As it happens, I am self-publishing a book--two, actually. I am taking the content from my popular "30 Days With Google Docs" and "30 Days With Ubuntu Linux" series, and publishing them as Kindle digital books.
The Kindle format is proprietary to Amazon, but the Kindle device is the dominant e-reader, and Amazon offers a free Kindle app for Windows and Mac computers, as well as for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7 devices. Amazon also makes the process very simple.
If you want your book to be even more widely available, though, the open ePub standard is the way to go. ePub formats are readable on a wide variety of Windows and Mac applications, and can expand the audience for your book to include other e-reader platforms, such as the Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo e-readers, devices from Sony, and more. To publish in ePub format, you can use one of the alternative services, such as PubIt or Lulu.com.
Kindle Direct Publishing: Step by Step
Let's walk through publishing my book using Kindle Direct Publishing.
To begin, I went to the Kindle Direct Publishing site in my Web browser and signed in. Since this was my first attempt at self-publishing a Kindle book, my dashboard looked pretty bleak. I clicked the button at the top labeled Add a new title.
Essentially the process of creating and publishing a Kindle book takes only two steps. The first step involves supplying the basic details for the book. Amazon provides simple, self-explanatory fields--and if any of them don't seem clear enough, you can just click on the What's this? link for more details.
Step 1: The Basics
I entered the title of the book, and checked a box to mark the title as part of a series. I then entered 30 Days With in the Series Title field, and called this Volume 1. Then I typed a brief description of the book; Amazon describes this text as the sort of blurb you might find on the inside flap of a hardcover book. The field has a 4000-character maximum, enough to give the reader a basic understanding of what the book is about, and perhaps a little tease to entice the reader to buy the book.
Next, I clicked the Add contributors button. This area is where I added myself as the author, and where I could also add other people, such as an editor or a photographer, to give credit where credit is due. Beneath that button, I specified that my book was in English and that the publisher was S3KUR3, Inc. (my personal company). I left the publication date and ISBN fields blank. The date defaulted to now, which is what I wanted. If you want an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), a numeric code used to identify commercial books, you have to acquire an official one; it isn't required, though, so I didn't bother.
Next, I had to select my publishing rights. I could make the book public domain, or I could make it not public domain with me holding the necessary rights to publish it. I clicked the latter. Then, I selected two categories under which the title would be filed in the Kindle store, and assigned some keywords that might help the book show up in searches. Next, I uploaded the cover-art image. Amazon requires that the image be a .tif or .jpg file at least 500 pixels on its longest side, with the image being at least 1280 pixels. Smaller images may result in grainy or pixelated cover art.
After the cover art, I uploaded my Microsoft Word .docx file containing the content of the book. Once that's done, you can click the Preview book button to see what the material will look like when rendered on a Kindle. You can't make changes from the preview, however, other than to change the font size as you can on an actual Kindle.
Thankfully, before publishing you can still go back and change the content of the book itself, and reupload it. Once the book is published, you can visit your Kindle Direct Publishing Bookshelf to view the titles you have published; there, you can edit the book details, or change the royalties and pricing information.
After previewing my content, I clicked the Save and Continue button at the bottom.
Step 2: Rights and Pricing
That brought me to the second step: rights and pricing. I began by selecting where the book should be published. Amazon selects worldwide publishing by default, but if you have rights limited to certain countries or regions, you can click the Individual territories button and select specific countries. I left it on worldwide.
Then came the fun part--the money. I had two royalty plans to choose from: 35 percent and 70 percent. The decision seems like a no-brainer: Of course I would rather get 70 percent of the revenue than 35 percent. However, a couple of other factors affect the decision.
First, the minimum list price for books in the 70 percent plan is $2.99. But many self-published Kindle ebooks sell for only 99 cents, and those must go under the 35 percent royalties plan. The trick is to figure out whether you will sell enough additional books at 99 cents to make up for the difference in royalties, or if you are better off making your book $2.99 or more so that you can choose the 70 percent plan.
Another factor is that books published on the 70 percent plan have the Kindle Book Lending feature enabled by default. If you choose the 35 percent plan, you have the option to enable or disable lending.
I decided that $2.99 seems like a reasonable enough price--especially considering that the other books I have written had list prices more like $31.95, and that even the Kindle versions of my books are $16.47 and up.
That's it. Just click the Save and Publish button at the bottom, and you are all set. It can take a day or so before the book shows up in the Kindle store--but just like that, you're an author.
Click here to buy the 30 Days With Google Docs Kindle eBook.