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The Digital Route to Self-Publishing a Children's Book

Most of the buzz in publishing today is about the coming of age of the e-book, books published in the form of a digital file that can be read on a variety of electronic platforms, including smartphones (think Android and iPhone), tablet computers (iPad and ASUS Transformer, among others), dedicated e-readers (Nook and Kindle), and good old-fashioned laptops and desktops.

Five years ago, e-books were just starting to gain a foothold in the world of publishing. Today e-books have arrived in a big way — and are clearly here to stay.

According to the Association of American Publishers, children’s and young adult e-book titles surged 475.1 percent from January 2011 to January 2012, to a total of $22.6 million. Long story short, if you’ve been thinking of self-publishing your own e-book, you are at the right place at just the right time.

If you’ve decided to publish your own e-book, you first need to ask yourself these questions — your answers determine the approach you should take to publishing your e-book:

  • For what platform(s) do you want to publish your e-book?

  • What do you want to do with your e-book after it’s published?

To create a professional looking e-book with all the bells and whistles to offer for sale on Amazon.com or BN.com in significant quantities — while making some money in the process — you need to take your e-book to one of the POD publishers. Many of these companies also offer e-book publication services that set you up on Amazon.com or other websites.

If you want to create a professional looking e-book that you can sell on Amazon.com and other websites, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money — and you’re willing to do more of the work yourself —consider some of the latest e-book publishing platforms. Each offers pluses and minuses — you need to closely compare the offerings to see which one is best for you:

  • Apple iBook Author. Using this free application, available in the Mac App Store, you can easily create multitouch e-books (currently readable only on iPads and iPhones) that incorporate text, galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3-D objects, and much more.

    After you complete your book, you can submit it to the Apple iBookstore for purchase or free download, export it in iBooks format to share on iTunes U, or give to anyone who has an iPad — for free or at whatever price you decide.

  • Smashwords. Using its proprietary e-book publishing and distribution platform for e-book authors, publishers, agents, and readers, Smashwords offers multiformat e-books through its website, which visitors are able to browse and buy, and then read on any e-reader. Smashwords can also distribute your e-book through the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony Reader Store, Kobo, and the Diesel eBook Store.

  • Vook. Here’s what Vook, Inc., says about its product: “Vook is an intuitive and easy-to-use cloud-based e-book publishing platform. Quickly create, edit, style, and publish your e-book — no special software required. When you distribute through Vook, you keep 100 percent of your royalties!” You can also choose to distribute your book through Amazon, Apple iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble — for a fee.

  • Kindle Direct Publishing. If all you want to do is sell your e-book on Amazon.com for the Kindle e-reader, then consider using the Kindle Direct Publishing service. It’s free, you’ll be able to use your Microsoft Word manuscript files to create your e-book, and your finished product will be available on Amazon.com, which sells far more e-books than any other websites.

If your goal is simply to create a casual e-book to send to friends and relatives and you have no intention of selling the book commercially — at least not now — then you can easily produce it yourself by using standard word processing software (such as Microsoft Word or Apple Pages) and saving your file as a PDF.

This approach offers the advantage of using software with which you’re probably already familiar — and already own — enabling readers to either print your book or view it on their computers, e-readers, or other digital devices using the commonly available (and free) Adobe Reader software.

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