10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service

e-publishing, e-books, e-reading, self-publishing

Note from Jane: I updated this post on Nov. 14, 2014.

With new services continually appearing on the market that promise to help writers self-publish or distribute their e-books, it’s imperative that you educate yourself about how these services typically operate and understand the fine print of any new service before deciding to commit.

Note that when I discuss “services,” they typically fall into 2 categories:

  • Single-channel, retailer-driven services (e.g., Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, Apple iBookstore)
  • E-book distribution services that may include some kind of formatting and conversion service; sometimes these services also act as retailers. BookBaby and Smashwords are two of the most well-known services.
  • … and there are also other types of services offered by consultants, partnership-style publishers, and literary agents.

Here are 10 questions you must ask of any new service you consider using.

1. Is the service exclusive or nonexclusive?

E-publishing services marketed directly to authors almost always operate on a nonexclusive basis. That means you can use their service to sell your e-book while also selling your e-book anywhere else you like (or using any other service).

There are two notable exceptions right now:

  • Amazon’s Kindle Select. Amazon asks for a 3-month exclusive if you join the Kindle Select program (which allows your book to be lent out through Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library). If you want to read more about this option, read bestselling author CJ Lyons’ perspective. 
  • E-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author tool (available only to Mac users). However, exclusivity is only demanded for the specific edition created through Apple’s software. It doesn’t apply to any edition of that e-book formatted outside of the iBooks Author tool and distributed elsewhere. This means you will end up having two different editions available, one of which can only ever be sold through the iBookstore.

2. If it’s exclusive, what’s the term of the contract?

For example, with KDP Select, the term is 90 days. This is acceptable for most authors.

However, if you’re working with an agent to publish e-book (or digital-only publishers), you will likely be asked to sign a contract that has a longer term. This is simply to ensure that, after your e-book files are prepared, your cover designed, and all ducks put in a row, that you don’t suddenly change your mind and take your e-book elsewhere. The agent or publishing partner needs to be confident of recouping their initial outlay.

I recommend you not commit for longer than 1 or 2 years due to how fast the market conditions can change for e-books.

3. Do you control the price?

While some services may have reasonable pricing restrictions (e.g, not allowing you to price below 99 cents), standard practice is to give the author complete control over pricing.

Caveat: Most e-book retailers mandate that you not offer more favorable pricing anywhere else (whether at another retailer or from your own site). Amazon in particular is known for carefully policing this and will automatically lower the price of your e-book if they find you pricing it lower somewhere else. (Some authors use this to their advantage and make their e-book available for free elsewhere so Amazon will then push the price of the Kindle edition to free.)

4. What’s the upfront fee and/or how is the royalty calculated?

While different services have different models, the fees should be transparent and upfront. For example:

  • Services such as Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press and Apple’s iBookstore are all free to use. They make their money by taking a cut of your sales. Usually you earn 60-70% of your list price (assuming you price in the range they specify).
  • Smashwords is free to use and distributes to all major e-book retailers except Amazon. Smashwords pays you 85% of your list price on sales directly through the Smashwords site, minus PayPal transaction fees. They pay you approx. 60% of your list price on sales through retailers. (In other words, they take 10% after the retailer takes their cut.)
  • BookBaby allows you to decide what kind of financial arrangement you prefer, based on the level of service you need. You can (a) pay $0 upfront, get ebook formatting/conversion, and give them a percentage of your sales (similar to Smashwords), or (b) you can pay a flat fee up front and keep 100% of your net sales if you’re able to provide ready-to-go ebook files.

Always read the fine print in these cases. For instance, if you price your book very low (99 cents), and there’s a 25-cent transaction fee for each of your sales, you’ve just cut into your profits even if you’re earning 70% or 80% of list. Another example: Amazon charges a nominal fee for file delivery—but only on the 70% royalty rate— that can cut into your profits if your ebook file is large.

5. Are there hidden fees or charges?

You can end up paying more than standard rates for conversion/formatting if your book runs very long, if you have an inconvenient file format that needs extra work (common with PDFs), if you have a lot of chart/table/image formatting, and so on. If your work has any kind of “special needs,” expect a service to charge you more. (The best services, such as BookBaby, are very specific about what these costs will be.)

6. What file formats do they accept?

This is critical to know upfront because it usually determines (1) whether or not you can use the service in the first place and (2) how much you’ll get charged for formatting and conversion if that’s a service you need.

A few things to know:

  • Microsoft Word (or any text file) is commonly accepted. However: If you’re publishing direct to Kindle or Nook (or use Smashwords, which is automated too), unless you “unformat” your Word document, it will look like crap on an e-reading device when automatically converted to an e-book format. Most retailer’s e-publishing services have extensive guidelines, preview programs, and other ways of ensuring your work looks OK before your e-book goes live.
  • EPUB is the industry standard e-book file format. If you want to create your own EPUB file, see the end of this post for recommendations.
  • Many conversion/formatting services typically offer you EPUB and MOBI files since that covers you on Amazon and just about any other e-book retailer.
  • PDF is one of the most difficult file formats to convert to EPUB. Expect to pay.

7. Who owns the e-book files after they are created?

It is ideal if you own the e-book files, and that is usually the case when you pay out of pocket for conversion and formatting services. In the case of some free services, such as Smashwords, you do not. (Why so? When you upload your Word document to Smashwords—the only format accepted—it goes through their “meatgrinder” conversion process to create a variety of e-book files. You then have access to those e-book files, but you’re not supposed to turn around and sell them through other services.)

8. Are DRM protections or proprietary formats involved?

DRM stands for digital rights management. DRM is supposed to prevent piracy, or illegal copying and distribution of your e-book after is sold. However, I agree with those who argue that DRM is not reader- or consumer-friendly, and should not be used. The industry standard e-book format, EPUB, does not use DRM.

There are only 2 areas where you’re likely to run into a proprietary format or DRM.

  • Amazon Kindle uses a proprietary format with DRM. If you use the Kindle Direct Publishing program to publish your e-book, no matter what type of file you upload, they will automatically convert it to their proprietary, DRM-locked format. However, because their service is not exclusive, you can always make your e-book available in other formats through other services, without restriction.
  • The Apple iBooks Author tool creates e-books in a proprietary format. No other device aside from an iPad or iPhone can view an e-book created by the Apple iBooks Author tool.

9. Where is your e-book distributed?

If you’re using a service like Amazon KPD, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, the answer is pretty simple: Your e-book is distributed only through those specific retailers. When you use a multiple-channel e-book distribution service (such as Smashwords or BookBaby), then the mix of retailers they reach will vary. At minimum, you want to reach Kindle & Nook, since they currently make up about 70–80% of all e-book sales, followed by Apple iBookstore, Kobo (essential for Canadians), and Google Play.

One common strategy among authors is to use Amazon Kindle Direct combined with Smashwords (which distributes to all major e-book retailers except Kindle). You can probably reach 95%+ of your market with that approach, if not 100%.

10. Can you make changes to your e-book after it goes on sale?

If you’re working directly with retailers (e.g., Amazon and Barnes & Noble), you can upload new and revised files as often as you like—they don’t care. Same goes with Smashwords. However, if you’re using a multiple-channel distributor other than Smashwords, you will likely have to pay fees to make changes.

Single-channel services (retailers) I recommend

Distribution services I recommend

E-book creation tools I recommend

Still have questions? Leave a comment.

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Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. From 2001–2010 she worked at Writer's Digest, where she ultimately became publisher; more recently, she was an editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led digital strategy. Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017). Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.
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  1. Thanks for going over this. I love that you take your time to research this stuff. I find it all a bit baffling so I tend to stay with the decisions we’ve already made. (Love  Smashwords, btw)

    As an aside, We use Atlantis Word Processor to create our ePub for our store – in case anyone’s interested. Atlantis is a robust program and is $35. The ePub version is very popular. (Go to Save Special, eBook, and wha la, you have an ePub.) I’m not Mac-friendly so you’d have to ask someone else if it works on Macs.

  2. You can also publish a book on the internet. With the line between eReaders and tablet computers blurring it won’t be long until online books are just as accessible as eBooks.

    As an example of online publishing, Amie Kweon’s site Lacuna Books (http://lacunabooks.com/) is a nice site that publishes in HTML and EPUB. (The site is free to use for both authors and readers.)

  3. Thanks for this very helpful rundown, Jane. Even for those of us watching this e-book scene very closely, the landscape is confusing. 

    I’m curious where a tool like Adobe InDesign might fit into this, since it can output to both PDF and ePUB. I guess the challenge (assuming mastery of InDesign) then becomes distribution?

    • I don’t typically recommend InDesign to authors since I consider it software that no one outside professional publishers/media companies use. But it’s an excellent option for those familiar with it—though you do have to manually modify EPUB files after the InDesign export.

      And of course InDesign couldn’t be any more seamless in its production of PDFs.

      I don’t see why distribution would be a challenge necessarily. You can easily upload EPUB files to Kindle, Nook, and iBookstore.

  4. Thanks for covering this, Jane. I found it very helpful.

    I’m curious about Amazon’s policy on making books free on their site when they find them free on other sites. Do you know if this is a blanket policy of theirs, or have they been known to ignore it, or worse, take down a book from their site because of it?

    • None of the above really applies to them (they should be worrying about all these details for you), though I do recommend you limit the term of the contract and demand royalties that are competitive, which I consider 50%.

  5. Excellent overview. One counterpoint, though PDF to ePub is a more complicated conversion, i think you get a better looking ebook when you send PDF typeset pages to an ebook creator for file conversion. I.e. the chapter headings and any art stay intact.

  6. Thanks for that overview, Jane.  My experience has been much as you outline. After I attended your e-publishing workshop at the Willamette Writers conference last August I got real serious about self-publishing. I used BookBaby for conversion of my first self-published e-book, The Forty Column Castle, which is a 275 page mystery and was easy to format and convert.  Important is to follow BookBaby’s conversion guidelines which is on their web site. BookBaby did a nice job on the cover art,  and the book went live mid-December. I found BookBaby very responsive to email and phone calls on their 800 number.  I was stuck in the printed book world for a long time, but it seemed like overnight my head turned in the direction of digital books, and now I’m hooked.  Thank you, Jane.

  7. Excellent info for authors considering self-e-publishing.
    I have one point to raise – Kindle Direct Publishing now allows authors the option to allow or refuse DRM at the point of uploading a ms.

  8. Great article, it is good to be able to pass on your wisdom and research Jane, it is a jungle out there and there are some wily predators emerging!

    We work with authors from around the world, but a note for UK authors who may be reading this, re. the landscape over here.  Amazon sells more eBooks by quite a long way as you would expect but Barnes and Noble do not feature (yet). 

    Time will tell if Amazon can continue to increase their share and completely dominate sales, but readers will stay loyal to other brands if they make it easy for them to buy eBooks.

    We have seen Apple outsell Amazon for some titles, and not only those with high graphical content as you might expect. Authors who are selling well on the Amazon.co.uk store also seem to  sell well on Waterstones (who only sell to UK customers).  Kobo reported excellent sales of their eReaders over Christmas,  and the partnership with WH Smith is promising. 

    And then there is is the European market to figure out..a whole new world in more ways than one!

  9. Excellent post. I epublished my book through Kindle Direct Publishing last month on my own. Now, I’m trying to format it for CreateSpace so it will go on Amazon as a paper back. I’m also working on a trailer and will be studying Smashwords. I am very happy with the results. This hasn’t cost me a dime. I’ve spent time, but it’s been worth all I’ve learned.

  10. Very informative article, Jane. After trying 25 times to get my previously formatted Word document through Smashword’s Meatgrinder, I finally gave in and used the nuclear option and ran my file through notepad to remove all formatting. With just some minor paragraph and headings formatting it went through fine.

    Hopefully Smashwords will allow direct ePub uploading soon. Their conversion software creates very basic ePubs, but once you save your document with them, it actually shows up in the Apple iBooks store and on B&N in just over a week.

    The Kindle converter automatically adds indented paragraphs to a standard file upload. For fiction this is probably OK. For non-fiction you may want to experiment with different paragraph settings to eliminate the indent.

    Overall, your first experience with eBooks may be a challenge. This article will definitely help you avoid many of the common pitfalls.

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  12. A good post for the basics of how this works.  The reality is the concept of the true “self” published author is flawed.  I believe we all need help and there are a lot of different ways to get that help.  I really like the ACX model for audio books and predict someone will come up with a service like that for eBooks where all the talent and the content providers are brought together in a system.  For more details, we have The ShelfLess Book: The Complete Digital Author coming out on the 26th of this month, detailing our experiences at Who Dares Wins Publishing in building a seven figure indie publishing house in just a couple of years.

    • Totally agree we all need help on some level and there are many ways to get that help. 

      Audio feels like a different animal to me, possibly because doing it professionally is outside the capability of most ordinary authors. The e-publishing scene, on the other hand, is increasingly developing DIY tools that can produce professional results. I see it developing more in line with how blogs/site tools developed. Today, you no longer have to hire a professional webmaster to handle a straightforward site (or to maintain it).

    • Thank you for your post.  Audio books is an area that should be expanded for indie writers.  And I, for one, am interested in reading ‘The Shelfless Book”.  I’ll try to bookmark it somehow. 

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  14. Thanks for the article. I’ve published on smashwords myself, but this has given me a couple of ideas to keep in mind for future publishing. I do have a question though: I published on smashwords but recently I made my book available on amazon, did I screw up?

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  17. Very helpful to a neophyte. I’m using Friesen Press for my first book, and I’m exploring using E-publishing for the next (still in gestation, close to delivery.) Thanks for this information.

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  19. “Smashwords…which distributes to all major e-book retailers except Kindle). You can probably reach 95%+ of your market with that approach, if not 100%.
    Even if you are just aiming at the US market there are myriad smaller ebook stores not served by Smashwords, and internationally far, far more. 

    With B&N exclusive to the US, Amazon forcing overseas customers (non-Kindle countries) to pay a $2 surcharge and blocking sales to many countries, and Apple only reaching about twenty countries, you are missing out on huge potential sales as ereading develops around the world.

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  21. This is such an excellent, comprehensive post!  Re #10: A friend who uses BookBaby says they do charge a fee for corrections–a fairly hefty one.  So people using BookBaby should be especially careful to get their work proofread by a number of readers before going ahead with them.

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  24. Our product is 50% graphics and 50% words.  What is the best way for us to epublish our work.  It was created in PowerPoint with some animation.  Our target audience is Middle School children so the graphics are a vital part of our product.

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  29. Thanks for a great article. I have published with BookBaby (and CreateSpace for print) and have been more or less satisfied. One thing I’m doing differently with my second book is that I’ve purchased my own block of ISBNs. I’m hoping I’ve done this correctly! Figuring it all out as I go.

    Regarding Apple iBooks Author – I’ve been reading about it and every time I read I think I understand but then someone will tell me something and I think I got it all wrong again. After my last round of reading about it, I came to believe that it’s not the *content* that is exclusive to Apple, but rather the … I guess the format? Meaning, I thought that if you created something in Apple iBooks, you could still publish that content elsewhere, but you couldn’t take the specific ePub that was created through their program and use that. From what you’re saying, thought, it sounds like your understanding is that it’s the content itself that must be exclusive – that if I publish through Apple iBooks I can’t publish anywhere else?

    • If you create something in Apple iBooks, you can take it elsewhere, as long as you make it available for free.

      If you create something in Apple iBooks, but CHARGE for it through Apple iBooks, you are not allowed to sell it elsewhere in the .ibooks format. However, I find this a moot point since no one else supports .ibooks. 

      That said, if you were a supernerd, you could convert the book files made with iBooks Author to an EPUB file, and sell it elsewhere, but that’s what Apple is saying you are not allowed to do.

      In short: I didn’t mean to say the content must be exclusive. But the files created by iBooks Author ARE exclusive.

      • I’ve been reading your posts and answers here closely and must ask you to be more careful when speaking about apples and oranges, so to speak, though, admittedly, Apple Computer doesn’t make that easy.

        The only e-books that Apple won’t allow you to sell elsewhere (though you can give them away) are those made using the “iBooks Author” creation engine (not “Apple iBooks” which is the term that you have used repeatedly here). Those files end with the file extension of .ibooks specifically. But the iBooks reader app lets you read, and the iBookstore also accepts (as it always has) regular EPUB files that end with .epub specifically. Those books you ARE allowed to sell anywhere you want.

        And to make things more confusing, iBooks will also display (quite nicely, in fact) “fixed layout” EPUB books, which Apple has long encouraged for picture books, cookbooks, and what used to be called “coffee table” books, etc. (“The History of Surfing” by Matt Warshaw is a great, though expensive, example of one of the latter).

        However, Apple’s fixed layout books only work correctly on the iBooks app. They are also a bit of a bear to make, though you can still do it and Apple will still sell them, and, as I said, any books that end in .epub that you might make for iBooks ARE allowed to be sold elsewhere, whether they work well there or not.

        With the development of iBooks Author, Apple tried to make it easy for anyone to make a fixed layout book and to include all sorts of nifty enhancements if desired: audio files, video, etc. However, they also knew that if an author made a fancy book that worked on iBooks but crashed everywhere else, people would badmouth Apple about making something that didn’t work, even though it wouldn’t be Apple’s fault. So they have eliminated that. They don’t let you sell it somewhere else if it’s made with iBooks Author and ends with the .ibooks file extension. (Presumably, if you give it away for free, people will have a tendency to complain less.)

        However, all that being said: iBooks Author allows you to make truly spectacular e-books, if you are a good enough designer. The fact that they are only viewable on iBooks is, for some people at least (to judge by various comments around the Internet), not something that stops a lot of people from wanting them.

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    • Ah, well—these aren’t publishers. They’re retailers and distributors. As with any independent or self-publishing venture, the author is fully responsible for marketing and promotion.

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  36. Once again, lots of useful content. Bravo, Jane! This will be a file I save for future reference. My book, SLEEPING WITH A WITCH DOCTOR, will be published by Tate Publishers next fall and will be in the dead trees format as well as epub. But the next book, I may go for epub alone. Depends on how much of each format sells this coming year. Thanks again for clarifying several points for me.

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  38. Any opinion on Booklocker’s ebook services. They offer to publish with no contract and no upfront fee. There information appears very transparent to me. Just interested in your assessment.

      • Thanks Jane.  I’ve been trying to absorb as many aspects of ebook publishing as I can, and assessing the options. Is there a single source that is considered a valid Consumer-Reports-type of evaluator of ebook publishers?  Also, considering the learning curve just to procure services, would it be less complicated to simply contract out the various formatting services for the respective e-readers and sell a selection of ebook versions on a no-frills website of one’s own?

        • I’m afraid there isn’t anything like a Consumer Reports, although I always recommend checking SFWA’s Writer Beware site for updates and reports on companies that might be taking advantage of writers.

          As far as whether it’s less complicated to contract stuff out, you might consider using BookBaby. It’s a solid service company run by people who are behind another major service (CDBaby)—they’ll handle conversion and distribution to all the major devices.

          You’ll run into far more difficulty trying to sell ebooks off your own site, plus how will people know about you and find your site? I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re already well-versed in eCommerce.

          • Thanks. It appears that your site is probably the closest thing there is to an objective evaluator of ebook publishing services.  Also, with the technology and business models evolving so rapidly, it seems the only way to truly know how good service will be is to roll the dice and hire one.

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  40. This information is helpful, but as a newbie, with a book in progress that is 80% photographs and little tech knowledge or time to do the eBook self-publishing and marketing myself–I have been looking at PublishGreen.com, but their packages seem really pricey to me.  It would take a lot of book sales just to recoup my investment.  Would I be better off to take the time to learn the process myself or can you recommend a service that offers packages that won’t drain the bank account?  

    • If you have 80% photographs then your ebook file will be significantly larger than a standard text file. Companies like Amazon Kindle charge you for every download sold.

      For a standard novel that’s just a few cents  and nothing to worry about. Sell an ebook for 2.99 and with the 70% “royalty” you’ll collect 2.00, having paid maybe 0.05 for the download.

      For an ebook laden with images, or with video content as is the trend now, that download fee increases dramatically and can run to several dollars per sale, potentially wiping-out the royalties on a low-priced ebook.

    • Mark’s right on the money with his insight, but if you still want to pursue a service in spite of the cut Amazon and others will take, consider iBooks Author or possibly PressBooks as starting points. They both offer DIY easy-to-use interfaces that can incorporate images.

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  42. Thank you for the breakdown in every day terms.  I have been considering publishing my blog to Kindle, but have not been able to find the answers to my questions in the legal jargon of their “terms and conditions” page.

    -author of Simple Observations

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  45. I’ve been extremely pleased with eBookIt.com. This week I will give them my third book to convert and distribute.

    Michael N. Marcus

    — Coming very soon: “499 Important Publishing Tips for a Penny Apiece” (e-book), http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing/499selfpublishingtips.html

    — Newly updated, “Self-Publish Your Book Without Losing Your Shirt: business basics for self-publishing authors,” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0983057273

    — New: deluxe hardcover edition of “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0983057249– http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com– http://www.BookFur.com (information, help and book reviews for authors)
    — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html

  46. This is all other worldly to me but i have poems i want to turn into an e-book.will the poems still be my intellectual property once out there in cyberland,its such a minefield that i keep resiting doing it.And what about copyright ?

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  48. Thanks for the information. It is very helpful. I am a teacher and my question is that I want to move a textbook I wrote to ebook with form fill so that students can answer the questions in a form fill, click print and then have their assignment to turn in.  What software do I use or can Smashwords do this for me.
    Thanks, KarenK

  49. What a great, concise summary of issues faced by people looking into the option of epublishing. Have you come across LeanPub yet? http://www.leanpub.com. They’re very straightforward about their royalty rates, distribution, etc. Plus they have two really innovative features: authors can continue to develop a book after it’s published (readers who’ve bought a copy get a free update), and the flexible pricing model (readers can choose to pay a price, above a minimum set by the author.) I’ve found working with them a really exciting experience–and plenty of people have paid more than I asked for my first book!

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  68. This is very informative, thank you Jane..

    I am a newbie in a slightly different aspect to this, I have started a magazine company and would like to reach as many platforms I can, I agree with an earlier comment that PDF to Epub conversion is tricky as usually it all gets a bit jumbled! So I’m trying a few methods to get around this, Books and magazines are of course different styles but hey if you don’t try.

    Smashwords is incredibly exciting with it’s possibilities, and for general publication creations that involve more images and design word I’d recommend Joomag, although a little expensive it is a good investment for magazines.

    One thing I do wonder is would you know, those distributors who take commission, they state that they allow free publications etc but would they ask a fee still after? The t&cs are a little confusing, ie Smashwords if they are sending free copies to Barnes & Nobles for example – would I be charged?

    Thanks :)

  69. Hi,
    Thanks very much for the information. It’s a confusing world! I have a book that’s almost ready to go
    and have been dreading this part. A friend in LA told me about an outfit called Inkshares. Do you know
    about them? Have any positives or negatives?
    I am a Social Media idiot and most of the publishers I’ve looked at seem to require that one does
    all sorts of social-media things to push sales or raise money or whatever. Too much for my little mind
    to comprehend! I am leaning toward Amazon. The info re their DRM is handy. I didn’t know. But if I can
    hold onto a non-drm version that’s good. B.T.W. there are all kinds of DRM removal software available,
    some free, others pretty cheap. I use one on library books because when I request epub books from the
    library they all seem to show up at once and have a three week limit which can be a pain in the nethers.

    Thanks again for the one blog I have so far managed to actually understand.

    Alan S.

    • Hi Alan – Thanks for reading! Yes, I’ve heard of Inkshares. It’s a startup that’s based on crowdfunded publishing; as far as I know, you’d need to be able to gather sufficient support (from your network) in order to gain traction there.

  70. Hi Jane, thanks for this article. I have a few questions since I feel still somewhat “lost in the woods.”

    1. Do you get all your rights back when you opt out of KDP after 90 days (or any other 90 day period), allowing you to do anything you want with your ebook?
    2. Are your KDP books listed/connected to your amazon author page (I assume so, but just want to make sure)?
    3. If you opt out after 90 days and go with another ebook publisher/distributor that is connected with Amazon, can you then re-list your ebooks on your Amazon author page?
    4. Is there a page/word limit with publishing with KDP?

    I am sorry if these answers are easily found somewhere else, which would not surprise my wife :)
    They are important to me in deciding whether or not to (first) go with KDP.

    Jan Blonk

    • 1. Yes, you get all rights back when you opt out of KDP Select after 90 days, and you can do whatever you like. (You can keep selling on Amazon, too—you will simply be in KDP rather than KDP Select.)

      2. Yes, your KDP books are connected/listed to your Amazon Author page. (Sometimes you need to make a request for the connection to happen, but it happens quickly, within 24 hours.)

      3. If you leave KDP Select, that doesn’t mean you leave KDP/Amazon entirely. Your book will remain on Amazon and does not have to be re-listed either by you or through another distributor. I hope that makes sense.

      4. Not to my knowledge.

      Good luck!

  71. I am searching for a way to offer my books free all the time. The currently available sources have other agendas. I’d like the people to be read them with no impediment. Intended truth in fiction. Yet the shit that dominates the internet apparently does not allow that. I guess, I’m as inadequate as I thought. Is there any help?

    • You can publish and make your book available for free through:

      Barnes & Noble Nook
      Apple iBookstore

      Depending on the service, people will either read it online (via web browser) for free, through an app or device for free, or download a file for free.

  72. I have some manuscripts that are in PDF form only. I would like to epublish them with kindle and amazon. Is there a program that accurately will transform them to word and allow me to add photos and graphics too? I tried nuance converter and it came out with lots of formatting and other errors.



  73. Hi Jane,
    I am trying to work out how beneficial the selling and promotion packages are that are offered by Bookbaby for $199. Have you used their sales and promotion packages? Can you recommend any other avenues/groups to help promote my book?

    I am considering selling my book (theme=legal contracts) through KDP select. I already have two kids books in the Amazon store that have barely sold as i have not done much promotion.

    any advice would be appreciated.



  74. First, thank you for the article. It is thorough and really helpful. I would like to ask you something, and I will be grateful if you answer.

    “Amazon in particular is known for carefully policing this and will automatically lower the price of your e-book if they
    find you pricing it lower somewhere else. (Some authors use this to their advantage and make their e-book available for free elsewhere so Amazon will then push the price of the Kindle edition to free.)”

    Does it mean that if after the period of 90 days I would like to make my ebook free available everywhere Amazon would not have problem with that?

    • It sounds like you’re confusing Amazon KDP with enrolling in Amazon KDP Select? If you distribute and sell your work through Amazon, it requires a 99-cent minimum price point; while using the basic KDP program, you can still sell everywhere else (but you can’t price more competitively outside Amazon).

      If you enroll in Amazon KDP Select, you can only sell through Amazon, and you must price at 99 cents or higher. After 90 days of being in Select, you can un-enroll and sell elsewhere, and make your book free if you want. However, if you continue to sell through KDP while your book is available elsewhere for free, Amazon eventually price-matches to free.

      • Hello Jane,
        I’m a near 70 year old man who has written a novel (69, 257 words) and started another (sequel). I would like very much to get it published but first need it edited since I don’t know how to edit or proof read the proper English, sentence structures or paragraphing, etc. Being on Social Security and having little to no extra money I’m stuck in a mud hole, seeing no way out. I read about ebooks and have read about self publishing but it seems the more I read, the more confused I become. I just don’t know where to go or what to do. I wish I could just have someone tell me what I need to do and help me with my dilemma. I wrote the story in Microsoft Word, Courier New font size 14, double spaced. I used Print Shop to create the book cover which everyone who has seen it says it’s one of the best they’ve ever seen. It definitely stands out! If you know of anybody who might help me I’d be willing to make a deal with them on future sales.

        This is the Log Line I have written.

        Prior to a new day’s dawn, within the confines of a lush mountain valley, the lives of an elderly 
        married couple will forever change!  For what erupts that dark mysterious morning is not only a blast from an old double barrel shotgun, but the first of an incredibly wild emotional roller coaster ride the likes of which you could never imagine!

        Donald Nelson

        • Hi Donald – If you can invest at least a few hundred dollars, try BookBaby. They’ll produce the ebook file for you and distribute it to all major retailers and would likely be the easiest and most straightforward solution for you. If not BookBaby, then try Draft2Digital.

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  77. Thanks for this really informative article.
    If you are have your book on Kindle and Smashwords, is it also possible to give your book away free as part of a promotion on a separate platform?

  78. I honestly regret offering my book as an epub through smashwords. I sell book (both print and kindle) on Amazon, but have never seen one penny from Smashwords. I advertise and provide links directly to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords. I’ve seen people go to B&N and Amazon, but no one pushes the e-pub button. I have another book coming out soon and—at this point—don’t plan to offer it in that format, although I’m contemplating a hardcover.

    Is this format really used much?

    • Hi Michael – Most indie authors see 90% (or more) of their sales through Amazon, so I’m not surprised. It’s not about the format; it’s about where your readers like to shop. But at least you don’t have to pay to distribute through Smashwords.

      When I published my own book, it appeared as an ebook on Amazon initially, and inevitably the first question I got was: when will it appear in paperback, and when can I buy it on Kobo? So I think wider distribution is usually better—however, this is driven by demand, and maybe your demand hasn’t reached a level to merit wide distribution.

      As a side note, I’ve found advertising not particularly effective for most authors, unless you really know what you’re doing in terms of creative and audience targeting.

  79. Thank you very much, Jane, for your article.

    Now, there seems to remain, still, a single problem: the so-called “piracy”.

    So, I would like very much to know if you have any clue how authors of book/music/video/software may get the money for their “work”.

    I don’t mean the money each one should pay for “the right to read/listen/see/use”, that is, the “cover price” in (e-)stores. I don’t mean it for the simple technical reason that : any buyer can make available the book/etc. on the web to anybody else for free.

    Rather, I mean : the money some entity whatever (a publishing company?) would pay him for it, if it were paying for the “work” and not for the expected amount of return sells, which comes for the calculated expected number of buyers, supposedly estimable with psychology and statistics…

    Best regards,

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  84. Hi Jane,

    Thank you so much for writing such an informative article.

    I have a question for you, hopefully you can answer it.
    If I publish a book on kindle, can I still use the content in some other places? Because I want to do a book trailer or even my own audio book video on youtube.

  85. You are very generous, Jane. And, along with the great info in this article, I still need some “cat, c-a-t, cat” instructions, reflecting any updated information over the past 3-1/2 years. Do you, or anyone else competent that you know, offer a step-by-step tutorial for e-publishing (r internet-publishing my nonfiction book ms?
    Thank you very much.
    Eric Schneider, Teacher of Forgiveness, ericapril46@gmaial.com

  86. I’ve become very disillusioned by KDP. A month and no sales for my book. I put it up for free for 2 days and had 105 downloads but its back to obscurity now. I’ve lowered the price to $1.99 but not sure about the profit from that. Can I use another e-publishing platform? Or will I have to wait for two months till the 90 day thing ends? And is there any recommendation you can provide so as to bring exposure to my book?

    • If you’re enrolled in Amazon KDP Select, you have to wait 90 days to sell your ebook elsewhere. If you’re not in Select, you can sell elsewhere. I’d try Apple iBookstore, Nook Press, and Kobo. You can reach them all via Smashwords or Draft2Digital if you don’t want to take the time/trouble to upload your work to each one.

  87. Can I publish my e-novel (mainly in English) via e-publishers such as Amazon or B & N with some Chinese characters to emphasize the origin of the terms or titles?

    • I believe that’s possible, but you’ll need to check their FAQ/knowledge-base to confirm their support of such characters to ensure they show up properly on all devices.

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  89. Once you use smashwords can you, say, go into ibooks to promote a sale there? Or could you do it through smashwords? I guess my questions is, is it better to use a program like smashwords or to go to each retailer on your own?

    • Generally speaking, if you want the best possible sell-through at each retailer, you should go direct to each retailer, so you have the most hands-on access to the marketing/promotion tools available. This is especially true with Amazon and Apple iBooks. But Smashwords has secured promotions for its distributed books/authors at iBooks, so it’s possible for it to work both ways.

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