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Self-Publishing Gets Practical

Free ways to get that manuscript in the public eye.

En español | We all have a book in us, whether it's a war memoir, a family recipe cookbook, or a novel about a dashing 50+ writer who lives a secret life as a devil-may-care spy, pilfering secrets from evildoers while seducing beautiful women in the scintillating capitals of Europe…

But I digress. The point is, getting a book published has traditionally been very difficult. Publishing houses accept a tiny fraction of the manuscripts they receive, and paying to have your work published by a so-called "vanity press" is expensive. In the age of eBooks, though, self-publishing is fast, reasonably easy and you can do it for free. In just days your work could appear in major online bookstores. And while readers can comfortably enjoy your book on a dedicated Kindle or Nook, downloadable apps turn tablets, smartphones and computers (PC and Mac) into perfectly practical alternatives.

No-cost eBook publishing opportunities are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble (the largest eBook sellers) along with Smashwords, which not only sells eBooks directly but also distributes through the Apple iBook store, the Sony Reader Store, Kobo and others. Of course, there's no reason you can't sell the same book through all three – it doesn't take much extra work once you've got the manuscript in a Microsoft Word file.

Self publishing a book is becoming easier with ebooks - a woman types on her laptop

You too can become a published author with the Web as your printing press. — Blend Images/Getty Images

How much can you hope to make as an eBook author? Well, a handful of folks have found their fortune as self-published authors, but it's going to take an awful lot of copies sold to pay for that Porsche. The Kindle Direct Publishing Program has two royalty rates for U.S. authors: 35 percent and 70 percent of the book's list price, either of which is darned generous compared to the traditional 15 percent an author receives for a printed book. Of course, eBooks are generally sold for a lot less than their paper cousins – that's part of their appeal, especially when asking people to read works by an unknown author.

Next: The full story behind e-book pricing. >>

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