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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Posted in E-Books.

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 publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

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. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

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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