E-Publishing

It seems hard to believe the term e-publishing basically didn’t exist just five years ago. Back then, when people read ebooks it was most often pdf files being read on computers. A revolution began once Amazon released the first Kindle in November of 2007, an invention that would enable ebooks and Indie authors to rise from relative obscurity and become pioneers transforming the publishing industry.

Before the Kindle release many “experts” thought ebooks would never truly take off. They were wrong. They also predicted ebook sales might never surpass paper book sales or that it would take decades. They were wrong again as it took less than three years. Since the Amazon Kindle has been out, ebook sales have grown exponentially and altered the paradigm of publishing into a world run more and more by authors and readers, less and less by traditional houses. It’s no surprise dozens of companies now make e-reading devices, such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook, while many more make tablets also being used for reading, like Apple’s iPad. The term, Indie authors, has become synonymous with the sudden growth in self-publishing. These Indies are often new writers who don’t want to deal with the challenges of being discovered traditionally, or they’re established writers desiring more control over and profit from their books.

“I’ve written a book, but how do I start selling on Amazon, etc?”

 The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure it’s properly formatted. Since e-readers have different screen dimensions, plus text fonts and sizes can be changed for customer’s preferences, the rule of thumb when formatting is to keep it as simple as possible. For example, avoid fancy fonts and uncommon sizes. Stick with Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial, Courier and use sizes like 12 for text body or 16 at the most for the title. Delete page numbers since they’re meaningless. Avoid more than four paragraph returns in a row since they can create blank pages. Don’t use the tab key; instead use either set indents from the menu bar or block method paragraphs. You can use manual page breaks to create new chapters for Kindle uploads and most other retailers, although Barnes & Noble prefers section breaks for that.

The best guide to formatting is Mark Coker’s free Style Guide from Smashwords. Follow the advice then upload to Smashwords, an ebook retailer and distributor. Prompts will direct you for inserting the description, cover, categories, file, price, etc, which is standard at every retailer. If the formatting meets approval and your ebook has a decent cover, you’ll qualify for the Premium Status and be eligible for distribution to retailers including Sony, Kobo, Diesel, Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBookstore. (Unless you have a Mac and can also jump through lots of hoops, you won’t be able to upload directly with Apple.)

Amazon Kindle sells the most of my ebooks by far, and this is true for most authors. If your ebook formatting was accepted by Smashwords, it should be fine for Amazon. You’ll only need to delete the Smashwords Edition label and make sure to use manual page breaks for new chapters. Upload to KDP Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) and follow prompts. Then use their Preview feature to see what your book will look like on a Kindle. If there are elements to adjust, make the corrections and do it again. The wonderful thing about e-publishing is the ability to update as frequently as you want at no cost, which is really handy for additions or if a reader points out a typo. Amazon also has a program called KDP Select, which offers extra exposure but means 90 days of exclusive selling with Amazon and nowhere else. This is a service some authors love and some, like me, avoid.

Barnes & Noble sales can be enabled either via Smashwords or directly through their division called Pubit. The process is the same as with Amazon, and you can also Preview your ebook on their Nook to make adjustments if needed. The main differences with Pubit from KDP are twofold: use section breaks instead of manual page breaks to create new chapters, and images on the Nook come out a bit smaller than on Kindle.

There are a slew of other places that sell ebooks, but most of these are real duds because they don’t sell e-reading devices. In general, Kindle owners buy from Amazon, Nook owners from Barnes & Noble, iPad owners from Apple, etc. Surprisingly, even big outfits like Google Ebooks hardly ever sell any of my titles, and so I consider them a waste of time especially because their customer support is non-existent and it’s nearly impossible to make any changes after uploading. Stick with the retailers above and you’ll be fine, or you can consider the advice for optional places below.

Here’s a strategy I like for retailers who claim to sell ebooks but really don’t in amounts that matter—upload 30% of your books as samples and price them for free. Then include hyperlinks at the end for readers to buy the rest of the book. Scribd is an excellent place for that. You can also upload entire short stories and price them for free, then have links at the end for your paid books.