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Publishing Your Book

Introduction

This quick guide does not presume to explain how to write a book from start to finish; rather, it delves into some technical aspects that often get overlooked during the writing and publishing process. This guide takes into account the new publishing landscape that focuses on the importance of online retailers and POD (Print-on-Demand). We hope that it is useful for you.


Word-Processing Programs for Your Book

Finding a good word processing program that you are comfortable with is critical for any author. Most authors are not overly concerned with the formatting during writing, since writing is a creative process rather than a technical one. Most manuscripts BB eBooks receives are totally unformatted, even New York Times best sellers, which is just fine. Microsoft Word is still ubiquitous in office culture and often a tool of choice for writing a book since most people are familiar with it. However, there are other options, including free ones. For those looking for a good word processing program to start their manuscript, here are some suggestions:

  • Microsoft Word – Still the most widely used word processor [PC and Mac]
  • Libre Office – Open-source software, so Free! [PC, Mac, and Linux]
  • Scrivener – An inexpensive word processor designed for writers [PC and Mac]
  • Pages – [Mac Only]

Microsoft Word developed the .docx format in 2007, and this is a very common format for manuscripts. Prior to 2007, Microsoft Word used the .doc format. Many word-processing programs support exporting to these formats. If not, the older format developed by Microsoft in the 1980s, .rtf, works well too and is common. We do not recommend that your manuscript use the .txt format, as it does not support italics, bold, underline, and other in-line formatting.

Structuring Your Book

Prior to sending your manuscript for formatting, it is recommended that you lay out your manuscript in a logical fashion. During the writing and editing process, thinking of the book in technical terms as one cohesive document often gets overlooked. Additionally, your book is the perfect place to speak to your readers about your other work. Do not pass up the opportunity to add promotional content in the front and/or back matter.

Please do not forget to peruse our Best Practices Guide for Authors: Front Matter, Back Matter, and Metadata for an in-depth discussion of this topic.

Below is a recommended structure for fiction books:

Some writers may find it strange that there is a Table of Contents in an eBook. But, it is important because it allows the reader to easily navigate through the eBook. A Table of Contents is also required at all major online retailers. For BB eBooks’ clients, we create a Table of Contents at no-cost if you do not have one. For print editions, it is generally recommended not to have a Table of Contents for novels because it is unnecessary and may seem too scholarly for an enjoyable read. Also, you should load up extra material at the end of your manuscript for the eBook. The reason for this is that the sampling process at most eBook stores only allows the potential reader to see the first 10% of the eBook. If all the reader can see is a bunch of front matter in the sample, they may not be interested in purchasing your book.

Below is a recommended structure for non-fiction eBooks:

  • Cover
  • Blurb
  • Reviews/Praise (if any)
  • Title Page
  • Frontispiece (if any)
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication (if any)
  • Epigraph (if any)
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments (if any)
  • Foreword (if any)
  • Preface
  • Epigraph
  • Content (Prologue / Chapters / Sections / Epilogue)
  • Appendices
  • Endnotes (usually headed as Notes, alternatively you can include the footnotes at the end of each applicable chapter)
  • Glossary (if any)
  • Bibliography (if any)
  • Index (if any)
  • Excerpts and Links to Other Work
  • About the Author
  • Colophon (if any, and usually on the Copyright Page for modern works)
  • Back Cover

The logic of putting promotional material in the back of the eBook is once again due to the sampling constraints at most eBook stores. You will also notice that footnotes have their own section, which may seem unusual for authors of print books. This is actually due to technical considerations. It is best to have a separate section that can provide cross-references between the content and the Notes section. Putting footnotes at the bottom of an eBook page is not possible at this time, since there really isn’t a fixed bottom of the page. Please note that a Table of Contents is critical for both eBooks and print editions, since people generally read non-fiction for work- or academic-related reasons rather than casually.


Cover, Image, and Font Assets

The Book’s Cover

The old adage that a book is “judged” by its cover continues to hold true in the modern world—especially when there are several million books in circulation on Amazon. Please note that your cover will show up as tiny thumbnail, among other tiny thumbnails, on the online retailer’s page. Therefore, it is critical to have the proper design to make your cover unique:

  • the title and author name on the cover should be in a large font
  • the image on the front of the cover should really stand out
  • small text is to be avoided for eBook covers (however, small text is okay on the back cover for print)

Hire a professional cover designer for your book. BB eBooks is happy to refer some to you. However, cover designers are in very high demand at the moment, so it may be challenging to get a slot. If you would like to make your own cover, or even if you would like to make graphics for the interior of your book or for promotional purposes, the following programs are recommended:

  • Adobe Photoshop – the industry standard [PC and Mac]
  • GIMP – the open source alternative to Photoshop, so Free! [PC, Mac, and Linux]

eBook covers should be in the RGB color space. The dimensions of the eBook cover vary by retailer (see below), but if you have a cover that is 2400px in height and between 1.3:1–1.6:1 height/width ratio, that will work great at all retailers. eBook covers should be in the JPG format and 300 dpi. The online retailers specify the following specs for uploading the cover. Please note that even though the cover must be embedded in the eBook, the “marketing” cover must be uploaded separately at all online retailers.

  • Amazon Kindle Store – Minimum of 1000px on the longest side and a height/width ratio of 1.6:1. (1563x2500px recommended by BB eBooks)
  • Barnes & Noble Nook Store – Between 5KB and 2MB and the sides must be at least 750px in length. (1600x2400px recommended by BB eBooks)
  • Kobo – Should be no larger than 2MB. (1600x2400px recommended by BB eBooks)
  • Google Play – No guidelines. (1600x2400px recommended by BB eBooks)
  • iBookstore – Minimum width of 1400px. (1600x2400px recommended by BB eBooks)
  • All Romance Ebooks200x300px for marketing cover only [embedded cover should have normal specs]. (200x300px recommended by BB eBooks)
  • Draft2Digital – “A tall rectangle” at 1600x2400px. (1600x2400px recommended by BB eBooks)
  • Smashwords – Minimum width of 1400px and height should be 1.3-1.65 times greater than width (1600x2400px recommended by BB eBooks)

Print covers can be in either the RGB or CMYK color spaces for CreateSpace, but must be in the CMYK color space for Lightning Source / Ingram Spark. Print covers should be in the PDF format at 300 dpi. It is advised to use the cover template generators to make the back cover / spine / front cover for the print edition. You can access the cover template generators at the following links. Please note the trim, page count, and paper type:

Image Assets

If you need stock photos or vectors, there are a wide variety of websites that supply these for graphic designers. Please make sure you review all legalities and that the images are licensed to use for commercial works. Here are some great sites (both free and paid) for images:

Font Assets

Well-selected fonts are crucial to the design of the cover and promotional graphics. They also work great for the interior of your eBook and print edition, particularly for chapter headings and dingbats. Some fonts falls under the SIL Open Font License [OFL], and you may use those for eBooks and print at no charge. However, commercial fonts require a license that may be expensive. Please note that the font licenses for eBooks and the licenses for print/graphics are often different, since eBooks must have the font actually embedded within the EPUB or MOBI package. BB eBooks generally recommends using open-license fonts for eBooks due to the complex legalities. Below are some great resources for both open-license and commercial fonts:

Please note that it is strongly advised not to use fonts that are common to Microsoft Office applications (e.g., Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, etc.) for novels. People read novels to escape from reality, and generally do not want to see the same font that’s used for an office memo.


Creating Your eBooks and Print Edition

This is primarily the reason BB eBooks exists, but we’re happy to share some information if you are interested in DIY formatting. eBook formatting is done with XHTML, CSS, and XML. There is some software on the market that can help with the process of packaging an eBook correctly. BB eBooks has more information on how all the coding works at our Developers page. We recommend that you learn how to code if you are interested in making your own eBooks. The two basic formats are EPUB2 and MOBI/KF8. EPUB3 was supposed to be the new format; unfortunately, there is very poor adoption by reading systems of this specification. Here is some software that is both free and paid:

  • Sigil [Open-source]
  • Jutoh [Inexpensive and used by many pro formatters]
  • Vellum [Mac-only and used by many indie authors]

For print formatting, everything is still done in the PDF format, which was originally developed by Adobe but later open sourced. The current standard for Desktop Publishing (DTP) Software is Adobe’s InDesign, which is expensive and complex. There is an open-source alternative called Scribus. Many indie authors still use Microsoft Word to make print editions, and it does work okay for novels without complex formatting. Joel Friedlander’s Book Design Templates are good to use in conjunction with Microsoft Word and not expensive.

Review Your eBooks and Print Edition

There are many options to review EPUB and MOBI eBooks, but we recommend using Adobe Digital Editions for EPUB. The reason being is that Adobe played a large part in crafting the EPUB specification and many EPUB reading systems are based on their software. If you have an EPUB3, the Readium plugin for Chrome was developed by the same organization that created the EPUB3 specification, and it is good for testing purposes. For MOBI/KF8, Amazon provides a program to preview how the eBook will look on a wide variety of reading devices and apps related to the Amazon ecosystem. We recommend not using the online Kindle previewer when you publish at KDP, because it has numerous bugs, especially with embedded fonts and images. The following software is all free and available for PC and Mac:

Sideloading

If you would like to read your EPUB and MOBI on your device or app, we typically do not recommend this for publishing purposes. Additionally, the retailers make it difficult to load EPUB and MOBI eBooks onto your device since they only want you buying these books from within their ecosystem. However, it is possible to copy EPUB and MOBI eBooks onto your device (a.k.a. “sideloading”). Below is a quick step-by-step walkthrough for the major devices:

Adobe Digital Editions for PC or Mac (EPUB)

  1. Go to the Adobe Digital Editions website
  2. Download and install
  3. Click File > Add to Library and open the EPUB on your computer

Readium for Google Chrome (EPUB, EPUB3)

  1. Sign into your Google account in Google Chrome
  2. Go to the Readium website
  3. Click on the button that says Install From Chrome Web Store
  4. Click Add
  5. Open a new window (Ctrl+N) or new tab (Ctrl+T)
  6. Click on the Readium icon
  7. Click on Add a new ePUB in the upper right
  8. Click on Choose Files in the From Local File section

Calibre for PC, Mac, or Linux (EPUB, MOBI)

  1. Go to the Calibre website
  2. Download and install
  3. Click on the Add Books icon in the upper left
  4. Open your EPUB or MOBI eBook from your computer
  5. Click on your preferred eBook format under Format on the right sidebar

Kindle Fire / Kindle eReaders (MOBI)

Please note: there is additional information for Kindle Fire and Kindle eReaders at the Amazon website.

  1. Connect your Kindle to your computer via USB
  2. Open the Kindle drive
  3. Copy the MOBI eBook into the Books folder for Kindle Fire or documents for Kindle e-ink readers
  4. Safely eject your Kindle from your computer
  5. Open your Kindle library and your MOBI eBook will be there

Kindle for PC (MOBI)

  1. Go to Amazon’s Kindle for PC website
  2. Download and install
  3. Set up an email and password when on you first sign in
  4. Double-click on icon of MOBI on your computer
  5. Your MOBI eBook will be added to your library

Android Smartphone/Tablet (EPUB, MOBI)

EPUB
  1. Download Google Play Books (recommended) or Mantano Reader; Moon+ Reader is not bad either; do not use FB Reader
  2. Click on the EPUB icon in your mail attachment
  3. Choose the app you would like to use and open your EPUB eBook
MOBI
  1. Download the Kindle for Android app from Google Play
  2. Download File Expert HD App from Google Play
  3. Copy the MOBI attachment from your email into your SD Card > Kindle directory
  4. Open the Kindle for Android app
  5. MOBI eBook will appear in your Kindle library

iPad/iPhone (EPUB, EPUB3, MOBI)

EPUB/EPUB3
  1. Install iBooks from the app store (if not already installed)
  2. Open your mail app
  3. Click on the EPUB icon in the mail attachment
  4. iBooks will open up with your new eBook

Alternatively, you can copy the EPUB file through iTunes onto your device.

MOBI
  1. Install the Kindle for iOS app from the app store
  2. Open your mail app
  3. Click on the MOBI icon in the mail attachment
  4. Kindle for iOS app will open with your new eBook (note: advanced features like font embedding will not work)

Nook eReader/Tablet (EPUB)

  1. Connect your Nook to your computer with your micro-USB cable
  2. Open the Nook device and go to My Files > Books
  3. Safely eject your Nook from your computer
  4. The EPUB will appear in your library

Nook for PC (EPUB)

  1. Go to the Nook for PC website
  2. Download and install
  3. When first opening software, set up an email and password
  4. Click on My Library > My Stuff (note: expand length of window if you can’t see My Stuff)
  5. Open the EPUB eBook from your computer

Kobo and Sony eReaders (EPUB)

Please note: additional information is available at the Kobo website.

  1. Download and install Adobe Digital Editions
  2. Connect your Kobo or Sony eReader to your computer with the USB cable
  3. Following the instructions to authorize your device
  4. Click File > Add to Library and open the EPUB on your computer
  5. Drag the EPUB icon onto the icon that represents your eReader
  6. Safely eject your eReader from your computer

Alternatively, you can copy your EPUB to the root directory of your Kobo via the USB cable.


Setting Up Your Publishing Accounts

Signing up as a publisher at the eBook and Print-on-Demand retailers is a breeze if you have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Social Security Number. For non-American citizens, it is important to apply early for an ITIN if you do not have one because it can take a few months to process. Not having an ITIN may prevent you from establishing publishing accounts at the retailers—almost all are US-based and are governed by complex tax requirements. Some online retailers like the iBookstore require that you own a Mac. Nook Press requires you to have an American bank account. As a workaround, you can consider using an aggregator service that distributes your eBooks to the iBookstore, Nook, and elsewhere. Below are the major online retailers for eBooks, print, and the two most popular aggregators:

Major Online Retailers

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

  • Requirements to Sign Up: SSN or ITIN (non-US citizens may have portions of their royalties withheld)
  • Pricing/Royalties: 70% for $2.99 to $9.99 (inclusive) and 35% for less than $2.99 or higher than $9.99. Delivery fees apply on the 70% royalty, so BB eBooks ensures your eBooks are as small in file size as possible
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Approximately 24 hours
  • Format: MOBI/KF8
  • Royalty Payments: Direct deposit to US bank account or via check
  • ISBN: Not required
  • Pros: The biggest eBook store in the world (at least 70% world-wide market share)
  • Cons: No data on who is buying your eBook

Barnes & Noble Nook Press

  • Requirements to Sign Up: Must be from US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, or Belgium
  • Pricing/Royalties: 65% for $2.99 or higher and 40% for less than $2.99
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Approximately 48 hours
  • Format: EPUB
  • Royalty Payments: Direct deposit
  • ISBN: Not required
  • Pros: Strong US female readership
  • Cons: Low market share compared to Amazon; Nook Press does not get you into the actual Barnes & Noble bookstore chain; will probably be going out of business in the near future

iBookstore

  • Requirements to Sign Up: SSN or ITIN, must own a Mac and procure an Apple ID
  • Pricing/Royalties: 70% and price must end in “.99”
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Slow (more than a week)
  • Format: EPUB
  • Royalty Payments: Direct deposit to bank account
  • ISBN: Not required
  • Pros: All the cool kids love Apple
  • Cons: Have to own a Mac and go through an arduous approval process

Kobo Writing Life

  • Requirements to Sign Up: Must have a bank account
  • Pricing/Royalties: 70% for $1.99 or higher, and 45% otherwise (VAT may apply for sales in some countries)
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Immediate
  • Format: EPUB
  • Royalty Payments: Direct deposit to bank account (must have a minimum of $100)
  • ISBN: Not required (Kobo will assign for you)
  • Pros: Strong presence outside the United States and a true EPUB eBook store
  • Cons: Poor technical documentation, small market share, and may unexpectedly remove erotica books from their catalog (see BB eBooks’ press release)

Google Play Book Partners

  • Requirements to Sign Up: Google account and bank account (note: Google Play Book Partners has been closed to new signups since early 2015 due to numerous issues)
  • Pricing/Royalties: Unclear, but seems to be around 50% of the list price
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Approximately 24–48 hours
  • Format: EPUB and PDF
  • Royalty Payments: Direct deposit to bank account
  • ISBN: Not required
  • Pros: Might be the only competition to Amazon in the future; huge worldwide presence
  • Cons: Horrible user interface and major problems with pirated eBooks being sold

All Romance Ebooks

  • Requirements to Sign Up: Bank account
  • Pricing/Royalties: 60% of the list price
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Approximately 24–48 hours
  • Format: EPUB, MOBI, and PDF
  • Royalty Payments: Direct deposit to bank account
  • ISBN: Not required
  • Pros: Niche website that caters exclusively to romance lovers
  • Cons: Tiny market share and no dedicated apps/devices like the major online retailers

Aggregators

Draft2Digital

  • Requirements to Sign Up: SSN or ITIN
  • Pricing/Royalties: 85% for net royalties on retailers distributed to (includes Nook, Kobo, iBookstore, and CreateSpace)
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Within a week at most retailers
  • Format: EPUB (recommended); .doc or .docx (not recommended)
  • Royalty Payments: check, PayPal, or direct deposit
  • ISBN: Not required
  • Pros: Much easier to work with than Smashwords; faster time to be published at the major retailers
  • Cons: No ISBN assigned; automated conversion process from Word document into eBooks is faulty (you can upload an EPUB directly though)

Smashwords

  • Requirements to Sign Up: SSN or ITIN
  • Pricing/Royalties: 85% for net sales on Smashwords and 60% through retail partners (iBookstore, Nook, etc.); prices can be free or anything ending in “.99”
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Immediately on Smashwords and about one week to get into the Premium Catalog
  • Format: EPUB (recommended) / .doc (not recommended)
  • Royalty Payments: Check (US only) or PayPal
  • ISBN: Required (but they can assign you one for free)
  • Pros: Allows you access to hard-to-reach stores like the iBookstore and many others
  • Cons: Lose some of your royalties when you go through Smashwords rather than directly to the eBook platforms; technical requirements are egregious and confusing (BB eBooks can help though!)

Print-on-Demand

CreateSpace

  • Requirements to Sign Up: SSN or ITIN
  • Pricing/Royalties: Depends on a number of factors; you can visit their website and click “Distribution and Royalties” for details
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: Approximately 24 hours; 5 days to Amazon
  • Format: PDF
  • Royalty Payments: Direct Deposit to Bank Account for US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands or a Check
  • ISBN: Required, but CreateSpace can provide one for free
  • Pros: Easiest way to get your book into print and on Amazon for mail order
  • Cons: Color interiors not as good quality as Lightning Source; no hardcover option

Lightning Source (Print-on-Demand / Offset Printing)

  • Requirements to Sign Up: Signup fee and $12 per book per year to keep in catalog
  • Pricing/Royalties: Depends on a number of factors and is more expensive than CreateSpace
  • Turnaround Time from Upload to Publishing: A few days
  • Format: PDF
  • Royalty Payments: Direct deposit / check
  • ISBN: Required
  • Pros: High-quality prints that are ideal for small and large publishers
  • Cons: Difficult website to navigate; lower royalties than CreateSpace

Publishing Your Book

Below are step-by-step tutorials for how to publish your eBook or print book for a large number of online retailers:

Please note, when you publish your eBook, you will need to upload a cover separately (referred to as the “Marketing Cover”). This is what is shown on your product page, even though BB eBooks already embeds a cover in your eBooks. For the specs on covers, please consult here.

Pricing Your Book

There is a lot of debate on how you should price your eBook and you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with different price points to see what works for you. Dean Wesley Smith has some good advice on how to price your book, and he advises to not go too low. The $0.99 price for a self-published novel was popular for some time in 2010 and 2011, but the novelty has worn off (with the exception of box sets, which still do well at $0.99).

For small presses and indie authors, BB eBooks suggests the following prices:

  • Short Story eBook: $0.99
  • Novella eBook: $2.99
  • Novel/Anthology eBook: $3.99–$4.99
  • Non-Fiction: $5.99
  • Fiction Paperback: $13.99
  • Non-Fiction Paperback: $24.99