Converting your new physical book into an ebook and then selling it online requires a little preparation, but if you answer some simple questions now, it will be much easier to decide the most suitable approach for you. This short article should help you answer those questions.
- • Where will your ebook be marketed?
- • Which devices will your ebook be read on?
You will need a separate ISBN for your ebook, as you cannot use the same number as your physical book. There is currently an unanswered debate over separate ISBN numbers for different distribution channels, but as there are already plenty of ebooks successfully published with different distributors with just a single ISBN, this currently appears to suffice. Brimstone Press can provide an additional ISBN number for a small charge.
There are currently four main channels to market and distribute your ebook, and the choices you make will affect how you create your ebook, listed in order of market share, largest first:
- • Amazon Kindle
- • Barnes and Noble
- • Apple iBooks
- • Your own website
You will need to setup an account with one or more of the distributors, or a payment processor and file distributor if using your own website. If your book is published or distributed by an American company (such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Apple), any sales to customers in the USA will automatically be subject to 30% US tax. If you are a UK based author, you can legitimately avoid paying this. Further information on this is available from rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/uk-indie-authors-tax-on-us-royalties. If you are distributing your book through your own UK based website, this does not apply.
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) programme allows you to upload your book in a number of formats (MOBI, EPUB, HTML, DOC or RTF) and use online tools to prepare your ebook for sale through various global Amazon stores. Amazon will charge a fee for each sale, and have two pricing models, giving you up to 70% of the sale price. If your ebook is to be priced higher than USD9.99, you will be limited to receiving 35% of the sale price. See kdp.amazon.com for further information.
Barnes and Noble
Distribution to NOOK devices will need an account to be setup via the Barnes and Noble PubIt programme. Online tools will help convert your document (from EPUB, HTML, DOC, or RTF) to an ebook. Like Amazon, fees are charged for each sale. See pubit.barnesandnoble.com for further information and to register.
Apple provide their own app for creating ebooks which you can find at www.apple.com/uk/ibooks-author, but you will probably find Lulu more useful for creating and distribution of Apple iBooks (from EPUB or DOC formats). See www.lulu.com/publish/ebooks for more information. There are per document fees for sales via Apple.
Your own website
If publishing and distributing your ebook yourself, you will need to use software to convert your document into suitable formats, find a means to take online payments for your ebook and find an online service to distribute the ebook files when a customer has completed a purchase. Although this may initially sound daunting, each of these is relatively straightforward.
If you have an existing credit card merchant account, you should speak to your provider for information about how to accept online payments. For smaller volumes of sales, under approximately £500 per month, services such as PayPal will be more convenient and cheaper to use. Setting up an account with PayPal (see www.paypal.co.uk) makes it possible for customers with a credit card to pay for your goods.
Once a sale has been made, the customer will expect to be able to download the ebook immediately, and this process can be automated using services such as E-Junkie (see www.e-junkie.com) or PayLoadz (see www.payloadz.com). You will also need to create your own website with buy buttons using the HTML code supplied when you setup your products at the download provider. Brimstone Press can assist by placing your ebook in your page on the Brimstone Press website. Note that files delivered by this method will have no copy protection, so could in theory be at greater risk of being copied illegally, although it has to be said that breaking copy protection on the other formats is not actually that hard if a criminal is intent on doing so.
There are two main ebook formats, and you will need to create your ebook in each format if you wish to make your ebook available to the widest possible audience. These are EPUB and MOBI. If you are distributing via one of the three large ebook sellers, their online tools will guide you through the process, but if you are selling via your own website, want greater control of how your ebook will look, or wish to include illustrations, it is worth the effort to create your own.
This is the most common format, and contains more information than MOBI, so it is wise to create your EPUB first, then repurpose it as a MOBI file. An EPUB is essentially a self-contained website, which holds all the elements of text, images, table of contents, style information and a manifest which defines how it should all be assembled.
This is the more basic format used by Amazon Kindle devices, which also holds text, images, a table of contents, and a manifest. Amazon actually distributes these files as .AZW files, which you cannot create yourself, but converting an EPUB to a MOBI file to upload and sell via Amazon as a .AZW is very easy.
There are multiple methods for creating your own ebook. I am making the assumption that your work is already complete as an .RTF file (most word processors can save your work to this format). There are different levels of complexity to convert your file, depending on the level of control you wish to have over the final output.
There are three very useful free software tools which will help you convert your document into an ebook. Do keep multiple copies of your work as you progress through the conversion workflow, as reverting to a previous version is much easier than starting from scratch if you should make a mistake whilst experimenting!
This software lets you convert files from one format to another, edit metadata (information about your ebook, such as title, author, ISBN and publisher name). You can use this software to convert your RTF into an EPUB and then into a MOBI file (see www.calibre.e-book.com for a download of the current version). It will take a few tries to get the output EPUB in a state you are happy with, as the conversion is automated, but controlled by a number of configuration settings, so a little trial and error is required. Help documentation is available from the Calbre website to guide you through the process.
This software is very useful to edit the EPUB you have now created. You can modify text or images, amend the table of contents and help you fix any errors within your EPUB.
This software converts an EPUB file into a MOBI file and preview how the output will look on a number of different Amazon Kindle devices.
An excellent and very cheap ebook is available, which covers the conversion process in much greater detail, offering multiple suggested workflows with different levels of complexity. See www.rudyrucker.com/blog/2012/04/20/do-it-yourself-ebooks-1-getting-started for further guidance and details of the ebook.