Here is the outline of what I do. The step by step instructions will follow in more precise detail. Don't worry too much about understanding the details here - the idea is just to get an overall gist of what the process is like.
Have the Material Ready
The best way to gather up the material for your book, whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction, is to write daily. Even if it's just fifteen minutes, build that practice. Snowball your library of content over time. That way when you're ready with a block of it you can compile it into a book.
For example, for my fiction novels I typically write a chapter a day. For my non-fiction topics like Low Carb and Sangria Recipes I strive to post a new article each week. This pace means that every few months I have the content ready for a fresh new book / ebook. I have hundreds of pages on this site to help you with the writing process - overcoming writer's block, brainstorming ideas, and so on.
The key is to just keep at it.
Cut-and-Paste into a Word Template
Once all the content is written, it's time to assemble it. At this point I have a Word template laid out with the title page, copyright page, headers, about-the-author, and other material all set. I simply cut and paste in my new content. This part takes maybe an hour at most to get set up. I have hundreds of pages here that help you through the layout process. It's fairly straightforward once you get the basics down.
Save as PDF
When you save your Word document as a PDF, your print version is pretty much done. This PDF is literally what you upload into CreateSpace, Lulu, or whatever other system you are working with. Whatever you have in that PDF is what will be in your physical book.
Resave Word as title-ebook.docx for Ebook Version
Now I save a renamed version of the Word doc for the ebook side of things. There are a few formatting types of changes to make for this step.
For example, I remove the paginated table of contents, since ebooks don't have "set pages". I remove any series-of-line-breaks such as vertically centering a title page entry. I make sure all images are in line, rather than "text wrapping" where for example an image is on the right and the text is on the left. Ebooks can't handle that sort of text arrangement. I remove all tables, replacing them with graphic versions, for the same reason. When I've done that cleanup, I save this ebook version as both a DOCX and as Filtered HTML.
Convert to EPUB and MOBI
I use the free software packages Calibre and SIGIL to turn that Filtered HTML into an EPUB and MOBI file. It takes maybe five minutes top to create the EPUB and MOBI files. The MOBI goes onto Kindle as that is their native format - it ensures the cleanest load. The EPUB goes onto systems such as iTunes, Nook, and Kobo.
Resave Ebook Word DOCX as SmashWords DOC
SmashWords is special in that it wants an old-style DOC file with special requirements. The Ebook version made above is nearly there. Resave that as -sw.doc. Now make sure you have no fonts over 18 point in size and that you remove all mention of Amazon and other links or ISBNs. I can now load this DOC into SmashWords for distribution to a variety of places. I make sure in the SmashWords Channel Manager I turn off Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and Kobo, as I do those manually to maintain better control.
Update Entry on GoodReads
In a few days, GoodReads should automatically update with this new book entry. If my book is part of a series, I then go to the Librarians group area and ask them to add this new book into that series page.
Voila! The entire process takes about three hours to complete, start to finish. The actual going live part might take a bit longer. Kindle books take about six hours before they're live, for example, and Kobo books can take 1-2 days. Still, now the meat of the process is done and you can pepper a series of fun announcements out to your fans as each book appears live in its specific system.
I have more detailed information on each of these steps in these sets of pages. Let me know if you have any questions about any step!
Lisa Shea Free Ebooks
Lisa Shea Full Library of Published Books
Getting Your Book Published
Writing Tips and Online Books
Lisa Shea Medieval Romance Novels
Online Literary Magazines
Lisa Shea's Homepage