A Complete Guide To Publishing Your Own Book

Publishing an eBook

Electronic books (or eBooks) are one of the fastest growing markets in the world. The graph below shows the revenue growth in the US alone (if you don’t like graphs, let me assure you it’s impressive).

Image courtesy of International Digital Publishing Forum

Growth like this can’t be ignored, so why the amazing boom in interest? Well, there are numerous advantages to publishing your own eBook over traditional methods which, amazingly, is forcing established publishers to change their attitude to authors or risk being frozen out.

2:1 - Pros and Cons of Publishing an eBook

Advantages

Instant revisions

Once you publish a hard copy book, any updates or revisions you want to make will need to be via a new edition. eBooks have no such limitation as any revision is uploaded to the necessary websites to keep the content fresh and updated. Even better, anyone who has downloaded your eBook will be given the option to update to the new edition once it is released, keeping everyone up to speed.

If you’re all about the profits, you can choose to charge for an update to your eBook. This allows you to profit from any work which will naturally be expanded upon, for example an educational textbook.

Higher profit margins

At time of writing, the returns you can expect to enjoy from your eBook sales via the top retailers are as follows:

  • Amazon 70%
  • Smashwords 85%
  • iTunes / iBook store 70%
  • Lulu 56%

Rather better than the 17.5% an author receives from traditional publishing routes.

Longer shelf life

Physical books enjoy a month or two on a book store’s shelf before being confined to the lesser-read sections. Internet shelves have no such problem. As long as your book is listed on the website, it will have the same page and listing details for years to come.

Reviews

People buy from people, and an internet store can show product reviews far better than a physical book. If you can accumulate reviews from readers that are largely positive then bingo, that will drive more sales.

Please note this is a double edged sword, and negative reviews will be much clearer. However, if you track these properly you can easily create a dialogue with your customers and respond to their criticisms.

Price it how you want

Unless you sign away the pricing rights to a digital publisher, you can charge what you want for your eBook. If you want to gain attention and readership by slashing the price to 99p per download you can!

Adjustable font

If you buy a physical book and you can’t read it, you’re stuck. Digital readers and eBooks let you adjust the font size, font types, background, the lot! If I want to read the latest best-seller in Arial 24 with a pink background, I’m in luck!

Immediate Delivery

Once someone buys a book online, they have access to it on their e-readers, wherever they go. There’s something glorious about lying in bed, wanting a book, and being able to buy it without moving.

Drawbacks

Illegal sharing

We all know it happens, and the downloading issue that is so prevalent in the music and film industry applies to any digital asset. Digital books can be shared with others relatively easily via email or free ftp sites, and can obviously reach levels that the typical lend-a-book-to-a-friend never could.

Pricing

Though you have control of the pricing, the websites you choose to sell through may limit the range of prices you can apply. For example, if you sell a book through Amazon or Apple iBookstore, their terms and conditions forbid you from listing the book at a lower price on any other website.

At the time of writing this guide, eBook sellers are actually in a legal battle regarding price-fixing and collusion on eBook pricing. We couldn’t think of anything more apt to sum up the possible risks in eBook pricing than this article from CBCNews.

‘Limited’ market

Any literate person can pick up a physical book and start to read, as long as they can get their hands on the book. With eBooks however, If someone does not have an e-reader or similar device (such as an iPad), an eBook won’t be of much use or interest. Unless they’re a fan of reading on a PC, but we don’t know many people that consume books that way!

2:2 - Publishing your own eBook

Regardless of how you choose to pursue your own book, you’ll need to have the basics in place so, if you haven’t already, go and give Chapter 1 a read here.

Okay great, you’ve proofread your work, had an editor give it the once over and you’re good to go…. so what next? We’ve broken down the important considerations for anyone looking at how to publish an eBook, with links to recommended companies and offers where appropriate.

If you have access to Twitter, a great place to start is following the hashtag #ePrdctn, which is a dedicated topic discussing how to publish an eBook.

The cover design

Don’t underestimate the value of a book cover, especially in the world of eBooks. Unless potential readers land directly on your dedicated web page, you’re going to be sitting on a virtual shelf with hundreds of other books. It’s all too easy for someone to skip to another shelf with a single click, or for your book to get filtered in, or out, depending on search terms.

Due to this, first impression is key! Web designers are forever told they have three seconds to make an impression on a visitor or they will leave, and your book will be working under the same pressure. You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into your book, so don’t skimp on the presentation side.

You are going to need a cover image, typically in JPEG format. This image, in the vast majority of cases, will be a vertical rectangle shape, at least 600 pixels in height. We’d advise the cover has both the book title and author name on it, but ultimately that decision is up to you.

Even with this set size, it is absolutely crucial your cover is also clear in a smaller, thumbnail format. When people browse online eBook catalogues your book will often be shown in this thumbnail size, and any loss of clarity will severely hamper its effect.

The cover image has got to be “socially acceptable” too, so try to avoid nudity or anything you would be uncomfortable seeing in a PG-13 film.

You can either create this cover with your own images and graphics, or go through an agency or freelance that specialises in book design. If you DIY or opt to use a gifted friend looking to expand their portfolio, do make sure you run it by a professional before committing to that cover as the final design.

Companies that design book covers

We got in touch with these companies when publishing this guide, and Spiffing Covers were kind enough to get back to us and offer a 25% discount on cover design for any customers who get in touch and quote “Stinkyink” to them. Bargain!

You might be able to find a better price, for slightly more effort on your part, by browsing the two freelancers’ websites below for potential designers. Most responses will be from overseas. Remember to be careful with your selection. For example, does the designer have experience of what works with books, or does he/she speak fluent English.

eBook file formats

eBooks don’t just come in one file format, meaning certain eBooks can’t be read on different devices. This can be pretty frustrating for anyone looking to produce their own volume, as you’ll need an eBook in multiple formats.

To give you an idea of how convoluted the eBook format world is…

Figures courtesy of manybooks.net

Thankfully, you won’t need to cover all of these formats, and you’ll only need three formats to cover the majority of the e-reader market:

  • ePub
  • PDF
  • Amazon Kindle ( .azw).

Nearly every popular e-reader, including Apple iBook, accepts the ePub format which makes it a very popular choice of file. The only notable exception that does not accept ePub (at time of writing) is the Amazon Kindle. This means you’ll also need to create an .azw edition. Supplement this with a PDF for any computer or web-based readers and you’re good to go!

There is a separate format dedicated to the Apple book store, .ibook, but the Apple e-readers all accept ePub so it’s not really necessary at the moment. This is compounded by the fact that Apple actually forbid you to sell a book in the .ibook format through another store, which for now makes it superfluous.

Useful contacts

There are companies around that will either assist or fully convert one eBook format to another, and We’ve picked some reliable ones below that offer the services you need for specific formats.

If you want any additional information about converting to the ePub format before committing to one of these companies, check out this great array of tips:

  • Lulu

    Useful for converting to the ePub format, it is a very helpful company, with good customer service (though it’s on American east coast time, so -5 hours) and very clear website design. You can pay Lulu a one-time fee and you won’t pay them any additional commissions, which might be worthwhile.

  • 2EPub

    If you’re looking for a simple, quick solution to your format conversion, this is the website for you. Supporting most common format types, including .doc and .docx (Microsoft Word), .txt (nearly any text editors) and .pdf, you simply upload your file, specify the book name, author and file type, hit convert and then download your new shiny ePub format file.

  • Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

    Amazon has created one of the most comprehensive and clear services we have ever seen. If you’re looking to convert a book into the Kindle format, everything you need to know can be found on this publishing site.

  • Hamster eBook Converter

    If you like hamsters, and like writing books, you’ve found your dream piece of software. It’s a free download and a great little converter.

  • Calibre eBook

    Slightly more complicated but worthwhile nonetheless if you’re looking to convert eBook formats. This software is not only a converter but it also serves as a great library tool for archiving your own collections of eBooks.

Where To Publish an eBook

Now you’ve got your nice shiny eBook in all of its glorious formats, it’s time to get it onto those digital shelves. There are countless eBook stores on the internet, so deciding where to sell your work can be tricky.

We’ve listed the most important places below, which should be the minimum you look at being listed on. After these you may want to then go out and list yourself on others, but start with these recommended sites..

  • Amazon

    Expected return per sale: 70%

    Check out CreateSpace, a service provided by Amazon to help advise prospective writers on how to publish for them.

  • Apple iBookstore

    Expected return per sale: 70%

  • Lulu

    Expected return per sale: 56%

  • Clickbank

    Expected return per sale: Differs per price.

    Clickbank makes 7.5% per transaction plus $1. You will earn whatever’s left after this amount, minus whatever you choose to give to any affiliates set up with Clickbank.

  • Barnes and Noble

    Expected return per sale: 65% on books between $2.99 and $9.99. 40% on all other book prices.

  • FetchApp

    If you are a bit techy, and fancy keeping the biggest chunk of the profits for yourself, you can take out the middleman and sell directly from your own website. Set up your own Shopify website, use the FetchApp plugin, and they’ll automatically email your customers a download link when they buy your book.

That should be everything you need to get your best-seller launched and on to people’s e-readers in no time at all.

If you do need any help along the way, either check out the very good help sections on the websites we’ve recommended, send an email to info@stinkyink.com, or post a comment and we’ll do our best to help.

2:3 - Using A Digital Publisher

A digital publisher is one where all of the major considerations, such as cover design, proofreading, etc. are done for you in the same way a traditional publisher would. Though you still retain control over how your book progresses, the majority of the work and organisation is done by the publisher.

Also known as ‘assisted eBook publishing’, this method is perfect for individuals with limited time on their hands who are happy to pay for a comprehensive service. Indeed, with time in short supply these days, and if it is your first venture into self-publishing, having a professional to organise proofreading, cover designs and format considerations could make the difference between you actually launching your book or not.

There are downfalls though.

The cost of a digital publisher will increase your overheads, as they supply the expertise in all of the necessary fields when producing your book.

You will earn lower rates on any sales of your book with a digital publisher. This can have serious impacts on the long-term value of your eBook, as this agreed rate will last for the life of the book, long past when that assisted publisher put the effort into publishing your work. Some digital publishers will offer a contract with a termination date, which is preferable, but still something to be wary of.

Due to this, we would always recommend keeping control of your eBook as far as possible, and only bringing in assisted publishing if absolutely necessary.

How do I go down the assisted self publishing route?

Before you go any further, have you read chapter 1 on how to prepare your own book?

There are countless digital publishers who will be happy to help you publish your own eBook. The list below is nowhere near comprehensive, and is simply some top recommended companies we think go above and beyond the resources they have to provide. You could happily load these websites and learn a tremendous amount without ever publishing through them, which we consider a brilliant way to treat possible customers.

Useful contacts

  • Lulu

    This helpful American company has a good website. Apple retains 30% of all revenue from sales through Lulu. The publisher (that’s you) receives 80% of the remaining 70% of revenue and Lulu receives 20%. Or you can pay Lulu a one- time fee and you won’t pay them any additional commissions, which might be worthwhile.

  • iUniverse

    A fantastic digital publishing website that has tips and tricks for nearly everything you need to know. With marketing guides for self-publishers, an active and helpful community, plus an incredibly helpful “Expert Advice” section, iUniverse is a great resource even if you don’t publish through them.

  • AuthorHouse

    Another helpful website with a comprehensive resource section, community and clear pricing structure.

  • Writer’s Digest

    This website is dedicated to pointing you in the right direction if you’re looking for publishing or writing assistance. With recommended companies and educational materials, it’s definitely worth a look.

Tips for selecting your digital publisher

Don’t forget to try and grab a bargain when you’ve decided on your publisher. They frequently run special offers, and even if one’s expired it’s always worth enquiring about the possibility of qualifying for it.

Also make sure to compare packages, and the features within these packages. These companies ultimately make money from their service, and not how many books you sell. They’re going to try and sell you things you don’t need, so run through the feature set with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that what you’re paying for is what you want!

There’s a great resource over on the website Absolute Write, which helps you check up on digital publishers and if anyone has ever had an issue with them

If you’re not interested in other methods of publication and are ready to go, check out our tips for marketing your book in chapter 4.


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