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How to publish an ebook

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They say everyone has got a book in them, so why not a digital manuscript? JK Rowling was famously rejected by 12 literary agents before Harry Potter was picked up, so for many would-be writers it's a relief that anyone can publish their electronic book online - but not everyone knows the best way to go about it.

Stylist has enlisted journalist and ebook writer Lucille Howe, author of Bondi Blonde to put together a six-step guide for wannabe e-authors to publish their first book on the web. Read on for the golden rules to digital self-publishing...

Crack the word count

The really-quite-awesome thing about e-publishing is that the rules are looser than a pair of harem pants. There are short stories for sale that range from 1,000 - 7,000 words but chick-lit generally comes in around 70,000 - 90,000. Your reader is mobile, and Kindles travel well, so you want a beach read to be perfectly proportioned for a return plane journey and seven days round the pool.

Nail the cover

The Daddy of marketing tools, the cover has to work in colour for the new Kindle Fire and iPad and grayscale for all other readers. Most of the time it will be viewed as a thumbnail, so I’m all for clean lines, graphic design, block colour and minimum fuss.

Spend hours on Amazon working out what ‘pops’ for you. A professional cover could cost up to £600. Conservative budgets could try approaching students at design colleges or photoshopping a cool photo of yours that works for the subject matter.

Get the right e-formats

If you’re down with your coding and have the patience to sit through the guidelines that platforms offer, then do try and upload yourself and it will automatically be converted. Amazon’s self-publishing tool is on kdp.amazon.com.

The problem is, there are so many hidden glitches that can throw out your formatting. Use tabs to indent? Big no-no. It will throw out all your paragraphs. My advice is to use a service that formats your book for you. They will give you one doc called prc, which is for Kindle, and one called epub, for everyone else. I used a company called firstygroup.com

Choose your platform

LuLu.com and Smashwords.com may sound like perfumes but they are platforms on which to sell your writing. Ditto, Amazon.com and the iBooks app, which are your two definites.

To choose who else to go with, find out how much royalties they cream from your profit. Don’t be wooed with offers of a free ISBN (International Standard Book Number). You really don’t need one to track your sales unless you have tens of titles out there. LuLu was the most attractive for me, and a way to get your book into Barnes and Noble online bookstore, which has 20% of the market in the US.

Price yourself perfect

My first thought? ‘A gazillion pounds please!’ My next thought, ‘Oh, everything else is 99p.’ Here’s the thing. Counter-intuitively, books start low online and then creep up as their popularity and presence increases. If you price your book at £1.49- £6.99 on Amazon, you get 70 percent of the profit and 35 percent for anything less.

What no one tells you is that, because all the platforms are based in the US, you will be taxed 30 percent. To avoid this, request a letter from each of your platforms declaring your custom and send that to the US tax department, together with a W7 form that you can download from the net.

Find your tribes

It’s time to holler about your creation and do the equivalent of turning cartwheels, while waving fluro pom-poms, on social media. Start a Facebook page, invite your friends to like it, post on it daily and always with links to videos, images and news that they can interact with and increase your traffic.

Link your Twitter with your Facebook and promote it on there too. Create a Pinterest page with images that represent your book. If you have a small bit of cash to advertise, a Facebook ad is a great way of targeting very specific demographics. I paid £50 to hit up single 25 to 30-yr-olds in the LA region and, for that, I got a generous amount of clicks that took people to my page. Which, for anyone interested, is www.facebook.com/BondiBlondeTheBook. Just saying.

Bondi Blonde is available on Amazon.co.uk and iBooks. For more info,visit www.lucillehowe.com

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