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I just took the leap in February, and even though I’m still just a little baby self-publisher, I love it and feel confident that this is something that will give me a lot of satisfaction in life.
Here’s my list:
1. Write a book. Write what you love, what makes you happy, what you feel driven to write. Don’t worry about writing what will sell, because no one knows that. Also, if you want to make a career of this, you can’t do it with just one book, so be working on ideas for more books.
2. Make the book as good as you can get it. Work on your own revising/editing skills. (Many resources online.) Have some acquaintances who are avid readers read it, or join a critique group (can also be found online). If you have the money, or can arrange a barter or something, find a *good* professional editor. Do what you have to do to make the book as error-free as possible.
3. If you’re broke, have some html know-how or don’t mind learning, and don’t mind doing things yourself, get a guide on how to do the ebook formatting yourself. You can find suggestions on Lindsay Buroker’s and David Gaughran’s blogs. [Specifically, The eBook Design and Development Guide by Paul Salvette and Guido Henckel's blog post series Take Pride In Your eBook Formatting] If you aren’t quite so broke, or don’t want to do it yourself, research ebook formatters. There are a number of them, many with reasonable rates. You can find links on the Kindle boards.
4. For a low-cost cover, license some stock art from a site like Dreamstime, and learn how to do the lettering in an image-editing program. See The Book Designer for good and less-good examples. If you can spend a little more, use a cover designer. You can also find links to this on the Kindle boards.
5. Set up your accounts at the different outlets – Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo are the big ones (Apple too, but you have to have a Mac computer to go to them directly). Check out their individual submission/upload requirements, and follow these carefully. I go direct through Amazon, and use Smashwords for all the others, just to keep it simple.
6. Be VERY VERY CAREFUL ***NOT*** to pay for expensive packages containing services you don’t need or could do yourself. You should be able to pick and choose what services you want/need on an individual basis without getting locked in to a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Also be careful if any service you want to use asks you to sign agreements involving percentages or copyright or exclusivity (KDP Select asks you to make books you enroll in that program exclusive for 90 days, which is as far as any author should be willing to go exclusive, and not everyone even feels comfortable with that). In short, be careful not to get ripped off or trapped in a bad deal.
*I did the complete do-it-yourself route, and published my first book for under $100, including $35 to register the copyright in the U.S., expanded distribution fee and proof copy from CreateSpace, licensed stock art, and small gifts for my test readers.
7. Once your book is up for sale, be patient – it will not take off overnight, or even over a few months – and get going on the next book.
Might not work for everyone, but that’s how I’m doing it.
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There's lots of other good advice in the post at The Passive Voice, so go check it out if publishing your writing is something you're thinking of doing.