How To Publish Your Ebook, Pt. 1: The Road Ahead

Hi there, and welcome to the first installment of ‘How To Publish Your Ebook’. This is a blog series designed for indie authors who aren’t quite sure where to start. The road to publishing, even when it’s self-publishing, can be pretty treacherous. As I’ve already done it myself, I hope that my own experiences and knowledge will not only inform, but also inspire those of you who are biting your nails, already nervous.

Before we get started, bear in mind that I’m just a girl. I’m not claiming to be an epub expert, and my methods may not work for everyone. This blog series will document the path I’ve taken in my own publishing journey. Results may vary.

The Awesome-nator.

Let’s just make something perfectly clear: you can’t publish an ebook if you don’t have an ebook to publish, and just because you’ve written a book doesn’t mean you should publish it. As we all know, self-publishing is, well, it’s like an exotic country… the kind of country where you can’t drink the water and you have to be really careful about what you eat. In a rush to self-publish, a lot of writers make a huge mistake: they publish before their manuscript is ready. Like the thirsty tourist in an exotic country, being overzealous and uninformed can ruin your entire trip.

I know, the idea of self-publishing, while intimidating to some, is invigorating to others. As soon as you know you can publish your book without anyone’s approval, the urge to do it and do it now is something too strong to resist. A word of advice: resist it. Rushing into self-publishing can tarnish your name as an author. Ask yourself, do you really want to put out a book that people will use as an example of ‘why indies suck’? Or do you want to put out a book that nobody would ever possibly guess was self-produced? I’ll take door number two any day. Sure, it takes a lot more work, and yes, it takes a little bit of money, but in the end you’ll get a lot more satisfaction out of what you’ve done.

With that said, what’s your story? Is your book worth publishing? The knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘of course it is! It’s my book! I’ve worked long and hard on this baby and it’s awesome!’ This is where things get tricky. To be an indie, a successful indie, you need to know how to analyze your own work. This means that you have to become an expert at kicking your own ass. I’m not talking about that inner-critic that nags at you while you’re writing your first draft. I’m talking about the other guy; the guy who screams ‘THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME BOOK OF ALL FREAKIN’ TIME’ as soon as you type ‘the end’. That guy, just like the first draft guy, is way off. While the first draft guy is a pessimist, the final sentence guy is a ridiculous optimist, and his favorite thing to do is blow the quality of your work way out of proportion.

I can’t tell you how to become an expert at analyzing your own work. Some people simply know how to do it while others, unfortunately, don’t. But if you’re honest with yourself, you should be able to determine which type of person you are: the analyzer, or the awesome-izer. If you’re the latter, you may want to become best friend with someone who will offer you constructive but brutally honest criticism, and you may want to just grit your teeth and take the suggestions. Trust me, it’s a lot easier (and far more pleasant) to get the criticism from someone who’s trying to help you rather than taking it from angry readers.

Just Five More Minutes.

Here’s another thing I can’t tell you how to get good at: self-motivation. As indies, we have it pretty easy. No agent to answer to, no publisher breathing down our backs, no deadlines. No deadlines? Let me be the first to tell you, I have deadlines. I set them, and I don’t break them. The end.

If you want to do this and you want to do it alone, you have to be your own best friend, and you also have to play the part of your own worst enemy–and when I say worst enemy, I mean find the nearest stick and cram it where the sun doesn’t shine, because you’re going to need that sort of rigid self-discipline to make it. When I’m writing my first draft, I set a deadline of when it has to be done. And until it’s done, I write every day… yes, even on weekends, even on Friday and Saturday nights, even when there are other places I’d rather be. (Read more about keeping yourself on track.)

Anecdote: Just recently I was attacked by the worst stomach ache of all time. That same day, my head was throbbing. As I lied on my bed in pain all I could think about was ‘how am I going to write?’ For once I resolved that this very well may be the night I don’t write, because how? I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t sit straight, I was a mess. Half an hour later I still felt terrible, but not as bad as thirty minutes before. I wrote. And at the end of that session I patted myself on the back for being a trooper.

I knew that if I skipped out, I wouldn’t only be physically ill, I’d also be upset with myself. Once you get into that mindset, writing every day becomes easy. It’s your job to figure out how to get to that place on your own. Whether you bribe yourself with ice cream–1000 words, and then ice cream and your favorite TV show; or whether you don’t allow yourself to get out of bed in the morning until you write–no writing, no shower; you have to find what works for you and you have to stick with it. As an indie, it’s all you. And it’s also all you if things don’t get done.

You’ll Just Embarrass Yourself.

Just say no to naysayers. We all have that one friend who pretends to be supportive, but they somehow always make us doubt ourselves. To keep yourself motivated and keep your self-doubt at bay, you need to avoid that person. I’m not saying get new friends, I’m saying don’t tell everyone what you’re doing. Sure, a lot of people will say ‘tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel, that way you’re less likely to not finish’… but if you tell everyone you’re writing a novel, everyone will want to know what it’s about; and as soon as you get into the details, that’s where things get messy. All it takes is a confused look, a raised eyebrow or a less-than-enthusiastic ‘that’s cool’ in response to you’re story idea to derail you and cause a giant explosion of self-destruct. My approach: I tell those closest to me that I’m working on a novel, but I don’t tell a living soul what it’s about. My story idea is mine alone, and if you want to know what it is, hey, buy the book. Not only does this technique keep you motivated to put that story out there, but it also keeps those people who are just itching to make you doubt yourself at a safe distance. It’s easy to criticize when you have something to criticize. It’s damn hard if you’ve got nothing to go on. (Read more about keeping your mouth shut.)

And if the naysayers in your life are the people closest to you, then find some people who exude positivity and leave those other people out. Sometimes our own parents are our biggest critics. If you know your mom is going to roll her eyes when you tell her you’re going to write or publish your novel, don’t tell her. Revel in the knowledge that when you do finally publish your book, it’ll be you who has the last laugh.

Hey You, Buy My Book.

Still ready to publish that ebook? Awesome. But as soon as you do, you won’t just be a writer anymore–I mean, unless you want to be a writer with zero sales. As we discussed earlier, being an indie is a lonely business. You have to do everything yourself. There’s nobody there to shake a finger at you or kick you in the ass when you need it most. And there’s also not going to be anyone to hock your book for you. You have to do that yourself. That’s right, you’re going to have to get used to that idea of self-promotion, and you’re going to have to get good at it. Scary? Sure. One of my biggest fears when I started promoting Seed was being looked at as a spammer. That idea terrified me. But you know what? It didn’t happen. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of self-promotion later. For now, just know you’re going to have to do it. And if you don’t want to do it, well… have you even read this far? (Read more about shameless self-promotion.)

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up…

Lastly, before we dive head-first into how to get your book out there, ask yourself: what do I want to achieve? Do you want to be the next bestselling author? Do you want to make a million bucks? …are your goals even remotely attainable? Because lets me tell you, if your end goal is to be the next Stephen King, you’re going to be pretty disappointed. I’m not saying it’s impossible–far from it. Even King started somewhere. But you have to keep your goals realistic, then build on them from there. Rather than thinking about how you want to be the next literary star, think about how all you want is to get some killer cover art for your novel. Once you have that cover art, lets think about our publication deadline and how you want your manuscript as perfect as possible by that date. As (What About) Bob would say, ‘baby steps out of the office, baby steps into the elevator. I’m in the elevator! IT WORKS!’ Take it easy, one foot in front of the other. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unattainable goals.

So, are you ready? I hope so, because it’s going to be an interesting journey for the both of us–one that will very likely span a few months. I have roughly fifteen blog posts planned out to get us from point A to point B. Don’t miss any editions. Follow this blog, and don’t hesitate to follow me on Twitter and Facebook too.

Until next time!

Read Part 2 of the series.

Did you like this post? Follow Ania on Twitter, Facebook, and visit www.AniaAhlborn.com to learn about Ania’s debut novel, Seed!

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23 thoughts on “How To Publish Your Ebook, Pt. 1: The Road Ahead

  1. This was a great post – sounds like the rest of the series will be great reads as well. I also went back and read what you wrote about keeping your mouth shut, and you were spot on. My lips have been sealed about the finished MS I have sitting printed in my room, and I’m keeping them sealed. “Write with the door closed..”

    • Thanks, Meaghan. Glad you enjoyed Part 1 of what will inevitably become a long and drawn-out series. šŸ™‚

  2. Great post! The only thing I might add is: RELAX! I’ve not been self published for long, but thanks to neurotic tendencies I literally made myself sick over the damned book. Not so much that people wouldn’t like it oddly enough (that’s come later when people on Twitter have started to talk about it) but that it wasn’t selling very well right off the bat. I know you’re thinking “…well…duh,” but that’s how my mind works haha.

    It’s still not selling all that well, but then that’s just the nature of the business I think: it’s hard to get a following with all the noise on the Net. Shouting into the ether as I like to call it. So I guess my 2 cents here is to anyone looking to go indie, don’t expect to do well right out of the gate: you probably won’t. It’s going to take a good while to gain a following.

    Oh and I liked the bit about the inner critic and the ridiculous optimist. I think the optimist should be given free reign during the actual writing, and then the critic should be let out of his/her cage come editing time. Each one has its place šŸ™‚

    • Totally agree, Andrew. I’ll get into the fact that success is far from ‘overnight’. And you’re right on with reversing the critics. Allow the optimist to strut its stuff during the writing, let the pessimist out of its cage during revision. šŸ™‚

  3. Nice post, Ania šŸ™‚

    Fun to get some insight into this business…So far I’ve bought 2 indie e-books…Yours, and ANOTHER which I won’t mention here.

    Let’s just say that yours was a winner and the other wasn’t. Out of curiousity, will some part of this series deal with getting your book on sites like Amazon? Because this *other* “book”, I don’t see how it ever got on Amazon >_<

    -Barl0we

    • Absolutely. The whole series is dedicated to how to go from something on your computer to something published and available through worldwide markets.

      Funny that you mention the other book wasn’t up to spec. It’s exactly what I talk about in this first post, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Just because you’ve written a book does not mean it should be published.

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Ha, um, maybe like 1/8 of a post… if that. I’m planning on mentioning the pros and cons and just… move on. If people want to master Smashwords, this won’t be the place to learn how to do it. šŸ˜‰

  4. I can’t wait to read the rest of this! Great stuff Ania! I still have to finish mine, so I am hanging on every word!

    • Thanks, Todd. It’ll take a little time to get through all the aspects, but I trust that those who are wanting to self-publish, whether they’re still working on their manuscripts or twiddling their thumbs, not sure what to do, will use the time between posts to work or evaluate the things I suggest.

      Then again, as I said, I’m not expert. I can only share what I know from my own self-pub’ing experience. šŸ™‚

  5. Nice balance between encouragement and honest notes of caution. I’m brand new at this, but I can already tell that it takes a high degree of professionalism to produce a publication that will avoid all the opportunities for embarrassment, produce a good income, and make you proud of what you’ve done.

    Thanks. I will keep reading!

    • Too many writers enter the world of self-pub’ing without everything they need to know, and yet… they’re convinced they know everything. I’m just doing my part to keep a few heads attached to a couple of shoulders. šŸ˜‰

  6. This is great information, Ania, I have a collection of published essays that I want to put together into a book. They’ve been reviewed by an independent editor who went from polite sceptic to enthusiastic supporter.

    The e-book format is the most appealing, I think, but the amount of information out there is overwhelming. The internet is a minefield of information, misinformation, shills, scams and old men pretending to be someone named Brittany…

    Thank you for taking this time to turn around and lend a hand to someone standing at the base of the mountain getting ready to climb. One foot at a time.

    • Hi Maureen.

      You’re right, the amount of information out there is really overwhelming. I should know, I clawed through all of it. In the end I learned that it really isn’t as complicated or scary as people make it out to be. Just need to know what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and what comes next. My hope is that this blog series breaks those aspects of self-pub’ing down into digestible chunks that are neither intimidating or a chore to read.

      If you want to self-pub an ebook, you can easily do it by the end of this year. Once you know the steps, it’s easy. šŸ™‚

  7. Love this post. It’s honest and straightforward. As someone who is just starting out, I’m glad I found you and your blog!

    And Seed is waiting patiently for me on my Kindle šŸ™‚

    I’m looking forward to the follow-ups to this post.

    • Thanks Danielle. I hope the blog series will as entertaining as it is enlightening. As I mentioned to another commenter, feel free to ask questions if I skim over certain topics or don’t answer something clearly.

      And thanks so much for checking out Seed. I really do appreciate it. ā¤

  8. Awesome post!

    I’m definitely bookmarking this so I can check out your future posts (and following you on Twitter now ^_^). Thanks for sharing with us your experiences! I can tell already it’s going to be excellent.

    • Thanks, Ava. I hope you get something out of the series. šŸ™‚

      Don’t hesitate to ask questions if I skim over something you’d like more answers to. I’ll do my best to cover most, if not all of the bases, but I’m sure I’ll miss something. šŸ™‚

  9. Pingback: How To Publish Your Ebook, Pt. 2: Yay or Nay to Pseudonyms « 21st Century Author

  10. Pingback: Publishing Your E-Book: A Quick How-To « 21st Century Author

  11. Just want you to know that I am about to start down a new road in my life, and this article is helping me do it. I am finally letting myself be the writer I think I’ve always been on the inside, and it is really helpful to know that someone has mapped the road ahead. Maybe one day I will also be able to write a similar set of articles for others to follow.

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