Option #1: SMASHWORDS
It was fairly straight forward to learn how to format your ebook files in Word, and Smashwords' conversion software seems to be very decent for creating different ebook file types without compromising the formatting or look and feel of the book too much.
If you're just starting out and need a fairly simple and straight forward way to format and publish your ebooks, Smashwords may just be a good fit for you. If you need to learn how to format your ebook first, be sure to read the Smashwords Style Guide (which is ALWAYS free) and implement what you learn.
Not only is Smashwords a great place to start, but they distribute your ebooks across all sorts of platforms and the publishing and distribution are absolutely #FREE. If you're not married to being exclusive to Amazon's various programs and incentives, then publishing in as many places as possible will ensure the widest distribution possible.
Keep in mind, too, that you don't have to have a paperback or hardcover version of your book available; you can literally JUST publish your eBook and still make sales and climb the ranks. It all depends on how well you market and build your audience over the years.
Option #2: KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)
KDP will allow you to publish your ebook for the Kindle only, but KDP beta is also offering a new platform for publishing paperbacks. They do not yet offer at-cost copies or bulk discounts for authors, so I would personally wait before using KDP for paperbacks, but for Kindle ebooks, KDP is a great platform.
To learn how to format a Kindle ebook, check out my (very casual and a little long) tutorial video here:
Option #3: CREATESPACE
Of course you would have to know how to do everything from start to finish, or how to hire people to help you or do certain things for you, such as editing or book cover design. However, these skills can all be learned, and that's why I hope to share all of the information I know so we can help each other hone our skills as self-published authors.
Formatting a book for print is fairly straight forward, and I unfortunately don't have a tutorial created for that process yet. However, to get you started, you can at least learn how to calculate the specs and design a paperback book cover for your book =). Take a look:
Which Option is Right for You?
For first-time or unknown authors, I highly recommend publishing on as many platforms as possible and NOT being exclusive for the time being. You can always change it again later, but when you're first starting out, you want to reach as many new eyeballs as possible to get the word out about your book.
Your best bet is to try to mimic the big publishers as much as possible and self-publish your book in all of the following editions:
- eBook (all - Smashwords)
- Paperback (CreateSpace)
- Hardcover (Lulu or Nook Press)
- Audiobook (ACX)
This will ensure the absolute widest possible audience and various platforms so that your book is seen by the most people. You can capitalize on this in more ways by adjusting your categories and keywords as well as getting book reviews. Download my new book for free below to learn how to do all of those things and much more.
If you know any other authors who might benefit from this info, please share it with them! You may just be helping them to change their entire life.
Thanks again, and happy self-publishing!