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Welcome to this week’s Workshop Wednesday where indie author Patrick O’Duffy is generously sharing his expertise to help you self publish an ebook.  Self publishing is a fabulous option for established authors who can’t sell a particular project, or who want to self-publish their backlist, as they already have a readership who are likely to buy their ebooks.  It’s also a great option for unpublished authors who don’t want to go the tradition route, or who haven’t been able to find a publisher or an agent (although they would need to do more work in marketing to create a readership for themselves).

Firstly, here’s a little about our guest today: Patrick O’Duffy is tall, Australian and a professional editor, although not always in that order. He has written role-playing games, short fiction, a little journalism and freelance non-fiction, and is currently working on a novel, although frankly not working hard enough. He loves off-kilter fiction, Batman comics and his wife, and finds this whole writing-about-yourself-in-the-third-person thing difficult to take seriously.  And the blurb of his novel The Obituarist (which I’ve read and loved!): Kendall Barber is a social media undertaker with a shady past who’s returned to the equally shady city of Port Virtue. Now a new client brings with her a host of dangers, just as Kendall’s past begins to catch up with him. Can he get to the bottom of things before it’s too late, or will he end up as dead as his usual subjects?

I can highly recommend The Obituarist (and I’m not a crime reader!).  It was sharp and funny and had great twists.  Do buy it.  So without further ado I’ll introduce Patrick and let him fill you in on how you can publish your own ebooks.

Patrick O’Duffy: I’m writing this blog post from Nanuya, a Fijian island four hours north of Nadi. The water is crystal blue, the sky limitless, the beer cold and the sand warm.

I’m not saying this to rub it in that I’m having a good time, but to say that even this far from the rest of the world, and armed only with a tiny laptop and a little internet access, I could still self-publish an ebook and put it up online for sale in less than five minutes.

It’s not difficult. You can practically do it while snorkelling. Or at least just beforehand.

Self-publishing (or ‘indie publishing’) in ebook form is rapidly outpacing traditional print publishing. Success stories like Amanda Hocking and EL James have become bestsellers with their independent ebooks, and tens of thousands of other authors have also put their own work straight onto virtual shelves.

How do you do it – and how do you do a good job of it? It’s a process I’ve tackled several times now with my books Hotel Flamingo, Godheads and now The Obituarist, and I’ve learned a couple of things that I hope others will find useful.

Where to do it

The number one source of indie ebooks on the planet is Amazon, via their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) operation. KDP allows you to create an ebook and list it alongside titles from major publishers in the world’s largest and best-known online bookstore. The drawback, of course, is that Amazon only creates and sells ebooks for the Kindle, with no provision for other file formats – so readers with Nooks, Kobos and other devices need to look elsewhere.

The other major outlet is Smashwords, a site devoted solely to indie publishing. Not only does it create ebooks in all formats, it also acts as a distributor to other major ebook markets. That alone is enough to recommend it; publishing through them takes away 90% of the work of getting your ebook into online stores. On the downside, Smashwords lacks the market presence of Amazon, and the material they publish isn’t always as polished.

So which should you choose? Well, you shouldn’t – publish through both! It doesn’t take much more effort and time, and using both sites will get your work into every major ebook store.

How to do it

Start with your final, fully edited manuscript. Don’t skimp on the editing – the world is full of badly-written, completely unedited ebooks. Be better than that, and don’t be afraid to pay for a professional editor’s services. It’s worth it.

Next, check the formatting of your Word file to make sure that it fits the guidelines of the website. And it should be a Word file, not another file format; the conversion software will either reject a different format or convert it in strange and horrible ways.

You also need a cover, and it’s worth paying a designer to create one for you rather than make it yourself. It should be a high-resolution JPG in a 6 x 9 format, and it should be readable in both colour and e-reader greyscale.

Once you’ve done all that, just create free accounts on the sites of your choice, upload the file and start the conversion. You should have an ebook minutes later!

What to do next

The first thing is to check the ebook for conversion errors, which are almost inevitable. The conversion software may introduce errors like line breaks, font changes and random italics. Fix these up and upload the corrected version, and be prepared to do this a couple of times until it’s right. These errors won’t stop people from buying your book, but they might stop them from buying your next book.

You should also determine a price for your ebook. Most indie ebooks cost between 99 cents and $4.99; look at what books of similar length and genre sell for as a guideline. You don’t want to overcharge for your book, but you also don’t want to undercharge; readers often assume that very cheap books are that price because they’re not worth anything.

Finally comes the hardest part – finding your audience and promoting your ebook to them. There are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of indie ebooks on the market, and you need to let readers know that yours exists and is worth reading. Most authors do this through social media sites such as Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter, all of which are essential tools, as are word-of-mouth, personal blogs and good reviews from satisfied readers. Self-promotion is a never-ending job for an indie author, but the important thing is to avoid boring or annoying readers with repetition or constant calls for attention.

And then it’s time to write another book. And another. Keep improving your craft, keep developing your skills, stay focused on writing the best books you can and putting them out for your audience. Because if you write well, if you try hard and you genuinely engage with your readers, they’ll keep reading your ebooks – ebooks that you’ll find are easy to produce for them.

Go on. Give it a try. Give it your absolute best shot. And see what happens.

Louise: Thanks so much for that Patrick! Invaluable advice.  If anyone has questions for Patrick, or comments on your own experiences as an indie publisher, please post that as a comment below.  We’d love to hear from you.

Other Workshop Wednesday topics: Deep Point of View and Writers working with the Media