These days, indie publishing is pretty easy to do. There are various routes to take but the most obvious is to epublish for the the Kindle via Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Whatever you think about Amazon's growing dominance in the book world but the fact remains that's where the action is.
There are whole books (presumably ebooks) that could be written about how best to publish via KDP. If there's interest, I might write some more detailed posts about what I've learned, having been through the process a few times. But here are a few pointers and suggestions:
- Edit well. If your stories have been previously published there's a good chance they'll already be well-polished. Even so, edit each one again before you self-publish. Get others to beta-read if you can. In my experience, this is the most time-consuming part of the whole process, but it's always effort worth making.
- Don't just save your Word documents as HTML and publish them. KDP books are in HTML (i.e. web page) format, but resist the temptation to rely on your word processor's save as routines. Word (and other word processors in my experience) have the habit of generating vastly bloated and overcomplicated HTML. Have you ever read an ebook where the text suddenly goes all big or weird? I know I have. In my experience, the best approach is to go back to basics and hand-craft your HTML in a text editor such as Notepad. This may sound time-consuming but it needn't be. I've knocked together a simple Word macro that formats my story text as HTML (adding <p> tags etc.), then I just copy and paste from Word into Notepad.
- As should be obvious from (2), it's woth getting to grips with a bit of HTML. This needn't be complicated for a book that is basically just text. You need maybe ten different HTML tags to do everything you need.
- While you're finding out about HTML, look at CSS (cascading style sheets) too. This is just a way of easily controlling the format of your book. Basically, the HTML should contain just the text, while the way the text is presented (font sizes, indentations etc) should be controlled by CSS. The wonder of this is that, by changing one entry in a CSS "style", you instantly change everything using that style. So, if you decide all your story titles are too small, you don't need to go and edit each one. You just need to tweak the style you're using for your headings. Again, in my experience, you don't need very complicated CSS. For the books I've published on KDP, I've found 20-30 different CSS styles gives me everything I need.
- I use Amazon's own Mobipocket software to build the files that Amazon KDP requires. Something like this can take a lot of pain out of the process. Basically I hand-craft my HTML files then use Mobipocket to build everything into one big file for upload. The software lets you specify the cover art, blurb etc. and takes care of putting it all together. Mobipocket is by no means perfect (if you can get it to generate a two-level table of contents you're a better homo sapiens than I am) but if you can put up with its idiosyncracies, it's pretty good. Although, if anyone knows of anything better ...
- Create good cover art. For someone as artistically challenged as myself, this seemed like an insurmountable problem at first. It really isn't. My approach is to buy a stock image that suits what I need, then crop as required and add lettering. Good quality images can be had for a few dollars/pounds/whatevers from web sites out there. My first attempts were a bit rubbish but, again, it's worth finding out a little about editing graphics if you're not familiar with that. A few months ago I had no idea what the "layers" were in my graphic application. Now I love them!
- Once you've put everything together, test it all looks right before going live. You can use a Kindle or just the free Kindle app for your PC. Remember, the great thing about this whole approach is that you can change stuff. If you spot a typo on the last page you don't have to pulp 10,000 books. You just edit and upload a new version ...
- Market and publicize! This is the hardest part for me. Easy to go too far and annoy everyone you know, tempting not to bother and wait for the world to spot your genius spontaneously. There's a happy medium. My approach is to let people know I've got something out and hope they'll be interested and maybe even write reviews or tell others. You may have a better approach. Word-of-mouth publicity is certainly invaluable. Remember that, while marketing and platform-building can and does pay off, it can also be time-consuming and you're supposed to be writing! It's a matter of finding what's right for you.
It's fun, really. Just don't let it distract you from the actual writing ...