How to Create and Distribute Ebooks for Profit

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Readers expect shorter books to be priced cheaper. With fiction and some creative nonfiction e. The word generally is important here because some retailers, like Amazon, attract bargain hunters, while others e.

Kindle eBooks

Longer books should almost always be priced higher. After all, it takes more time and money to write, edit, and publish a longer book, and you should be compensated accordingly.

Just keep in mind that going too high as a debut author might mean fewer people take a chance on you. Search for books in your genre and compare ebook prices. How much other authors are charging for their ebooks can narrow the choice for your ebook. If you price too low, people might think your book is subpar. If the price is too high, people might not take the leap. Smashwords also has deals in place for having its authors' e-books distributed to libraries.

As for the Kindle, well, Smashwords says it's still waiting for Amazon to update its KDP intake systems so it automatically can ingest Smashwords titles as other retailers do the or so titles that Smashwords has loaded into KDP have been loaded manually. Amazon encourages authors to upload directly through KDP, so I wouldn't count on this happening anytime soon. Smashwords offers a free style guide for formatting your e-book. Although Smashwords encourages authors to keep things simple, you can still create a professional-quality e-book with Smashwords that includes a linked table of contents, NCX navigation, and custom paragraph styling.

A couple of years ago, I created an acceptable-looking e-book in about 30 minutes after making some tweaks usually they involve spacing between chapter breaks and reprocessing my file three times. If you follow Smashwords' guidelines, you can end up with a professional-quality "reflowable" e-book that looks as good as what many of the big publishers are putting out and reads well on any screen size. Smashwords prides itself on not charging you for creating your e-book and taking only a small cut of author's royalties see Smashwords' overview. Though the cut is small, it's still a cut, but that's the price you're paying for the convenience of having your book distributed on a wide array of platforms and having Smashwords track your sales.

Coker has chided me a bit for disparaging the middleman. He's quick to point out that a good middleman partner distributor saves you time, helps you reach retailers you can't reach, and helps you centrally and efficiently manage distribution and metadata updates change your price or book cover and the change propagates out to all retailers.

Self-Publishing

I'm not going to get into a full on discussion of ISBN, which is "a unique identifier" associated with your e-book, but most companies provide a free ISBN for your e-book or roll the price up into a package. Smashwords has a good quick guide to e-book ISBNs that you should take a look at. Some distributors are more transparent than others about disclosing exactly what cut they take from your sales.

Easy Setup

Smashwords considers itself especially transparent. As soon as you upload your book, you get a dynamic pie chart that estimates how the pie is split at each price point across the different sales channels. Smashwords operates its own e-book store, where authors earn 85 percent of the net sale what's left after credit card fees are deducted.

That works out to between 60 and 80 percent of the list price, depending on the book's price for more info on author earnings and payment schedules, see Smashwords' FAQ. The cuts work essentially the same for overseas sales, though in countries that impose VAT taxes, the VAT often comes out of the purchase price before the percentages are applied. As far as international sales go, Coker says they're growing rapidly. Coker says that 45 percent of its Apple iBookstore sales are from outside the U. He predicts that the market outside the U. Indie book growth is slowing in the U.

BookBaby BookBaby , the sibling of CD Baby Brian Felsen is the president of both operations , has a slightly different business model from some of its competitors. It also offers print publishing services. I haven't used BookBaby but I spoke to a customer service representative at length and was impressed with her responses. When I asked about what advantages BookBaby had over Smashwords, she didn't knock her competitor. Smashwords' Coker concurs and told me that he's sent people who wanted more hand-holding to BookBaby.

Of course, you'll have to pay a bit more to get that hand-holding. BookBaby offers distribution with all the major e-book sellers see list here and offers an Author's Accounting Dashboard to track and analyze sales data. In all, BookBaby seems like one of the better indie e-book operations out there. But if you sell a lot, you'll quickly recoup your investment. Lulu When you publish a print book at Lulu -- and a lot of people do -- you also have the option of just publishing an e-book. Lulu e-books are distributed to Apple's iBookstore, Lulu.

The main benefit Lulu offers in the e-book realm is that it's one of the designated aggregators for Apple's iBookstore.

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It appears that Lulu doesn't charge you anything to create an e-book it offers an EPUB conversion tool and eBook Creator Guide , but like some competitors it offers fee-based premium services. Lulu has greatly improved its royalty terms in last 18 months. That's good. It's hard to say what advantages Lulu has over competitors like Smashwords but at least the royalty rates appear to be the same.

Weirdly, I found the Lulu Web site to be straightforward yet convoluted at the same time. For instance, I couldn't figure out whether Lulu distributes your e-book to any retailers beyond Lulu. From what I saw on the site, it appears they don't. Click here to check out Lulu's e-book creation options. Author Solutions , one of the largest self-publishers in the U. Whether Booktango should be called an "e-book generating app" or "self-publishing platform" is hard to say, but it basically provides a free and simple way to upload your manuscript, edit it for proper formatting, then automatically serve it up to various e-book stores, including Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks.

On the surface, Booktango, which bears the "beta" tag, looks fairly slick and should improve as the company adds more features. The ability to have WYSIWYG formatting capabilities is nice even on the iPad and you can either upload a cover image of your own choosing or design one using some provided templates. All in all, it looks like a perfectly decent way to get your e-book formatted and distributed to all the major e-book stores quickly.

Like its competitors, Booktango also manages your e-book sales -- it rolls them all up into one account -- and you can have your royalties sent directly to your checking account. Booktango is free to use, but the company is working off a freemium model and provides additional fee-based services , such as copy editing, custom cover design, and marketing packages.

Booktango's Web site advertises a " percent royalty," which is misleading considering you get that rate only from the e-books you sell on the Booktango Web site and Booktango charges a fee for each book you sell 30 percent of the list price -- the same as Amazon. For other outlets, Booktango takes 10 percent of your net profits, resulting in a "90 percent royalty," which is also misleading because the net profit in its sample royalty rates seems smaller than it should be.

Honestly, Booktango's royalty rates don't look too good and can't match its competitors' rates. However, in an effort to attract authors Booktango is offering a true percent royalty rate until July 4. And the Web site says that if you publish an e-book with Booktango by July 4, you'll retain that percent rate for the life of that book. That means if you make a sale through Booktango's e-book store, you'll get the full amount of the sale I'm not sure if credit card fees are deducted or not.

You'll also get the full percent net of the sale when selling through other e-booksellers Apple, Amazon, and others will take their 30 percent cut, of course. Since the service is so new I can't vouch for it, but Booktango's limited-time percent royalty offer certainly has some appeal.

How to become an ebook superstar

Smashwords turns traditional authorship, publishing and pricing models upside down. When costs to the reader drop, there is a fundamental change to the demand side of the equation. Does Smashwords require exclusive publishing contracts? We think exclusivity is a bad idea. All author contracts with Smashwords are non-exclusive. We are your publishing platform and distributor. You the author or publisher are the publisher, and you retain all ownership rights to your works.

You are free to publish your work elsewhere if you choose. Authors and publishers can remove their works from Smashwords at any time although they cannot take back works that have already been purchased or sampled by readers. If I publish first with Smashwords, will my "First Publishing Rights" become less valuable to a publisher? Although this was a common concern a decade ago, it's less of a concern today.

Traditional commercial publishers have warmed to independently published authors, especially if those authors have established a strong sales record. Many Smashwords authors achieved high sales with Smashwords then sold their books to big NY publishing houses. Just as many of our bestsellers have refused to sell their books to large publishers because these author prefer to publish independently. Most Smashwords authors believe it's better to get their work out there now for readers to start discovering than to allow their books to languish in obscurity, unpublished, as they wait for a publisher to publish it.

An increasing number of Smashwords authors don't even bother pitching their books to NY publishers. I f Smashwords publishes all authors and publishers, how do you maintain quality? Our mission is to give every author and publisher a chance to find their audience. At Smashwords, every author or publisher who honors our Terms of Service has a right to publish, and it's up to readers to decide what's worth reading.

Readers are the new curators. Because we publish everyone, it means we publish brilliant up-and-coming writers who haven't yet been discovered, and we'll also publish works of lesser quality. The authors who write reader-pleasing books bubble up to the top and build audiences. Where can I learn about some of the successful authors on Smashwords? With over , authors at Smashwords, we represent most of the world's most successful indie authors.

Over at the Smashwords Blog, you can find interviews with many of them. Also check out our free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success , where we identify the best practices of the most successful Smashwords authors. Or, browse Smashwords Interviews , where you can read interviews of thousands of Smashwords authors. W hat does it cost to publish on Smashwords? It's free to publish on Smashwords. There are no hidden fees. No listing fees, no setup fees, no change fees and no conversion fees.

We earn our income by taking a small commission on all net sales. Smashwords is a place for complete, finished books that are ready for publication. Numerous other web sites offer communities where writers can critique each other's partially written works. However, at the end of a complete book it's perfectly fine to include samplers of your other work. Can I publish public domain books on Smashwords?

You must be the original author of the work, or the exclusive electronic publisher or distributor of the work. Smashwords is for professional authors and publishers only. We do not publish books that appear elsewhere on the Internet under other people's names, or books that come from private label subscription services aka Private Label Rights or PLR that allow people to distribute generic content under their own name please don't throw your money away on these scam services! We're also wary of many Internet marketing-related books that promise the reader simple "systems" for making money on the Internet, especially if the books advocate get rich quick schemes or sneaky methods designed to trick search engines.

If your book is nothing but an advertisement, we will remove it and close the account. Bottom line, your Smashwords book must be legal and original, and you must either be the original author or the exclusive publisher. I've been offered a book deal with a big mainstream print publisher. Should I take it? This is your personal call. For most authors, if a publisher offers you a six figure advance and this is rare for any author , you'd be foolish not to give it serious consideration.

However, if they're only offering you a couple thousand dollars, or no advance at all, and they don't allow you to retain your digital publishing rights, and they're not going to commit significant resources to your book, then, well, we think the correct decision is obvious. If you choose to sell your rights to a publisher, choose a reputable publisher with a track record of success. A reputatable publisher will pay you up front for your rights. A good literary agent can help you navigate publisher negotiations and avoid the sharks.

A literary agent is offering me representation. What do you think about literary agents? We love literary agents. A good literary agent acts as your business manager. They'll help you maximize the commercial potential of your work. To learn more about literary agents, check out the Association of Author's Representatives. Read their canon of ethics , because it provides a good filter through which to evaluate a potential agent.

If an "agent" charges a reading fee, avoid them.


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Many reputable literary agents are big supporters of self-publishing, and an increasing number of them are helping their authors publish on Smashwords. I 'm a book reviewer and want to review a Smashwords book. How do I obtain a free review copy?


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If you're a reviewer for a newspaper, magazine or blog, please click the "Support" link at the bottom of any page, and provide a hyperlink to your most recent review and let us know which author and book you want to review. We will coordinate it for you. Or, visit the author's blog or website and request a Smashwords Coupon so you can download the book for free. H ow does Smashwords work with traditional book publishers and university presses?

Smashwords welcomes large and independent presses alike to list DRM-free ebooks of all their titles with us. Smashwords offers special accounts for publishers that make it easy for publishers to centrally manage the ebook publishing and distribution for all their authors from a single console. Click here to learn if you qualify for a free upgrade to Publisher status. Why should a publisher work with Smashwords? Smashwords works with thousands of small independent presses.

Smashwords makes it easy for you to publish and distribute your catalog. With Smashwords, publishers have no inventory, no shipping expenses and no returns. Like authors, publishers can increase sales volume and profits by selling their books for lower prices. Does Smashwords publish only self-published authors whose works are not owned by a publisher? We welcome the opportunity to publish self-published authors, unpublished authors, authors of out-of-print books for whom the rights have reverted, and authors under contract with big-name publishers. If you own the digital publishing rights to your works, we want to publish you.

I'm an agent, and I rep many authors, many of whom control the digital rights to their out of print books. How can I list my clients' works with Smashwords? Smashwords offers a service designed for literary agents. Learn more at the How to Publish and Distribute with Smashwords page. We hate piracy, but we think DRM is counterproductive because it treats lawful customers like criminals. Consumers value non-DRMed content and there's a growing body of evidence that digital content producers who have abandoned DRM are enjoying greater sales.

Many buyers of ebooks resent DRM because it limits their ability to fully own and enjoy their digital book. At Smashwords, we only publish DRM-free works.

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