Sheila O'Kelly's Blog

Freelance journalist, sub-editor, and e-novelist

How to publish a book online

with 2 comments

This article first appeared in the Irish Times on August 5

An electronic shortcut in the race for readers

You don’t need a print publisher to get people reading your novel on the beach – you can make it available as an e-book which can be downloaded onto one of the many electronic readers on the market, writes SHEILA O’KELLY

It seems there are lots of us scribblers out there writing novels that never see the light of day because publishers aren’t prepared to take the risk on an unknown. It’s a huge risk for them to take on the marketing and printing costs. But in the last 12 months or so new technologies and websites have opened up a lot more ways to distribute fiction like: Amazon Kindle; Sony Reader; Smashwords (a website not a gadget); and Stanza, an iPhone book reading application.

My novel, Love Knot, begins in 1979 and charts the next few years of a young journalist who becomes pregnant and flees claustrophobic Dublin and heads to London to escape. It took me quite some time to write and I think people will enjoy it so am loathe to let it moulder there. So I decided to give this electronic publishing business a go by uploading the novel to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

The Amazon Kindle Store is an offshoot of (so far not available in Europe). It sells electronic books that are uploaded to its Kindles, which are small plastic devices, like a mini-mini laptop, with a 6-10 inch diagonal screen.

Smashwords describes itself as: “A publishing platform, online bookstore and ebook distributor for independent ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device.”

So there were two platforms ready and waiting. However, there is a glitch with In order to upload a book to Kindle you must have a US bank account so that they can you pay you a percentage for each copy of your book that they sell. So I phoned my sister-in-law in Philadelphia who kindly set up an account in her name, using her bank account, that I could use to publish my book. So officially she is my publisher on Amazon.

Next I read through all of Amazon’s detailed instructions about how to format the book. I tried several of their suggestions, but in the end found that what worked best was simply uploading the novel in Word. Even though on the forums this did not work well for others. For the record, I use a Mac and Word 2004 – perhaps this was just a lucky combination. I don’t know, you may need to experiment. It works best if you don’t use any fancy formatting – this will just confuse the technology.

I chose to sell my novel for $99 cent. For each copy sold, I get $35 cent.

Smashwords provides a very detailed style guide that you need to follow to successfully publish on their site.  Again it is crucial to avoid fancy formatting. Love Knot is also $99 cent on Smashwords and there I receive either $56 cent or $76 cent per copy – not sure why it varies. I chose to upload the novel in all the formats Smashword makes available and this means that they also make Love Knot available on iPhones via the Stanza application.

By the way. I think it’s worthwhile doing a very simple cover design, which you upload separately. It will make your book look a little more professional.

Then I had to start thinking about marketing. I got a kickstart when Smashwords offered authors the chance to make their novels available for free during the month of July. I used this to promote the novel using Twitter (sheilaokelly); Facebook; and Linkedin where I already had accounts.

So far the response has been very encouraging and I am hoping that when people have finished reading the novel they will leave ratings or reviews on either or

Meanwhile, I have just started the next novel!

Sheila O’Kelly is a freelance journalist who also gives training courses in how to write in plain English.


Written by SOKNH

August 24, 2009 at 19:41

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Sheila,

    Your story about epublishing rings a lot of bells for me – a common experience for many writers.

    I have fully embraced the concept of epublishing and ebooks seeing it as the future of reading. The ease of getting your book onto the market is amazing compared to the toil and disappointments of the traditional publishing.

    Like you I have availed of the marketing opportunity of making my three novels free ( for ‘Read an eBook Week 7-13th March 2010’ and have had considerable success – well over one hundred sales in a week!

    Ebooks are here to stay and it is just a matter of time before they overtake paper books in sales.

    Good luck with your writing,

    Best Regards,



    March 12, 2010 at 13:51

    • Hi Des
      Thanks for your comment.
      The best of luck with your writing too.
      Kind regards


      March 12, 2010 at 19:59

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