Millions dream of writing the next great American novel. But few ever get the chance. Thankfully, anyone can bring original book ideas to life with a number of easy, affordable online self-publishing services that make creating print volumes and eBooks a snap. Looking for hints, tips and ideas on turning short stories or full-length novels into finished manuscripts? The following expert guide can help.
Worth noting up-front: While some may scoff at the idea of self-publishing, it bears remembering. With digital sales now eclipsing print, and having personally recently scored a Kindle bestseller that's been featured in dozens of outlets from CNN to ESPN and NPR, so-called "vanity publishing" stereotypes are becoming increasingly outdated. Learning how to produce volumes through print-on-demand solutions isn't just a viable and lucrative solution for today's author. It's also often a better approach to business, letting you break into the market overnight, enjoy higher profits and save yourself months of fruitless pitching to agents and publishers.
Moreover, there's no reason someone who takes this approach can't use independent platforms as a springboard to attract an audience, prove public interest in their work and sign a proper publishing deal. A few things worth noting before you decide to go this route, however:
- Don't be intimidated. Thanks to Amazon's Kindle Singles program, books can be as small as 5-30,000 words, or roughly the size of a full-length magazine article. Sold for under $5, they may even be more profitable. Moreover, you don't have to hit it out of the park on the first try. Since it costs nothing to publish digital works, you can take time to practice your craft, publishing dozens of works, slowly honing your talents.
- Anyone with a word processor can create an eBook. Several online converters, and free plug-ins for Microsoft Office 2007, let you make attractive PDF documents ready for reading on iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader and other devices.
- Many distribution services offer design and layout services. While it may be more expensive, we always recommend hiring a professional graphic designer - our experiences with off-the-shelf services and customer service reps have so far been poor. Crowdsourced design sites like Crowdspring, 99Designs, and DesignCrowd can help supply affordable logos and layouts, while stock photo sites offer access to attractive images at low cost.
- Think you'll get rich going it solo? Think again. Nine out of ten titles sell under 1,000 copies, and getting publicity for your volume can be even harder. But publishing a book isn't just personally rewarding, and a great way to create unique keepsakes. It also establishes your expertise, may lead to fruitful speaking opportunities, and provides a great example through which to inspire kids and grandchildren.
- Look for sites that offer free conversion to multiple formats and distribution through online bookstores. Sign up at Lulu.com, for example, and you can quickly convert paperback and PDF volumes to iBooks (iPad/iPhone), Kindle and Nook, and sell your work through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. It's a great way to extend your reach, build readership and connect with a wider audience. Likewise, everyone loves holding paperbacks and hardbacks in their hand. But be aware: These days, more people read volumes in digital format, meaning physical copies may not be worth the expense of assembling and printing.
Numerous services promise to aid authors. Here are several of the best ways to publish volumes of all types including yearbooks, eBooks, cookbooks, coffee table books, and more.
Want to build a gorgeous photo book starring the family or clever keepsakes featuring your grandkids' photographs? These sites can help as well: