I Just Published My First Ebook

by AngelaJohnson

Writing ebooks and self-publishing is becoming more popular than ever. I published my first ebook (September 2015), and will describe my experience.

You can find all kinds of advice on writing ebooks, but you have to choose what's best for you. Some people make writing ebooks sound so easy and say you can make lots of money. Perhaps it is easy for some writers, but I didn't think so. It took me three months to compile information and put it together into a book, and then I spent even more time editing. Then after my book was published, I had to learn about promoting it - a book doesn't just sell by itself.

I decided to write my first ebook for Amazon since I discovered you don't actually have to own a Kindle to read their books (I don't own one). Amazon offers a free cloud reader, which may encourage people to buy even if they don't have an e-reader.

Even when you publish your book on Amazon, you still own the copyright, so you can also publish it on Barnes and Noble, Kobe, Apple, and other places. I plan to investigate these options later on.

Writing an ebook allows a person to write a book and get it published immediately, although your book still needs to be good or no one will buy it. You also need to write about a topic other people are interested in. I hope people like my first ebook, but if not, I'll learn from the process.

What Should You Write About?

Some say you should find the best selling topics and trends on book sites and then write a similar book. I'm sure this is good advice, but I don't feel I can write about something I'm not interested in, or not an expert on.  

Currently, the best selling books seem to be self-help, paranormal, erotica, and mysteries.  It seems romance is slipping a bit, but then trends can always change.

I like to read cozy mysteries (without real descriptive gore), and I read at least one mystery a week. I've thought about writing a mystery, but don't think I'm ready yet.  You've got to create some unique, believable characters, create a plot that keeps people guessing until the end, and make people want to read more.  I'm not saying I won't ever write a mystery, but it will be a while.

I'd like to write children's picture books someday.  Of course, many young children and their parents prefer a physical book to an ebook.  Amazon also offers authors a way to publish physical books, with CreateSpace.  I'll have to investigate both these options.

And I love to read old cookbooks and buy them when I can find them.  They're like fun history books.

Spend some time deciding what you'd like to write about, but don't take too long; just start writing something. You may change your mind a few times before you finally decide on a subject for a book, but you'll be gaining writing experience.


Deciding on a Topic for my First Ebook

I have always collected old cookbooks, buying them at yard sales, thrift shops, and used book stores.  I like to read them to find out how people cooked in the past, plus their hints and advice.    

I decided to compile recipes and hints from several old cookbooks and create an ebook on just one subject, such as meats, vegetables, bread, etc.  

I checked on Amazon and saw quite a few reproductions of vintage and antique cookbooks, both digital and in print, but didn't see any compilations of recipes on just one subject. I hoped there would be some interest in this type of cookbook.  

I knew I couldn't use information from the books I owned unless I verified they were no longer copyrighted. So I searched for cookbooks on Project Gutenberg, which I knew were all in the public domain. 

After reading through three or four cookbooks, I decided to compile information about cooking meat for my first book.  I thought creating this book wouldn't take long, but I was wrong.  There was quite a bit of duplication between cookbooks, same or similar recipes and advice, plus words I didn't know the meaning of, punctuation that made the recipes hard to follow, and inconsistent spelling of ingredients.  Of course, I didn't realize all this until I started organizing my book.     

But I finally got it finished:  Meat Cookery: How Americans Cooked Meat in the 1800s

You can also find my book on Amazon U.K. Amazon Canadaand Amazon Germany as well as in other countries.   I doubt I'll have many sales outside the U.S. but who knows?   


Writing an Ebook

ebook screensThis article describes my experiences in writing an ebook and publishing it on Amazon, but I'm sure it's similar for Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobe, and other publishers.  

Use a simple word program. Many people use Microsoft Word, but you can use notepad on a PC or text edit on a Mac.

Use a common font when writing your book. You might as well use Times New Roman because that's the font Amazon will convert your ebook to so text can be easily read on all eReaders.  You can bold and italicize, but check before you try to add something fancy to see how it will display.  

Don't include page numbers.  Books display differently on eReaders based on screen size, so the eReader device creates pages (and page numbers), not the author.

Images can be included, but take the time to research on how to add them.  Images need to be compressed so they don't take a long time to load.  And remember that people may be reading on a small device, so will your image add something to the book or not?

Don't Include a Table of Contents. When you create chapter titles, you'll save them as a heading, which will then create a Table of Contents automatically.  

Don't add the book cover to your document.  You'll add it separately.

Do all your editing in your document BEFORE converting to an ebook.

The BEST thing about writing an ebook is that you can make changes after it's published.  You can change text, change the cover, and even the title.  But you still don't want to publish a poorly written book, assuming you'll fix it later.  You'll get a lot of returns and bad reviews.

image credit

Editing Your Ebook

You Need an Editor or Writing Buddy

writing paper and pen

I'm so glad I have a friend who edited my book as I completed each chapter (and I helped edit her book). Our books were on different subjects, which made it interesting. 

As I was gathering information for my book on cooking meat in the 1800s, I copied the text as it was written in the old cookbooks.  But back then, they usually wrote a recipe in one long paragraph with lots of commas and semicolons and usually only a period at the very end.  My friend and writing buddy (Karen Ballentine) told me the recipes were hard to follow.

Of course, she was right.  I thought I needed to keep the recipes exactly the way they were written, but people today won't want to struggle to understand old fashioned writing. I could still keep the recipes and information authentic, but make them more readable.  Karen also noticed discrepancies on how ingredients and measurements were written, since I was using cookbooks, written by different authors.  

Karen and I emailed our chapters back and forth every time we created a new one or made edits.  If you don't have a writing buddy, maybe you can hire a college student to help edit your book or join a writer's group.

If you can't afford to pay an editor and don't have anyone to help you edit, here are some things you can try:

Print your book and edit on paper.  You're using a different medium than a computer screen, so you catch more mistakes (at least I did).

If you prefer to edit on screen, try changing the font and the font size.  You'll be reading the same text, of course, but it will look different.

You may prefer to convert your document to a pdf or html file and review it that way.  Again, same text, but arranged differently.

Listen to your book.  On a Mac, I can highlight parts of my book or all of it, then do a "right click"  scroll down to "speech" and click on "start speaking."  A computerized voice will read your book to you.  I like to shut my eyes and listen, but I have a notebook and pen ready in case I want to make edits.  I can always stop the speaking process and start again after I finish with my notes. I don't know if a PC has this feature, but you may be able to find something similar you can download.  

Another option is to read your book aloud to yourself.  That's different than hearing someone else read your book, but you're reading, speaking, and listening.  

After you've edited your book, do something else for a few days or even weeks, and then read it one more time. When I did that, I couldn't believe I still found things to edit. 

Where to Publish Your Book

computer keyboardMost people think of publishing ebooks on Amazon for the Kindle. But there are other ebook publishers. And you don't have to choose only one publisher.


Amazon offers a free book Building Your Book for Kindle. It's a good book and describes the Kindle program well.  Even though it refers to working with Microsoft Word 2010 and I use a Mac, I still learned a lot.  

There is a program within Kindle publishing called Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select. You have to sell your book exclusively with Amazon for 90 days, but there are some benefits to signing up with this program.


Smashwords publishes and distributes your book through Smashwords, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Kobo, Overdrive, FlipKart, Baker & Taylor,  and other distributers.


Bookbaby publishes and distributes your book through Bookbaby, Apple, Amazon, Kobo, Scribd, Copia, Sentral, and Gardners Books.


Lulu publishes and distributes your book through Lulu, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Oyster, 

Amazon, Smashwords, Bookbaby, and Lulu also offers print book publication.

I know there are other places to self-publish, but these four are the ones I've heard about.

Converting Your Book to Ebook Format

kindleWhen you have completed your editing and are satisfied with your book, you must convert it to a format that Amazon can use for its Kindle and free cloud reader. 

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) recommends that you upload in DOC/DOCX (.doc/.docx) or HTML (.html) format, although they do accept some other formats.

Many people use Microsoft Word when they write their ebooks and submit a .doc/.docx file, and I've heard good things about software programs Jutoh and Scrivener.  

I have a Mac and wrote my book in TextEdit, then used the free software Open Office to format it and create an html file.  I'm quite happy with Open Office, but will check out Jutoh and Scrivener to see what they offer.

IMPORTANT: When you upload your book to Amazon, save it as a DRAFT.  After so much work, it's tempting to hit the "publish" button, but try to resist.  Take the time to preview how the book will look to buyers.  Click on all your links and scroll through every page and watch for odd placement of paragraphs or pages.  Sometimes if you have too many blank spaces after a sentence or paragraph, a new page will be created.

If you need to make changes, you must go back to your original document, make your changes, and convert it to ebook format again.  Submit the new edition and it'll replace the old one.  This won't take long; maybe 12 - 24 hours.

Once you're satisfied with how your book looks, then go back and publish. 

photo credit

Book Title and Cover

People DO Judge a Book by its Cover

I'm not experienced in design and photo editing, so I decided to hire someone on Fiverr to make my cover.  All gigs (projects) only cost $5, although you can upgrade.  

I was told to choose two book covers on Amazon I liked, provide the title, subtitle and author name, and then choose a photo from a stock photo site.  That was the hard part!  I wish I could have had 3 or 4 book covers. 

Anyway, I finally chose a photo and this is the cover I received.  I'm pleased with it, although I can change it if I ever want to.


Author Biography and Book Description


When you are ready to publish your book to Amazon, don't forget to write a book description.  This is important, so don't skip it. Besides your cover, your book description is a potential buyer's first impression of what your book is about. The first few sentences are most important.  Not everyone will click on "read more," but write a long and interesting description anyway.

I find it easier to write a description in a text document first, rather than typing directing into the space provided by Amazon.  That way, I can see the entire description and make any edits before it goes live. Amazon allows you to add html tags such as bold, italics, etc.  It looks strange to have those tags in among your text, but it will display properly on Amazon.

I wrote my description as a post on my blog, bolded some of the words, clicked on the "text" option and selected all the text and html code.  That way, I didn't accidentally leave off an ending tag.

However, if you do mess up, you can go back and change your description at any time.  It updates quickly - in about 15 minutes or so.


I hate having my photograph displayed and writing about myself, but it's necessary.  Look at some of the books on Amazon and click on the author's name.  If there's no photograph or biography, it's a let-down.

Look at other authors' biographies to get ideas on writing yours. You do have to wait until your book is published before you can create yours. It's important to get something out there, and fortunately, you can change your photo and text at any time.

Amazon sells books in many countries and you can choose where you want your books sold. In addition to Amazon U.S., you can also create an author biography on their U.K., France, Germany and Japan sites. Even though I can't read French or German, I could figure out where to post my photo and biography.  I couldn't get it to work on the Amazon Japan site, though.  

After you've created your author biography, review your social media profiles, blog profile, Wizzley profile, etc., and edit them, too.  (I haven't done this yet).

If you use other book publishing sites, don't forget about creating an author bio there, too.

Keep a checklist of all the places you have a biography so you don't forget to make changes whenever you write a new book. 

Promoting Your Book

Your book is not going to sell itself. You have to promote it.

Buy now

Amazon offers several ways to promote your book. 

Categories and tags - you set these up when you publish your book, but you can change them at any time.  Never choose a one-word category such as romance or mystery because there's too much competition.  Instead, choose a sub-category.  You are allowed seven tags, so use all of them.  Read more about using tags on Amazon here.

 There is more information on Amazon about promotion and merchandising here.  

You can also find information online about promoting your ebooks.  There are facebook groups on writing (I joined the groups  Pat's First Kindle Book,  Writer 2.0 and You Can Brand.  These are all closed groups, but you can ask to join. 

Of course, you can use Twitter, Google +, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites, but you don't want to bombard people with messages to buy your book. 

One of the BEST books I have read on promoting your ebook is called Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book by Derek Murphy.

One thing he suggests is to have a blog or author site before you publicize your book.  You want people to find out more about you as an author and/or read more about your book's subject. This also gives you a place to publicize future books.  Since I have only written one book, I didn't want to create an author site, so I created a blog.  That's  why I've taken so long since I published my book and doing a book promotion.  I wanted to have at least 15 posts (I back-dated them because I didn't want a new blog with that many posts in a one-month period.  

My new blog - Vintage Recipes and Cookery

Another excellent book is Crush It with Kindle by John Tighe.  The author explains how to create and publish a book on Kindle, but also explains about promoting it.

You're Not Finished:

After you have written, published and promoted your book, you can't stop and expect sales to continue.  There are thousands of ebooks, more being published every day. Now it's time to start a second book, which you will also promote, along with your previous book(s).  You don't want your books to fade away after you've taken so much time writing them.

Updating Your Book

editing your workOne great thing about writing an ebook is that you can make changes to it at any time.  You can not only change the text, but also the book cover and title.

To make changes to the text, you must go back to your original document, make your changes, then convert to ebook format and submit the revised copy to Amazon.  

If you change your title, you must change it in your original document, too, as well as on the cover.  The title on the cover and on your title page must match.

To change your cover, create a new cover image and change it separately just like you did with your original cover. 

These updates don't take long and until they are in place, your original book stays on the Amazon website where people can still purchase it.

If you make major changes, Amazon will notify the people who already purchased your book, but if you've just fixed a few typos or grammar mistakes, they won't.  Amazon's policy on notifying customers of book updates. 

If you publish your book on other sites, check their policies on making updates; you may have to pay to make changes.

What to Add to the End of Your Book

open book

A Thank You for reading your book.

A link to your book's review page on Amazon. This link is different from the link to buy your book. Scroll down to the bottom of your book sales page until you see "Customer Reviews." Click on the link to "Write a Customer Review," and give the url to this page to make it easy to find.

A link to a related blog or author page.

Links to other other related books, you've written.

Provide a way to contact you besides writing a review.  (Use a disposable email in case you start receiving a lot of spam.  If that happens, remove the email from your book).

You may think of other things to add.


 This is what I included at the end of my first book:



Before you go, I'd like to say "thank you" for downloading my book.

Now I'd like to ask for a small favor. Could you please take a minute or two and leave a review on Amazon?  You can give it whatever star rating you think it deserves and if you care to, write a review.  Click here to leave a review. 

If you have any suggestions to improve this book, please email me at: vintagerecipesandcookery@gmail.com.

I appreciate ALL comments, negative or positive. This feedback will help me as I write my second vintage cook book (on preparing vegetables in the 1800s). 


You may also enjoy reading my blog:

~~ Vintage Recipes and Cookery ~~


What I Will Do Next?


Since I created a Vintage Recipes and Cookery blog to go along with my plan of writing more cookbooks, I'll need to keep it current.  I'm only going to post every two weeks, so that won't take up too much time.

I will begin my second book, which is going to be about how people prepared and used vegetables the past 100 years.  I've already compiled most of the information I need, but I'll need to organize it and then be prepared for lots of edits.

A third book will be about cooking fish and shell fish and then I'll decide whether to continue with writing cookbooks.

I'd like to make my first book, Meat Cookery, into a physical book using Amazon's Createspace. I think cookbooks are easier to read in print, and I'd like to include some illustrations. 

I'd like to try writing children's books; preschool and grade school, and perhaps a mystery.  I can start these projects while I'm taking breaks from my next cooking book.  I think it's good to work on other things so I don't get burned out and discouraged.


Have you written an ebook or print book?  Would you like to try?

Updated: 06/22/2016, AngelaJohnson
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AngelaJohnson on 09/30/2016

NanciArvizu - I'm glad you liked the article. I haven't followed my plan exactly, but I feel good about my writing.

It's been a year since I wrote this first book, but I now have a second book due out in mid-October. It will be a shorter book on Egg Cookery. I do have longer books on Vegetable Cookery and Fish Cookery partially finished, but not quite ready for publication. Besides working on these three books, I have been working on a blog called vintagerecipesandcookery.com. I'm fairly happy with the blog, although I can always make improvements.

Ive learned a lot about writing books this past year and hope to write a follow-up article to this one soon.

NanciArvizu on 09/28/2016

Very good article! Well done. How are the books doing, and have you kept to your writing plan?

georgebass on 09/14/2016

Very informative, thank you!

AngelaJohnson on 06/22/2016

BrendaMarie - thank you for reading this article. I'm way behind on publishing a second book, but I'm determined to do it soon. I've been working on it for quite a quite a while, but keep finding things to add or change. I just need to finish.

AngelaJohnson on 06/22/2016

blackspanielgallery - I'm glad you have had success with CreateSpace. A friend is publishing a print book there and is telling me how the process works. Now it's my turn. And I agree with your suggestion to use other publishers than Amazon.

AngelaJohnson on 06/22/2016

ruff roller - good luck with writing and publishing your first book.

AngelaJohnson on 06/22/2016

Lillysnape - Thanks for enjoying this article. I hope some of the advice helps you with writing a book.

blackspanielgallery on 06/20/2016

CreateSpace is a good place to start, and you can still publish on Kindle. The isbn number is assigned by Amazon for CreateSpace, and it adds credibility to our Kindle book, that is why it goes first. Also, Kindle may be improved now, but when I first got involved it had limitations with images, and since my math books use equations that are saved as images it was a disaster. Te fared well on CreateSpace. And you can use other publishers at the same time, since the rights are not exclusive. Some have pricing requirements compared with the competition, but I use several publishers.

Lilysnape on 05/12/2016

I enjoyed reading this and hope to use some of your useful advice

sandyspider on 01/04/2016

Congratulations on your first eBook.

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