A Beginner’s Guide to eBook Publishing
(Excerpted from “eBook Publishing: the How-To Guide for Writers” by Steven Spatz)
The digital book — or eBook — is now the preferred choice for millions of readers. Walk through any airport waiting area or Starbucks and you’ll see a growing number of readers enjoying new levels of convenience, portability, access, and affordability with their Kindles, iPads, Nooks and more.
Today you can publish your eBook for a fraction of the cost and time it once took to bring a book “to market.”
Empowering the independent author
Beyond the exploding sales numbers, the electronic publishing age offers opportunities for new and prospective authors that have previously been open to a relative few.
Authors are in control
Creative types — artists, musicians, sculptors, authors — have almost always been at the mercy of others controlling and profiting from their art. It’s been that way since Michelangelo was painting ceilings in Rome.
With eBooks, authors can finally have as much control as they want because of their direct access to their reading audience.
It can take anywhere from 12 to 15 months for a traditional publishing company to get an author’s work into the marketplace. Compare that with the 3 to 4 weeks it takes to see your BookBaby eBook on Amazon, Apple and more.
Special interests can be special
With eBooks, even tiny niche titles are economical to produce, satisfying small yet potentially profitable reading audiences.
Last but certainly not least:
The old payment formulas are completely upside down in the eBook world. Instead of accepting miniscule royalty percentages going through old school publishers, authors are seeing up to 70% of sales receipts through some of the online retailers. Even when eBook authors bring prices way down to 2.99….$1.99….even $.99…they’re realizing much higher revenue totals because of increased unit sales.
Why publish eBooks through BookBaby?
Authors hold all the cards at the eBook table. There are dozens of options available to you, ranging from a Do It Yourself (DIY) project that costs next to nothing, all the way to an expensive and elaborate suite of services for authors.
Right in the middle of those offerings sits BookBaby. We’ve helped thousands of authors get their books into the digital marketplace.
Publishing your eBook with BookBaby is easy. How easy?
• Upload your eBook and pay as little as $99. Sign up is fast and intuitive. You set the selling price, supply book descriptions, author bio — even list out keyword search terms. You’re in control from start to finish, and retain all publishing and ownership rights.
• Sell your eBooks worldwide. We convert your original electronic files so that your eBook can be read on every reading device — Kindle, iPad, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and more.
• Get paid 100%. We collect your net sales from the online retail stores. A few days later, BookBaby pays you every last cent. Our cut of your sales? 0%.
But there’s more to BookBaby. From supplying ISBNs and Cover Design services to eBook conversions from PDFs and for titles with massive amounts of pictures and graphics, we’ve got everything an aspiring — or established – author could need.
eBook editing —More Important Than ever
When authors work through the traditional system, editing is one of the most important elements that publishers or agents bring to the process. Just because you’ve chosen to go another route doesn’t mean that the requirements for editing are any less strict. In fact it’s even more vital for you to have a set — or sets — of other eyes on your prose because your writing reputation is on the line.
What do you look for in an editor? Most editors concentrate on one or a few genres, and that’s a good thing. So start your search for an editor that’s experienced with your type of subject matter.
To search for a professional editor, you can start with listings at Writer’s Digest’s site or Media Bistro. You can also check social sites like LinkedIn to contact best industry professionals. You can search the site to find dozens of user groups or communities within the publishing world such as:
• LinkEds and Writing
• Publishing and Editing Professionals
• Writing and Editing Professionals
• Freelance Editing Network
Another good source is the Editorial Freelancers Association, which has a directory of EFA members that you can search online. The EFA also has a great list of typical rates for various kinds of editorial services at http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php.
eBook file conversion 101
Your manuscript has one final hurdle to jump before it is eReader-ready: You’ll need to have your Word, Text or other electronic files converted into a file format compatible with the most popular eReaders.
There are three main file types currently associated with eBooks:
• epUB (.epub) - The most popular open standard format for eBooks that allows Digital Rights Management (DRM). This is the format used with all the major retailers EXCEPT Amazon/Kindle.
• Mobipocket (.mobi) - An eBook format that allows users to add a blank page at any point in the text for notes, bookmarks, corrections, and drawings.
• Kindle (.azw) - Amazon’s proprietary format is based on mobipocket, but with their own DRM protections.
Which brings us to the first fork in the road for independent self-publishing authors. Do you want a professional file conversion house to produce the necessary digital files for Amazon, Apple and the rest? Or do you want to save the expense and do it yourself?
Plenty of authors have gone down the DIY road and found success. There are dozens of websites, author forums, and whitepapers available to guide you through it. But converting your Word file into ePub and .mobi isn’t for everyone.
With the technology, standards, and best practices for eBook conversion constantly in flux, it’s tough for authors to stay abreast of all the latest developments. And frankly…that’s our job. Writers should be doing what they do best – write. Leave all of the technical details to our eBook conversion experts and your book will look great on all the different eReaders in the marketplace.
Do’s and Don’ts — eBook File Format Fundamentals
No matter what path you choose for ePub conversion, you can go a long way to make the process easier by following some basic formatting guidelines:
• Use basic text files to upload. Our experts have learned that eBook formatting works best when authors can supply original files in .doc, .html or .txt file formats.
• Don’t use tabs or the space bar to format paragraphs or individual lines. Use the format paragraph menu or the alignment buttons in the toolbar of your text-editing program.
• Use standard fonts for your document, like Times New Roman or Courier New. Don’t use very large or very small font sizes. We recommend 12pt. font size for body text and 14-18pt. for chapter titles.
• Resize large images to 300 pixels high if you would like them to display in-line with text.
• Do all image resizing work outside of the document, then reinsert them before saving. All images must be in .png, .jpg, or .tif format, 72 dpi, and in RGB color mode.* Cover and full- page images: 800-1000 pixels tall by 550-700 pixels wide. Logos or simple images: 75 - 100 pixels high.
• Don’t wrap text around images. All images (except full-page images) should be set “in-line” with text.
• Need more info? Additional information about how to best prepare your files for ePub conversion can be found at http://www.bookbaby.com/help/preparingforconversion
13 very important numbers for every eBook
The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique 13-digit code assigned to your book to identify it amongst all the others in the digital marketplace. Retailers use these codes to track and report sales. Every book — physical or eBook — is required to have its own number if it’s made available for sale. In fact: If you’ve already published your book in physical form, you’ll need another ISBN for the electronic version.
R.R. Bower is the official agency in charge of assigning and maintaining these numbers.
Publishers and authors can buy blocks of their own numbers.
A self-published author can buy just one ISBN for $125.
BookBaby.com sells ISBNs for $19.
Cover Design — Stand Out On Crowded Virtual Bookshelves
Most of your readers will view your book’s cover art as a tiny little postage-stamp sized image on an eBook retail site.
Given that, put your cover art to the test:
• Is it big and bold? The cover design needs to clearly display the book title and author name so that they can be read even when the image is small.
• Does it pass the “2 second” test? Can a potential reader understand what your book is about with a quick glance at your cover? Does your design quickly convey the vibe and tone of your work?
• Do you look like you belong at B&N? If you think your writing is world class and belongs on the shelf along with the literary greats, your cover needs to hold up its end of the bargain. If your cover art looks amateurish, the customer will assume the writing is too.
If you’ve already got a cover design that you think passes all those tests — great. If not, BookBaby has you covered.
A great eBook cover is one of your best sales tools, instantly conveying the key thoughts, messages and images that sum up your book. On those crowded eBook retail sites, it’s essential for you to stand out from everyone else. An eBook cover created by the BookBaby Design Studio will ensure you make a professional impression.
Our designers have years of experience creating packaging for authors, musicians and filmmakers, so rest assured you’ll get a cover that’s been designed with one thing in mind: Getting you more sales!
Check out our gallery of cover art examples and testimonials at
Data about Data — Why Metadata is crucial for your eBook
Metadata is one of the least understood components to publishing an eBook, but it’s critical to your marketing and sales efforts.
Metadata is all the information related to a specific book, including:
• Author biography
• The genre and subgenre of your book
• Short and long book descriptions
• Keywords that will aid readers searching for your book on Amazon
What’s so important about metadata? Browsing through the online bookshelves usually begins with a search. If your metadata does not reflect what someone is searching for, no one will ever find your book.
So how do you go about creating good metadata?
Here are a few ideas:
• Research retailers. Go to Amazon.com, Apple’s iBookstore or BN.com and look up books like yours. What categories are they in? Study the book descriptions. See what words they’ve used to describe their books. Then search for books using the keywords you found using the keyword tool.
• Use google’s keyword tool. It’s a tremendous window into the world of what people are searching for through Google. Look up words you feel describe your book and you’ll quickly see whether people are searching for those words and what other words they are using.
• Be consistent. Don’t put one book description on Amazon and change it around for B&N. Use similar wording for the boilerplate on your press release, book flyer, etc. Create a document or spreadsheet documenting the metadata and where you used it. This is especially important if you have several titles and a huge time saver as you expand your marketing.
Time to publish — Some final notes
The eBook world is very young. But as the sister company to the musical powerhouse CD Baby, this feels like very familiar territory. Today’s publishing world is eerily similar to the music world of the early 2000’s, when the marketplace was in a state of flux and confusion as musicians, agents and record companies were forced to react to the rapid change in technology.
Likewise publishers, agents and authors are currently scrambling to understand this new eBook world. BookBaby is here to help authors capitalize on new publishing opportunities.
No one can promise you that your book will be a best-seller, of course, but by reading this guide, I hope to have shared advice that helps you publish a truly great eBook.