Digital Publishing

This is growing at a phenomenal rate. Readers now peruse e-books on a variety of devices, shop globally and purchase instantly. E-publishing can be a quick and direct way to market your book worldwide, though you will still have to create a quality manuscript. Authors can publish through a single online retailer such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or a distribution service which accesses multiple retailers. Smashwords, Bookbaby and Draft2Digital are distribution services that offer comprehensive publishing guides.

Online publishers may either take a percentage of your sales, or if your book is already e-formatted, accept a flat fee after which you receive 100% of sales. As always, be aware if your contract gives you exclusive or non exclusive rights and watch for hidden costs such as transaction fees. Word files are easily formatted, but PDF will be costly. Don’t forget your cover design remains a vital part of marketing.

The most important thing to keep in is quality. A low-quality production will turn readers off from your work as soon as they open it. Be sure that nothing, from your cover to page design to illustrations, looks cheap. Since there are so many eBooks available to readers now, they will delete your work if they think they’re wasting time by reading it.

Formats
The two most important formats of eBooks are Amazon’s Mobi format and EPUB. Amazon’s products are the only ones that use Mobi, but Kindles account for a large part of the eBook market. It may be in your best interest to either produce your work in Mobi format, or convert it to Amazon’s once you have finished in a different format. EPUB is used by Google, Kobo, Whitcoulls, Apple’s iBook store, and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. If you wish to reach all of these markets, you should produce your eBook in one of these two formats and then convert it to the other. From there, you can distribute your work to some or all of these online markets.

Metadata
These are the data fields that describe a book. Metadata is split into two categories: bibliographic elements (ISBN, title, number of pages, publication date, author) and enhanced metadata (table of contents, reviews, author biography, and jacket image).

Providing complete metadata is essential to selling your book, both online and offline. For guidelines refer to the BIC Basic Standard.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Created to limit digital piracy, this protection system has a good and a bad side DRM can prevent users from copying, changing, or sharing your eBook. Therefore most popular eBooks are sold with DRM protection. However there are different versions of DRMs used by competing online publishing companies. These are often tied to the publisher’s particular hardware or software. The differences can mean your book is inaccessible to other e-readers, therefore limiting sales. In addition, some customers do not like DRMs because they provide very detailed personal information to the publisher.

kindleRealistic pricing and accessibility may be more important to selling your work than DRM. If you provide your work through different platforms at affordable prices, you may not need DRM as much as someone who only sells their book through one platform at a high price point. Obscurity and unmet high demand may influence piracy more than anything else. Most conversion services will give you a choice as to whether or not to have DRM. Smashwords, for example, suggests that you never let fear of piracy keep you from promoting and selling your book in as many platforms as possible.
Conversion Services

You can use services like SmashwordsKobo Writing LifeLuluBookbaby, or Kindle Direct Publishing to convert your work to different eBook formats. Conversion does not typically include editing or proofreading.  Almost all conversions services will accept Microsoft Word and RTF files. Other types may not be converted as easily. Be sure that your work is already at a high production quality before converting it to an eBook. Also, keep in mind that these different conversion services will have contracts and terms ands conditions.

Smashwords is a free, digital-only self-publishing service. Smashwords takes a commission from your sales through its distribution network. This usually accounts for about 15% of net receipts. Meatgrinder, the system used by Smashwords, can produce your work in up to 10 formats for free. Please note: Smashwords does not distribute eBooks with DRMs, so keep that in mind. Your books will not have protection from piracy and copying, but it will be easier to distribute.

Kobo Writing Life was established in the fall of 2012. It was designed by Kobo’s director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations, Mark Lefebvre, so that authors can quickly and easily sell their books through Kobo. Kobo Writing Life allows you to upload and convert your Word, Open Office, or mobi documents into ePub format. You can also directly upload the ePub file, if you already have it in that format. Kobo does not require exclusivity.  Kobo Writing Life has different royalty rates depending on your selling price.

Lulu began as a self-publishing printing service, but it now offers online self-publishing as well. This makes it a good choice if you want both an eBook and print format. Lulu offers free conversion to EPUB format. You can also use any number of Lulu’s paid services, from design, editing, or marketing support. You can also choose to add the Adobe DRM system to your eBook through Lulu.

BookBaby offers no free options, but does have different conversion services that you can choose from. The basic service will hand-convert your .doc file, so you will need to provide a quality edited and proofed manuscript, but not to the same rigorous standards as one that is automatically converted. BookBaby charges no commission of your work, but requires that you pay an administrative fee if you use their distribution services. You will receive 100% of the income from the sales if you use BookBaby.

Kindle Direct Publishing can convert .doc, PDF, EPUB, and many other formats into Kindle eBooks. You can use this service to preview what your work will look like and edit it as much as you see fit. Kindle Direct Publishing has different royalty rates depending on the price point of your book. After uploading, your book will appear on Amazon within 24 hours.