Your Ultimate Guide To Publishing Your Books And Making Money Online

In this post we will outline all the requires steps so that you can publish your very own book and make money online.

Writing a Sales-Generating Description

Remember during the cover creation segment, I asked you to imagine you’re browsing in a bookstore? I want you to do that again. Once a title and cover catch your eye, what do you do next? You read the description (back cover or inside sleeve), right? Digital readers are the same, and for that reason you need to write a description that makes them want to buy. I think most writers understand this at an intellectual level, but many fail to write blurbs that lead to significant sales. They may provide information about the book, but they don’t do it in a way that makes the reader say, “I’ve got to read this book.”

Of all the tasks you do to get your book published, you may find this the hardest. Writing a great blurb has to encapsulate so much in very few words. Here are tips for both nonfiction and fiction book blurb writing.

Nonfiction Book Blurbs

Writing a description for nonfiction books is easier than for fiction because you’re covering a specific topic and can use bullets to convey the important contents of the book. But that doesn’t mean you simply list the topics covered in the book. Nonfiction blurbs should be treated as marketing tools (which they are), and therefore you need to use the rules of copywriting. That means you need to hook the reader with an attention-grabbing headline.

Once you have readers’ attention, you need to let them know what’s in the book in a way that benefits them. It doesn’t hurt to let readers know why you’re the best person to get the information from by showing your credibility or expertise. The goal in writing a nonfiction book blurb is to give readers what they’re looking for.

Someone who wants to work at home will hopefully be attracted and encouraged by discovering where to find jobs, plus the 400 sources for work-at-home jobs. The bullets cover all the stuff a home-based worker wants to know like “Where do I look for work?” and “How do I keep from getting scammed?”

Writing to sell is all about giving solutions. It’s not about how great you or your book is. It’s about how your book can help people. Instead of saying the reader will get a list of companies, I say he’ll get a list of companies so he can start applying today. Don’t assume the reader understands how the features and content of your book will help them. Tell them exactly how your book will help them.

Finally, be sure to use keywords and phrases that best describe the contents of your book within your description. For The Online Job Resource I use words like work at home and telecommute. Keywords not only help readers know they’ve found what they want, but they help search engines and online bookstores deliver your book as a result if readers use the keywords in a search.

Fiction Book Blurbs

I think writing fiction book blurbs is second only to writing a synopsis in difficulty. How do you condense a full-length fiction book down into a few hundred words?

Hook the Reader

Like copywriting, you need to hook your reader into the book’s world with the first sentence. There are a variety of ways to do that. Here are a few you can try:

Open with the world your protagonist lives in:

“In a world of danger and deception, she walks the line–between seductive passion and scandalous murder… “(Naked in Death by JD Robb) (Blurbs for Naked in Death vary depending on the version.)

Start at the beginning (the calm before the storm):

“Tess Madison walked away from her two-timing fiancé, a multimillion-dollar trust fund and a cushy corporate law job to pursue the single life indulging in chocolate and fancy French underwear.”(Deadly Valentineby Jenna Harte)

Use a quote

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”(Pride and Prejudiceby Jane Austen)

Start in the middle of conflict:

Sally Sue hung on the edge of the 40-story building, wondering how her day went so terribly wrong. (I made that up, but you get the point!)

For many people, the first line is easy. The challenge is giving the plot in only a few words. Most writers try to explain every plot element, which is where they go wrong. Too much info makes the blurb disorganized and spoils the surprise. One way to avoid this is to pretend you’re explaining your book to a friend, but don’t have a lot of time. (Think about how you try to explain a movie.) What are the basics of the plot? What is the major conflict? In Jenna Harte’s Deadly Valentine, the basic elements are a romance built around a mystery.Pride and Prejudiceis a romance built around false first impressions. Here’s Jenna’s next section of her blurb for Deadly Valentine:

“But her newly reordered life comes unraveled when she reluctantly accepts an invitation to a dinner party and stumbles upon the host’s dead body. Now Tess is in the middle of a murder investigation pitting her wannabe-boyfriend police detective against Jack Valentine, a man from her past with blue-green eyes and a sinful smile that causes her to rethink her self-imposed celibacy. Tess has many reasons to avoid Jack, including the fact that he’s the prime suspect in murder. But Tess doesn’t believe Jack’s the murderer, and with an honest attempt to keep her hormones in check, she agrees to represent him. With Jack’s help, she uncovers a 30-year old secret someone is killing to keep hidden and discovers sensual delights that don’t include chocolate or French underwear.”

Again, you don’t get any spoilers or detailed plot points. You get a murder, a strong, experienced detective for a protagonist, and a war of the heart and head.

Unlike a synopsis, you don’t want to give away the ending. Instead, you want to leave readers hanging. The blurb should end with the conflict or showing what’s at stake. While the first line draws them in, the last lines need to leave readers needing to know what happens (for which they need to buy the book to find out!)

“But when her professional and personal relationship with Jack threatens to ruin her career and end her life, Tess has to decide if Jack is worth the risk.”(Deadly Valentineby Jenna Harte)

“But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it’s up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing abou —except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.”(Naked in Deathby JD Robb)

In both cases, we know lives are on the line. Will the protagonists succeed? Will they live happily ever after?

Your blurb needs to use the tone and voice of the book. If your book is dark and brooding, your blurb needs to be as well. If it’s lighthearted or funny, your blurb needs to be light and funny. You can’t just say someone is murdered and the protagonist falls in love. In Deadly Valentine’s blurb, Jenna gives a sense of the tone of the book with lines like “an honest attempt to keep her hormones in check.” And we learn a little bit about the protagonist in terms of her love of French underwear and chocolate. That lets us know the book is lighthearted.

Once you have a blurb written, ask others to give you feedback. Writer’s Cafe in Kindle Boards has members who are willing to give advice on whether your blurb enticed them. If you’re still struggling, read the blurbs of books in the same genre you’re writing, and use them as a template or framework.

Categories And Keywords

You might think it’s easy to choose categories for your book, but in fact they can be a challenge, depending on what you write. The Work-At-Home Success Bible does well in the Christian Books for Women category, although that’s not where I would have put it. It uses the word Bible in the title, but the book doesn’t have a Christian slant.

Categories can be niched, so I recommend you search for similar books to yours online to see how they’re categorized.

Keywords are words and phrases people use to find the topic of your book. Amazon, Nook and Smashwords both allow the use of keywords when you submit your book for publishing. Each has limits either by number (7 for Kindle) or character count (100 Nook). The best way to find keywords is to do a keyword search. You can use a free service like SEO Book. Type in the word or phrase you think best describes your book, and the tool will give you a list of words and phrases real people are using to search your topic. You may find the words you think are best aren’t the ones people are using the most. The goal is to use words that your market will use to find your book.

However, don’t choose keywords that use book titles or author names (as I’ve seen some Kindle publishers suggest). This will violate terms of service, at least at Amazon. For example, if you wrote a book on hosting the perfect party, don’t put Martha Stewart in your keyword list.

Pricing Your Book

If you look at the catalog of ebooks at Amazon, you’ll notice a big difference in prices. Big name authors’ ebooks are usually priced $7 to $15, but big name authors have a following you probably don’t have. As an unknown author, many buyers will be hesitant to spend too much on your book. This is especially true for fiction writers. So you’ll want to price your books lower, until you’ve built a fan base.

I recommend keeping your fiction books priced $3.99 or lower and nonfiction $5.99 or lower to start. After testing at your initial price, you can raise or lower the price to see which produces more sales and more money.

You also need to consider content and length of your book. Shorter books (i.e., novellas or short tip books), should be priced lower. Full-length books can be priced higher. I have a work-at-home job book that is mostly resources priced at $0.99 cents and another one with the same resources, but also more how-to information priced at $4.99. In fiction, I have a novella priced at $0.99 cents and full length novels priced at $2.99. Those prices might seem low, but at the 70% royalty, $2.99 comes to about $2 per book, which is more than I earn per book with my traditionally published book.

If your book is listed at a variety of places and you change the price at one, you should change it at the others. Amazon will automatically adjust the price of the book up or down, depending on the price it’s listed at elsewhere. If you offer your book free somewhere, eventually Amazon will list it for free as well. To avoid complaints by readers, it’s best to set the same price everywhere you list the book.

Keep track of sales at different price points to see which earns you the most money. For example, if you sell your book for $0.99 cents and sell 100 copies, that comes to about $35 at the 35% royalty rate. If you sell your book at $2.99 and sell 25 copies at the 70% royalty rate, that comes to $52. You sold 75 less copies, but made nearly twenty more dollars.

Choosing Your Distribution Method

While Kindle is the most well-known e-reader, Nook, iBooks, and other readers are available. Each has its own features, formatting requirements, and publishing policies. You can distribute your book at all of them or only one. The most popular publishers are Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s NookPress, and Smashwords, which distributes to ebook retailers including iBooks.

Amazon Kindle

Whether you decide to publish at Kindle alone or through other outlets as well, you absolutely need to publish for Kindle if your goal is to make money. Amazon sells more ebooks than anyone (at this writing) and continues to create incentives for authors and publishers to use its ebook publishing platform. Amazon offers two publishing programs:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – Through this program you can publish at Amazon and anywhere else you want, including your own website. The basic Kindle Direct Publishing offers two royalty rates: 35% and 70%. What’s the difference? Books priced below $2.99 or over $9.99 can only be sold at the 35% rate. Further, sales in some countries pay only at the 35% rates. Books priced $2.99 to $9.99 can choose the 70% royalty rate, but it includes a download fee called delivery cost. If your book isn’t very big, this fee is small, making the 70% option very good.
  • Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – Through this program you can publish at Amazon and anywhere else you want, including your own website. The basic Kindle Direct Publishing offers two royalty rates: 35% and 70%. What’s the difference? Books priced below $2.99 or over $9.99 can only be sold at the 35% rate. Further, sales in some countries pay only at the 35% rates. Books priced $2.99 to $9.99 can choose the 70% royalty rate, but it includes a download fee called delivery cost. If your book isn’t very big, this fee is small, making the 70% option very good.
  • Amazon’s KDP Select has a few other features, such as the countdown deal that allows you to offer your book at a lower price for a short time and 70 percent royalties in a few more countries than the non-Select program.

According to Amazon, all books published through Kindle Direct Publishing are available in the Lending Library, which means readers can lend the book for 14 days to another reader. You are not paid a commission on this; however, for KDP Select authors, Amazon has a large pot of money (at this writing it’s over $1 million) from which it pays authors based on the number of lends. That means you can still earn money when your book is lent for free. Amazon uses fancy math, but I’ve read that earnings are approximately $2.00 per lend, which isn’t bad depending on the price of the book. Plus, your book is being read by someone who may not have otherwise read it, and if they like it, might tell others and buy more books from you.

If you don’t want to be in the Lending program, you can opt out if you stick with the 35% royalty.

Amazon recently rolled out its Kindle Unlimited program, which allows member readers to download unlimited books for $9.99 per month. Kindle Direct Publishing Select books are included in the eligible books and are paid from a pot of money similar to the Lending Library. There is debate about whether or not this is good for KDP Select authors. Many authors have withdrawn their books from the Select program because of the Kindle Unlimited Program. I’m still in the research phase as to whether or not this program can help or hinder authors.

Which Kindle Publishing Program Is Best For You?

Some authors don’t want the hassle of reformatting their book to other readers, so Amazon’s KDP Select program is fine. But other authors don’t like having all their eggs in one basket, so they use the basic KDP program and sell the book in other places as well. You can format for and submit your book to Nook and Smashwords, which will make your book available in all major ebook retailers. Most authors say that they sell more books at Amazon than other outlets, but that over time, the other outlets have enough sales to make it worth it.

I recommend starting by publishing at Amazon (basic or Select), and then if you want, publish elsewhere as well.

How To Publish at Amazon To Make Money Online

image for self-publishing on amazon

There is no single format that fits all. Once you’ve removed extraneous code and formatted your document, you’ll need to make changes per the directions of the publisher. For the most part, your manuscript should be ready, but there are a few variations that you’ll need to check. For example, some publishers want chapter breaks set by choosing Insert, Page Break and others want Insert, Section Break. (NOTE: if you want chapters to show up on different pages – readers need to ‘turn the page’ to get to the next chapter – then you need to insert some sort of break as suggested by the publisher.) Here are a few of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Requirements:

  • Chapter Breaks: Kindle requires chapter breaks created by using the Insert, Page Break option in your word processing program.
  • Go To Options: Kindle allows you to have go to items in which the reader can click on an item and it will take him to that spot in the book. You’ve set this up already in your table of contents; however, you can add the option to go to the table of contents or to the cover. To set this up, in your manuscript place the cursor where you want the item to go to, such as the beginning (place cursor at the beginning) or table of contents (place at the start of the table of contents). Click on Insert, Bookmark. In the bookmark name field, enter Start if you want to go to the beginning, or TOC for the table of contents. Then click Add.
  • Save as Filtered HTM: Kindle accepts submissions saved as filtered HTM, but you don’t need to know HTML to do this. Save your manuscript as a .doc (or whatever your word processor saves as), so you have a document copy. Then, in the same manuscript, click on Save As, Save In Other Formats and Web Page, Filtered. (This is for Word 2007 and newer. In older versions, choose Save As, and then choose Web Page, Filtered in the drop-down box.) NOTE: When you save your file as Filtered HTM, your images will be saved in a file separate from the text file, and both will be saved in a new folder. You’ll upload the entire folder when you’re ready to publish.

Since publishing rules can change, check out Kindle’s publishing information for any new or different publishing guidelines.

Uploading To Amazon Kindle

Now it’s time to publish your book at Amazon. Here are the steps:

  • Visit Kindle Direct Publishing and sign in with your existing Amazon Account or create a new account.
  • Once you’re in your account, click on Add New Title.
  • You can click on Enrolling in KDP Select (where you agree to sell your book only at Amazon) from here, or you can do it later. You can enroll and un-enroll, although when you enroll, you agree to do so for 90-day periods.
  • Enter your book’s details.
  • Verify your publishing rights by indicating if you own the work or if it’s in the public domain.
  • Target your book to customers: This is where you add your categories and up to seven keywords. A keyword phrase counts as one word. For example, work at home, telecommuting is consider two keywords. Click on the Add Categories to get a pop-up box from which you can choose up to two categories.
  • Upload or create your book cover: Use the cover you made, or you can use KDP’s cover creator here to make one. KDP will show a thumbnail of your book, which may not look great. For some reason the preview in the Add Book section isn’t great. Wait until it is published to see how the cover will look on the sales page before changing it.
  • Upload your book file: Click on the Browse button, find the filtered HTM folder you created when you saved your book, and click OK.
  • Decide if you want to use DRM (digital rights management) to protect your books from being stolen. It seems like an obvious choice to select this; however, in doing so, you may make it difficult for your readers to access your book across devices. Some readers hate this and will get upset. Also, DRM doesn’t guarantee your book won’t be stolen. If someone wants it bad enough, that person will find a way to steal it. It’s up to you which you prefer.
  • Once the book is uploaded, you can preview what it will look like in a variety of devices. It doesn’t hurt to check for obvious glitches. Plus you can get an idea of why formatting is so important, as each device drastically changes the look of the text.
  • If you’re happy with the preview, hit Save and Continue. You can save at this point and change your book if you’re not happy with the preview. If you want to change your book at a later date, this is the area you’ll upload a new version.
  • Verify publishing territories: Here is where you decide where your book will be distributed. You can select Worldwide or choose individual territories. If your book is about North American rose gardening, you might want to limit the territories to the United States.
  • Choose your royalty rate: Decide if you want the 35% or 70% royalty. If your book is priced less than $2.99 or more than $9.99, 35% will be your only option.
  • Set your price(s): Enter the U.S. price. Because your book can be available in other countries (if you selected that option), you need to enter those prices. To make it easy, you can click the box that says Set UK price automatically based on U.S. price. You can do this for the other countries as well.
  • Decide if you’ll allow lending. Remember, if you’re in the Select program, Amazon has a giant pot of money from which it pays authors based on the number of lends. If you’ve selected the 35% royalty, you can opt out.
  • Click on Save and Publish if you’re ready to go or Save for Later if you’re not sure.

Amazon takes a few hours to get your book listed on the site. It has a review process that checks for copyright issues, and if in KDP Select, it might scour the Internet for other versions of the book (if it doesn’t do it at this point, it will do it at some point, and you’ll get a notice about it).

Once your book is listed at Amazon, you’ll get an email that says, “Congratulations, you’ve successfully published on the Kindle Store,” with a link to your book.

Final Tasks

You’re published, but not quite finished. Check your listing on Amazon to see how it looks. I also recommend buying a copy of your book to see how it works on your device. I buy a copy and read through the entire manuscript using the annotation/note feature to mark spots I want to fix or change. I make changes on my .htm version of the manuscript and re-upload. Formatting is usually the biggest problem. Some issues you might come across include strange indents, extra pages, and no chapter breaks.

Your Amazon Account

At some point, you need to finish setting up your author/publisher account so you can get paid. Amazon will direct deposit into your bank account. Make sure you select the direct deposit option for all countries. I once got a check from Amazon.uk that took two weeks to clear and required that I pay a fee at my bank. With direct deposit from the other countries, you avoid time lags and fees.

Publishing On Nook Press

If you plan to also publish through iBooks, Kobo, and others, you might consider publishing through Smashwords (info below), which will distribute your book to Nook, iBooks, and many more. Some writers indicate they don’t like how Smashwords formats for Nook, so I’ve included this section on publishing to Nook.

At this writing, Barnes and Noble pays 65% royalties on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Books priced lower than $2.99 or more than $9.99 receive 40% royalties.

Nook Press allows you to create the book in its online editor, or you can upload a .doc, .docx, .txt, .rtf, .htm, .html, or .epub. If you upload in a word processing program, use section breaks (Insert, Section Break) to create your chapter breaks (as opposed to Page Break).

Nook Press suggests a .jpg or .png cover file of 5kb to 2 mb in size and a height and width of at least 750 pixels, but recommends at least 1400 pixels.

When you sign up for Nook Press, you’ll be taken to a back office, where you can upload and manage your book. Start by choosing Create New Project. From that point, Nook Press guides you step by-step through the process of adding your book information, such as title, description, keywords, etc.

Once your book is uploaded, you can make changes and manage the sale by clicking on the book from your back office area.

Mass Distribution through Smashwords

If you want to sell your book to anyone with a reading device, Smashwords makes it easy. Instead of having to format, register, and input your book data to every ebook retailer, you can do it in one place (Smashwords doesn’t distribute to Amazon anymore at this time). Smashwords also distributes ebooks to some libraries, giving you a larger market reach. Further, people who buy your book from Smashwords directly can choose what format they want the book (.pdf, .epub, etc, and even .mobi for Kindle). Finally, Smashwords has some great free tools to help you market your book. For example, you can give away coupons for a free or discounted copy.

Smashwords pays 85% royalties on books sold through Smashwords and 70% through Smashwords’ affiliates. The royalty rate on books sold through iBooks and other retailers varies, but is usually around 60%. Smashwords only pays when your earnings have reached $10 for PayPal or $75 for paper check.

Smashwords offers you a free ISBN, which is required at some ebook retailers, such as iBooks. Or you can use your own.

You can upload .doc or .epub files. Smashwords asks that you don’t upload .docx, so you’ll want to choose the Save As option to choose a .doc extension.

Smashwords recommends a cover size of 1,600 pixels wide by 2,400 pixels tall in .jpg or .png. It also says that your website can’t be on the cover, as some retailers will reject it.

I highly recommend you read the Smashwords Style Guide first to prep your manuscript, then create an account, and click on Publish to give book details and upload your book. Smashwords will let you know if there are any problems with formatting your book, which is helpful and sometimes frustrating.

Your Book is Published… Now What? Seeing your book cover on Amazon or Barnes and Noble is very exciting, but having a book available for sale doesn’t mean it’s going to sell.

Checklist for Publishing Your eBook:

  • Write the description for your book.
  • Make a list of categories and keywords to help readers find your book.
  • Determine your book’s price.
  • Decide which distributer you’ll publish with first (I recommend Amazon.com).
  • Reformat the book per the instructions by the distributer.
  • Upload your book.
  • Buy your book on your reader to check for quality.
  • Distribute to other e-publishers (optional).