Self Publish Your Novel Part 9: Ebooks

 

This post is part of a series of posts about self-publishing. I’m revising my book Self Publish Your Novel and posting the chapters as I finish them. If you’d like to be alerted when the new version of Self Publish Your Novel is available, please click here.

ebook_conversion_physical_sourceCreating an e-book is actually quite a bit simpler than creating a physical book. The two main e-book formats are MOBI (.mobi) and ePub (.epub). Amazon’s Kindle (.azw) is a variation of the MOBI format. All of these formats are basically HTML – the language used by web pages. Note that if you open one of these files in a text editor like notepad, you may see all kinds of funky characters. That’s because the file is compressed to make it smaller, rather than being stored as plain text. Additionally, some e-book files contain Digital Rights Management, or DRM, which restricts a user’s ability to view the content unless they have a license for it.

DRM is supposed to prevent unauthorized copying and sharing of a file, which sounds like a swell idea, except for two things: First, any form of DRM can be cracked, usually very easily. So if somebody really wants to get your book for free, you really can’t stop them. Second, DRM makes it difficult for paying customers to transfer your book from one device to another. Personally, I don’t think implementing DRM is worth the trouble. The biggest challenge facing a new author isn’t piracy; it’s obscurity. As a relatively unknown author, the worst thing that can come from someone sharing your book illegally is that you might reach a few more potential readers, some of whom might actually pay you for a book someday. Most eBook marketplaces will allow you to specify whether or not you want to implement DRM on your book.

Manuscript File Formats

Some ebook marketplaces will accept manuscripts in MS Word format. Others require you to first convert the file to an ebook format such as ePub. Generally it’s a good idea to convert the document first yourself, because unless you have a very clean Word document, you’ll probably see some formatting glitches in the ebook file. You can convert the file to ePub or MOBI in an application like Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/). Calibre is a free download. If you have a Mac, there is an application called Vellum (https://vellum.pub/) that will help you format and convert your manuscript. Another service that helps format and convert ebooks is Draft2Digital (https://www.draft2digital.com/).

Ebook Marketplaces

There are many different sites online that allow authors to sell ebooks. By far the largest ebook marketplace in terms of market share is Amazon, with its Kindle platform. Amazon currently accounts for over 70% of ebook sales in the United States. Apple iBooks, the Barnes & Noble Nook store, the Kobo US bookstore, and Google Play Books make up nearly all of the remainder. If you want to publish an ebook for wide consumption, you basically have to publish it on the Kindle platform. All the others are optional. Additionally, there are advantages to going Kindle-exclusive, which I will cover in a future chapter.

After uploading a book to any of these marketplaces, you should download the book from the site and go through it to make sure the formatting looks okay.

Amazon Kindle

To create and sell a Kindle version of your book, you will first need to go to https://kdp.amazon.com and create an account. Enter your book information, browse to your book file, and click Upload. KDP accepts ebook manuscripts in the following formats:

  • Word (.doc/.docx)
  • HTML (.zip, .htm or .html)
  • MOBI (.mobi)
  • ePub (.epub)
  • Rich Text Format (.rtf)
  • Plain Text (.txt)
  • Adobe PDF (.pdf)
  • Kindle Package Format (.kpf, basically a pdf format used for textbooks)

Smashwords

Smashwords allows you to sell books on their site as well as on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and several smaller marketplaces. Smashwords is notoriously difficult to use (veteran authors refer to it as “the meatgrinder”), but it allows you to publish to a lot of marketplaces at once. Smashwords requires your manuscript be saved as a Word (.doc) format. At this point they do not seem to accept .docx files or any other file types. To get started with Smashwords, go to https://www.smashwords.com/signup.

Bookbaby / Kobo

An alternative to Smashwords is Bookbaby. Bookbaby allows you to distribute books on Kobo as well as several other book marketplaces, including iBooks, Amazon Kindle and Nook/Barnes & Noble. To get started with Bookbaby, go to https://www.bookbaby.com/ebook-publishing/publish-on-kobo/. BookBaby accepts .doc, .docx, .txt, .rtf, .html files.

Apple iBooks

To sell books directly through Apple’s iBooks, first create a seller account at https://www.apple.com/itunes/working-itunes/sell-content/books/. The process for uploading books to iBooks is similar to KDP, but Apple only supports .pdf, .txt, .ePub, and .ibooks files.

Barnes & Noble

To sell books directly on Barnes & Noble’s site, create a Nook Press account at https://www.nookpress.com/. NookPress accepts MS Word (.doc/.docx), text, HTML and ePub files.

Google Play

To publish books on Google Play, go to https://play.google.com/books/publish/. Google Play currently accepts only PDF and ePub files.

 

This post is part of a series of posts about self-publishing. I’m revising my book Self Publish Your Novel and posting the chapters as I finish them. If you’d like to be alerted when the new version of Self Publish Your Novel is available, please click here.

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