Hit ebook authors offer tips on how to publish your own blockbuster

Many of us think we might have a 'novel in us' - but over the past year, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service has allowed dozens of authors to achieve that dream.

Eleven authors earned more than £100,000 via Kindle Direct Publishing in the past year - part of a  400% increase in the number of independent authors self-publishing in the UK.

Along with rival self-publishing services such as Kobo, Amazon allows authors to upload books as common files such as Word documents, and publish near-instantly on Amazon's Kindle Store - without paying an agent or a publisher.

Some of the most successful self-published authors of 2012 offer their tips below - including how to price a first book, how to design a cover and write blurb, and how to do your own PR.

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Southampton-based author Nick Spalding is the best-selling Kindle Direct Publishing author of the year with two books in the KDP top 10. Since finding success on Kindle, Spalding has secured a deal with publisher Hodder and Stoughton.

Spalding describes the process of self-publishing as, "nice and easy". Authors can upload popular document such as Word files, format them via the website, and publish in "a matter of hours".

"The interface was simple to use, the whole thing took a matter of hours to finish," says Spalding. "Why wouldn’t you decide to self-publish when it’s that easy to do?"

"I uploaded the book and then kept everything crossed that I wouldn’t get laughed off the internet, then I started to get to grips with the whole ‘marketing’ thing, and deduced that a low price point was the way to go (99p in my case in the UK). I could also make re-edits when necessary (which were easy to do given how quick KDP allows you to upload new versions)."

"It's the best way for new authors to go - why wouldn't it be? It’s the best situation for all concerned. Authors get their work to the public straight away and earn money right off the bat – and agents and publishers have a far better mechanism for choosing which authors to work with than the old slush pile. It’s win-win for everyone really."

"First, though, you have to write a really, really good book. That’s your first task! Don’t worry about anything else until you’ve written a killer book. You can spend thousands of pounds promoting and polishing that novel until it shines like the surface of the sun, but if it’s a bad read (or even worse... mediocre) you’re up manure creek without a paddle, and no mistake.

"After that, the trick is to make your book look and read as professionally as any trade published novel. It simply isn’t good enough to slap up an amateur effort if you want to get anywhere. Professional edit, professional blurb, professional cover... and most importantly, professional author. Treat this endeavour as what it is: a BUSINESS, with everything that word entails.

"I certainly wouldn’t have released anything to the public without at least one other person proofing and helping me edit my books. I’m lucky to have been pretty good at graphic design so I did my own covers, but if you have no or little experience, get somebody who knows what they’re doing to design your cover. The world doesn’t need any more badly Photoshopped stock images as eBook covers!"

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Ben Galley has used a combination of self-publishing and 'crowdfunding' via sites such as KickStarter to fund his books.

Sites such as KickStarter allow people to raise money for projects - often technology or game launches - via a project page which asks for public donations.

Galley aims to raise money for a graphic novel of one of his novels via the site. He says a low price can be key to initial success - many Kindle authors self-publish at 99p or less, at least to begin with.

"I published at a low price first, to entice initial readers and reviews, which are more important than ever these days," says Galley.

"But I then increased my prices, and saw a good increase in revenue because of it."

"Occasionally I'll reduce the price again for Christmas or whatever to keep it from being static.

"Kindle Direct Publishing also allows you to change your books for free, should you need to. I revamped my eBooks late last year, and it couldn't have been easier."

Galley advises aspiring authors to get help with editing.

"DIY is only suggested if you know you can get your book to a professional and I mean PROFESSIONAL. Self-published books need to be indistinguishable from those of a traditional publisher in order to give an author a chance of success, and to garner positive reviews on which we are now so dependent."

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Mel Sherratt's Taunting the Dead went to number eight on the Kindle chart for 2012 - after she had been rejected by major publishers.

"Having been turned down by major publishers for several years, I’d seen a few self-published authors rising up the Kindle charts and wondered if this was a way to get my work seen too," says Sherratt.

"I decided to study ebooks on Kindle for a few months and then have a go at publishing my own. I put Taunting the Dead out at  99p and kept it at that price for the first two months."

"But when it hit number three in the overall Kindle chart, I put the price up slightly and it still sold well.

"It's been a good way for me to go, because I enjoy writing guest blog posts and doing my own PR as such. It takes time to fit in around the writing though but it’s definitely worth a shot – like me, who knows where it might lead you?"

"More and more books are being picked up after they’ve hit the charts, especially as authors may have attractive sales figure to negotiate with."

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