the Saturday, March 9, edition. Part 3 will discuss in detail the self-publishing process and be featured in an upcoming edition. BEEVILLE – One of the fastest, easiest and most cost-efficient ways to get your book out there on the market is by turning it into an e-book. E-books are digital books that you can read on your tablet, smartphones and home computer. There are tons of online e-book publishers out there, and most will create and list your book for free. Some will even send it out to the big booksellers websites like Barnes & Noble, as well as popular media sites like iTunes, or send it out to libraries. And with the entire thing being digital, distribution is a piece of cake and usually won’t cost you a dime up front. And even though you won’t have a physical copy of your best-seller, you can send links or e-mail coupon codes to friends or on social media websites and give your consumers direct access to your product. And, honestly, almost everyone has a PC or smartphone nowadays which makes it easier than ever to market your book. But one key point that you must always carry along with you is this: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The market is flooded with amateurish horse flop that can, in turn, make it very hard to find anything worth reading. So, do everyone a favor and maybe keep that book about your grandma’s cat on your desktop where it belongs. E-books Smashwords.com looks to be the most popular of the free sites. Just sign up, upload your book and artwork and, within a few days, your work’s available at the Apple iBookstore (50 countries), Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Diesel, Page Foundry and more. But it’s free for a reason. They don’t offer many services as far as editing or formatting goes, and those are two very important steps that must be taken if you’re to be taken seriously in the publishing field. They do offer free downloadable guides to help out with everything from design to marketing, which is really helpful. It’s relatively easy for anyone even slightly computer literate, as they walk you through the process. Amazon.com’s Kindle Direct Publishing is pretty easy and also walks you through the whole process. You can only publish to people who have Kindles; but with 700,000 units sold last year (compared to Apple’s 11.8 million iPads) it’s still a pretty decent market. Plus, Amazon lists its top 100 bestsellers, which reviewers and publishing houses regularly use to find new talent. Bookbaby.com offers e-book publishing but not for free. They have package deals starting at $99 up to $249, along with a $19 annual fee. However, they don’t take any percentage as a fee and offer online distribution. Judging a book by its cover So, you have your book all ready for upload, and then they ask for the cover image. Do you have a cover image? If you do, is it professionally made? Is your name even on it? I’m guilty all the time of judging a book by its cover. Take a look at the e-books that Amazon showcases, and you won’t find any amateur cover art. Some of the websites I mentioned do offer cover art creation for a small fee, and for most, that may be the way to go. Also, one of the easiest ways to get a really great cover is just by looking through sites like Shutterstock.com or iStockphoto.com and find something that looks good and relates to your story. You’ll have to pay for the pictures, but it’s not too bad, and they’re usually professional photos. Or if you have a buddy in graphic design that you can trust, ask him. If you create an original image, at least you’ll never see another book with your cover. And always make sure to include the title of the book, clear and legible, as well as your name. Don’t include your Facebook address or your website link. That’s pretty tacky and unprofessional looking. See how the pros do it and follow their example. Paul Gonzales is the entertainment writer at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 116, or at thescene@mySouTex.com.