5 Things Beginners Need to Know About E-Book Publishing

Amazon’s Kindle

The e-book publishing landscape is changing fast—with new services, new terms, and new formats.

Despite the pace of change, here are 5 things that have remained fairly constant this year—and that you must be aware of—before you undertake any kind of self-publishing process for e-reading devices. I promise to update this list should any of these facts change. (But don’t hesitate to leave a question or comment on this post at any time.)

  1. E-book publishing and distribution services (e.g., Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble Nook, Smashwords, etc) are nonexclusive and do not take any rights to your work. That means you can use any or all of the services at the same time, and you can take down your work at any time. (You can also upload revisions/updates and change the price at any time you like.)
  2. There are single-device publishing/distribution services and multiple-channel distribution services, which can be used in tandem. Smashwords and BookBaby are examples of services that will distribute your e-book to multiple e-reading devices. Amazon’s KDP (Kindle) is an example of a single-device publishing service.
  3. Successful e-books generally require excellent cover design (appropriate for digital viewing and reproduction), appropriate pricing, and strong social currency (testimonials, reviews, blurbs). Appropriate pricing is constantly under debate, but for novels typically runs from 99 cents to $2.99.
  4. Amazon royalties favor pricing between $2.99 and $9.99. Authors who publish direct with Amazon Kindle will receive a 70% royalty if they price between $2.99 and $9.99. Pricing above or below that range means a 35% royalty. You are not allowed to undercut Amazon’s price on other sites (and that includes your own site).
  5. Calibre is free e-book conversion software used widely by people in the industry to output e-book files from many types of sources. However, this software might prove intimidating to an inexperienced user. To avoid handling the technical aspects of formatting and conversion for your e-book (especially if you have a range of styles or illustrations used in your book), use a service such as BookBaby, which charges a flat fee to get you going.
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