The Beginners’ Guide To Self-Publishing An eBook

Image: Digital Trends

With the growing popularity of Kindles and eBooks, the barriers to releasing your book has become easier than ever. Tommy Collison guides you through everything you need to know about the self-publishing process.  

To me, one of the coolest parts of the internet (and that’s a hotly contested title) is the rise of self-publishing. Now, it existed before the internet, but like so many things, the internet made it ubiquitous, easy, and accessible to almost everyone.

The advantages of self-publishing should be evident. The basic premise is that anyone can become a small publisher. You’re in charge, you retain the rights to your work, and (assuming your work sells) you take home a bigger royalty (usually 70% of the price) than you’d normally get from a traditional publisher.

During the first six months of 2012, I wrote, formatted, and published a book of short stories in eBook form, aged 17. I’d harbored ambitions of being a writer for over 10 years, but I’d never thought I was good enough to be able to make a career out of writing, the way Stephen King or any of my other authorial heroes had.

Then, a friend nudged me in the direction of self-publishing and I threw myself into it. I chose the iTunes Bookstore and Amazon Kindle store since those were two areas I was familiar with. According to a February 2011 report from the Goldman Sachs Group, the Kindle accounts for 67% of the American e-reader market, with Apple accounting for just under 10%. This meant that my book would be available on over three-quarters of e-readers, and I’d yet to spend any money.

Making Your eBook

Creating an eBook for sale online is much easier than you probably think. I wrote most of the book in various files, organizing them in When the book was finished, I created one large and converted that into a .epub file, which is the file format that Apple and Amazon work with, using’s share function.

The next thing you need is a cover. I think that a decent book cover is even more important online than offline as it needs to instantly jump out at a potential customer when they browse the store. On the store, your book is just another thumbnail fighting for attention alongside thousands of others. Famous authors sell books because people know that Stephen King’s book is going to be good, but new authors have to prove themselves first, and many never reach that level of recognition.

If you’re good with PhotoShop, you can design your own cover. My own PhotoShop skills are lackluster at best, so I hired a graphics designer, which was an expense. Over the summer, I’m hoping to be good enough at using the app such that I can do my own cover design.

Selling Your eBook

Assuming you’re going to charge for book (and not make it free), another prerequisite is an ISBN number. They’re the codes on the back of each publication which function as a unique identifier for that edition. and Nielsen are the biggest players here. Buying the numbers in bulk (in batches of 10 or 100) isn’t uncommon since the vast majority of purchasers are publishing houses who publish dozens, if not hundreds, of titles a year.

Once that’s done, it’s really a case of following the instructions on the specific bookseller websites (Amazon, Apple). Some publishers might have specific requirements. Apple, for instance, require a valid Tax ID to sell on the iBookstore.

Marketing Your eBook

So, once your publication is live and ready to sell, the next step is to get people to buy it. For new authors, the best way is simply to tell people about it. Tweet a link to it, e-mail your friends or relatives, or post about it on Facebook. New authors don’t have the luxury of sitting back and watching the sales roll in; people won’t know about your book unless you tell them.

Apple provide individual promotion codes (a free copy of your book) which you can give to people or use as the prize to a competition. Above all, generate interest. What you want are from the readers you get now to buy the next thing you publish, and for that to be how you build your audience.

Give away writing samples in order to whet readers’ appetites. Share jokes or stories (for instance: I published a school essay that one my short stories was originally based on) and stay humble. Know that your second effort will be better than the first effort and don’t stop trying.

Above all, be proud of what you’re doing; it’s a great achievement. Enjoy yourself.

Best of luck.

Tommy Collison’s first book of short stories, “A Certain Freedom”, is available on the Amazon Kindle store and the iTunes Bookstore.

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