There are seven practical steps in accomplishing a successful eBook publishing project:
- Choosing the right eBook publishing program
- Picking an eBook format
- Providing ISBN numbers
- Creating eBook covers
- Setting up a Payment System
- Using an e-reader for testing purposes
- Promoting your eBook
As a self-published author of three books, I know how hard it is to find a literary agent or publishing house interested in publishing your work. One of the first things I did after sending out queries to no avail was to check out the Print-On-Demand (POD) houses to get my novels printed and distributed. I did this for my first two books with high expectations. While there are many fine POD companies ready and willing to publish your work for a fee, I quickly realized there are some significant drawbacks to this method. The number one drawback for me was the high list prices assigned to my printed novels. The prices were not competitive in the marketplace. I even tried offering an eBook format, but it was before the time of digital eBook readers and the current explosion in digital content. With this in mind I decided to publish my new novel in eBook format myself. What I learned over the last few months are the practical steps necessary for successful eBook publishing, which I will share with those of you who want more control over publishing, distributing and selling your work. In this article, I will focus on two eBook publishing programs, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program and the Google Books Partner Program. If you wish to save on expenses and control your own destiny, you have to learn these steps in order to participate in this brave new digital world.
1. Choosing the right eBook publishing program:
Choosing the right eBook publishing program for your work is a critical first step. Fortunately, for self-published authors, times have changed dramatically over the last few years. Online publishers like Amazon.com have paved the way for authors who want to produce a competitive product even if it means a printed format is not offered for sale or a previous title is made available for the first time in digital format. With Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program you not only reach the largest eBook market distributor, but the biggest selling e-reader device, the Kindle.
More recently, Google ebookstore has entered the market with a competitive solution that allows authors to participate in the Google Books Partner Program to publish eBooks for a variety of digital e-reader devices and access millions of eBooks from publishers and libraries worldwide. The biggest advantage with Google is you will have access to many of the other largest selling e-reader devices including the Nook that use eBook formats other that the proprietary Kindle format.
2. Picking an eBook format:
Another important step is learning the differences between eBook formats and which format is needed for various digital e-readers. There are many formats, but you don’t need to save your work in every format to publish online. For example, Amazon Kindle uses a unique proprietary format AZW that is based on the Mobipocket standard. This format is not compatible with other e-readers on the market such as the Barnes & Noble Nook series. The good news, though, is you don’t have to reformat your novel to publish with Amazon.com. With Kindle Direct Publishing you can self-publish your books on the Amazon Kindle Store by submitting a standard Word DOC format and Kindle will reformat for you. Even better, books self-published through KDP can participate in the 70% royalty program if you meet their requirements, which is a substantial deal.
The Google Books Partner Program and Google ebookstore competes with Kindle Direct Publishing and the Amazon Kindle Store. Google ebookstore uses the EPUB format, which is an open standard for eBooks created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The EPUB format allows e-readers to change the text sizes for a better reading experience and allows the text to flow or fit the e-reader screen sizes as needed. Currently, Google’s program requires authors to submit their work in Adobe PDF format and in the EPUB format for the ebookstore. The secret here is to save the Word document format as a Web Page, Filtered (HTML) document and use a free converter from companies such as Calibre to convert the HTML format to EPUB for submission to Google. This is more complicated than Amazon’s program, but it works just fine. One of the advantages of the Google program is the eBook can be read on many different e-reader devices and can be accessed over the Internet and read on demand.
3. Providing ISBN numbers:
ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number”. It is a unique identifier for books, eBooks and other media. Each title, edition or different format that is published and made separately available should be identified by a unique ISBN. Both the Amazon and Google programs will assign electronic ISBN numbers for your eBooks. However, this may limit the number of distribution channels or publishing houses that would be willing to offer your eBook for sale since many online book sellers in the U.S. require ISBN identification for tracking, selling and payment purposes. The best approach is to purchase your own ISBN numbers from an approved agent of The International ISBN Agency in the U.K. that coordinates all ISBN numbers. One such agency in the U.S. that can provide ISBN numbers is a company called Publisher Services, a division of Bar Code Graphics, Inc. For a reasonable price, they will provide a single ISBN number and an electronic barcode that can be used with any format. One secret regarding the electronic barcode image is the EPS format provided is not compatible with Amazon or Google eBook formats. The barcode image needs to be converted to a JPEG format when inserted inside the eBook file.
Don’t forget to submit a form to copyright your work with the government. I used the Electronic Copyright Office (ECO) System to protect my latest novel.
4. Setting up a Payment System:
In order to sell your digital work online, you will need to set up a secure payment process. Again, there are many solutions available on the market depending on how you intend to sell your work and receive payments. Fortunately, working with Amazon or Google makes the process easier. The Amazon Kindle Store requires you to set up a Company/Publisher Account with bank information. Once the account is set up you can publish titles to the Kindle Store at no cost and receive payments for each sale. The Google Books Partner Program offers a similar service called Google Checkout. The main advantages of both programs is the payment security they provide, the ease of account setup, customer purchasing convenience, faster payment of royalties and customer support.
5. Creating eBook Covers:
Another important aspect to any eBook project is creating a professional eBook cover for your novel. Cover images are recommended for Amazon and Google programs. Again, there are many online companies and publishing houses willing to provide this type of service for a fee. However, if you are willing to design and format your own cover page and use existing free images available on the Internet, then I recommend you purchase an inexpensive ecover application from a company such as Extreme 3D eCovers. This application is easy to use and the product provides access to many ecover graphics that can be used royalty free. I produced my eBook cover using free images from NASA and they only require you to acknowledge the source of the images in your work.
6. Using an e-reader for testing purposes:
In preparation for self-publishing an eBook, you need to download an e-reader application to your PC to test the EPUB or Adobe PDF formats before submitting them to Amazon, Google or any other online publisher. You want to view the eBook and correct any issues before submission. I recommend the Calibre E-book Management System with their E-book Viewer to convert documents or read PDF or EPUB formats, or downloadAdobe Digital Editions to read PDF or EPUB eBooks. Both downloads are free. I also recommend you add a Table of Contents to your eBook to make searching and reading chapters easier for the customer. As a side note, you can also read eBooks on your PC. Google ebookstore provides a web reader for this purpose. Amazon provides Kindle for PC. Barnes & Noble provides NOOK for PC. The list goes on.
As I have mentioned earlier, there are many e-readers on the market and each requires compatible eBook formats for reading purposes. The biggest selling e-reader on the market today is the Amazon Kindle, which accounts for nearly 70% market share. For this reason alone, it behooves you to make you eBook compatible with this product. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to submit and publish your eBook for the Amazon Kindle Store in a matter of days. They are extremely efficient and provide excellent technical support. Another popular e-reader device is the Barnes & Noble Nook. This device is compatible with the EPUB format and other formats, but not the Kindle format. As you now know, the EPUB format is required for the Google program. Google ebookstore and their Partner Program is newer to the eBook game and it will take a little longer to get your eBook published, but again, they are very efficient and their customer support is also very helpful.
7. Promoting your eBook:
Last but not least, there is no easy or proven method in promoting a new eBook in today’s market place. It will require time, effort and money; and it is necessary since there are so many eBook titles available for sale. The good news is with the proliferation of e-book readers and digital content, the tide has turned for digital publishing. Amazon.com recently reported that they are selling more digital books than printed copies for the first time in history. Unfortunately, I have found that neither Amazon Direct Publishing nor the Google Book Partner Program offer a satisfactory service to promote or drive eBook sales. This type of service will take time to mature. In the meantime, I recommend you find the best online channels to distribute a Press Release that reaches your target market and doesn’t cost a lot of money. It is also important to drive eBook sales using your own website, author membership sites and social networking sites. Fortunately, setting up a personal website is easy to do and you can add URL links to any of the programs, online book stores, eBook publishing houses, companies, application programs, e-reader devices and agencies mentioned in this article. After all, it is up to the author to champion their work no matter how the work is published.