How to publish an ebook, and why you might want to
First a disclaimer. My books are published by Fremantle Press and distributed by Penguin across Australia and New Zealand. However, I tried the self-publishing route a few years back, and the knowledge I gained at the time is still current.
I'm currently putting together a how-to book containing updated and revised editions of all my articles on writing and publishing, plus a lot of new material. If you'd like to know more, follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter
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.
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.
You can't give someone an ebook as a physical gift.
So much for the pros and cons. How do you publish an ebook?
yWriter5 (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.
See Guido Henkel's useful articles on html ebook formatting
So, yWriter 18.104.22.168 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