Once you have a nice book all written and edited, you’d think, from experiences with email and sending files, that you could just send it along as a text document, and it would be published.

Nooo-ooooo-oooo-ooo!

Because of the trickiness of ePub formats and eBook readers, the state of your text file is of primary importance.

Depending on the ePublisher, if it has any extra formatting, if it has too many paragraph breaks, if it was produced in WordPerfect, or even if (especially if) the text originally came from a PDF file, you can get throughly mired in the formatting process.

To begin, follow the directions for file preparation from your particular ePublisher as well as you can. Usually, with any luck, that will work. You may have to save it in Word, for Smashwords, or HTML, for Kindle, but it’s fairly straightforward.

If you still have trouble, you may have to open the file in a simple text editor, strip out any formatting, even save it as ASCI code (wow, remember that?) Or even copy the text, open a clean text file, and paste it in. And if all that does not work, hire someone to reformat it for you.

We only had this happen to one file out of 5, the one copied from a PDF, but it was a pain to fix.

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Writing and publishing a book of any kind is a long hard slog.

But it does not have to be lonely!

There is a new eBook that will help you write your own eBook, or do whatever you dream.

You can find friendly inspiration, direction, and hope for your endeavors. Check out the nice little eBook called The Lazy Man’s Guide to Success, by teacher, therapist, life coach, and prolific author Bill O’Hanlon.

Bill, who states that he is the mildly lazy and very successful man of the title, provides stories from a wide variety of fields, many about people he knows personally, who overcame sometimes huge obstacles on their way to achieving what they wanted. He talks about his own journey to success, many slips along the road, and how he recovered.

And he talks about how you can find your passion, focus your energy, and clarify your dreams and goals. He includes dozens of focused questions to help you move past obstacles and directly into your own powerful way of working.

O’Hanlon’s book is remarkably non-hucksterish, no pie in the sky, and none of that get-rich-quick stuff. Instead, it’s the friendly voice of someone with a wealth of experience who has helped a lot of people in a lot of tough times move closer to their goals and dreams.

One of the most important parts of being an author, after writing and publishing your masterpiece, of course, is to spread the word.

And a blog is a great way to do this.

People love stories, especially real ones, so write about your book, what you are doing to publicize and market it, where you are reading or speaking, about the process of writing, and then the ordeals and triumphs of writing a new book as you begin your next one.

The easiest way to begin a blog is to go to WordPress.com and follow the instructions. It really is quite easy.

Click here to sign up for your Blog at WordPress

Just sign up at WordPress.com. You will need to think of a good blog name–you might have to try several to get one that is not taken.

Then you can get to the interesting work of writing your blog. WordPress has good instructions and help files. It may take a few tries to become accustomed to the various screens and tasks, but start simple and then you can add features as you learn.

As you become more experienced, you can incorporate some of the large variety of features, tools, and extras available, such as links, pictures, media or polls into your blog.

In the old days, before you received the relatively small royalties for  your traditionally published hardcover or paperback book, you had already paid, as part of the package, for the services of your agent, you editor, your cover designer, your publishing house, your advertising and marketing department, your distributor, your printer, your warehouse, and your bookstore, and probably many others.

If you could get in the system, which was not easy, it was actually a good way to go, and the services of a really good publisher were invaluable.

And still are–that route is still available, if you want it.

But now you have the ePublishing alternative. Which means that several of these tasks, printing, warehousing, and paper book distribution, are no longer necessary. But it also means that you will have to do many of the rest of the tasks yourself, or hire people to do them.

It is also possible to go with a traditional publisher after you have ePublished. That is, if you even want to, after your wonderful ePublishing experience, right?

A really helpful step as you get started in ePublishing is to make a checklist of all the material you will need to publish your eBook.

It is easiest to start by publishing an unformatted ePub or Kindle type book, so your manuscript is primarily text, not pre-formatted pages. We use Smashwords as our example here. Just remember that your publisher will have additional specific instructions you must follow.

To publish an eBook you will need:
*A manuscript, final version saved in MS Word.doc form.
*A color cover image, jpg or png, 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall, or more,with the title and author name clearly visible, and the background anything other than white, which fades into the catalog page. Please your readers by making the thumbnail in the catalog look good.
*An account with your publisher, for example, Lulu, Smashwords, or Amazon Kindle. Set up your free account and begin to become familiar with their requirements and routines.
*The formatting instructions from your publisher. The Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker is essential for that publisher, and extremely helpful generally.
*An easy to access text file with  author’s name or pen name, a brief bio, author’s photo, and a one-paragraph description or blurb to put on the information page. List the genre, and sub genres, and keywords for the book.
*Some idea of how you will advertise your book. Because ePublishing happens so fast after you enter in all your information, it’s good to have plans set up ahead of time to take advantage of the initial PR included with publication. The free eBook Smashwords Book Marketing Guide has a lot of useful information and tips, from someone who has a stake in getting eBooks sold.

If you want more details about the whys and hows of ePublishing, check out the inexpensive short book, Fast Fun ePublishing.

This short booklet, available in a variety is formats, is itself a good example of how a basic eBook looks and operates. It gives you an overview and head start, whether you are just wondering about publishing, or are actually ready to dive in and publish right now.

Because formatting for ePublishing can be very finicky, here are a couple of templates for use in Microsoft Word or Open Office, a free cross-platform word processing software, to help you get started in formatting your document for Smashwords publishing.

Open the appropriate template, paste your text after the included text, and follow the formatting instructions in the template and in the Smashwords Style Guide. Make sure you read the latest version of the Style Guide for final requirements.

There are a number of things to consider as you are choosing an ePublisher. Check out their distribution channels, how their finished eBooks look, ease of use, and how much they pay in royalties.

Because this changes over time, check with each company when you are ready to publish.

Amazon will have a new royalty structure this summer: http://forums.digitaltextplatform.com/dtpforums/ann.jspa?annID=142

You can find Lulu’s structure here:
http://www.lulu.com/publish/ebooks/

And Smashwords offers royalties depending on your price structure and distribution channel. http://www.smashwords.com

You generally should not pay anything up-front for ePublishing a story or book. There are enough good choices now where the ePublishing companies rely on percentage of sales to pay their way.

The one exception is if the company offers services such as formatting, designing covers, or editing, and you specifically hire them for this, in which case the costs should be clearly stated on their websites and in any contract.

Lulu offers these services, Amazon and Smashwords do not, but can refer you to outside sources.

If you have ever published a traditional book, you know that you get pennies, maybe a dime, from each dollar your readers pay for your book, because of the multitude of costs of paper book publishing.

With ePublishing, you get a much higher rate–but you have to do most of the work traditionally done by book publishers.

Check with the companies to see what their royalty/author payment rates are currently. These are changing–for example, Amazon will offer a new royalty rate  at the end of  June 2010.

So you will not have up-front costs unless you hire someone for tasks like editing or book cover creation.

To produce an eBook, you need to deal with several different aspects:

1. Your finished manuscript, edited and formatted so your chosen publisher can run it through the transforming process.

2. A book cover, book blurb, author photograph, biographical blurb, tags and keywords.

These first two are the parts you do, or you hire people to help you do.

3. A publisher, the company where the manuscript is transformed into an eBook that is eReader-friendly.

4. A distributor, so your finished book is sent to various outlets where readers can buy it.

Amazon Kindle, Lulu, and Smashwords combine the publishing and distribution process.

Put all of this together according to the specifications of the publisher, and you will have an eBook.