Like to write a book, but fear you couldn’t get a publisher? Olivia Gordon outlines another route

Every aspiring author would love a book deal and now the growth of ebooks is changing the face of publishing. It’s true there are many self-published ebooks that don’t attract readers, but there have also been amazing success stories (see right).

Description: How to write an e-book bestseller

Ebooks are now outselling printed books on Amazon, and publishers are recognizing this opportunity and setting up ebook imprints.

The key advantage is, instead of being paid a royalty of ten to 15 per cent, you can take as much as 85 per cent – though remember ebook prices are lower than print books. Plus your books will share virtual shelf space with names such as Dan Brown or Nigella Lawson, because ebooks are categorized by genre.

Where to start

So you’ve written your fabulous cookbook or gripping thriller as a 200-pages Word document. The next step is to choose how to convert it into an ebook. Companies offering to publish and sell your ebook spring up weekly, but here are the two most popular…

Amazon’s kindle direct publishing (kdp.amazon.com)

Through KDP, your books will be available at the Kindle Store, where most ebook sales happen. It’s also the most straightforward way to publish your ebook, and Amazon offers a step-by-step guide to formatting your document.

Your book will still be judged by its cover, so it’s vital to make it look as professional as possible. You can pay a company such as lighthouse24.com to do it for you – they charge from around £60.

If you’d like someone to proofread your book, you’ll find a directory of proofreaders at sfep.org.uk.

Once your book is ready, upload it at kdp.amazon.com. You’ll be asked for basic information, including a compelling description in fewer than 4,000 characters. Next, enter two “categories” (options include romance and cooking) – to help Amazon list your book. Historical fiction, vampires and young adult books are all popular genres. You also need to think of some “keywords” to describe your book – buyers who search for these keywords will be directed to your book.

Next comes pricing – self-publishing is free on Kindle, but when pricing, a rule of thumb is, if you charge the 75p minimum, you get a 35 per cent royalty on each book sold; if you charge over $2, your royalty will be 70 per cent. Look at what other books in your genre are selling for – then often yours for a lot less. People are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author if the price is lower.

Once uploaded, your book will hit the store within 48 hours.

Amazon Kindle also offers a “CreateSpace” service, which prints copies of your book on demand – you pay the printing costs.

Smashwords (smashwords.com)

Like its main rival, lulu.com, Smashwords allows you to self-publish and distribute not just at the Kindle store, but to other ereaders.

To make your book widely available, publish direct to the Kindle Store and use Smashwords for your other ebookstore sales. Kindle doesn’t use ISBNs, but Smashwords will issue you with one for free, which you can then use to list your book anywhere else. If you start by listing your book on a different site, you will have to apply for an ISBN yourself. This costs from around £120 and takes around ten days to receive – see isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk.

Smashwords’ method is much the same as Kindle, but you can choose where to distribute your book (option include Apple iBooks, and Barners & Noble)

If you publish via Smashwords, you get 60 to 70 per cent of profits for sales made from the websites it distributes to, or 85 per cent of profits on sales directly from Smashwords’ store. You’re paid via PayPal.

Description: My self-published ebook got me a six-figure publishing deal

“My self-published ebook got me a six-figure publishing deal”

Louise Voss, 42, from Surrey, got a four-book deal with HarperCollins. “I’d always wanted to write a novel and had written a couple of manuscripts that had been rejected. Then I watched a documentary about aspiring writers – one man featured was Mark Edwards. I wrote to him, and soon, we decided to write a book together. We self-published it as an ebook on Amazon and emailed everyone we knew to ask them to buy the book. Then we approached online reviewers. When it started going up the charts, it was surreal; We were outselling Michael McIntype and Stieg Larsson! We made around £20,000 from the combined sales of Killing Cupid and our second book, Catch Your Death. Then we were contacted by HarperCollin, and it feels like all the hard work has paid off”.

Use social media to create a buzz

Social media like Twitter are crucial in promoting your book. On Twitter, use the hashtag (#) to help spread the word - #cookbooks, #ebooks, #romance.

Set up a Facebook page for your book for people to “like”. Create an author page on Amazon, your own website and a blog for your book (try wordpress.com). Link them to your social media pages.

Be creative, spark debate and get people talking. When Talli Roland was promoting her enovel Build A Man, she asked contacts to put together a picture of their ideal man at beatybitsblog.blogspot.com and used her Facebook and Twitter to drum up attention – she ended up on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Amazon makes ten per cent of an ebook available as a free ample, so make sure your first few pages are gripping and throw in a cliffhanger.

Contact book bloggers – there are hundreds listed at britliblogs.com. Contact blogs individually, telling them about your book to your email. Popular book blogs include dovegreyreader.typepad.com, trashionista.com, stuck-in-a-book.blogspot.com, goodreads.com and the Guardian books blog.

Add a message to the end of your ebook, asking for readers to leave a review on Amazon.

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