Publishing a book used to be a matter of negotiating a minefield of agents, editors and publishers, often requiring writers to lay out huge sums in advance in order to see their book in print. Thanks to Internet technology and e-books, all this hassle is a thing of the past.

Today, writers can quickly and easily get their work published, complete with setting their own prices, royalties and copyrights, and maintain control over both content and appearance of their book. What's more, they can do all of this free of charge.

This is made possible by an array of sites offering these services, including, for instance:

Lulu
Amazon Kindle
Kobo
Barnes and Noble (Pubit)
Smashwords

While specific requirements vary, most sites will ask writers to fill in some information, typically consisting of the author's name, the book's title and copyright requirements; the desired price and royalty agreement (different publishing sites offer different royalty terms) and various other information.

The author is then asked to upload the manuscript and relevant cover art, which must be free from spelling and grammatical errors and formatted correctly. Each site will provide guidelines as to what is required, but more often than not, accepted formats include 'doc or .html, and the relevant service will convert the document into the required final format. Once the upload/ conversion is completed, the book can be previewed and checked for errors before publishing.