I'm considering publishing my novel as an e-book (since I'm very techy) before I take the usual "paperback" route. Is this a wise choice?
Also what would I need to do? (steps).
Should I e-publish?
It depends heavily on your goals, on the effort you're willing/interested in investing, and on your skill with the various abilities involved with e-publishing.
How do I e-publish?
I don't know the details, but there's tons of services and e-book sites that'll take you through the minimum requirements. You'll probably want more than the bare minimum, though. Here's an excellent essay by Nancy Fulda offering a "Mini-handbook on independent publication", covering a lot of what you'll need (and want) to do if you decide to go the e-book route.
Do you know how to self promote? Are you already good at it? Are you interested in learning how? Are you highly disciplined? Are you a DIY kind of person?
Those are important questions if you are thinking about self-pub. If self promotion/marketing is something you have the discipline to do and passion to excel at, then self-pub becomes a much more interesting option because it does give you a lot of personal flexibility. Your work lives and dies on YOUR merits as a writer and promoter.
I self-pub info products and I am passionate about marketing and promotions. I am fascinated by why people buy things and how to engage people so they will buy MY things. I also really like doing things myself. I love the idea of self-pub as a result. Where do you stand?
There is a lot more to it than what I've mentioned here, but I didn't see any other answers addressing this aspect specifically.
Is it wise? In my opinion, yes. I have sold hundreds of e-books using a pen name, and I have recently started publishing other e-books under my own name. I have not spent much time promoting them because I am in the process of writing two new series, and that takes up much of my spare time that I used to spend on promoting and marketing.
Now for the "how". The first step, naturally, is to write the book! Once that is done, you need to create your e-book. There are a lot of different ways to do this, and there are different formats as well. I'm going to discuss two different options. One will focus on creating a mobi file to use at Amazon, the other will focus on creating a Word document for Smashwords.
You will need to create an account at Kindle Direct Publishing, which is Amazon's e-book service. Then you will want to create an account at Smashwords, which is an e-book distribution company. They will create multiple formats that visitors can buy and they will also distribute your book in the proper formats to Barnes & Noble, the Apple iBookstore, and several other places. These two services will get you the broadest exposure with the least effort.
With either service, if you are using MS Word, you can upload your file immediately, and they will do the conversions to the proper formats for you. However, with Amazon, their conversion process often messes up Tables of Content, page breaks, chapter breaks, etc. One way to minimize these issues is to save your Word document as a "Web page, filtered". This cleans up some of the unique Word tags and usually results in a cleaner conversion.
However, I personally use a process documented by Guido Henkel which recommends modifying your html file and then converting it with Calibre software. This requires a little more work, but I have found that my conversions are spot on every time, and I have always been pleased with the results.
Smashwords has similar issues with converting your Word document unless you very closely follow their style guide. I am not going to go into great detail here, because their style guide does that for you. Be warned, though, that Smashwords currently accepts ONLY Word documents. If you have the newest Word software, you'll be better off saving it in the Word 97 version after following the style guide recommendations.
Once you have your files uploaded, then the next step is promoting and marketing. There is a lot involved there, and I will save that for another post. Good luck!