I'm considering publishing my novel as an e-book (since I'm very techy) before I take the usual "paperback" route. Is this a wise choice?

Also what would I need to do? (steps).

  • 4
    Why do people assume publishing an ebook is any different than publishing a print book? Ebooks are not the same as self-publishing. Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 15:52
  • @Ralph I don't quite understand the comment.
    – RolandiXor
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 16:00
  • 1
    Epublishing is the same as print publishing. Write a book. Edit it. Shop it around to publishers. Sign a contract. Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 22:01
  • @Ralph I see where you were coming from now.
    – RolandiXor
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 2:54

3 Answers 3


Should I e-publish?

It depends heavily on your goals, on the effort you're willing/interested in investing, and on your skill with the various abilities involved with e-publishing.

  • If you aim to eventually sell your book to a traditional publisher, then do not e-publish. Traditional publishers will very rarely buy manuscripts that have already been published elsewhere - including as an e-book.

  • If you're asking about publishing an e-book with a traditional publisher, then in this day and age, they'll probably handle that themselves. You can ask all about it when you've got an agent and a contract.

  • If you're planning on self-publishing both e-book and hardcopy, and are hoping to achieve commercial success then an e-book version is probably a good idea. Since in self-publishing you'll be doing all your own marketing and distribution, it's a huge benefit to be able to market a product you can distribute online - something potential readers can get their hands on easily - rather than a physical book that most people just won't come into any contact with. The trick here is, as with most internet marketing, you'll be starting out as a very small fish in a very big tidal wave. You'll have to do a ton of work marketing your book, making it visible, setting it apart from the millions of other self-published books. You'll also need to make sure, on your own, that your work is top-notch and professionally presented - otherwise you'll get bad responses from the people you got with your marketing.

  • If you don't care about commercial success or being traditionally published, but simply want your work available, then you can whip up an e-book, and let it float around the internet. People will read it or they won't; you can put as much or as little effort as you like into marketing it; it will exist and be available - just probably nothing more than that.

How do I e-publish?

I don't know the details, but there's tons of services and e-book sites that'll take you through the minimum requirements. You'll probably want more than the bare minimum, though. Here's an excellent essay by Nancy Fulda offering a "Mini-handbook on independent publication", covering a lot of what you'll need (and want) to do if you decide to go the e-book route.

  • 4
    I edited to change "Traditional publishers will not buy manuscripts" to "Traditional publishers will very rarely buy manuscripts" that have been published elsewhere, because I've heard of exceptions. The threshold that I've heard is 10 000 copies sold via self-publishing - that's enough to get the publishers' interest, apparently.
    – Kate S.
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 11:24
  • 2
    Publishers will consider books that were published by other publishers, but if it was self-published first, then you'll have to really impress them and show high sales for them to accept it. Self-publishing a book first shows as amateurish and publishers will laugh at you if you call it a publishing credit. Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 15:51
  • @Kate: thanks for the fix :) Good point, and thanks @Ralph for clarifying.
    – Standback
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 21:36

Do you know how to self promote? Are you already good at it? Are you interested in learning how? Are you highly disciplined? Are you a DIY kind of person?

Those are important questions if you are thinking about self-pub. If self promotion/marketing is something you have the discipline to do and passion to excel at, then self-pub becomes a much more interesting option because it does give you a lot of personal flexibility. Your work lives and dies on YOUR merits as a writer and promoter.

I self-pub info products and I am passionate about marketing and promotions. I am fascinated by why people buy things and how to engage people so they will buy MY things. I also really like doing things myself. I love the idea of self-pub as a result. Where do you stand?

There is a lot more to it than what I've mentioned here, but I didn't see any other answers addressing this aspect specifically.


Is it wise? In my opinion, yes. I have sold hundreds of e-books using a pen name, and I have recently started publishing other e-books under my own name. I have not spent much time promoting them because I am in the process of writing two new series, and that takes up much of my spare time that I used to spend on promoting and marketing.

Now for the "how". The first step, naturally, is to write the book! Once that is done, you need to create your e-book. There are a lot of different ways to do this, and there are different formats as well. I'm going to discuss two different options. One will focus on creating a mobi file to use at Amazon, the other will focus on creating a Word document for Smashwords.

You will need to create an account at Kindle Direct Publishing, which is Amazon's e-book service. Then you will want to create an account at Smashwords, which is an e-book distribution company. They will create multiple formats that visitors can buy and they will also distribute your book in the proper formats to Barnes & Noble, the Apple iBookstore, and several other places. These two services will get you the broadest exposure with the least effort.

With either service, if you are using MS Word, you can upload your file immediately, and they will do the conversions to the proper formats for you. However, with Amazon, their conversion process often messes up Tables of Content, page breaks, chapter breaks, etc. One way to minimize these issues is to save your Word document as a "Web page, filtered". This cleans up some of the unique Word tags and usually results in a cleaner conversion.

However, I personally use a process documented by Guido Henkel which recommends modifying your html file and then converting it with Calibre software. This requires a little more work, but I have found that my conversions are spot on every time, and I have always been pleased with the results.

Smashwords has similar issues with converting your Word document unless you very closely follow their style guide. I am not going to go into great detail here, because their style guide does that for you. Be warned, though, that Smashwords currently accepts ONLY Word documents. If you have the newest Word software, you'll be better off saving it in the Word 97 version after following the style guide recommendations.

Once you have your files uploaded, then the next step is promoting and marketing. There is a lot involved there, and I will save that for another post. Good luck!

  • Thanks! This also useful :). I also have a webdev background ;)
    – RolandiXor
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 14:29

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