OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I monitor the US publishing news and blogs and feel that in the UK we are at least a year behind you guys, but the tidal wave is swelling and it's a very exciting time! Doug Klostermann, author of The Ebook Handbook, is another writer who is passionate about digital publishing and today he shares a useful overview if you are just starting out.
Why now is the time to join the e-book revolution
Statistics about e-books, e-book publishing, and e-readers are being reported and discussed with increasing frequency and the overall conclusion is clear: e-book sales are rising at a dramatic pace. E-book sales in the United States currently exceed those of the other formats, including hardback and paperback sales, and grew 200% from 2010 to 2011. Electronic books are now outselling printed books on Amazon.com – hardcover and paperback combined – and the Kindle e-reader is the best-selling product on Amazon. Apple's iPads are selling by the tens of millions, Android powered tablet sales are increasing, and numerous other companies are developing and selling tablet devices. There is no better time to join the e-book revolution.
The publishing playing field has never been so level for self-published, independent authors. Your e-books can be up for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iTunes and iBooks as soon as you complete them, and at no cost to you. They will be available on these sites along with all the printed and digital books, with the potential to be found and purchased by anyone shopping and searching online.
Formatting and Optimizing Your Text for Various E-Reader Formats
You will likely want to publish your e-book to as many sites as possible in order to reach the widest audience, and this involves offering your text in a variety of formats. Most publishers will convert your text for you for free, but there are a number of requirements you should follow so that your e-book functions and appears as best as possible in each format. On your own website and blog you can offer your e-book in PDF format, Amazon will convert it to their proprietary AZW format for the Kindle, and Barnes and Noble will convert it to ePub for the Nook. Smashwords will convert it and offer it in a variety of formats as well as allow you access to publishing with Apple. [Note from Joanna: This is the best way for non-US citizens to get onto iPad and Nook right now.]
Typically a basic e-book can be written in Microsoft Word DOC (.doc) format. This format is easily converted to most of the required e-book formats such as PDF and ePub, is the preferred format to be submitted to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, and can be submitted to Barnes and Noble's PubIt! and to Smashwords for conversion and distribution to Apple iBooks. Publishers will accept other formats like plain TXT, PDF, or HTML, but unless you have complicated formatting and complex image layouts (neither of which are recommended, especially for your first e-book), then Word's DOC format is the easiest and best format to use.
When publishers convert your DOC text for their e-readers, some of your formatting may be lost or altered so it is important to understand what you can't or shouldn't do when writing and formatting your text. Most e-reader conversions will accept basic Word formatting in your text such as bold, italic, underline, internal and external hyperlinks, center text, chapter headings, table of contents, and page breaks, and all of this will typically convert properly in the e-book conversion. However, special fonts, some special characters, headers, footers, and page numbers will not convert, so you should avoid them or plan on removing them for the non-PDF e-reader versions. Bulleted and numbered lists may or may not properly convert depending on the format. Proper spacing between paragraphs must be incorporated, which is set using Paragraph Styles and not simply by adding extra returns between paragraphs. Publishers have different requirements for images, but in general they can be about 600 pixels wide at 96 dpi or higher to look their best. And of course you will want an appealing, professional quality cover.
Each of the publishers provides a formatting guide with their complete requirements. It is important to read them and incorporate all of their requirements so that your document converts properly and functions and appears as best as possible.
E-Book Formatting Guides:
[ Note from Joanna: If you can't bear doing it yourself, you can get someone to do it for you. ]
Publishing Your E-Book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple
Though there are countless websites to publish and offer your e-book, the majority of your sales will likely come from your own website and blog (if you market well) and through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iTunes and iBooks, so it is best to focus your effort on these major sites.
Amazon.com is where you may reach your largest audience of potential readers, so you should first focus on publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Amazon provides step by step instruction for publishing on their help pages, and also in a free e-book publishing guide. The process is very self-explanatory, but there are a few important tips. Enter your full title and subtitle since keywords in your title may help searchers locate your e-book. Carefully choose which categories you want your book listed in, as well as good search keywords, as these are important in assisting readers to locate your e-book. Be sure to preview the book and download the HTML file provided for a more accurate preview. Then within two or three days of publishing, your e-book should be live on Amazon. Once your e-book is available, go through Amazon Author Central to create a nice formatted description and author bio.
The process to publish to Barnes and Noble's PubIt! is straightforward and very similar to the Amazon KDP process [ Joanna – but only available to US citizens, others must go through Smashwords]. The third important site to publish your e-book is Smashwords, an e-book publisher as well as an aggregator that distributes e-books to other sites like Apple iTunes and iBooks, the Kobo e-book store, and the Sony Reader store. To upload a completed e-book to Smashwords, first ensure that you have formatted it according to their strict Style Guide. Their process is straightforward as well, but also involves a review for Premium Status, obtaining an ISBN (free or low-cost through Smashwords), and using their Distribution Channel Manager to specify on which sites your e-book will be available.
Use your Website, Blog, and Social Media to Spread the Word
Publishing your book on Amazon and the other major retailers' websites offers an amazing selling opportunity because readers can find your book on their own without you having to put forth any marketing effort. These sites have leveled the publishing playing field for independent book and e-book authors and publishers and now provide possibilities that did not previously exist. However you can build upon this to increase awareness of your e-books and attract additional customers and readers through your blog, website, and social media.
Take Advantage of the E-Book Revolution
The ability to create and publish an e-book with nothing but your ideas, your computer, some software and the Internet, and then to instruct or entertain readers through your writing is an immensely satisfying pursuit. To additionally earn money, perhaps even a sufficient income through this effort certainly adds to the enjoyment. And to be fortunate to see your e-book become a top-seller is a wonderful reward!
Independent authors are fortunate to be in the midst of the ongoing e-book revolution. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of the tools and opportunities to present your work to this wide audience of readers that is now available to everyone.
There is obviously much more to learn and many more tips and advice about publishing, marketing, and selling e-books, and my e-book called The E-Book Handbook – A Thoroughly Practical Guide to Formatting, Publishing, Marketing, and Selling Your E-Book goes into much greater detail about each step of the process.