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Publish Your Ebook - Best Routes to Market

The ebook revolution is nearing the end of the beginning, with ebook sales value due to exceed printed book sales any time now. Of course, ebooks are much cheaper to buy, so unit sales are already well beyond print. Certainly, the cost of production gives ebooks an enormous edge over print. Once the book is written and the cover designed, then production and distribution costs are essentially zero. Add widening availability and the adoption of innovative business models and you have realities like the first (printed) bookless public library recently opening in Texas. And since no books are being printed on paper, using chemical inks, transported around on smelly trucks and generally returned to the publisher for pulping (this happens to maybe 90% of printed books), ebooks are environmentally sustainable.

And the benefits for authors have been beyond revolutionary, with commission on sales of 45-75% the norm, compared to 10-15% from the traditional publishers. Going indie gives authors complete control over the whole distribution process and it's so fast - once the manuscript is finished, the cover designed and metadata (descriptions and keywords) defined, your book can be onsale worldwide in minutes, with complete global coverage in every key market within a day or two. This is phenomenal! And ebook sales are scalable, which means that once the work is done, it can generate revenues for the rest of your life, without the need for any further blood, sweat or tears. Best of all, writers want to be read, so independent publishing allows them to reach readers, without having to go through the 'filter' of the mainstream publishers who, let's be real, publish an awful lot of shit. (Most of which, as has been said, people don't want to read, so gets pulped.)

As well as fiction, ebooks are an excellent route for distributing non-fiction to a global audience, as you can include images and internal and external links. Businesses can also use this route to tell their stories to customers and potential customers, to be read on ebook devices from iPhones to Kindles, independent of wi-fi access.

So, you're sold on publishing an ebook though the indie route. Now, how do you go about it?
Mark Coker and Smashwords have been championing indie publishers since the revolution began, and have given us powerful tools, letting the smallest operator - author, agent or publisher - compete at the highest level. Key to Smashwords is its direct distribution route into all Apple iBookstores. The bulk of my ebook sales are through Apple, and Smashwords has made this not just possible, but easy. Apple's new iOS upgrade, due later in 2014, will incorporate their iBook reader and ebook store access into every iPhone and iPad - at the moment you need to seek it out - so expect phenomenal growth in ebook sales after this game-changing development.

To distribute through Smashwords, you'll need a properly-formatted MS Word document, all formatting to meet the specs in Mark Coker's fabulously useful ebook, Smashwords Style Guide, available free here. You'll also need a professional quality cover image and a gripping description. Think of the purchasing decision you make when buying a printed book - cover, back cover description, opening paragraph - then realise that all these have to work in ebook format. Additionally, your SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - has to be strong, and your cover needs to look good when represented as a tiny icon.

Once you upload your files to Smashwords, their system will convert your files into all the most popular ebook reading formats, as well as PDF and online reading. Once you pass this process, your book is instantly for sale on Smashwords, though you can choose to distribute for free if you like. Then your book is checked - by a human! - to see that it meets the demanding specs for premium distribution. This is key because, once you get premium approval, Smashwords delivers your ebook to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, as well as into new subscription services Scribd and Oyster. Further, Smashwords will send your book to library distributors Baker & Taylor and OverDrive. You will need an ISBN for this, but Smashwords supplies these for free.

With Smashwords, you get daily sales reporting, payment every quarter (via PayPal), the ability to generate discount coupons (for use in Smashwords store only) and space for an author interview.

Amazon Kindle Direct Programme (KDP)
Amazon is currently battling the big traditional publishers, many of whom want to charge more for ebooks than printed books! Amazon will win in the end. It's been stated that the only person essential to the publication process is the author and this is true. Amazon's KDP programme offers powerful tools to the indie publisher, including virtually instant sales graphs, the ability to preview ebooks on different reading devices, content spellcheck and age targeting. Amazon also offers the KDP Select programme, whereby authors who offer their ebooks exclusively on the KDP platform can share in a fund whenever their book is borrowed.

The Kindle publishing interface is quite straightforward. As with Smashwords, key requirements are a Word doc with similar formatting to Smashwords, a cover image and metadata. Amazon also offers Author Central, a bio page in many key marketplaces. This is certainly worth completing.

KDP payments are directly into your bank account, monthly, though you need to reach a threshold before payments in currencies different to your own can be made.

Google Play
Google are new to the market for ebooks on Play, and it shows. The registration and upload interface is quite tricky and sales reporting is poor. You need an Epub file to upload your ebook to Play, which should help you to reach readers on the Android platform. Luckily, you can download a perfect Epub file from your book page on Smashwords.

My overall advice:

  1. Get your ebooks into all three distribution routes, in the order shown above.
  2. Don't bother with exclusivity on Amazon.
  3. Make sure your ebook content is properly proofed, edited and formatted.
  4. If you can't design a professional cover image yourself, get help.
  5. Think long and hard about your metadata, looking closely at search volumes and book categories.

Good luck and Up the Revolution!

For more help with publishing your ebooks, contact, tel 087 249 3051.

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