on its own in a JPG file. So don’t try and imbed it into the Word doc.

Uploading to Amazon and Barnes and Noble

When you have a manuscript and cover, you can upload it to Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Read the helpful hints on Amazon first as it will help also make things a little easier when upload to Barnes and Noble.

Some things to have handy before you start:

  • Your manuscript formatted in Word.
  • Cover art in preferably a JPG file.
  • Marketing copy (this is usually the blurb that you’d find on the back of a book. You can see a short version of this under the “Product Description” on Amazon for one of my books  and a longer version. The wording on here should be whatever you need to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Categories. Visit Amazon and look through the categories where books similar to yours can be found. Categories are VERY important, so make sure you have this before you start. Also, you can choose a couple different categories, which might be appropriate depending on your book.
  • A blurb about you.


Some advice on pricing…. in almost every case I have had to experiment a bit with finding the right price. Some of my books sell well at 99 cents, while others are good at $5.95. Check out other books that are similar to yours to get an idea of what’s out there. Amazon pays a 70% royalty on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Anything outside of that gets a royalty of 35%. Also, Amazon insists on having the lowest price for your book (one of the things you agree to when you sign up) so make sure that whatever price you choose is always lowest (or the same) at Amazon.

Selling a Book From Your Blog or Website

After you sign up for Amazon and B&N, you might also want to sell your book from your own blog or website. I used Payloadz for this and you can see how I have this setup for my Twitter book. Payloadz is connected with PayPal, so when someone hits the “buy now” button and pays, their money goes to my PayPal account. The “buy now” button is created on the Payloadz site. I upload my book and marketing info, price it, and it generates an HTML button code that I simply copy to my site.

PayPal takes a small fee, but it’s worth it. You can accept any credit card this way and you never have to worry about collecting money because PayPal does it for you. When someone buys my ebook from my site, Payloadz gives them a link to download the book and then sends the money to my account. I get an email that says I made a sale and by whom. (You can also sell paperback book copies this way (through PayPal not Payloadz in this case). You don’t need PayPal to upload to Amazon or B&N. It’s just if you want to sell books at your own site.

After Your Ebook Is Up

It takes anywhere from a couple of hours to two days to get your book set up on Amazon or B&N. If you get things uploaded and realize you made a mistake, you can always change it later. Amazon has an option to “edit” and it does not cost anything to do this.

If you don’t have one already, it’s a good idea to create an author page on Amazon by visiting Amazon Author Central.  Include your ebook along with the other books they may have already listed there. Also, set up your Twitter and blog feed on Amazon Author Central because it will help readers find you and your blog much easier. Anywhere you can take advantage of marketing opportunities, take it! I actually get a good amount of traffic from Amazon to my blog, so it’s worthwhile to do.

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