Okay, so you’ve written (or are writing) this great book, but you have no idea how to format it, put a cover on it, and publish it. Here’s a short list of stuff I use regularly or have found helpful:
I’m going to take you right to this great blog post because it offers you the template downloads (MS Word) that you need, plus complete instructions for use. These are set as Smashwords templates, but with some minor revision (as in, changing “Smashwords” to “Kindle” anywhere it appears) it easily alters to a Kindle template as well.
I chose Arial templates but I now only use Garamond templates, since I’ve started taking my books into print as well as eBook. Createspace (print on demand) primarily uses Garamond (and it looks better in print) so it’s just easier when I’m ready to convert.
Important thing to know for Kindle: If you have a listing page at the back with your published novels on it, you cannot put a price point on any of them or Kindle will automatically kick it back. They don’t like to see prices anywhere, since they may decide to offer your book at some other price sometime. Or so they say. I have no idea why they say that, since you determine your price, but whatever.
Smashwords and Kindle both have autovetter functions which check your work for formatting and spelling errors, and both will tell you specifically what you need to fix (for instance, you can’t have too many returns in a row (vertical lines with no type) other than the beginning of a chapter or write the whole manuscript in bold.
There are more than a few sites out there that offer pre-made book covers, but the one I’ve liked the best so far is The Book Cover Designer. Their offerings range from $20 and up over $100 per cover (so shop through all the offerings!), and they’re helpfully arranged by category and genre. I found my cover designer, Colleen from Mystique Book Designs on that site and she and I now have a partnership, giving my books a uniform feel, for the most part. I’ve used a few of the covers on some of my novellas, etc and I find them very easy to use and haven’t had a bad experience yet. Almost all of these cover designers will also make you a print cover in the same design for a small additional fee.
Another site that’s good if you’re budget-conscious (and don’t know photoshop yourself) is Fiverr. It’s free to sign up for an account, and there you’ll find book cover designers and media artists who can do book trailers, work on websites, etc. for a mere five bucks USD. I’m in the process of getting a book trailer done with someone off the site now, and I’ve known many writers who’ve contracted via Fiverr with no major horror stories. Just make sure you check their body of work and be specific about your deadlines.
If you’re really, really on a shoestring (and have some talent in this area but cannot afford photoshop), you might consider downloading Gimp. It’s a free software program that mimics photoshop and you can use it to create book covers and banners. Get a stock photo account someplace (I prefer Deposit Photos) and make sure you follow their guidelines carefully when downloading images (you want the larger, high-dpi versions, and pay for the extended license if the picture is the focal point of your cover). I’ve actually made two novella covers via Gimp and it saved me a bundle, which is great on a $.99 book.
Note: If you have no talent in this area and have never used Photoshop or other image-manipulation software, then for the love of God, DO NOT use this to make a crap-ass book cover for yourself. People really do judge a book by its cover, I assure you. Don’t put something up there that looks like a sixth-grade class project.
I use both Smashwords and Kindle, but I will tell you that I recently made the move to publish my novels exclusively on Kindle, leaving my novellas up on both. I get a lot more mileage on my novellas via Smashwords for some reason and Kindle outsells my novels by a huge margin. I’ve found my making them Kindle Select, I also get a chunk of those Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library dollars as well (which you can only get if they’re exclusive to Kindle). Of course, I say this with a grain (or maybe a shaker) of salt because Amazon just reconfigured all their royalties for Kindle Unlimited on July 1st, and I’m still waiting to see how that shakes out. If it amounts to me getting breadcrumbs, I’ll remove them from Kindle exclusivity and offer them on both platforms again.
Bottom line: Unless you are completely inept at self-editing (and can’t or won’t pay an editor), can’t or won’t use a template, and have no artistic talent (and can’t or won’t pay a book designer), don’t waste your money on any of those “We’ll publish your book for an assload of money” offers. You can do it for a lot less money if you’re willing to invest a little time and effort. And believe me, if you’re proud of your writing, it’s worth the time and effort.
Hope that was helpful! Next week, I’ll try to put together a post about building a platform, and what’s helped me.