In the pre-Internet days (“The Dark Ages”), if you wanted your book published, you would type out your manuscript, post copies to various publishers and hope they would deign to read it. If they did, you would then have to be excited at the thought of earning 5% royalties on every copy sold (if you were lucky).
But with the Internet came Amazon, and Amazon brought along Kindle. Kindle has allowed anyone to publish their own books and cut out the traditional publisher network. We also have other eBook platforms such as Apple Books, Kobo, Nook, Tolino, Google Play, and many others.
I have ten books out so far in the last two years but it was a steep learning curve and mistakes were made. It has also been expensive producing those books. Which got me wondering. Can it be done on virtually no budget at all?
The Ingredients For Creating an eBook
To produce the eBook ready for uploading to the various platforms, you need the following :
- Your manuscript (obviously)
- A way to convert the manuscript to eBook format.
- A cover for the book.
Let’s look at each one individually. It should be pointed out though that cheap poorly produced eBooks will not sell. So although you can cut costs here and there, don’t sacrifice quality in the process.
How you type out your book is entirely up to you really. Some people I know swear by Microsoft Office but that is obviously not free. For the writer on a budget, you could use :
- Google Docs
- Pages (MacOS only)
Line spacing should be either 1.15 or 1.5, and don’t get fancy with the font. One of the standard ones is fine. I prefer Arial or Garamond.
Keep an eye on the length of your book as Amazon Kindle imposes a strict limit on how big your book can be. Anything over 100,000 words should be slimmed down a bit to around 80,000-ish at the most (or consider turning it into two books).
Converting The Manuscript To eBook Format
Once you have your magnum opus finished and ready to go out, it’s time to convert it into eBook format. I’m assuming you’ve thoroughly checked and edited the manuscript first – right?
I use an expensive MacOS-only software app called Vellum, which I bought because I looked upon it as a long-term investment (and tax write-off!). But if you have no budget, there are other options.
First, turn the file into a PDF file. All of the word processing platforms – including Google Docs – have an Export as PDF button.
But Amazon and Draft2Digital (which can upload to the other platforms for you for a cut of your royalties) actually prefer Word DOCx files over PDF. They will then convert the DOCx file for you.
The other option is to use the free Calibre and turn your file into the necessary eBook format. Kindle uses .MOBI format and the others will request .EPUB.
The Book Cover
They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” but in truth everybody does. Whether or not you spend your hard-earned money on a book will depend partly on how much the cover draws you in.
So a really bad cover is going to really hurt you. You will need an image you can legally use for commercial purposes (to be safe, buy one from iStockPhoto for as little as $9 – cheaper than a lawsuit for copyright infringement).
Here are your options for making a book cover.
- Adobe Photoshop – only for those who really know what they are doing. A free alternative is GIMP.
- Amazon Kindle Cover Creator – inside KDP (which I will discuss in a moment) is a “cover creator” which makes rather basic covers. This should be considered your last resort.
- Canva – inside Canva are templates to make book covers. The templates are free but if you use Canva’s clip-art, you may be asked to pay a couple of bucks.
- Fiverr – probably the best option if graphic design is not your forte. You can hire someone to make a cover for around $40-$50.
Uploading To The Internet
If you’ve read this far, you’ve got your formatted eBook and your cover all ready. Now it’s time to get your Precious online.
As well as Amazon Kindle, there are LOTS of other eBook platforms. But instead of uploading individually to each one, why not use an aggregation service?
Draft2Digital – in return for 10% of your sales – will upload your book to multiple eBook platforms such as Apple, Nook, Kobo, and OverDrive (which puts eBooks in libraries). A huge timesaver.
For Amazon, make an account on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and then follow the steps for uploading your book (which Amazon explains every clearly).
Advertising & Promotion
Online marketing and promotion is a huge topic in and of itself. So to attempt to cover everything here would be a fool’s errand. And since most advertising and promotion involves money, we need to look at some of the things you can do if money is not something you have.
- Give the first book away for free – assuming you have more than one book planned, why not give the first one away for free to build up a fanbase? Set up your website and on there, add a mailing list form from Mailerlite. When someone signs up for the book, they will be automatically sent an email with a download link.
- Send free copies to reviewers and influencers – decide who would enjoy your book and hopefully recommend it to others. Then email them a free eBook copy.
- Social media – it costs nothing to set up social media accounts. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram should be the three to focus on. You can run giveaway contests, create hashtag campaigns, and more.
- Make promotional graphics on Canva – make leaflets, social media graphics, email graphics, and so on in Canva.
- Make YouTube videos – if you have the know-how, set up your own YouTube channel and promote your book in its own movie-style trailer.
When it comes to marketing and promotion, your imagination is the only limit.
This is only just an abbreviated version of getting your own eBook set up, but hopefully it has given you a good idea of what’s involved and how easy it is.