How to Publish an eBook the Right Way
Writing a book is a tedious task. What's even harder than writing the book is actually getting it out to market. Many writers who have successfully completed a manuscript, no matter the genre, know how hard the process of publishing a book can be.
In this article, we will tackle some of the problems that face book publishers in general. If you're a self-publishing author or a publishing assistant, this article can help you identify which aspects of the process need more attention than others.
Have a finished manuscript.
Search for an editor.
Search for a cover designer.
Decide on a market.
Set a launch date.
Format the book.
Upload the book.
Market the book.
1. Have a finished manuscript
Let's begin with the obvious, and that's having a completed manuscript. While many publishers and writers recommend beginning the publishing process (the searching, at least) way before the author has finished their book, it's not always an option. We know that many writers don't pay any attention to the whole publishing thing until they've written that last word.
And that's fine. Book publishing doesn't have to be rushed, but it also shouldn't take two years for your book to reach the internet.
Having a completed manuscript can actually help you. If you're still writing a manuscript and searching for an editor, a designer, and a marketer at the same time, there's more room for error. You still don't have the full picture of how the book looks, content-wise. If you're halfway there, there's a chance you don't need an editor right now. If you're one chapter short, you have to hunt down a good editor in no time.
If you have a finished manuscript, it goes without saying that you have at least read through it twice. And that's still not cutting it. The thing about book writing is that it isn't easy. Yes, writing the first draft is hard enough. But if you don't have the time, the courage, or the will to go through the book a few more times, catching errors, inconsistencies, unchecked facts, linguistics anomalies, and other irritable grammar crimes editors hate, you're not ready to publish.
Having a finished manuscript means having a 5th draft that's really different from your first.
2. Search for an editor
If you take a book off your bookshelf right now and go through its pages, chances are you won't be able to tell if the book has been professionally edited. That professional discrepancy becomes apparent only when you're reading the book. And if you have read books before, especially the not-trendy ones or the poorly self-published stuff on Amazon, you might have come across irritable copy.
Many self-published books are littered with grammar, punctuation, phrasing, and style errors. And they're not only horrible because they're basically out there forever and for everyone to see, but it's also a remarkable insight into the author's own devotion and commitment to his audience.
We have personally come across many poorly edited books published by authors, and it's striking how telling it can be. Silly grammar errors and punctuation inaccuracies discourage readers from reading further. It's frustrating, because if the book hasn't been checked by a professional, word-by-word and line-by-line, the typos are probably everywhere, no matter where you look. They pop out at readers, especially avid ones who are used to traditionally published books with huge editing budgets.
So we've established why editing your book is important. But how do you find an editor that's reliable and actually good?
Here's some of the things to look for in an editor:
A strong grasp of English grammar, not just vocabulary.
Many editors present themselves as masters of the English language. But under all that fluffy, superfluous, and beautiful vocabulary, they're not really good with the language itself.
Language isn't just words. To be able to master English, one has to understand how it works. Having an extensive vocabulary is great and can be helpful, but if an editor doesn't know when to use [toward] and when to use [towards], the difference between [Arab] and [Arabian], or what the Oxford comma is, then it's a giveaway. And that's not even grammar grammar.
We've come across editors who pride themselves on their editing skills. But if you look just at their samples, you can tell, even if you're not that great at grammar, that they have typos everywhere. And that's no good, especially that you're paying them to professionally edit your book!
In order to know if an editor meets the criteria for phenomenal English, ask for a sample. If you can't decide whether their editing is good compared to other editors, ask knowledgeable friends, other editors on Facebook groups or online communities. Or you can ask us, and we'll review your editor for you to know if he's a good fit, free of charge.
An editing sample is an extract from your unpublished book, given to a potential editor hire to review and professionally edit for free. Editing samples are usually between 500-1,500 words, or one short chapter.
A professional online presence.
If an editor has a website, a quick look at it will give you great insights about them personally, their professional work, and their editing capacities.
Granted, editors aren't necessarily graphic designers, but if their websites looks unprofessional, with poor layout, navigation, and typeface, it's probably a giveaway. Professional editors care about how they look online. We're not saying be a top-notch graphic design prodigy, but they have to have at least a professional look and feel.
This also includes their own website copy. If their About page is overwhelmed with grammar errors and simple typos, it's best to steer clear of their services.
Passion for language.
This one is really hard to figure out until you've already hired your editor.
Normally, the editing process goes something like this: you hand in your manuscript after both of you have signed the contract. As the editing takes place, the editor returns one or two edited chapters at a time for the author to review.
If the editing takes place on an online Google Docs document, tracking changes is easier with comments and replies.
In these cases where the author is engaged in the editing process, whether reviewing the work in chunks or as it occurs online, it's easy for the author to see if the editor is serious. You can tell if they have passion for their work, if they pay attention to extra-small details in the manuscript, asking (sometimes seemingly irrelevant) questions about meanings and intentions behind words and phrasing.
However, some editors work offline, take a couple of months of extensive work, and return the manuscript fully edited. While that's sometimes shady, it does happen, especially with accredited editors or if the author knows the editor personally (and has met them in real life).
This can be tricky, as their work has already been done. Still, you can also tell if their comments and suggestions stem from a real passion to perfect language and style. And you can also be sure of this if they have been asking questions throughout the process.
If your editor isn't spamming you with questions about your word choices, wording, and intentions behind sentences, you need a new editor.
3. Search for a graphic designer
Your book needs a cover. If you're publishing an eBook only without a print option, that job is a little easier to do.
Finding a good graphic designer for your book cover is very hard. The graphic design industry in general is saturated and often overwhelmingly bad quality. If you're looking for something fancy, chances are you will need to pay a good sum of money.
Bad graphic designers are everywhere. They're bad with color, layout, typography, and are especially bad with backgrounds and foregrounds.
Where can you find a good graphic designer?
There are hundreds of freelance websites where you can hire graphic designers for really great money. Most notably, Fiverr is a go-to for many authors, but there are also other options: Upwork and 99designs. These are among the most well-known websites for freelance services.
Fiverr is especially bad in graphic design. There are a couple of really good graphic designers on Fiverr, but they're either insanely expensive for a first-book publishing, or they're not what you're looking for.
Fiverr is probably good for authors with small budgets. You can get a decent cover design for little money, and it would be great value. But if you have the money, Fiverr is a no-no and the experience can actually turn out bad.
We've never tried Upwork, but there are many good graphic designers on there, judging by the beautiful portfolios. Unlike Fiverr, where portfolios are just for show and the actual projects turn out really bad, many of the freelancers on Upwork actually produce great results.
If you're unsure about graphic design options, and don't want the risk, you can try 99designs. The process goes something like this: You publish a contest looking for a graphic designer for a book cover design. You explain the brief, the book vision, the blurb, and any other information a designer might need for a cover. Freelancers start turning in their designs for the cover. Entries can range from ten to a hundred. And all you have to do at the end is choose five finalists. At this stage, however, you can't really ask for a refund, and you'll have to choose one designer (or more, for more money).
The problem with 99designs? They're not exactly cheap for starting authors, and if we want to be frank, the quality is also subpar. It ultimately has to be a decision to balance quality and price.
With The Melius, we can help design a cover for your book, with many flexible options and comfortable pricing. If you can't afford our services or don't like our designs, we can help you find a great, reliable graphic designer. Don't worry, we won't even get a commission!
4. Decide on a market
The book markets today are more hectic than ever. The plural in markets is not a typo; there isn’t just one book market.
Usually, books are put into two main categories or genres: fiction and non-fiction. And in each of these genres there are tens of different sub-genres, some overlapping. But that’s not necessarily what is meant by the book markets.
Deciding on a market doesn’t just involve the book genre, but other important factors as well: reader gender, age, and sometimes location.
Most traditional books appeal to all, and that’s very advantageous. If your book isn’t targeted at one specific group, you're probably fine without paying that much attention to this aspect of the publishing process.
However, if your book is targeted at children, for example, now is the time to do your homework. Every genre is different in approach to marketing and presentation, down to the voice you use in describing it.
Here are two things you might want to start doing right off the bat:
Have a relevant online presence
Most authors don't really care about their social presence, which is problematic if you want people to buy your book. Big-name traditional authors don't have to worry about that, because they've got the budget and the necessity for someone else to run their social presence for them.
You probably don't.
Having at least one platform available where your audience can follow you and keep up with the things you write and say is extremely important for your book. Most authors prefer Twitter, especially in the U.S. For other authors, especially the self-published, Instagram is the way to go. First, many more readers are on Instagram. And second, Instagram has more sharing options than Twitter, and the algorithm is more creator-centric.
You can also keep a well-maintained Facebook page. A Goodreads page, as well as a BookBub page, are a no-brainer when it comes to author presence.
You're also encouraged to have a personal website. An alternative would be a landing page for your book, which isn't really that personal. An author website can also help you get people on your email list.
Here are a few tips for authors on social media:
Don't get carried away with politics, unless your writing is political in the first place. Fiction readers aren't following you for your political or ideological affiliations. Political discussion on social media is heated as is, and fanning the flames for fiction readers to argue in the comments is really frowned upon; it will affect the author's brand.
Your profile is not an advertisement hub. Yes, on launch week, you're expected to share more posts than often acceptable about your book. A discount here, a hashtag-excited post, and a <Get it now!> post are fine on the week of the launch. But followers aren't followers for you to bombard them with promotional stories for your book. They follow for content, and that content better be meaningful, personal, and fun. Not political, not promotional, at least not regularly.
Be consistent in how you present yourself on social media. If you're a political hammerhead on Twitter and an easy-going fluffy bear on Instagram, that's not a really good look.
Market yourself, not the book
The audience of the book is almost always the audience of the author. That doesn't mean that people who like you will like your book, or that people who like your book will like you. But in order for people to trust you on the book's subject matter (especially non-fiction) you have to be credible and reliable.
If you've barely gone through high school with subpar performance, don't write a book about getting good grades in college. If you know nothing about psychology or aren't a psychologist, don't write about mental health and how to treat it. There are intricate topics that should be discussed and shared by experts. But more than that: Readers will never buy your book, and will probably leave a one-star reproof of your pretentiousness.
On the other hand, if you know what you're talking about, and your book exemplifies your expertise on the subject, readers will be more comfortable knowing that they're reading an expert opinion. It doesn't necessarily have to be a college degree.
5. Set a launch date
This one is easy, right? Open your calendar app and pick a date that looks both comfortable and special. Not quite.
Choosing a publication date for your book can seem an easy task to do. However, you may need to know a few things before you start sharing that date with your audience on social media.
First: Clear things with other parts of the project.
If you're in the writing process still, don't ever set a date. Wait until you finish. You never know what's going to happen in the future as this date approaches. Changing your publication dates every month is very frustrating, especially if you have a large audience waiting for the launch.
If you've sent the project to an editor, wait until they're halfway through the manuscript. They can tell you right off the bat that they're fast and the book will be ready in 30 days, no more and no less. Good for them. Take it with a grain of salt and prepare yourself to allow extensions. Unless you want to compel him to half-ass it and pretend it's finished on time, don't set a launch date. It's helpful to keep in touch regularly with them to check on progress.
If you're waiting for a cover design, don't set a launch date. Design is such a subjective matter that it can really break your process. You might like the design, but it's not going to sell. You might hate the design but it's what sells in the market. It's a difficult job to settle on a cover design for your book, which is why you need a second, third, and even fiftieth opinion. Don't set a launch date until you have it ready, having asked the designer for a million tweaks.
Second: Don't set the preorder unless you're 100% sure.
If you set up a preorder page for your book on Amazon, you can only change it once afterward. If you try to do it again, or if you decide to not turn in the ready manuscript to make it available, you won't be able to set another preorder for a whole year. We've had this happen with authors, and Amazon is usually not so strict about it. If you email them with an explanation (and especially if no one has yet preorder the book), they'll let it pass. But it's not a nice experience, and many authors panic when they see their loss of privilege.
6. Format the Book
This step is pretty simple. You can also search for a book designer on the freelance websites mentioned above, and all three sites have good, inexpensive options.
Formatting the book is essentially designed the pages inside, as opposed to the outside cover. Formatting an eBook is different than formatting a printed book. Why? eBooks use a format called .epub, which allows for flexible layout when the book is viewed on different-sized devices, such as Kindle devices, tablets, phones, and computers.
This process shouldn't take more than one week, and that's really a long time to format a book, unless there are many elements, like images, footnotes, and quotes.
Make sure you go through the finished document to spot any last-minute typos and technical errors. Pay attention to page numbers, page titles, subtitles, italics, bolds, and other special stylings throughout the book. Sometimes it's an oversight from the designer's side, and it's better to check after them to make sure it looks perfect.
7. Upload the Book
Uploading your files to Amazon or IngramSpark shouldn't be the last step you do in the process. Don't open it up on launch night and start scratching your head at your book's blurb formatting with HTML, your marketing copy, your beta reviews, book categories, tags, or cover errors.
It's very important for you to be familiar with the website. Fill them out initially without uploading the files. Do your research on categories and genres and tags, take the time to perfect your book blurb, marketing copy, and other details of your book. Or if you're not sure if you can do it, hire someone who can.
For printed books, when you get your cover design, make sure you upload it to Amazon and check for errors through the print previewer. Make sure the Table of Contents links work in the electronic version.
8. Market the Book
You've got your book published. Congratulations. Now is the time to start marketing the book. Right? Wrong.
Book marketing starts way early. Some authors start marketing their books before they've written a word. That's probably far-fetched, but marketing is that important. Don't wait until your book is available for purchase or preorder to start posting and talking and engaging with people about your book.
Give yourself at least a six-week period to market your book before it's published or available for preorder. Hype it up on social media, talk to people you know face-to-face, meet with other authors, do Q/A sessions on YouTube or Facebook, go on podcasts, write relevant posts on your website, etc.
In short, be present. Let people know about your book way before it reaches Amazon.
After you've published your book, marketing doesn't stop there. You still have a lot to do!
It's important to have a marketing plan prepared as you go through the processes described above. Have an outline of where and how you want to market your book. You can always hire a marketing manager for your book project if you have the budget. If you don't, you can always do the research online and implement it.
If you need help publishing your book, we can help you through these steps:
Browse our articles on book publishing and read how you can make this project less intimidating.
Contact us for a Publication quote, where we can help you publish your book if you have a first draft. We can edit, proofread, fact-check your book, and offer you graphic design services, including a book cover, book formatting, and of course, marketing. If our prices are out of your scope, we can refer you to a number of other relevant experts in these industries.