Friday, November 4, 2011

Guest Blogger ~ Scott Bury on Self-publishing

The Shallow Learning Curve
Written by Scott Bury

E-book publishing? Making the work available and placing it where readers can buy it is easy. Selling it is not.

My experience with e-publishing -- that is, the process of creating electronic books that can be downloaded from the Internet and read on e-book readers, has been very positive. It’s easy to create a book-format. Creating the content is not easy, and then selling it to readers? Well, those stories are books in themselves.

I decided to self-publish my stories and novels, frankly, because I could not get a traditional commercial publisher to even look at the manuscript. I put a lot of work over several years into it, and others who have read parts of it praise the work. But publishers would not read even a sample of it, saying they just weren’t looking for new authors. There’s been a lot written and published about the challenges traditional publishers are facing now, so I won’t go into that.

If you are considering self-publishing as an option, here are three platforms available to help you in your quest:


To create the e-book version of my novel, I downloaded a shareware program called Calibre. The shareware if free, but if you like it, you should send the developer 10 bucks or so (whatever you think is fair).

Calibre works well at converting your files into the many different formats used in e-book readers. The software also organizes your e-book library and comes with a basic e-book reader application for your computer.

The downside, the interface is a little quirky and counter-intuitive, there is no manual, and the help files available through the Web are not very helpful.

That being said, once I figured out that you have to start with a PDF file and I followed the rules, Calibre worked nicely.


After making sure my character Sam, the Strawb Part,looked good, or at least readable, on an e-reader, the next step was to publish it.
I went to Smashwords, an e-publisher and e-bookstore that will publish your work in several formats, and sell them, too, for a 15% royalty, which is better than Amazon (30%) and far better than any traditional commercial publisher, who generally gives YOU only 5% of the selling price of YOUR book!

Smashwords uses a program they call the “meat grinder,” which transforms your text file, adds a JPEG as a cover and produces a book in EPUB format. They sell it through their own e-bookstore, and also through Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble’s e-bookstore in Nook format, Diesel, Sony, Kobo—just about every e-bookstore except the biggest, Amazon.

Smashwords demands that you follow some guidelines. If you want your book to get their “premium” service, which includes sending it to all those other sellers, you need to follow them. So first, download their free manual and READ IT COMPLETELY.

Smashwords demands that every book have ISBN. Smashwords will provide one for you (at a cost), but, as a Canadian citizen, I can self-publish and get ISBNs at no cost through Library and Archives Canada. Canadian readers, check that out.

Note:  every different version of your book should have its own ISBN: the paper version, the version you publish through Smashwords and the one you publish through Amazon should all have their own numbers. If you revise the book later, even just change the cover, you should get another ISBN.

Be prepared to add some “front matter” and “back matter” to your book. “Front matter” includes the cover and title page, but also the publishing information, which includes information about the book, the name of the author and the publisher, copyright information and the ISBN number. Smashwords insists that the edition you send to them includes the phrase “Smashwords edition” in that copyright information somewhere, as well as “published by (your name or your publisher’s name) through Smashwords.” “Back matter” can include your picture and a brief bio, as in “About the author.”

Once you are ready, log into your Smashwords account and upload first the text as one text file, and then the cover image as a JPEG. Smashwords will respond to tell you how long it will take for the “grinder” to process your book. This will range from a few hours or longer depending on how many books are in the queue ahead of you but it is well worth the wait! I was thrilled when I looked at the Smashwords store and “Sam, the Strawb Part, by Scott Bury,” was available for purchase!!

Within a few weeks, (yes, weeks), I could see my story on Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s electronic bookstore, as well.

Next, I saved my document with a slightly different file, got a new ISBN and changed the copyright information and published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system.

The Mighty Amazon

Publishing with Amazon’s KDP system is even easier than publishing through Smashwords. Like Smashwords, KDP takes your text as a Word file, but KDP allows you to use HTML for more control over the format, if you’re familiar with it.  Again, read the manual before converting or uploading.

Amazon is also quicker about publishing your book onto its site than Smashwords is. However, since I used’s KDP site, Sam, the Strawb Part is not available on I will have to look into that.

All in all, the self-publishing process is not difficult at all. It isn’t even that time-consuming. What is time-consuming, and should be, is the creation of a book or story worth reading!

1 comment:

Kate Burns said...

Hi, Scott, welcome aboard! I agree, the time-consuming parts of creating, publishing and selling your work are the first bit, and the last bit. That middle bit is assisted by so many tools, sites, and other authors, that it really is quite painless. Sometimes the hardest part is not hitting that upload button before that first bit is perfect!