by Karen Saunders, MacGraphics Services (used with permission)
As an author and independent publisher, I’m always looking for ways to leverage my work. Turning my intellectual property into various products is a pretty obvious solution. The emerging popularity of Kindle, iPads, and Nooks convinced me now was the time to convert my printed book, Turn Eye Appeal into Buy Appeal into an ebook.
Many Ways to Sell and Distribute eBooks
I discovered there are several routes I could take to sell and distribute my ebooks, depending on how much time and effort I wanted to put into the distribution process. I initially learned that I could use a third-party aggregator to get my books listed on popular ebook sales sites such as Amazon.com’s Kindle department, Apple iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook’s department.
All About Aggregators
Third-party aggregators (such as Smashwords, BiblioCore, LuLu, Book Baby, LibreDigital, DarkFire, InGrooves, and many more) help self-publishers convert their books into ebooks and set up distribution with the popular retailers I’ve already mentioned. But the aggregators also take a cut (sometimes a significant cut) of each sale. Some aggregators also use contracts that are digital rights management (DRM)-free. DRM protects the copyrights of electronic media. DRM as applied to ebooks is a proprietary file encryption that helps publishers limit the illegal sale of copyrighted books. This is very important to me, so it was another reason not to use aggregators.
Direct Portals to Retail Sites
Next, I discovered there are direct portals to each of these retail sites. I set up my own publisher’s account with Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google. This allowed me to keep a bigger portion of my sales by selecting a discount rate of my choice (the discount rate is an amount I agree to give to the retailer to sell my book) and keep the middleman (aggregator) out of it.
I filled out an application and contract online with each of the retailers and provided information on how they could make payments to my bank account, as well as metadata (information about the book such as copyright date, book categories, ISBN number, keywords, etc). Then I had to convert my book to the proper format they requested, and upload the ebook file and cover image.
Here is a chart on the most popular ebook formats:
Retailer/Location eReader Device/App File Format Publisher’s Connection
Amazon Kindle Mobi Digital Text Platform
Apple iPad ePub iTunes Connect
Barnes & Noble Sony Nook ePub PubIt
Libraries Adobe Digital Editions ePub Local Libraries
Many ways to convert a book into an ebook
My printed book was originally formatted in Adobe InDesign, and I also had an identical version available in a PDF file format. (I can easily output an identical version of my printed book in a PDF file through Adobe InDesign or Distiller.) But these sites didn’t want a PDF file. They wanted Mobi or ePub format.
My book was two columns and had over 200 illustrations and graphics throughout the interior, so it was a fairly complicated layout. I discovered that complex interior formats don’t easily translate into ebook pages.
Although InDesign has a feature that allows me to convert a document into epub, and I’ve seen websites (including Amazon’s) that claim it is easy and inexpensive to translate a file, they just didn’t result in a clean format.
First of all, eBook readers are built to support one long continuous column, so I had to make some major adjustments to my 2-column layout. A proper layout was particularly important to me since my book was about design, layout and marketing! The websites and automated conversion software do convert very simple word documents with pretty good results though.
So I sought the experts in this area; individuals and companies who specialize in ebook conversion services. Because my book had such a complex layout, the price was quite high. I also got a price from a company overseas. I quickly learned that you get what you pay for. As in any service field, the price of the service usually matches the quality you receive.
I paid a very low price for the ebook conversion service, but I had to spend many hours proofing layout and formatting errors and checking all the links. The titles, subtitles, lists, body copy, and graphics were not formatted in a consistent manner or in a standard book format. Indents and justified formatting were applied to titles and subtitles when they shouldn’t have been. Links were not active or were going to the wrong places, headline text was clipped off, graphics were missing or in the wrong places, and on and on. Eventually after several months of working with the contractor on both the mobi and epub versions of my ebooks, the files were formatted properly and I was able to upload them to the retail sites.
Some things to watch out for:
- Make sure you have an active table of contents with live links that go to the correct sections in your book interior
- Make sure your epub document passes the epub validation test (a free test is available at www.threepress.org)
- Be sure your ebook has its own ISBN number (you can buy a block of 10 ISBN numbers from www.Bowker.com). Amazon will assign its own unique identifier to your book, but Apple requires an ISBN number.
- Be sure to have an eye-catching cover design with a title that you can read clearly when it is reduced to postage-stamp size.
- Reformat your front cover to 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall at 300 DPI so it maximizes the entire screen on most eReader devices.
- Check your files on all the ebook software readers and devices. If you don’t own a Kindle, Nook, or iPad, find a friend who does. Download Adobe Digital Editions and Kindle for Mac/PC. Look at your book on each one and make sure everything looks and works properly.
- Put your table of contents first, even before your copyright page.
- Be careful about your decision on digital rights management and how you answer this question on contracts.
- Do the numbers on how to price your book according to the discount rate you pay the distributor/retailer. It sometimes works best to lower your price to get a higher profit margin. For example, Amazon and Apple will pay up to 70% royalty on a book if it is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. They only pay 35% if the book is priced at $10.00 or more!
New Technology and the Lack of Established Standards
As with any new technology, standards need to be established, and ebooks are no exception. There is a lot of debate among developers and publishers regarding a number of issues including whether every ebook format needs a separate ISBN number, the standard order of pages, coding that provides consistent results on every version of each device and software, consistent image size and resolution requirements for cover and interior graphics, formatting that resembles books, navigation, whether the devices supports color imagery, etc. This is where a lot of the labor was spent; trying to make my book look the best on every eReader device out there.
I hope this helps you find your path from printed book to ebook with fewer trials and tribulations.
Karen Saunders and her team of award winning designers help authors and small business owners design their books, build their brand, launch their website and market their business. She now offers ebook conversion services. Visit her website to download a free Book Media Checklist and a free eCourse on How to Create a Best-selling Book Design from the Inside Out www.MacGraphics.net
Note: Barbara McNichol is editor of Karen’s book Turn Eye Appeal into Buy Appeal.
(c) 2011 Karen Saunders