E-book Publication

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        Most ebook distributors need the book to be submitted in PDF format, but they all seem to have slightly different requirements for publication. The top three are Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The iBookstore seems to be the pickiest when it comes to publication requirements. Anyone can publish and distribute ebooks through any of them, it’s not necessarily the best way to go about it.

        There are a number of minor ebook distributors that you can go through in order to access all or most of the major ones. A few of them provide formatting standard in their publication package. The one that stood out to me most was Smashwords. Smashwords provides free ebook publishing and distribution to Apple and Barnes and Noble, along with a huge amount of smaller ones, including Sony and Kobo, which make the two other common e-readers. It also provides free ISBN numbers, which cost at least a few hundred dollars through most other services. The Smashwords website has its own ebook for publication requirements: any book submitted to their premium service requires that it’s formatted in the way outlined in that book. It’s really specific, but there is also a Smashwords blog that has a list of links to authors’ blog posts about their experience with publishing on Smashwords and how to make the format conversion process a bit easier. Of course, there is also the option to familiarize oneself with the requirements before actually writing the book, but that will still require altering it for submission to any other distributor. Once it’s properly formatted, then it can be converted to a PDF and submitted to the premium service which will get it to all the distributors listed. The iBookstore has more specific requirements than the others (I couldn’t find anything specifically saying that they were different, just more strict, but they might be different) that requires a separate submission. Smashwords provides explanations for both formats. The author pages I read indicate that formatting the ebook for the iBookstore requirements should be sufficient for everything on Smashwords, but I’d want to read both the guides to be sure.

        Smashwords does not, however, submit to Amazon. However, it seems to hit every other distributor that I’ve ever heard of as well as a few that I haven’t. Other similar websites only submit to the big three and you would have to submit separately to any of the smaller ones. While iBookstore, nook, and Kindle are the most popular ones, I feel like it would be a mistake to ignore the rest. I don’t know if there are different audiences on the e-readers, but it seems possible that they differ at least slightly. So, though Smashwords misses the Kindle, it’s also free to submit directly to Amazon, and the ISBN should work for both. I haven’t dug into Amazon’s requirements as much, so I don’t know if their format is different.

        If that sounds like a lot of work (which it kind of does), there are other services that format the ebook for you, but they cost money. Bookbaby submits to the top three and Sony, which might actually be #4. They charge $99 (temporarily discounted from $149) for formatting and distribution, plus $19 for an ISBN. After that, there is a $19/year fee starting two years after your original submission. It seems like conversion from any type of file except for ePub will cost an extra $59, and they recommend not trying to convert your book into ePub yourself. These costs cover up to ten “graphic elements,” it’s an extra $2 for any more than that.

        The advantage to Bookbaby is that you keep 100% of the profits. Because you’re paying them yearly, they make enough that they don’t have to charge you. You only earn 60% through Smashwords (85% for anything you sell through the Smashwords website, 60 for anything through the other retailers). Publishing through Amazon gives you 70% through some countries and 65% through others. Which option is better is a factor of money, effort, and availability. Your priorities among those would probably determine which option is best. Of course, I haven’t found any evidence that you can’t go through multiple distributors–you could use Bookbaby to publish through the big three, then use Smashwords to get to the rest.

        I hope this information is helpful. Let me know what else I can do in this area.

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