1) Write a really good book that’s in line with your genre for the most part. In other words, if you’re writing a novel, it should have at least 60K words in it and have structure to it. I would not suggest mixing a play with a short story with a poem and a picture book. If you’re a new author, this will only confuse your readers. If the story is not at least 60K words, but it’s 30K words, call it a novella and keep it moving. Unless God Himself tells you to steer another way, stick to what your readers already love to read.
2) Have it edited (I’d say budget anywhere from $2 to $4 per page for editing) and make the changes if you agree. If you don’t agree, make sure you get a good understanding of why your editor thinks you should change it. Putting a period inside of quotation marks in a scene with dialogue is not negotiable. Also, you want a content edit – not just a copy edit. Do your research on this – ask other authors who does their editing (sometimes you can find this out by reading in the acknowledgment section – or just email them).
3) Have a book cover designed (anywhere from $100-$300 should do it), or if you’ve got skills, buy your own art at istock.com (I usually buy about $50 dollars worth or art for a cover) and design it in ribbet.com (free) – that’s where I designed three of my covers and they are actually better than the ones traditional publishers have done for me, if I don’t say so myself. Again, if you see a good book cover, email the author and ask who did theirs. (Note: I do not do book covers for others at this time.)
4) Have the book formatted for Kindle, Barnes&Noble, Createspace, and Smashwords. You can do your research and do it yourself (Amazon has free books in their Kindle store to help you format), or expect to pay about $200 for formatting.
5) Upload to the platforms listed in step 4 – this is FREE. You do not even have to have your own ISBN or a copyright from the government. Your computer is time-stamping everything you do, so copyright is not the ambiguous thing it used to be. Price your book reasonably when you do this. I mean, if your book is 50 pages, it should not be $15.99. One of best-selling numbers on kindle ebooks is $2.99. Don’t scoff – those little sales add up quickly!
6) Write another really good book and start the process all over again! The best promotion for your old books is a new book. Many readers don’t care about all those blog posts and retweets and FB posts – they want you to go sit down somewhere and write another book!
Also, if a “middle-man” publisher (which, to me, is anyone asking for any kind of money up front because a traditional publisher pays for EVERYTHING) is saying that they will do so much more to help you promote your books, check it out. Look up some of their recent books on amazon.com and check out their ranking. The higher the number, the lower the sales. If they’re in the hundreds of thousands or millions (particularly in ebooks), they are not doing much to help promote their authors’ books at all.
OK – I’m sorry, I just had to get that off my chest!!!