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How to Publish an E-Book: the Ultimate Guide

Your definitive guide to formatting, uploading and publishing your long-form journalism as an e-book to the various digital marketplaces.

Congratulations! Your baby has gestated through conception, reporting, writing, structure and editing and now needs to come into the world. 

You have also commissioned, paid for, and received in J-peg format an eye-catching cover from a professional designer (everyone recommends this).

The hardest work is already done. For the luddites and technically-challenged (like me) it helps to have a helping hand – or at least a read-through of what fiddly stuff is next to help you get it up on various e-book platforms. 

Self-publishing an e-book can be particularly useful for:
 

  • publishing only in an e-book format
     
  • those who have already published one or more physical books with a mainstream publisher but who own electronic rights that have never been exploited as an e-book
     
  • previously-published authors who have not had a worldwide audience to date, but access only to readers limited by their previous publisher’s region or language

 How to publish your long-form journalism as an e-book.

These situations may apply, generally, to published authors whose physical book contracts were negotiated before about 2008/9 when the e-book world began its surge. (Check your older contracts.)

Your older book may still have relevance out there, particularly those that have been out of print for a while.

In my case having published one e-book successfully, I intend making available electronically my first book, Cannibals, Cows & the CJD Catastrophe. This was published by Random House Australia in 1998, but only in Australia and New Zealand. Due to its age all rights have since reverted to me. But I always had the electronic rights. Although long out of print, there is still occasional demand for copies at relevant annual conferences.

Thanks to the rise of e-book self-publishing I find myself in a great position to make any or all of my previous titles available again either as an e-book, a physical book, or both.

Another plus is that the deadline is not dictated by a publisher – only me. 

Platforms and formats

how to publish an e-bookThe three biggest e-book platforms for anyone’s purposes are currently Amazon’s KindleiBooks for iPads and other Apple devices, and the Barnes & Noble (B&N) ereader, the Nook.

They are all headquartered in the United States and sell worldwide. B&N alone, however, has recently begun selling in Great Britain, its only market outside the US.

Thus all the set up is geared around the rules and regulations of the US jurisdiction.

After the big three there are other platform options. These include the Kobo eReader and the latest version of the Sony Reader. For now, try the big three and see if your new confidence as a self-publisher spurs you on.

Of course, just to make life difficult, there are differences between them. Nook, iBooks, Kobo and Sony Reader publish from the ePub format; Kindle from the Mobi format.

Your book is most easily converted from a Word document or PDF into both of those formats.

And your e-book cover might be required in several different sizes.

IMPORTANT TIPYou cannot self-publish into the iBookstore without an Apple Mac computer. I found it easier to upload to all three major platforms using a Mac consecutively. If you don’t have a Mac you might consider borrowing a Mac laptop or using a professional ebook converter to load your book onto the iBookstore marketplace.

It is also best to have an ISBN for your iBook if you haven’t already bought a unique ISBN for your e-book on other platforms, or a block of them, from Bowker or Thorpe-Bowker or others including this UK provider Nielsen.

An ISBN is not compulsory for Amazon or B&N publications but it is recommended.

Step 1 in publishing an e-book: Formatting

How to publish your journalism as an e-bookThere are several options regarding manuscript formatting.

1. Do it yourself. A good guide for the tricky little (and big) things to avoid or overcome is US horror writer Guido Henkel’s informative and detailed nine-part series, Take pride in your e-book formatting.

Alternatively, Amazon, B&N and Apple all have their own guides which are available when you set up with each platform. Or you can try the mobi format yourself with the Mobipocket eBook creator guide here.

2. Pay someone else to do it This is the easier path – short of palming off the whole headache onto a mainstream publisher (if you have one) – that will return perhaps 60% of the gross earnings to the author. If your book is priced at $9.99 or less that is not very much. B&N provide a list of a few outfits including this.

Your choices for formatting your e-book:
  • Aggregators.

Apple’s iBooks recommends several aggregators: Smashwords and Ingram in the US and Bookwire in Europe, which take all the hard work out for you.  But, just like publishers take a huge earnings chunk, aggregators are paid from your continuing earnings.

  • E-book conversion experts.

There are lots out there in cyberspace. Unless you want to learn the ins and outs of HTML language, use one of these. There is no need for a bad Amazon review due to nothing other than bad DIY formatting, or annoying spelling or grammatical errors.

My Fatal Honeymoon Dive co-author and I were happy with the services of Brian Schwartz at Kindleexpert.com who charged US$379 for e-book layout and conversion, a one-time upfront payment. He, like Guido Henkel and others in cyberspace, also create and link to the all-important Table of Contents.

As added extras they provide other services in relation to e-book set up and uploading should you want it done in a hurry and not want the bother of doing it yourself.

And then there is the print-on-demand option offered for those who are publishing an e-book from scratch but also want a physical book to sell to readers who prefer paper pages.

Previewing the e-book

How to publish your journalism as an e-book.Once we had sent our manuscript to KindleExpert.com in a Word document, the book in both mobi and ePub format came back via email within about four days. However, it can take up to 14 days depending on workload. Other converters can take up to a month or more depending on the complexity of what is wanted, e.g.: pictures, tables, indexing and other enhanced features. 

My co-author and I again read through our already many-times read manuscript – which was now able to be previewed in the formats readers would see it.

Download the Kindle Previewer for the .mobi file for viewing on a PC or Mac computer if you don’t yet have a Kindle device.  Find it under the Kindle Previewer (ignore kindlegen). And for any ePub file go to Adobe Digital Editions.

On our last read through of the formatted Kindle file we found the usual literals and small errors that miraculously jump out that didn’t before. This is quite common but worth correcting for the best possible product to upload. Schwartz was happy to correct our little errors [I sent him 11 pages of instructions so he could do quick searches and clearly see the problem words or sentences] for an extra $85 – his hourly fee. When a few more little kinks were spotted afterwards in those corrections – he fixed them in a few minutes over the phone as a goodwill ad on, for which we were grateful. Schwartz is quick and professional and, best of all, sympathetic and not patronizing to luddites flailing around in the new Kindle/Nook/iPad world of e-book self-publishing. No doubt others are the same.

Now that you have your e-book ready in its correct digital format, the next step is uploading it to the various publishing platforms and stores.

So your work of long-form journalism is nicely formatted for the various e-book platforms. Take the next step: setting up accounts with the publishers.

> Part One: Formatting and previewing your e-book
> Part Three: Publishing your e-book live 

In our previous part of this definitive guide to publishing your long-form journalism as an e-book, we walked through the steps necessary to prepare your work in the appropriate format for your digital publishing platforms and shopfronts.

The next step is establishing accounts with these various e-book platforms and stores. 

Step 2 in publishing an e-book: Set up accounts with the publishers

Your book is formatted, hopefully close to error-free. Remember that all three major platforms, and others, are headquartered in the United States Thus the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires all sales to be reported to it for tax purposes whether or not you reside in the US. Here is some handy advice from Amazon on taxation for non-US publishers.

How to self-publish your longform journalism as an e-bookWHAT YOU WILL NEED NEXT:

1. Accounts with each publishing platform you intend to publish on.

2. Those living outside the US need a US TIN – Tax Identification Number. This could take more than six weeks. Start now by looking over this information from Amazon. Then it is advised in some countries, here, that you register at your US Embassy for an EIN – Employer Identification Number so that 30 per cent of each e-book sale is not withheld for US tax purposes. Fill out a W-8BEN form for sending to the platforms you will use. Look at this information from the IRS to get started. There may be a list of tax consultants familiar with the US tax system who can help in your country; in Australia the Consulate General of the United States has a list of tax consultants here

3. Your banking information, including the exact name held on IRS records, social security number or EIN for US bank account holders and relevant tax file information. For those outside the US and who do not have a bank account, for instance, in the major Amazon domains of Great Britain, the European Union, Canada, Brazil, Japan and India, you can be paid by check, but only in four of those currencies. Check out Amazon's royalty payment information.

4. Your manuscript in both mobi and ePub formats (see above).

5. A unique ISBN - for an iBook, Sony and Kobo (but not compulsory for other platforms) that is different to any print book of the same title.

6. A book description – equivalent of the blurb on the back cover. Length indications vary but are generally 400 words or less.

7. A book cover already designed in a J-peg format and to the specifications noted on each platform, to complete the uploading. [Amazon and Nook took a smaller size than that given to us by our designer but Apple wanted one that was larger.]

Got all that? Now go!

Set aside time to establish accounts with the various platformsAllow up to an hour to set up in each marketplace so you are not rushed.

Usernames and passwords – should you not already have them – are needed for Amazon, B&N and any other platform you choose.

Apple is different. It has its Apple ID that must be set up in conjunction with an iTunes account and a credit card. It only allows one ID per email address. 

How to publish your long-form journalism as an e-book.

Keep your passwords for all platforms handy. You will need to consult them frequently in the beginning if you want to check on your progress to publication and, most importantly thereafter, your sales figures. For the time-poor you can also pay anyone who offers the service along with e-book conversion to do it for you.

While Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and the B&N Nook setups are relatively straightforward (if I can do it anyone can) both take more time than you envisage because you need to get it right. They follow a similar structure. It is advisable to leave aside several hours for the lot. If you are quicker than that, all the better.

Once you do the Amazon set up it’s a good idea to proceed straight to the set up for publishing on the Nook, which is much the same.

Uploading your iBook to the iTunes store via iTunes Connect is not the same – or quick. It can be frustratingly fiddly and can lead to fruitful emissions of foul language. And just to keep Apple different, there are changes to the uploading process from time to time.

In my case the size of the cover required had increased since guidelines sent to us as part of the paid package from our e-book converter had been written.

You can learn from reading the private publishing guidelines for each platform beforehand. Things change all the time in the world of e-publishing.

So your e-book is beautifully formatted and converted to all of the appropriate formats. You have set up accounts with the major e-book publishers. Now it needs to be published on the various digital publishing platforms. This is the final step in sending your ebook out into the world.

Step 3 in publishing an e-book: Publishing live
 

Although the boasts are from 12 hours, it can take from days to weeks for your title to appear in Amazon lists, the iBooks store and the Nook store.

Kindle Direct Publishing and Nook took up to four or more days in my experience but can take longer. iBooks was well over a week. 

You can keep track of the publishing process on each.

For those who are publishing as an e-book a title that is already for sale on Amazon, both titles will be automatically linked.
 

Kindle Direct Publishing

This platform operates from www.kdp.amazon.com. Log in with your Amazon account username and password here.  Set up your banking information.

You will be led to the Bookshelf section.

Under ‘Your Book’ enter the title, description, contributors (i.e. number of authors) and language in which it was written. Optional fields include the ISBN, the series or edition number if the book is not a standalone, the publisher name and publication date.

Next, verify that you hold the publishing rights.

Kindle readerThen select up to two categories your book fits, i.e.: health, law, romance, crime, general fiction, non-fiction, so browsers in the Kindle store will find it in an appropriate place.

Also select up to seven keywords or short phrases that are searchable for additional help in locating your book in cyberspace. For example, when I uploaded our e-book Fatal Honeymoon Dive I could use names or subject terms and could chose, for instance, all three words in the title individually or collectively fatalhoneymoondive, and ‘fatal honeymoon dive’, as all are applicable.

Upload the book cover.  Kindle cover requirements are a minimum of 625 pixels on the shortest side and 1000 pixels on the longest side but for best quality it now recommends 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 pixels on the longest side. The minimum length demanded by iBooks now is 1400 pixels so prepare by getting a bigger cover size commissioned by your graphic designer.

You have a choice between not enabling digital rights management (DRM), which would stop others freely distributing your Kindle book file, or enabling it. Enabling digital rights management is for those authors who want to encourage sharing of their work without payment. Read more about DRM here. You are warned that you cannot change from enabling to not enabling once you have finalized your upload.

You then upload your book file and preview it with the various options available for download on the page [or see previewer links under e-book converters above].

The next section involves the rights and pricing of your book.

You can select worldwide rights, if you have them, or individual territories if you don’t.

Choose a price point between either US$2.99 and US$9.99 for the 70% royalty option if you are to be paid in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, and a few other jurisdictions, or you’ll need the 35% royalty for those residing everyone else and sales in those countries. There are explanations for these options on the page.

NOTE: For comparison purposes, the Australian Society of Authors recommends a digital-only royalty of up to 85% of the list price when negotiating with publishers.

It recommends between 35% and 50% of net receipts for combined print and e-book deals. This is in contrast with its advice in 2010 to negotiate between 25% and 35% for electronic rights in a print + e-book deal. It shows how this area of publishing continues to evolve.

Finally, decide whether you want to allow the book to be loaned, then save and publish!
 

PUBIT! for the Nook

This platform can be located here.  

However, forget it if you have never lived or banked in the United States. If you don’t have a US credit card, or a US bank account or a US tax ID that are all tied to a US address you cannot participate on this platform. (This is in case your returns outnumber purchases and you wind up with a negative balance in a payment cycle).

The process here is largely the same as for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing so follow the prompts.

You will need your social security or employee identification number and US bank account details for your coming profits. B&N pay once your royalties hit $10 but not until 60 days after the end of the month it which it was earned.

Preview your book before upload in the Nook for PC application or in Adobe Digital Editions.
 

Apple for iBooks

You need to apply via an iTunes Connect application for any content distribution in the iTunes store. This includes books. Most self-publishing authors would want a paid, rather than free account.

Log on with your Apple ID (with its valid credit card attached) and three modules will appear that help prepare your publication.

Go first to the Contracts, Tax and Banking module. It all looks rather daunting – and I found it was. This is one of the fiddly parts.

Fill in the details identifying a bank account and an email account and most importantly a valid US Tax ID (or EIN – see above if you are publishing from outside the US).

I nearly went cross-eyed trying to work out which of the complicated IRS forms is necessary when publishing an iBook without a US Tax ID. The page that iTunes Connect links to is only applicable to online applications for EINs by US residents which isn’t much help for the millions who don’t live there.

So I Googled the question and found the information above about the necessity of an EIN if you live outside the US and don’t want to pay withholding tax. On January 1, 2013, the IRS issued its most recent update on how to get a US tax ID abroad.

I suggest you check if there is more up-to-date information before you start this process. Once your tax ID has been verified you will get an account activation email and you must accept the contract.

Don’t worry about the Manage Users module if you are an individual e-book publisher. It’s for companies with other employees.

Confirm your email address and download iTunes Producer for the upload of your book.

Enter details including your ISBN (don’t include the dashes), language, title, sub-title, publication date, print length in pages (if you have it) and general category. Upload your book description from where you have kept it on your computer.

Next, add authors and other contributors. You can also add related products such as a print book.

Each country you wish to sell in must be laboriously ticked individually and the price at which you wish to sell set in each jurisdiction. There are 49 countries listed. It defaults to DRM-free at the bottom of the page so if you don’t want to share your work for free, you need to un-tick the box.

Tip: When you click on ‘digital only’ the price will automatically convert into the different currencies based on the US dollar rather than you having to type them all in yourself.

Upload the epub file.

Upload the cover. 

Next come error messages if there are any – things you forgot to fill out or did so wrongly.

Note: If you don’t have the large specifications Apple requires for your cover it simply will not load. If you have trouble, check your width and height of the cover art with the specifications demanded by Apple. I had that problem and had to ask the designer for the larger size before the cover would load properly.

Click ‘Deliver’. It will take a minute or two to authenticate your upload to the iBooks store. Then a big, green tick should appear – always a heartening sign.

Just click out of the page in the knowledge your magnificent tome has been successfully uploaded.

Give it 10 minutes or so. Log back into your iTunes Connect account and click on “manage your books” and you will see your new book in the window. Once the dot next to it turns from yellow to green your baby is born and live in the iBookstore.
 

Marketing

This is a necessity and a whole different job in addition to writing and publishing.  It’s just as hard too.  Marketing e-books takes up acres of cyberspace and is the subject of myriad books.  Happy travels.

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