Special Offer

How to publish an ebook, and why you might want to

In the past few years ebook readers with paper-like screens have been making an impact on publishing. A few years ago these devices were the flying cars of the publishing world - often promised but never delivered - but technology marched on, manufacturers got their act together and electronic ink and paper improved to a point where they were good enough to substitute for the real thing.

You're reading this article because you want to learn about publishing an ebook. If you want to know more about getting your work printed, see my article on how to self-publish a paperback

Ebooks have several advantages over print books

Longevity: Paperback novels don't sit on bookstore shelves for long before they're replaced with the Next Big Thing. Unsold books are packaged up and returned to the distributor, and from there it's off to the discount houses and paper recyclers. By the time your second novel hits the shops the first has long since vanished. With ebooks this is no longer a problem: release an ebook and it's available forever.

Availability: Anyone with an internet connection can buy an ebook, at any time of the day or night, and they can be reading it four or five minutes later. Even if you can find the paperback novel you're after, you still have to wait for delivery.

Low cost: Both the up-front cost of publishing the ebook, and also the selling price. Electronic copies are basically zero-cost, although you have to allow for transaction fees and the publisher's cut.

Easily revised: Spotted a typo? Fix it and publish a new copy!

Ebooks also have some disadvantages

Many readers prefer printed books, and most people don't have an ebook reader.

Because it's so easy to put an ebook up for sale there are thousands of first drafts masquerading as novels. The other day a friend of mine declared she was never buying another ebook. When I asked why, she told me she'd been bitten once too often by 'total garbage full of spelling mistakes and terrible writing'.

You can't give someone an ebook as a physical gift.

So much for the pros and cons. How do you publish an ebook?

yWriter6 (freeware) takes the hard work out of creating ebooks.

Publishers spend a lot of money laying out text for printed books, which is just one of the things that sets aside self-published novels from those released by professional houses. The good news is that ebooks are laid out and formatted by the reading device, and all you have to do is tell it where the chapter headings are, and where each line and paragraph begins and ends. There's more to it than this, but what I'm trying to say is that you mark up the document to describe the major elements, and the ebook converter/ebook device will do the rest.

Calibre is a freeware/open source ebook reader and compiler. It will convert between many formats, but I got the best results when I exported my novel to html and used that as the input file.

The problem is, most word processors pack a huge amount of hidden code into a simple html file, and all this cruft can lead to odd-looking formatting when you convert the files to ebooks. yWriter does have an HTML export, but it's designed to display or print your work, not export to ebook.

So, yWriter introduces a new 'Export to Ebook' feature. This routine will export your novel to an html file which is optimised for conversion using Calibre. The resulting ebook should be formatted correctly without any nasty surprises.

But what if your novel is currently sitting in a Word doc, or an Openoffice file? Easy! Save it as RTF (all word processors support this option), then import it to yWriter using Import a work in progress. Once it's sitting in yWriter, export to ebook and convert the resulting html file using Calibre.

To summarise, you can create ebooks like this:

yWriter5 > Calibre > Ebook Reader

Or like this:

Word/OpenOffice > yWriter5 > Calibre > Ebook Reader

Please remember that none of my articles are meant to discourage. In fact, they're all written for the me of ten years ago, the writer who was ready to take the next step but didn't know what that step was.

About the author: Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock, Harriet Walsh and Hal Junior series. Simon is also a freelance programmer, and he designed and wrote all the software on spacejock.com (e.g. yWriter).

Stay in touch!

Follow me on Facebook
and Twitter