At long last, you've finally finished writing that novel. Good for you. Here's a cookie. So what do you do now?
You have three choices: you can do nothing, go the traditional publishing route, or self-publish. If you're like me, doing nothing isn't really an option. You wrote your book for people to read, and if it isn't out there, what was the point.
I'm not going to discuss the process of traditional publishing here because I don't have any experience with it... yet. Maybe some day. There are certainly pros and cons to finding a traditional publisher and if that's what you want to do, go for it. I wish you the best of luck. Now scram. Go read about finding an agent and how to write a query letter.
If, however, you decide to self-publish because you're impatient or you've decided to stick it the man, or whatever, then keep reading.
There are many avenues to self-publish. Today, I'm going to focus on Kindle Direct, or KDP for short. I chose this because it's what I use to purchase and read ebooks. KDP makes the process of publishing an ebook super easy. All you have to do is create an account, upload your content, pick a price, and BAM, you're published! Okay, it's not quite that simple. I've been playing around with it for a few weeks and I want to let you know about some issues I've encountered and hopefully make the process easier for you.
Uploading Your Content.
Uploading your manuscript is really easy. Just choose the correct file and push the button. However, formatting your manuscript is where the work happens. I've tried uploading both a Word document and an epub file. Both seem to work fine if formatted correctly.
The issue I've been having is getting a special font I've used for the title page to display correctly. Even though I've embedded the font and it displays correctly in the epub file on my computer, it doesn't seem to translate to the Amazon format. And I can't figure out why. That said, I finally decided not to worry about it. The font they substituted works, even it doesn't capture the mood I was going for.
You can pay for a third party to format your content for you, but I say don't bother. DIY. You'll learn something new.
Upload a Cover
Aside from having great content, this is the most important part of your book. It's the first thing a potential reader sees that will draw them into reading the description. I created my own using GIMP (a free image manipulation software) and I really like it, but I've been doing graphic design for other stuff for a while, so I'm comfortable with it. If you decide to create your own, you can find free images at Pixabay.
If you aren't comfortable designing your own cover, don't. Pay someone else to do it.
The rest of the process is pretty self-explanatory. DON'T get an ISBN through KDP. You don't need one for an ebook. More on this later. Keywords are important, but you can change those whenever. Find what works best for you. Write a killer description. After the cover, this is what people will read. If it intrigues them, they'll read a sample. If they like that, they'll buy your book--if it isn't too expensive. Set your price. Go for the 70% royalty plan and keep it under $2.99 is my suggestion. And you should listen to me because I already have five pre-orders.
Okay, that wasn't everything else. Sue me. There's one other thing you should consider carefully. To enroll in KDP Select or not to enroll. If you choose this option, you are basically signing an exclusive deal with Amazon for 90 days. That means you can't sell your ebook on any other platform like Smashwords or NOOK. In return, Select members can read your book for free and you get a cut of the membership fees based on how many pages of your book are read. Many authors like this option because it is a way to offer your book for free and still make some money... hopefully. I'm going to give it a go (you can always un-enroll your book later). I'll let you know if I like it.
Right, there were actually two more things. Kindle is offering a print version of your book (it's currently in Beta) I don't know why you would do this at this point. I'm using Create Space. It has more tools available and you can reach more markets. If you want a free ISBN, this is where you'd get it. It comes with a caveat, of course. If you choose a free ISBN, you can't change it and you're committed to publishing only through Amazon. If you don't like that option, you can purchase an ISBN for like $99.
Okay, yep, that's it. No more things to discuss. Hope this helps. Now go write something worth reading.