So you want to publish your book electronically.
Around 15 years ago I published a couple of family history books called The Schrader Letters and From Baron to Battler, both about the family of Dr Christian Ulrich Detlef Schrader who lived in Walcha. The two volumes are now out of print and, after several requests for reprints, I decided electronic versions would be the quick way to reproduce them. Wrong!
In November 2011 I spent a couple of very frustrating weeks as I tried to navigate the maze of web pages and instructions. I started with The Schrader Letters as it is a book consisting of words only. From Baron to Battler has many photographs and inserts, so it would have to wait a while until knowledge and confidence grows.
You need to decide on which eBook publishing program to follow. Hopefully this article will help you sail through the sea of web pages a bit more easily than my initial efforts, so here are a few tips gleaned from that extremely steep learning curve!
Here are some things to consider:-
Make sure your manuscript is word perfect with no spelling errors. Forget the fancy formatting, forget unusual fonts, forget indented paragraphs; the simpler, the better. You are subsequently going to purge it with a nuclear bomb to get rid of all that and the extra hidden bits and pieces you don’t even know are there, so don’t waste time on setting up ‘the fancy stuff’, it’s all going to go. Save your book as a Microsoft Word file in Word.doc format.
Forget page numbers. Your eBook will have a different number of screen ‘pages’ depending on the font size used by the reader and whether they use landscape or portrait orientation for reading.
Decide on a title then make a separate cover for your book. It needs to be in jpg format. The more professional looking the better. Perhaps you can have a play with your photographs in Picasa (a free Google download). I made a small collage from a couple of photos (which are RGB colour, the correct format you need) and was able to add the text to the page… it’s very simple but legible as a ‘thumbnail’, which is what your potential customers will see.
Now you will need to decide which eBook program to follow so you can upload your book to their website and they then sell it to readers who download it to their reading device.
I have a Kindle reader so thought Kindle would be the way to go. It’s part of the Amazon network at
I spent a week trying to learn how to use the Kindle program. It is suggested you work in Word doc format then save as a filtered htm. I downloaded the three necessary programs i.e. MobiPocket Creator, Kindle Previewer and KindleGen V 1.2 . I also printed all the help pages to consult. In addition I used CJs Easy-as-Pie Kindle tutorials which are at
I followed the Simplified Formatting Guide and I have to say I found some of the instructions were not that easy to follow. I then used the MobiPocket Creator instructions to build my book. It was somewhat annoying to reach a spot only to be told you should have done something earlier… like a recipe which suggests you should have added the baking powder but you’re now at the point of putting the cake in the oven.
I was eventually told I needed to have an NCX file for ease of navigation, I should have set it up before….. but where? and how? I asked on the help forum but still was stumped. As the Easy-as- Pie tutorial says, NCX stands for Not Clearly eXplained. I spent close to a week going round in circles here. Now you may be more web savvy than me but I just couldn’t get to where I needed to go. So apologies to Kindle, but in sheer frustration, I ended up defecting to Smashwords, a site I only heard about by chance from another eAuthor who I consulted for help.
Now there are a couple of bonuses with Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/about which I had not realised. Smashwords pay into PayPal and, because of my eBay purchases, I already had an account. But probably more important is that Smashwords can be read by Kindles, Kobis, Nook, Sony and iPads as well as other eBook devices, you can even download as a pdf file onto your computer so you can print off your own paper version… it seems to be more versatile. They have a “Meat grinder” program which takes your Word doc and can translate it into the format needed for the various eReaders.
But how easy was Smashwords to prepare my book and upload? Well the instructions are brilliant, taking you step by step through the whole process, it has screen pictures and is easy to understand. The free download is at
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52 , and you do need to print a copy to follow (all 72 pages, but well worth the investment in paper and ink). I think of it as my Smashwords recipe book. You are working in Word all the time … my only hiccup was the dreaded NCX file again… you need to link your Table of Contents to your Chapter headings, but you also need to link the Chapter headings back to the Table of Contents…. this time I had it all done and checked in under half an hour. Mark Coker has done a brilliant job in making the Style Guide simple to follow and easy to do! If I can do it, so can you!
Your book will need an ISBN … print and electronic versions of the same book need their own separate ISBNs. If your book has no ISBN then Apple and Sony will not distribute it, you are limiting your market. To apply for an ISBN you have some choices. Smashwords offers a free ISBN from http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#isbn or, if you specifically want an Australian issued number, go to ThorpeBowker at http://www.thorpe.com.au/isbn/index.htm . They deal with all Australian ISBN applications. The number takes a few days to be sent to you and the cost is $40.
You may need a Tax File Number for the United States or the United Kingdom. Why? Well Smashwords pay your sales income into a PayPal account… if you’ve bought anything on eBay you’ll know this system. It is based in US so has tax implications over there. Kindle will pay your sales fees into either a UK based or a US based bank account which mean you have an income in an overseas country. The UK site for tax information is http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/index.htm .
The US Tax site is http://www.irs.gov . I spent a few hours surfing this site and still ended up sending a question for their hard-to-locate help desk… and the answer was just as complicated! My understanding is that royalties in the US are normally taxed at 30% but for Australians it’s 5% as we have a treaty. We need a Form W-8BEN and a Tax Identification number (ITIN) obtained by filling in form W-7, the forms are available on the web site… I’ll investigate later!
I know it all sounds a bit daunting, but please don’t be put off. I’ve found it to be quite an adrenalin rush to have completed the target I set for myself. After all the frustration of the past two weeks, the thrill of seeing MY BOOK up there on the web, available for sale around the world, has made it all worthwhile.
And for those Schrader and Waugh relatives who may be interested here are my very special links:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/109893 for ‘The Schrader Letters’ the letters sent between member of the Schrader family
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/129058 for ‘From Baron to Battler” the story of Dr CUD Schrader and family in Walcha NSW