How to Publish an Ebook: Resources for Authors

ebook publishing resources

About the only thing that remains constant in ebook publishing is that it changes—everything from the services to marketing strategies. Here, I regularly update best resources I know of related to learning to publish an ebook, finding the right e-publishing distributors and services, and staying on top of changes in the industry.

Creating Basic Ebook Files

Assuming you have a finished and polished manuscript ready to be published, your first task is to create an ebook file; EPUB is the industry standard ebook format accepted by nearly all retailers. Unfortunately, this cannot be done through a simple Word export, but many tools and services will help you prep an EPUB file. (While most retailers and distributors try to offer good Word-to-ebook conversion, results and quality vary tremendously. Use them with caution.)

  • Vellum: easy-to-use software for Mac users only to produce EPUB files
  • PressBooks: a WordPress-based system for producing both EPUB and print files
  • Scrivener: this writing software is not free, but it can export EPUB files
  • Apple Pages (can export EPUB files)
  • Sigil: an open-source software for producing EPUB files, requires some tech savvy
  • Reedsy: you can copy/paste your work into its free online editor, then export EPUB files
  • Draft2Digital: you can upload your Word doc for EPUB conversion even if you don’t use them as your distributor
  • Calibre: free software that’s useful for file conversion to/from EPUB, but some find it difficult to use

If you don’t want the headache of creating your own ebook files, check out the services at eBookPartnership.

Creating Enhanced, Multimedia, or Full-Color Ebooks

If you’re publishing a highly illustrated work, such as a children’s picture book, an enhanced ebook, or need to have a fixed layout book—where text doesn’t reflow from page to page—you’ll either need to hire someone or use a special portal for publishing and distributing your work.

  • KDP Kids’ Book Creator: for creating children’s picture books
  • Apple iBooks Author: will limit you to Apple iBookstore, but the software is free; supports multimedia
  • Blurb: produces print + digital full-color books, with distribution to major retailers
  • Book Creator: iPad app for illustrated books, great for children’s authors
  • Again, if you need assistance preparing your ebook files, try eBookPartnership.

Choosing Your Ebook Retailers and Distributors

Ebook distribution to major retail outlets is free and fairly straightforward, at least once you have ebook files ready to go. (Your upfront costs are almost always connected to the effort of designing, formatting, and producing those files, whether the cover and the interior—not distribution.)

Assuming you have ebook files ready to go, you have a choice to make: Would you rather deal with each online retailer directly, or would you rather reach them through an ebook distribution service?

  • Working directly with online retailers usually means better profits, more control, and more access to marketing/promotion tools (but not always).
  • Working with ebook distribution services usually means giving up a percentage of your profits to the distributor, in exchange for the centralized administration and management of all your titles. Some ebook distributors can also reach outlets you can’t on your own, such as the library market, and may offer you helpful tools to optimize book sales and marketing.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between working directly with online retailers and using ebook distributors, since it’s rare for any distributor to demand exclusivity. For example, you could choose to work directly with Amazon KDP to sell your ebooks on Amazon, then use an ebook distributor such as Draft2Digital or Smashwords to reach other retailers. Or you could choose to distribute directly to Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Nook (by using their do-it-yourself portals), then use Smashwords to capture the rest of the market (such as Scribd and libraries).

You could even choose to use two ebook distributors. For example, you might sign up with Pronoun (because they offer the best royalties on Amazon ebook sales), but then add in Smashwords to get the library market that Pronoun doesn’t cover.

Bottom line: There’s no one right way to go about it, since it depends on your time and resources, your books, and your marketing strategy. You can also change your mind at any time (although not without some administration hassle and sales downtime).

Most important ebook retailers in the English-language markets

  • Amazon. Probably sells 60-80% of all ebooks, more for some authors and titles.
  • Apple iBookstore. Widely considered the No. 2 ebook retailer in U.S.
  • Barnes & Noble Nook Press. Sales have been dropping significantly over the last couple years.
  • Kobo. Gaining ground, international presence. Important for the Canadian market.

Key ebook distributors

  • Smashwords. The largest ebook distributor of self-published titles that’s been around the longest and has the widest reach, particularly to the library market. No upfront cost; they take a cut of your sales.
  • Draft2Digital. Similar to Smashwords, but smaller and more customer-service focused. They take a cut of your sales.
  • Pronoun. An ebook distributor that reaches the key players: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Google. They also offer data-based marketing insights and tools to help you better sell. You pay nothing upfront and they do not take a cut of your sales.

Optimizing Your Product Page and Description

When you upload your ebook to retailers, you need to craft strong book descriptions, research your best categories and keywords, and do whatever you can to increase the likelihood that someone who sees your book page on Amazon will make a purchase.

Sales, Marketing, and Promotion

By far the hardest part of ebook publishing is making readers aware your book exists—then convincing them to buy it.

Giveaways and Discounts

Most self-published authors gain visibility in the market by giving away their work or offering discounts. To work, it has to be done thoughtfully and strategically.

Getting Reviews

Wondering how to get readers (and others) to review your book?

Facebook Strategies

Facebook has more than 1 billion users and can be an important part of your book marketing arsenal. But it requires you to acquire new skills if you don’t want to waste our time and money.

Advertising and Other Monetary Investments in Book Marketing

Before you pay to hire help (or to advertise), make sure you’ve identified very specific goals you want to attain (beyond “sell more books”), and a very specific audience you’ve decided to target.

Excellent Book-Length Guides on Self-Publishing

These guides give you an overview of what you need to learn and accomplish to sell books, in any format.

To Find Freelance Help

Usually a referral is best; ask successful authors in your genre who they recommend. Otherwise, here are a few options for finding editorial and marketing assistance.

Great Sites That Cover Self-Publishing and Ebook Publishing

News & Trends About Ebook Publishing


Upcoming Online Classes

Posted in E-Books and tagged , , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which 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 (March 2018).

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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132 Comments on "How to Publish an Ebook: Resources for Authors"

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How to Publish an Ebook: Resources for Authors ...

[…] A round-up of the best resources and tools for how to publish an ebook.  […]

Heather Wright

Excellent list of resources! Thanks, Jane.

Lisa Cohen

Thanks for the nod! And a great roundup of resources.

Emma @ Your Doctor's Wife
Emma @ Your Doctor's Wife

Fantastic resource list! Thank you!

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How to Publish an E-Book: Resources for Authors...

[…] A round-up of the best resources and tools for how to publish an ebook.  […]

Michael Greer

Thanks! Your resources list saves me a bunch of time. I’m teaching an online grad course called Publishing Inside Out and was looking for just such a set of current links re ebooks and related content. Fabulous!

Chihuahua Zero

I’m saving this resource list for future reference. Plus, I’m sharing it to my audience.

BookDesigner

Uh! Quite resourceful. I will definitely take my time to evaluate each and see whats really suitable for me. Couldn’t have asked for more. Thanks, Jane.

Lee J Tyler

As always, thanks to you, the tools are at hand. I put a link to this permalink under my resources page. Thanks for everything. So wish I could join the class, but I will send out word.

Marie at Rural Living Media
Marie at Rural Living Media

Jane, this is an absolutely awesome collection of resources! We will be sharing this link and posting it to our indy author bulletin board. Thank you!!

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[…] for a one-stop shop for information on How to Publish an E-Book? Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has assembled a compendium of literally dozens of resources on […]

nabel skyblue

Wow Jane, U r a life saver..As an upcoming author you just made my life easier.

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California Greek Girl
California Greek Girl

Jane, this couldn’t happen at a better time…I greatly appreciate the time and effort you spent in developing this terrific piece…

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[…] FIND THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE! […]

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[…] … and publishing expert Jane Friedman provides an extensive list of ebook publishing resources. […]

Wilson Williams Jr

Jane, I found this resource to be amazing and therefore shared it with the readers of my blog. Job well done!

http://onceuponasketch.com/?p=4148

-Wilson
OnceUponASketch.com

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[…] Jane Friedman’s round-up of on the basics of e-book publishing […]

Alan Stransman

This post is encylopedic. Thanks, jane.

VS Drakkan

that’s an understatement. I only wish I had found this at the beginning of my journey, and not in the final stretch. . .

Welkyn

Excellent resource. I do have new wordpress blog for sharing my knowledge on ePublishing. Please take a look at it when you people find some time. http://welkynsolutions.wordpress.com

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[…] How to Publish an E-Book: Resources for Authors […]

Vaughn

What a nice thing for you to do to help us newbies out! Thank you

Salma iftikhar

I want my published book to be converted into an e.book

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[…] I have followed Jane Friedman since she was the editor of Writer’s Digest. She then went to teaching in Cincinnati and also for Writer’s Digest University as well as lecturing  out at writing seminars, starting her own blog in the process. A few years ago she was called up to the Virginia Quarterly Review though somehow she still writes for her website and teaches at Writer’s Digest webinars and conferences. Recently, she has compiled a Self-Publishing toolbox, of sorts, with everything a person could possibly hope for in one nifty package. This is basically a book itself, though she… Read more »
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[…] superb page that gives tons of information and links to teach you about ebooks. It’s on Jane Friedman’s website. Wow. […]

Lorraine Marie Reguly

I just found this post and love it. It was exactly what I needed. I would like to publish an ebook, and am trying to figure out if I will be selling it or giving it away for free on my blog…

Hopefully I will be able to find some answers here!

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[…] How to Publish an eBook: Resources For Authors Jane Friedman […]

TheWallOfBooks

Excellent post! Thank you! It’s very useful.

Jason Vowles

Best collection of resources ever. Like 1am, hunting google and I find this. Wow. Perfect.

Ian McCormick

Great to find so many resources on one page. lots of good tips. In my view, it’s probaly best to use Kindle DP or Smashwords for ebooks
and CreateSpace for print copy. Clearly it’s very expensive to publish
if you pay for all the professional services. The compensation is that
your royalty will be 20% to 85%, rather than 3%-12%. But remember that
most specialist or self-published books sell fewer than 200 copies. None the less you should aim for quality and work hard!

GGinPA

You might want to add David Carnoy (Cnet) to your list of bloggers: http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-18438_7-20010547-82/how-to-self-publish-an-ebook/

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[…] A round-up of the best resources and tools for how to publish an ebook.  […]

Alan.K

This is a great list of resources! The only one i would add is this (you do have to give an email address, but that’s the world we live in): http://tidyurl.com/ebookmillionaire

A Patrick Andes
Jane: Thanks so much for this awesome compendium! I have benefited greatly from other postings of yours as well. I do have one question, however. I absolutely MUST get an editor for my historical fiction novel but am also unemployed. I have heard from others about Movable Type Management/Rogue Pricing, which offers editing for a small take of the profits (which seems wholly fair to me) though I would be open to other similar entities. I don’t find much here in this list addressing editors and outfits such as MTM, unless I am overlooking something. My novel is around 260,000… Read more »
Reg

Hi Jane, I saw you a couple years ago at your e-publishing presentation in Portland, Oregon. I wonder if you could address the image issue in ebooks? I see Vook listed as a good option. I plan to publish a guide ebook to food and it requires many images, maps and icons. Will including many images be a drawback for distributing my guide on Amazon, etc? Can BookBaby handle heavy image use, or is Vook the best bet?

Thanks so much for all your insights!

R

Jon Moore

In the
Creating & Formatting E-Books (Technical Stuff), please add Jutoh, a WYSIWYG design/editing program that builds your ebook. You can try it out for free or buy one of two versions. The $39 version is fine unless you need to have complete control over the HTML an CSS coding. Can be found here: jutoh.com. The graphic user interface is a lot like OpenOffice and Word, allowing great flexibility in design of your ebook.

martinluther25

There are many writers write eBook but they have not idea about publishing eBook. The information related publishing eBook will help all authors who need detail about eBook publishing.

John Benny

Great blog, this is very useful tips for Ebook publishing, actually motivating and very much convincing post! Thanks for sharing this commendable content.
online magazine subscriptions

samrex

Wonderful list, thank you! Bookmarked.

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[…] 2. Jane Fried Man […]

Roger Waibel

I’m developing my first eBook and I’m 95% there. I intend to give this away free, never make a dime from the eBook itself but use it for lead generation. Are there legal considerations, a disclaimer, or anything else I need to include in the text before I make it available?

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[…] Another with links to multiple reference sites is Jane Friedman’s e-publishing blog […]

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[…] Jane Friedman’s How to Publish an E-Book: Resources for Authors […]

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