How to publish an e-book

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First aired on On the Island (27/8/12)

Recently, Martyn Brown, who was a political aide to former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, published his first book, Towards a New Government in British Columbia. Like many writers nowadays, he didn't go the traditional route: he published his book as an e-book that can be downloaded for less than $6 on Amazon. And it got lots of attention.

So how hard is it to publish an e-book, and what are the chances of making even modest sales? Nicola Furlong is an e-book author who teaches a course in e-publishing. She dropped by the Victoria-based morning show On the Island to offer some tips.

Furlong describes publishing an e-book as "dead easy." You can hire a cover designer or copy editor if those things are not in your skill set. But all you really need, according to Furlong, is "a decently, simply formatted Microsoft Word document, access to an online distribution site, with your cover, your little back blurb, your idea of what your price is going to be, and you can pretty well put it up in an afternoon."

Cost depends on how much you can do yourself, but Furlong said it's possible to put out "a very good electronic book, very professionally developed, for well less than $1,000."

Many self-published e-books are niche publications and not destined to sell in big numbers -- but it does happen. Furlong pointed out that "there have been many bestsellers now that have self-published authors. In early August, there were four New York Times bestselling authors, they were self-published, electronic book authors. So it can be done."

Furlong stresses the importance of marketing and promoting. She also commented that quality is key. "You put a poorly edited, poorly formatted, poorly written book onto the internet, I doubt it's going to sell."

On the other hand, Furlong points to the unlikely success of a young American fantasy writer, Amanda Hocking, whose self-published e-books sold millions, despite the fact that they weren't well written. "She got a great audience, she was targeting a teen audience, and they bypassed the supposedly poor writing and they enjoyed the stories. So now she's actually being published by a traditional publisher."

Furlong doesn't think that the traditional book industry will disappear because of this new model of publishing. "It'll always be there." But she also sees the advantage for readers who can download an e-book and "start reading for under $5. And as an author why wouldn't you want your books available worldwide so people can do just that?"

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