Publishing ebooks is a great way to expand your market and earn additional revenue. Your ebook publishing strategy depends on how you are publishing your books:
- If you have a traditional publisher, they are probably already creating and selling ebook versions of your books, assuming that they own the digital rights to the book. If your books aren't in ebook format yet, find out why.
- If you are working with a subsidy publisher (often called a "self-publishing company"), they may be able to publish an ebook for Kindle, Nook and other devices. Some publishers include this service in a book publishing package, while others charge a separate fee. Read the fine print to determine where your ebook will be distributed, how it will be priced, and how much you will be paid. Ideally, you want the ebookstore accounts set up directly in your name so that you are receiving the full royalties. If your publisher's fees seem too high or you want the freedom to do it yourself and earn the full royalty, read on to learn how to publish an ebook.
- If you are an independent publisher, then it's up to you to learn how to publish and sell an ebook. Here are four steps to publishing an ebook:
1. Maximize the sales potential of your book.
Remember that an ebook is not simply a copy of a printed book. For example, it's best to minimize the amount front matter in an ebook (front matter is the material that comes before the first chapter of your book). Potential customers on sites such as Amazon will be able to download the first 10 percent of your book as a free sample, and you don't want your sample to consist largely of front matter such as acknowledgements, preface, etc.
Reduce or eliminate as much of the front matter as you are comfortable with, but be sure to include your website address on the title or copyright page. A table of contents is important for nonfiction books, but you may want to reduce the length of it.
I recommend reading Kindle In-Book Promotions by Steven Lewis to learn how to take full advantage of the free preview and "Before You Go" features of the Kindle, cross promote other products, and get more reviews for your ebooks.
2. Format your book for ebook publishing.
Formatting your book to display properly on ebook reading devices is the most challenging part of the process and there are several ways to go about it. You can upload a properly formatted Word document; create a .mobi file (for Amazon) or .epub file; publish through a third party such as Smashwords.com; or hire an expert to handle the formatting for you.
Here are some helpful sources for formatting information:
- The Smashwords Style Guide is an excellent guide to producing a clean Word document, free of hidden codes that will cause problems. Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Noble will accept a clean Word document, but you may still find some formatting issues in the finished ebooks. (For example, I found extra line breaks in several places in my first Kindle book, even though the Word document looked fine.)
- Amazon has written simplified instructions for creating mobi files. Also see the left column of that page for helpful links about creating and selling Kindle ebooks.
- Click the Formatting Guides link on this page to learn more about creating epub files for the Barnes & Noble Nook.
- Subscribers to my Savvy Book Marketing Newsletter can read more details in my article Publishing an Ebook - 4 Ways to Prepare Your Ebook Files, available in the newsletter archive.
3. Choose your ebook sales platforms.
Amazon's Kindle Store still dominates the market for ebook sales, but several other ebookstores are gaining ground. My preferred method of publishing ebooks is to upload them to three sales platforms, in this order:
- The top priority is to make your ebook available on Amazon using the Kindle Direct Publishing platform.
- To make your book available in the Barnes & Noble ebookstore for Nook users, use their PubIt platform. Barnes & Noble requires a U.S. bank account, U.S. credit card, and U.S. tax ID. Also, they do not permit any promotional material for other products, requests for reviews, or author/publisher contact information.
- Publishing through Smashwords is the easiest way to get your ebook listed in the other major ebookstores, including those for Apple, Sony and Kobo. There’s no upfront cost and you earn a hefty royalty for each ebook sold. You can also publish to the Barnes & Noble store through Smashwords, which may be a good option for authors located outside of the United States.
You should know that the formatting options are limited when using Smashwords. You upload a very basic MS Word file and their "meat grinder" software automatically formats the file so that it can be used in a number of different ebook reading platforms, including a PDF version.
You can also publish directly to the Apple store, if you have a Mac computer with QuickTime 7.0.3 or later, are able to upload the book in epub format, have a U.S. tax ID number, and provide a unique ISBN for the ebook. See this article for more information.
4. Set the ebook price and upload your information.
Once your file is prepared, the process of publishing an ebook is just a matter of registering on your chosen platforms and completing an online form.
It's best to set the same price for all ebook platforms, and be sure to review the royalty options. For example, Amazon pays a 70 percent royalty on ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Subscribers to my newsletter will find an article about pricing strategies in the newsletter archive.
Before you begin the publishing process, make sure that you have strong sales copy for the ebook, and review these tutorials from Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer, for publishing to Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble.
Learn More About Ebook Publishing