So you've finally done it: you wrote that book you've been thinking about for months or even years. Maybe it's the great American novel, or maybe it's a collection of essays or poems or short stories, or maybe it's full of financial advice, information on autism, or the long-awaited answer to weight loss. Whatever your book is about, it's useless unless somebody reads it. So how do you get it out there? How do you get your carefully chosen words in front of the people who want to read them?
Publish Your Book for the Kindle and Nook
The largest booksellers in the world, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, make it free and easy to offer your book to the public in ebook format for their electronic reading devices. If you can manage basic formatting of your manuscript in HTML or Microsoft Word, or even in a plain text file, you can create an ebook for the Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook. Amazon's Desktop Publishing website and Barnes & Noble's PubIt! site both walk you step-by-step through the process of uploading your manuscript and cover image, creating a book description, setting a price, and putting your book on their virtual shelves. Neither site requires you to own an ISBN number; they will assign your ebook one of their numbers. Depending on the price you set, Amazon pays you 35-70% of the sales price of your books, while Barnes & Noble pays 40-65%.
Publish and Sell Your Book through Multiple Vendors
More important than the multi-formatting capability at Smashwords, however, is the multi-distribution facility. Smashwords provides distribution of their premium catalog (all properly formatted ebooks) to a number of vendors who don't have the functionality to work directly with authors the way Amazon and Barnes & Noble do. The list of sellers includes the Apple iBookstore, the Australian iBookstore, KoboBooks, the Sony Reader Store, and the Diesel eBook Store. This expanded distribution is provided at no additional charge to authors, other than the commissions paid to the vendors.
Publish Your Book in Print
With just a little more effort and technical skill, you can prepare your book for sale as a high quality trade paperback through Amazon's subsidiary, CreateSpace. This option is also completely free, except for the cost of at least one proof copy (<$10). After that, they are sold via CreateSpace's store and, optionally, at Amazon's site and/or other retailers. The books are produced POD (print-on-demand), that is, they are printed one at a time only when ordered. When selling this way, CreateSpace keeps the printing cost of the book, the bookseller keeps a percentage, and the author gets the balance, typically anywhere from $1-$4/book.
Back in the day, there was only one way to get your book out to readers, and that was to have thousands of copies printed and distributed to bookstores--an expensive and risky proposition. Today, there are quick, easy, inexpensive alternatives, and thousands are already taking advantage of them. With the sites in this article, now you can, too:
More about publishing for the Kindle with Amazon DTP
Publish your book in multiple formats and sell at multiple vendors with Smashwords.com
Publish your book in print with Amazon's CreateSpace