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Barnes & Noble’s online bookstore has just opened its Direct ePublishing venue, called the PubIt! program, for individual authors and publishers. Following a fairly straightforward procedure, you can now prepare and upload your ebooks for sale.

Here is the link to the details and instructions page for the PubIt! program.

http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=support

Have you been getting the feedback “Too many paragraph breaks?” from Smashwords or Amazon DTP when you submit a manuscript? Here’s why, and what to do.

Quite often these days, we tend to automatically hit a carriage return or extra space between paragraphs. For email, web pages, and other formats, this looks nice, breaking up the text and providing some white space.

But once you convert such nicely formatted text for an eBook reader, it often goes haywire. adding way too much space, sometimes even a whole page-break.

The first fix is to use the templates we have provided here.

For Amazon DTP
Fiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform
NonFiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform

And for Smashwords
Fiction Template
NonFiction Template

The second fix is the same as that detailed within the templates, but we will spell it out here, how to format your document so the only space after a paragraph is within the formatting section, not as a carriage return.

To set the spacing between paragraphs in a way that will not confuse eBooks in Open Office, open your document, then under Format, Paragraph, set the Below paragraph spacing to 0.8 to 0.14 inch. Follow the same general procedure for documents in Word.

This will give you a bit of space between paragraphs without jamming up the machinery.

For fiction, don’t use any space at all between paragraphs, just follow the indenting suggestion in the template.

These free templates will help you prepare manuscripts for the Amazon Kindle Digital Text Platform.

Fiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform

NonFiction Template for Amazon Digital Text Platform

These are designed to be used in the free cross-platform word processor Open Office, so you don’t have to buy yet another software to get started in ePublishing. Or in MS word, if you have it.

Download free Open Office word processing software

Paste your text into the template and make any formatting changes needed (as explained within the template text) then save the file as HTML, the format Amazon prefers, although they do accept other formats.

You will want to add your own front matter, such as copyright and reserved rights information.

When you are satisfied with your manuscript, save a copy in the regular Open Office format, then export it to the required HTML format by choosing file, export, xhtml … with automatic file name extension.

This will save it as an HTML file suitable for Amazon DTP. This is what you will upload to Amazon.

If you need to edit the file later, as often happens, you can edit your saved copy of the Open Office  document and again export it to HTML. Or, if you know how, you can edit the html directly.

These templates are just for your text manuscripts.

When you send a manuscript to Amazon, you will also need to send a cover image. You will have to dig through the Amazon help files to find the formatting and tips on how to make one.

You may also want to add embedded inline images. these templates have not been tested for that yet. It may work, or it may be easier to use an html program and add the images there, after you have exported your file to html.

Good luck—ePublishing is an exciting way to go.

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.

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.

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.

The field is moving very rapidly, but already there are great choices for publishing.

In the past there were fewer opportunities for individuals or small presses to publish and have good distribution. Now there are readily available choices. We will discuss three here.

First, you can publish book directly to Amazon Kindle. This has fairly easy to use setup, the power and reach of the Amazon empire, and flexible pricing.

Second, you can publish with Lulu.com. The have the additional advantage of distributing to a number of outlets, including Apple’s new iPad. They also make it easy to publish hard-copies of your book, since that is one of their businesses. Their setup seems a bit more complicated, but they readily offer their paid services for setup formatting and covers.

If you want to go with a young and energetic company and are ready to do most of the work yourself, Smashwords.com offers an easy and appealing way to ePublish anything from a very short story to a multi-volume set. Plus, they have an extensive distribution network, including Barnes and Noble, iPad, mobile phones, various software book readers, and are working on Amazon Kindle distribution.

Since Smashwords is fairly easy for beginners, has a good pricing structure, and has wide distribution, we will be talking more about them.

First, there are the dedicated eBook readers. No, this doesn’t mean people dedicated to eBooks, it means machines built for the purpose of displaying eBooks, such as Kindle, the Barnes and Noble reader, the Sony reader, and iPad. These are actual little book-shaped computers which you can load with stories. Of course, this is not all they do, especially the iPad, but for our purposes this is enough. Borrow one from a friend or try one in a store, and check out how they work.