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Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software

The book is available! My steps to creating your own ebook and putting them up for sales, in one volume you can reference on your ereader.

Want to create an ebook but don't know how? Don't have the cash to spend on programs to generate them? Author R. L. Copple shares his logical, step-by-step method of ebook creation. He begins with setting up the document to write your book, and ends with creating the cover art, the PDF, EPUB and MOBI ebooks, and then putting them up for sale at major online retail outlets. The appendices also describe how to make a PDB ebook and how to use the "nuclear" method to clean hidden formats in a document while retaining italics, bold, and heading formats. All using free software you can download!

The book breaks down the process into seven steps: Step 1 – Creating the Source File; Step 2 – Creating the Cover; Step 3 – Creating the PDF Ebook; Step 4 – Creating the Smashwords Edition; Step 5 – Creating the EPUB Ebook and Uploading to Barnes and Noble; Step 6 – Creating the MOBI Ebook and Uploading to Amazon; Step 7 – What to Do With the Ebooks.

Packed with a wealth of information and tips, the book will serve as a guide and reference to publishing your next book as an ebook.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Stop Online Piracy Act" and Indie-Publishing

If you haven't heard about it yet, most likely you will. Today Congress held a hearing on a full Senate/House version of the bill known as the "Stop Online Piracy Act."  It seeks to deal with a real threat, the piracy of copyrighted works often through Internet sites where users share their creative work, or not so creative as the case may be. The grandaddy of them being YouTube. The New York Times has an article up on it that lays out the vast overreaching of this bill and how it will end up hurting mostly innocent users of the Internet, businesses, lost jobs, and lost future jobs due to the high cost of compliance by putting the burden on website owners to not allow copyrighted work on their sites or face stiff penalties. Currently, if someone complains about a copyrighted work being on a site, they file a notice to the hosting site, and the hosting site has a set number of days to remove it without any further consequences.

The article and others have detailed the impact this law will have in a very negative way of bringing about censorship and the suppression of creative works in general. But I wanted to focus on what this will mean for indie authors and presses. After all, don't indie authors and presses want to stop the piracy of their works? Isn't making it more difficult for sites to host such things and get away with it a windfall for the authors? On the surface, one would think so, until one digs a little deeper.

The problem is that pirates will be able to get around this, and people will find ways to distribute them illegally. Only those who are trying to play by the rules will be hurt, and that includes authors who self-publish and small presses. How?

Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, probably the biggest host of indie-published works on the Internet, and other companies like Smashwords and Barnes and Noble's PubIt who provide indie-published authors and small presses a way to get their work out there without having to go through the "gatekeepers" of traditional publishing houses, will, if this bill becomes law by the end of this year, be forced to evaluate all submitted works before allowing them to go on sale in order to avoid the liability of the government blocking their access to US book buyers and whatever fines that may incur.

Here's the practical results of what this law will do because of this necessity.

Indie-publishing sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords will now become enforcement arms of the government. They will out of necessity become censors. This presents a problem, in that any mistakes on their part could be costly. What that will mean is that some poor employee evaluating each submission before sending to the site to go on sale or out the reject door, with hundreds to look at, isn't going to take the time to evaluate your story properly. Like an editor, they will be looking for a reason to reject, and anything that doesn't pass the smell test will tend to get rejected without further research. Any doubt about whether your story violates copyright law will be cause for immediate rejection whether it actually does or not. Because they know if one mistake gets through and noticed by any watchdogs, their whole site could be shut down. With that hanging over their head, they aren't going to take any chances. They won't have time to research, to rub their chin and do a Google search. A lot of works which don't violate the copyright law will not be allowed to be published, punishing innocent authors for the transgressions of a small percentage of them.

Indie-publishing sites will be forced to hire new employees simply to comply with this law, simply to shift through everyone's submission to either give them the stamp of approval or not. "Isn't that a good thing, more jobs and working people?" I'm afraid the few that get hired to do that will not offset the many lost jobs. Why? Because hiring those employees and complying with the act is going to cost those companies some money. That will mean one or two things. Either those companies will charge more for their product/services and cut jobs in other areas to have the money to pay for review of all submissions and paperwork they will be required to file, and liability insurance in the event they miss something, and any resulting fines and cost if they are charged, or they will decide the cost simply isn't worth the potential benefits and cancel the programs.

Indie authors and presses are going to make less money. One way the sites may pay for the additional cost is to reduce greatly the percentage they pay authors and small presses. We'll likely say bye bye to the 70% cut Amazon gives us. We may even be lucky to keep the 35%. Or worse case, we'll have no place to put up our work, and we'll be back to looking only to the traditional publishers for our outlets, because these same dynamics will affect POD (Print On Demand) which small presses rely heavily on for publishing their works. The living some indie authors are making will evaporate and/or be greatly reduced.

Forget seeing your book get up for sale within two days. It will then go into a queue waiting for the few overworked employees they do hire to get to them. Expect it to take more than a month or more before you see that story go up. Depending on how many employees the particular company feels they can afford, don't be surprised if it takes half a year or more. That all represents time your book could be making money instead of sitting on a hard drive, waiting for approval.

You'll have less and less options of where to publish. Some companies will probably keep going, with reduced rates, increased processing time, and you cross your fingers and hope nothing in your book "looks" like a copyright violation, causing it to get rejected. But some companies will give up, and shut down, or remove that service from their mix. Companies like Apple will reevaluate their contracts with Smashwords if this bill passes, and access to those channels could easily disappear. Expect to have fewer outlets to sell your work.

Some of those predictions could be off the mark. I pray we don't have to find out whether I'm right or not, because based on the bill and these logical consequences of those actions, I fear I'll be much more right than wrong. And the only way to prevent it at this point is for enough people to contact their congressmen and women and tell them to vote against it.

I'm sure the traditional publishing companies are for this bill, because it will end up shifting power back in their direction that has been flowing to indie authors and small presses over the past several years. We need to let our representatives know that the people who put them in office are watching, and if they don't vote as we expect, they cannot count on our vote. If they get enough of those notes, they will take note. We might not have a lot of money, but votes count for more than money. Enough of them and they will have a change of heart.

Bottom line: this bill is bad for the economy, bad for anyone who wishes to start up a business whether that is a social site or a creative work like writing a book. The government can surely find ways to help prevent piracy without restricting the freedoms of its citizens and making it harder to make money in this recessive economy. Write your representatives and let them know what you think and how you intend to vote come when they are up for election again.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Appx. A - Creating the PDB Ebook

Note: these articles will form the core of a new ebook by this title. Disclaimer: I do not work for, represent, or am associated with anyone who works or represents the sites or products I've listed below. I'm not getting any fees for listing them here. Any company names, trademarks, etc, are the property of the respective company.

I didn't include the creation of the PDB ebook in the steps above for several reasons. One, because it isn't as widely used of a format. Two, because it isn't as easy to create as the others, requiring a little more file juggling and editing. Three, because it wasn't needed to upload any files to retailers. Four, because the Smashword conversion creates one that you can download if this format was needed.

That said, if you are going to sell ebooks on your own ebook store, or want a PDB file that will look more professional than the one Smashwords creates, then this can be a worthwhile file to create. Primarily because while not as widely used, the program to read the file can be installed on most smart phones and tablets. And personally, at least on my Windows machine, the computer version of the software is the best way to read an ebook on your computer. Unlike most every other ebook reader software you can download, it looks like a book, flips like a book, and is easy to read than the standard black on white. I like it better than reading a PDF on the computer. And like PDFs, the software to read them is free. So why leave a segment of the market that likes this format without access to your ebook?

What is the PDB format? It is one of the first ebook formats created. Originally, it was used for Palm Organizers, and stood for Palm Digital Books. The format has changed hands a few times, once owned by Peanuts Press when Palm Digital media released it, and after them was acquired by, which is currently owned by Barnes and Noble. But has become the main source for PDB books, as well as the place to download the Ereader software and the software to make the books.

Unfortunately, the free software to create PDB books isn't easy to use. Mainly because it requires formatting your book with codes so that the conversion software can create the ebook. The code is known as PML, which stands for Palm Markup Language. It works a lot like HTML codes, except slightly different. For instance, everywhere in your document you want text to be italicized, you enclose it between two "\i" on either end. So if I wanted the ebook to show, "Now this is the way to do it!" I would have to have in the source file, "Now \ithis\i is the way to do it!"

Needless to say, that means learning a whole new "language" and doing several search and replace sessions to get all the code in the right places. And then frequently the first time or two you'll get errors because you didn't do something quite right and need to go back and fix it, then try again. I've done it that way, but it is a pain at times.

But have no fear! Thankfully for us, there is a macro in Open Office Writer that will make this process much easier. Still some work to do, but the coding part of it is taken care of. So, let's get to it.

What You Will Need

We will be using Open Office Writer, no matter whether your file was created in Word or another program. You'll also need to install the odt2pml extension for Writer. To do that, open Writer, click on "Tools" in the menu, then select "Extension Manager." When the window opens, click on the text link in the bottom-left corner that says, "Get more extensions on line." That will open a web page of Writer's extensions. In the search field on the left side of the page, enter without the quotes, "odt2pml". The search should bring up a selection labeled "odt2pml – EReader export extension." Click on that link, and then click on the Get extension button. Open the extension in Writer, or download and open from your hard drive. Once installed, close Writer.

You will also need two programs from Go to and download the Ereader software for your computer, and install it. Then go to and download, then install the version of Dropbook for your computer. Linux users will have to download the Windows version and run it in Wine or other emulator. Note, you want the Dropbook download, not the Makebook toward the bottom.

You'll also be using the graphics editing program we downloaded earlier, Faststone, if your book contains any graphic files like a cover or other graphics.

Now we're ready to roll!

Creating the PDB Ebook

Open your print file in Writer. You don't need to change your text, but make sure you have set your chapter heading style to insert page breaks. The extension will pick up on those to know where to insert them.

You will want to add your cover to the front of the file before we move on. Press Ctrl-Home to go to the top of the file. Press Ctrl-Enter to insert a page break before the first page. Press Ctrl-Home again to go to the top of that page. Set the paragraph style to default centered. Then click on "Insert" in the menu, and select "Picture" from the list, and "From file" in the sub-menu. Locate your cover for the book and insert it into the first page.

Assuming you have everything else set in the file they way you want it as regards content, font used, justified, etc., the next step is to save the file to create a PDB version of the source file. Click "File" in the menu, "Save as" from the list, and in the window, add a "-PDB" to the file, so in our previously used example, the file, "MyLastBreath-print.odt" would now be "MyLastBreath-PDB.odt". You should now have the original print file and a new PDB labeled file.

Now that we know you won't be messing up your print file, we can have the extension process any graphics you have in the file. Normally you would at least have the cover page, but you may have other graphics in the file as well.

In Writer, click "Tools" in the menu, then go to the bottom where it says "Add-ons." Selecting that option will bring up a sub-menu, and one of those selections should say "odt2pml." Selecting that will bring up a further sub-menu with four selections. Two of them you don't need if you've formatted everything according to previous instructions. But we do want to run the option labeled "Picture converter" next. Once you have selected that option, a window will appear with an choice and three buttons. Click on the "To Paragraph" option in the "Picture anchor" section. Then click the "Continue" button. At that point, the extension will do its thing. Once done, save the changes by clicking "File" and "Save."

Are we ready to convert yet? No. First we have to do some editing on the pictures. The extension will have created a sub-directory where your ebook is located using your file name and "_img" attached to the end. So our ebook file labeled "MyLastBreath-PDB.odt" will create a directory where that file resides called "MyLastBreath-PDB_img." Using your file manager, open that directory up. You'll see a graphics file for each type of graphic you had in your document.

First, we need to make sure the picture fits within a 320 wide by 420 high pixel size. If it doesn't, what you see in the ebook is a link that when clicked on, brings up a view of the picture. Best to avoid that.

Open the first graphic in Faststone image editor. You will see the size of the file in pixels at the top. If the width is greater than 320, or the height is more than 420, resize the picture to fit within those maximums. Move your cursor to the left side of the screen. A menu list will pop open. Select "Resize / Resample." This will bring up a resizing window. Make sure the "Preserve aspect ratio" is checked in the bottom-left corner of the window. With "Pixel" section selected, enter in the height box without the quotation marks, "420". Make sure the resulting width is not larger than 320 pixels. If it is, enter 320 in the width field, and the height field should be less than 420. Once done, click the "OK" button and it will resize the picture.

The second item we need to process is to make sure the file is saved in 8-bit, 256 color format. Anything else the program will reject. Since our graphic program exports in 24 True Color, we have to fix that for each file as we save it.

Once the size is right, move your cursor to the left edge of the screen and the menu will appear. Select "Save as" from the list, and a window will open allowing you to save the file. We don't need to change the file name or type, but you will see a button on the bottom-right of that window labeled "Options." Click on it. A window will open, and you will see a drop-down box that says "24-bit" in most cases. Click on that drop-down box and select "256" from the options. Then click the "OK" button and it will return you to the save screen. Click the "OK" button again and acknowledgment that you want to overwrite the file.

Press the "Page Down" button to move to the next graphic and repeat the above process. Do this for each graphic in the directory. When you finish with that task, there is one more step to do here before we are done. Find the graphic in the directory which is your cover file. Rename the file to "cover.png". This is the file that the conversion program looks for to make as the cover file for the book.

We are now ready to process the file once we change one more thing. We no longer need the cover file info at the top of the file as that will automatically get included. We only included it so that it would get processed with the rest of your graphics if you had any. Back to your document, press Ctrl-Home, select the outlined picture which is now linked, so all you'll see is the directory/file text where the picture resides. Delete that placeholder and delete the page so that your title page is now the first page of the document. Save the file.

Now we are ready to create the PML file. Click "Tools" in the menu, and select "Add ons" in the drop-down menu. Select "odt2pml" and then click on "Ereader export." A window will appear. One of the buttons on that window is labeled "Configuration." When you click on that button, you have the option to have the extension run Dropbook once the PML file is ready. You can check the box, then browse to find the program on your hard drive (usually in C:\Program Files\ directory on most Window machines). However, I recommend not doing it. I've had it run it before I was ready and it can be frustrating, and there is one other step that is good to do to make the PDB look professional that will get skipped if this is selected. But it is your call. If the file is ready (pictures are edited and ready to go), it can be a convenience not have to run the program yourself. Make your selection and click the "OK" button.

With the default "Extended 2" character set selected, click on the "Continue" button. The extension will now run, and once done, it will have created a PML file in the book's directory. If using our example file name, you should see "MyLastBreath-PDB.pml." Before we can use it to create the PDB ebook, we need to edit the PML file to make one minor change.

Open the resulting PML file in the text editor of your choice. In Windows, Wordpad or Notepad works fine. At the top of the file, you should see something similar to this, inserting the name of your book's file for my example: TITLE="MyLastBreath-PDB". The extension has the minor annoyance of using the file name for the title of the book. If you don't change this here, when the user opens up the book in their PDB reader, it will show that file name as the title in the book's page info. Not good. So change everything within the quotation marks to the title of your book. In our example's case, it would now read: TITLE="My Last Breath".

Close the file, saving it. If you've opened this up in a word processor, make sure it is saving it as plain text and not a word processor file, or the ebook creation will not work.

Now we can create the PDB file. Finally! Open the Dropbook program. You will see a window open with a Dropbook Pro logo and text saying to "Drop Files Here." It is called Dropbook in part because all you have to do is take that PML file and drag it into the box, and it does the rest. But, before you do that, make sure some setting are set, especially if this is the first time you've used the program.

If you want to have it automatically overwrite an existing file, click to check off the box labeled as such. You can also have it warn you by checking off that box, or just do it by leaving that box unchecked. Leave "Include page tables" checked.

The next section allows you to create an encrypted book, or a book locked with a password, or have no security on it at all. I would suggest to select "Build unencrypted book." It wasn't the default selection my first time running it. However, if you are of the mind that you want yours encrypted or locked for whatever reason, this is the time to make that selection. There is also a check box if you want it to create a dictionary. I've not used that function before, but you can give it a shot and see what it creates. It is easy enough to redo the conversion if it isn't good.

Now in your file manager, click on and drag the PML file into the box at the top of the Dropbook window. The program will process the file and notify you of any warnings or errors it encounters. If all goes well, it will say nothing, but you'll see a new file ending with "PDB" in your book's directory. In my example's case, it would say "MyLastBreath-PDB.pdb".

Now you should be able to double-click on that file, and the book will open up in the Ereader program. Check the table of contents and scan through the file to see if it looks as expected. If you spot any problems, fix it in the source file and then recreate the book. If you don't need to change the graphics, you can use the -PDB version of the odt file, otherwise, you'll need to start with the print file and go back to the beginning of the process after correcting the problem there.

If all looks good, you have yourself a PDB ebook to sell or use for yourself. Congratulations!

Order the whole updated book with complete instructions for all formats!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Make an Ebook:Step 7 – What To Do With the Ebooks?

Note: these articles will form the core of a new ebook by this title. Disclaimer: I do not work for, represent, or am associated with anyone who works or represents the sites or products I've listed below. I'm not getting any fees for listing them here. Any company names, trademarks, etc, are the property of the respective company.

What you should have now are the following items, if you've done all the steps in this book: the original book document file, a print version document file, a PDF version document file, a PDF ebook, an EPUB ebook, a MOBI ebook, and your book on sale at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Smashwords, once the book has passed the Professional Status and been assigned an ISBN, will distribute the book to other important retailers, most notably Apple and Kobo. You should also have a good 600 by around 1000 pixel-sized front cover graphic you can use for many promotional purposes.

So now that you have these various ebook versions of your book, what do you do with them? The obvious answer is to sell them. But there are other options. Let's look at a few here.

Setting up Your E-store

The most obvious use is to sell your books on your own internet store. Ebooks are made for internet sales, and for immediate gratification. It only makes sense if you have them, to put them up for sale. However, there are two daunting tasks for most authors to do this. One, setting up an online store is intimidating. Two, most authors, unless they become popular enough, know they will sell little from their own store. It isn't easy to generate the traffic or the effort to do so is more work than the author is willing to invest to make the returns worthwhile.

But let's look at the options before we automatically ditch the idea. We'll look at the easiest routes to the more technical. As you might expect, the easier it is for you to do, the more likely you'll be "paying" someone either in up front money or a portion of the sales to do the job. But let's take a look and you can decide whether any of the options are worth your time to set up.

Payment Options. One of the first items on the agenda is to create a method for people to pay for your books. For most author sites, which will get little sales, at least in the beginning, having a full merchant account is out of the question. Those usually require a minimum expenditure of thirty dollars a month or more. Most authors will be doing very good to even think about breaking even with that cost on their site's sales.

One of the most common payment options people use is PayPal. Most any site or website application can use PayPal to work as your payment method, and PayPal can take any credit card, without requiring that the person sign up for PayPal. The percentage they charge for each transaction is on the high side compared to most credit card merchant accounts, but considering you are not paying monthly fees for the account, access to the Internet, gateway, and all the other typical fees a merchant account comes with, you are actually saving a ton of money. Especially when you consider if you sell nothing that month, your fees are also zero. So it is never more than you will make on your site. Plus, you can even use it to create your own hand-made web store if you are html inclined.

Another option that is free is Google Checkout. This one isn't as widely supported by all software, but is required if you are going to use Google Checkout Store (explained below). And like PayPal, will enable you to take credit card payments on your site for a fee for each transaction instead of a monthly fee. The advantage to it is if you already have a Google account, then you don't have to set up a new account with someone else like PayPal, and using it may give you better results on searches, driving more traffic your way.

There are some others that could be used. Do a search on it if you wish, but either one of the above will enable you to take credit cards on your site and sell your books.

Online Commerce Sites. There are a host of online commerce sites, that allow you to set up an online store, frequently for a fee, and they make it easy for you to put your product up for sale. If you do an online search along the lines of "online store," you'll see many options. I'm going to mention a few I found. Disclaimer: I have not used any of these except one, and I have no clue how effective, easy, or well they work. Most of them that require a payment have a trial, so it is easy to try one out if you wish. And I'm mentioning a few, but this is in no means an inclusive list, nor does my listing them here infer an endorsement of their site. Use at your own risk and buyer beware.

I did find a free one, assuming their site isn't hiding anything. Miiduu proclaims itself a "Free Online Store Solution." Not having used them, I don't know how they make money, but I'm guessing advertising. So expect your site to show some ads on it. But they claim to be a full-featured online store that is easy to set up and get product selling. Check it out, give it a test drive and see how it works before throwing your whole line up of books onto it.

If you want a more well known name, there are a few for a fee. Yahoo Merchant can set up a site for a monthly fee of $40.00 (as of this writing, they have a three month special of 35% off). Amazon has their own "web store" you can set up, but not sure how happy they would be if you sold your ebooks there along site the Kindle versions. They may not care, but it should say somewhere in the fine print if that is okay or not. But at least their price is a little more reasonable, at $25.00 plus 2% of each payment made through it, and there is a one month free trial period, so trying it out for a spin won't hurt the pocket book. But on both of these paid versions, you'd have to know you would need to be making enough sales to justify the expense. Most authors would lose money each month even with above average sales. The benefit of Amazon is they may do some marketing that pushes traffic your way from their main site.

There are others I saw, but this gives you a sample of what you can find as of this writing. They can help automate a lot of the technical set up of a site and handle the processing, but it will usually cost you something.

Embedded Stores. I'm only going to mention one, though there are likely others if you did some searching. An "embedded" store is a store whose database and servers are separate from your website's domain, but you display the store on your site, usually using some code you copy from the site that imports your store from them into a web page on your site.

The big free one that does this is Google Checkout Store. Follow the steps, which requires you to sign up for Google Checkout for payment purposes, and Google Docs so you can use their spreadsheet to list your product. When linked with Google Checkout Store, it will give you code which takes the information on the spreadsheet and imports it into a web page to create a store on your site, with shopping cart and all. Which also, like all the next few methods, requires you have an author site on the internet you can use to create your web page.

The downsides to this method are when I set up a test run for it, I had to check their help docs and use their widget, but had trouble getting it set up correctly. It took several tries until I got the information in the spreadsheet to sync with the store function and have it come out correctly. I recall to get the store to do downloaded ebooks, you had to modify their standard template to include that option, using the info from their help files. So expect a little work to figure it out.

The other downside to this method for downloaded ebooks, is the download function isn't secure. It isn't too difficult for someone to figure out how to bypass the standard steps and get your ebook for free. That said, most people are going to follow the dots and download after paying, but you do run the risk of less honest people getting your ebook for free.

The main upside to this is of course this one is free. Also, unlike the next option, you can use this on a blog or hosted site like Wordpress or Blogger by using a static page. But it requires more up front work to get it set up, and you have to know enough about editing web pages to insert the code onto a web page.

eCommerce Web App. Another popular method of setting up your own webstore on your own domain site is to install a web store application. There are several of these out there. You can do a search to find them and look them over. If you know how to install database applications on your website, you can usually download many of them for free, ftp the files to your site in a directory, and follow their steps to set up the store, usually requiring database set up, usually in MySql. To use these, your hosting company needs to be PHP and MySql (or another compatible database) enabled. Some programs may have other requirements. Check their sites.

One bit of good news on that front is many hosting companies have in their control panels a place where you can install a whole host of web applications with "one click." So many times if you go scroll through the list of programs they offer to install for you, they will often include an ecommerce shopping cart. Using that feature allows you to bypass the hassle of downloading the software, uploading it to your site and going through its install process. But whichever way you do it, there is still the following.

Once up and running, you'll want to change the "skin" of the website by searching for and trying out different templates, and install the one you want. Then you'll want to replace the default text with your own, and learn how to set up sales tax information, default settings, and a whole host of other bits of information in order to get your product showing as on sale. In other words, with most of these there will be a learning curve. They go by the general rule: the more flexible a program is, the more complex it gets both to set up and use for the webmaster. More options means more complexity, and most of these programs attempt to allow for setting up a webstore to sell almost anything.

There are several of these you could use. I'm only going to give you one example simply because I use it and know it, and know it can work for the purpose of this book: to sell downloadable ebooks on your site. Zencart is a popular offering, relatively simple webstore application. I use this for my own webstore: It can take PayPal as a payment method, and has a secure download method that allows the person access to the ebook to download for a specified amount of time you set, and the number of downloads of the book you set. And it uses an indirect download method, so the end user doesn't get a download directory where he can find all your other books to download for free. While you should plan to spend some time figuring it out and setting it up, it is, according to all reports I've read, easier than most. But like most of these, it isn't intuitive. You will need to learn how to use it.

Do a search on other shopping carts. There are several open source versions to chose from. Check what your hosting company will install for you through their control panel and select the best one from that list after looking them over. Would I recommend Zencart? Yes. I'm not saying it is the best one out there, but after my own research I went with it, took the time to learn it, and I don't intend to learn a different one. But it has more than met my needs and presents a professional looking webstore complete with customer reviews, customer tracking, and order tracking. But there may be easier ones to use out there now, as it was 2006 when I looked at the different options and set up my webstore. So do some research if you want to go this route, before you settling on one and take the time to learn how to use it.

Manual Webstore. The least costly and medium technical route for your own site's webstore, but requiring you to know how to set up a webpage on your domain or set up a static page on your author blog, is to only use PayPal and build your store site by hand. This works best if you only have a handful of books to sell, know how to create a webpage using html and get it active on your site. If you know that, this is the least learning curve method to use.

First, create a "landing" webpage for each ebook you are selling if you want to enable your customers to download directly after buying, or one landing page thanking them for their purchase and the ebook will be sent to them soon. If using the later, you'll be getting an email from PayPal when someone purchases an ebook--you'll need to email them a copy of the ebook. PayPal calls these "return pages." If individual return pages are used for downloading the ebooks, make sure you place a download link on the page to where the ebook sits on your site. I would recommend setting up a separate directory for these books and place each book in its own directory that is cryptic.

For example, let's say you have your bookstore at, then I would create a directory for your downloads, something like: http://www.yoursite/bookstore/purchased/. Then lets say you have two books to sell: Your Dog, and Your Cat. Then create two directories inside that main one, something like and place the various ebook versions in that folder for that book. Your return page for that ebook would be placed in that directory. On that web page, put a download link to each version of the ebook in that directory. You'll also want to place a file in the directory to tell search engines not to index that directory or sub-directories. Do a search to see how to create that file. While these precautions won't stop a determined book thief, they will help make it harder and so not tempt people so easily. Not knowing the cryptic download webpages or the directories for each book, they should only have access to the books they bought.

PayPal has a link for ecommerce to create codes that enable a "buy" button to be placed on your website. For each book you want to sell, you'll want to create a button for it. Each button for each book will request a return page, which is where PayPal sends them after successful completion of the transaction. There will also be a cancel page if the transaction is canceled or they can't pay. If you are doing direct downloads, insert the individual download webpages for that particular book in the return page. Otherwise, use the generic return page you created, promising to email them the ebook soon. Save those codes in a document, labeled with the book they go with.

Then create a bookstore webpage. I would recommend, if your hosting company allows it, to create a subdomain to put the bookstore in ( But you can put it in its own directory ( or if small enough, just one web page ( List each book on the webpage along with blurbs and enough information they can make an informed decision. Link to a detail page and reviews if you have any. Avoid linking to the Amazon reviews, as if they are at your site to consider buying there is no reason to send them to Amazon where you'll get a smaller cut. Then copy the PayPal code for that book onto the web page next to each book. When you've finished it, upload it, see what it looks like, take it for a test drive to see if the buttons do what you expect. Set your price to zero to go through the whole process to make sure it brings you back to the page you expect. Adjust as necessary until you have it the way you want it.

If you have any hard copy books, you can set them up to sell this way as well, but use a different button than their ebook verisons, and the PayPal notification will be your clue to ship or drop-ship them a copy of the book. But you may want to use PayPal's shopping cart code for those, if you have more than one hard copy to sell. But be sure to include a "View shopping cart" button that PayPal provides on the page if you use that code. There is, however, no reason to use a shopping cart code for ebooks. One, since they are downloaded, it doesn't make any shipping difference whether they are combined into one sell or not. Two, if you have it set up for direct download, there is no easy way to send them to a page with only the ebooks they selected to buy when PayPal returns. You can only use the email approach if you use that.

This method requires a bit of set up, doesn't look as professional unless you have experience in producing professional website designs, and is harder to maintain if you need to add or change book information. And once the site began to look cluttered, you'd need to go to a multi-page set up, with links to detail pages for each book. You also might need a search engine at some point. But it has the advantage of low learning curve if you already know how to create an html web page and is free. If you only have a small number of books, setting it up isn't too much work, and it can slowly grow as time goes by.

Other Uses for Your Ebooks

But what if you don't want to go to the trouble to create and maintain an author webstore? What good is the PDF, EPUB, and MOBI ebooks you created? There are several uses for them, actually. Here are some ideas.

Review Copies. Some review sites still only want a physical book. However, as ebooks grow in popularity, this is slowly turning. Many reviewers (me included) prefer ebooks because we don't have shelves of physical books to figure out what to do with, they can carry all their review books with them and read when they can, and once the book is finished, they don't have to figure out how to get rid of them. Most have avoided reviewing ebooks because in the past ebook tended to mean "self-published" and that tended to be a lower-quality book in many cases. But with an ebook available for all new traditionally published books, and more reviewers with an ereader they like to use, it is becoming more widespread.

And the benefit for the author and publisher is obvious. No need to eat the cost of the book and pay for shipping to the reviewer. For self-published authors, this is big as they usually don't tend to have a lot of money to send out several review copies, especially since a lot of sites don't show any bump in sales when their review comes out, the investment of the author usually doesn't pay for itself. Not to mention if the review is less than glowing, it could actually depress sales instead of boasting them. But each reviewer is a risk the author is taking. So at least sending an ebook takes the financial investment out of the equation.

Publicity copies. Frequently, when I am interviewed at a blog, I'll be asked if I want to offer any of my books as giveaways for publicity. An ebook is a good route to go for more than one reason. One, the obvious one, is it doesn't cost you anything to send them a copy. You're not out a book that you could have sold to someone else and lost that money. Two, another obvious one, you don't have to pay shipping. Simply email the person the book in the version of their choice. This is especially helpful when someone wins from another country. A recent winner of one of my books went to another country, and though the shipping wasn't outrageous, it was almost three times as much as what it might ship for in the USA. So my $9.99 retail book shipped for more than $5.00, which put the total price of the book over $15.00. My cost was in the vicinity of $8.00 when considering the wholesale price of the book, which meant I practically bought a book at close to new book price for that person. I didn't mind since I had offered a physical copy, but it would have been nicer if I could have sent an ebook as the cost to me would have been zero instead of eight dollars.

Freebies. Some authors have done well by giving away copies of their books as ebooks. The idea is that as someone read an ebook they have received for free, one or more of several events will tend to happen, which can drive the sale of physical books. One, they really like the story and want a hard copy for their library, so they go buy one. Two, they like the book so well that they tell their friends about it, and their friends go buy a hard copy. Three, the person liked it enough that they want to give it as a gift to people they think would enjoy it, usually for birthdays or Christmas, so they go buy multiple copies of the hard book. And some authors have had sales of their physical books jump by putting out free copies of their ebooks for people to share freely. So it has worked.

The only problem I see with this model is that the method works only as long as the buying public still sees ebooks as inferior to physical books, and would rather have the later. The more popular ebooks become, the less likely it is the person will want a physical copy taking up space on their shelves. The more people who own ereaders, the less likely they will prefer a physical copy as a gift instead of an ebook. And the more popular ebooks become, the more their friends will want an ebook when they go to get a copy for themselves, which may very well be easily provided for free by the friend who told them about it.

As long as physical copies of books dominate the retail market, that method works. But as soon as ebooks become the primary revenue generator for publishing companies and authors, that method will fall flat on its face. And guess what, this year the trend is ebooks are outselling all formats save trade paperbacks. And the continued slide in trade paperback sales and the explosive growth of ebooks this year, I would not be surprised to hear next year that ebooks outsold trade paperbacks for 2011. If it doesn't happen this year, it for sure will next year.

Which means if you are not making money off your ebooks, you are not going to be making much money on your physical books to offset that. So I would warn against giving away the ebook except in limited circumstances. What circumstances are those?

There are two instances I would consider giving away an ebook, and each time I would limit the time period. One is when a new author no one knows is working to get noticed. The first book or two might be provided for free. But subsequent books, as the author gains a following, would be sold and eventually that first book or two would be taken off the free list.

Two, when following books are coming out in a series, it has worked well to offer the first book for free as a way to hook new readers into the series with the hope they will buy the subsequent volumes. It aids the readers because they get to "test drive" a new author and series before sinking any money into the experience. Then they can determine if the following books are worth paying for. But I would only run that sale for a limited time, one to three months after each new book in the series comes out.

But, if you want to offer a free book, there is no easier and better way to do that than with an ebook. While producing additional copies of a physical book means additional cost to the author/publisher, with an ebook, the cost is negligible--only costing the time to email it, anywhere from five to ten seconds or more of labor depending on how big the message is. So the financial loss is much less than a physical book.

Sample Books. It can be helpful to have sample files readily available and put on your website. You can go back to the PDF document source file and the print source file, cut out all but what you want to show as a sample, being sure to keep any promotional material at the end of the book, save that as a sample file, like: MyLastBreath-PDF-Sample.odt, then create the ebook as we showed before. Do that with the print file too to create the EPUB and MOBI versions. Then put them up on your website as downloads and encourage people to freely share them. They can provide an easy, cost free other than your time, way of giving people a taste of your book.

Gifts. If you like to give your books as gifts, and you know a particular person has an ereader, or will get one for Christmas, an ebook is an easy way to give them a gift at relatively little cost to you but high value for them. Especially useful for people who have helped you in editing your book to show appreciation if they weren't paid. And if you are giving them an ereader or ereader-capable device, it makes sense you'd want it to come preloaded with your ebooks on it for added value.

There may be other uses you'll find for them, even if you don't intend to sell them other than through the channels we've set up in the previous steps.

Final Thoughts

I hope you have found the preceding information valuable and worth way more than the price of this book. My goal was to equip the reader of this book with the know-how to create ebooks of their own and sell them without needing to invest a bunch of money in software. To that end, I pray I was successful.

This book was written using Open Office Writer, and the ebooks created using the methods I've detailed here, and the cover created using the information in Step 2. You can judge the final quality based on what you've been reading as to whether the method works well.

On first read, you may feel overwhelmed with all the information. I've tried to break this down enough that you can use it as a reference in digest it in bite-sized chunks. Take step 1, learn the concepts there, and practice using them if need be. Once you master that, go onto step 2, taking each section one at a time. As you go, you'll take one bite, chew for a while, and swallow. When you've swallowed, you're ready to take the next step. Before you know it, it will be second nature. But if you forget something, it should be easy to zero in on the info and re-read. Also, most ereaders come equipped with a search function, something you can't get in a physical book.

Remember, enjoy the writing journey, but be serious with your craft. Put out the best book you can, as typo-free as possible, and that looks as professional as you can make it. It's your name that's going on that cover. Be proud enough to want that book edited and effective to create a positive brand. But above all, have fun doing it. May the information here help you accomplish that and more.

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