The 5 R’s of E-book Formatting and Distribution

E-books are exploding in case you haven’t noticed. Many writers and technophiles have been waiting for this moment for a long time. The promise of e-books – that they would democratize the publishing process, bring more books to more readers, and make your next door neighbor the next Danielle Steele – has taken a long time to manifest. Most people don’t know that the first e-readers actually popped onto the scene way back in 2000. Technology is often about timing, and for better or worse, the time of the e-book is upon us.

The great news for writer’s looking to capitalize on this trend is that there is a lot of help when it comes to getting your book formatted for today’s e-book market. Not to be confused with typesetting which can be defined as the process of putting text into the right style and size of type and the desired arrangement on the page in preparation for printing. E-book formatting is the process of converting the file type of a book into the file types accepted by e-book distributors and platforms.

There are a lot of file types to be aware of, each linked to a particular e-reader or e-publishing standard. Here’s a quick link to educate yourself on some of them: http://bit.ly/nQpJGq

At a minimum you want readers to be able to access your books on the Amazon kindle (the #1 selling e-reader on the market linked to the world’s largest e-book store), their mobile phone, and PC/Mac. If you’re really ambitious you can throw in the Nook, Kobo e-reader, MP3 players like the iPod touch, and OS or Android based tablets like the Samsung Zoom or the iPad.

While there are some great Do-It-Yourself e-book formatting solutions like calibre or feedbooks, many e-book distributors like Smashwords will convert your book to their preferred format for FREE, provided you meet their rigorous style guidelines for inclusion into the premium catalog.

If you do decide to go straight to the e-book distributor (as we did) prior to uploading your precious works there are some things you need to consider. We call these the 5 R’s of E-book formatting and distribution:
1. Rights: do you retain your copyright once you sign the distribution agreement?
2. Remuneration (pricing) and Royalties: do you set your own pricing? What are the royalty implications of different price points? How often do you get paid? How can you track sales?
3. Requirements: each e-book distributor has their own set of criteria for inclusion into their digital catalogue…read this information clearly or your book may never see the light of day.
4. Reach: each e-book distributor has their own marketplace and reaches thousands if not millions of potential readers, understand the reach and contemplate this in your marketing plans.
5. Resources: what tools are available to interact with readers on the e-book distributor’s site? Do they enable social media integration?

Here is a short list of e-book distributors where you upload your book, they convert it into their format (s), and sell it in their marketplace and others (for a fee).
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – the one bookstore you must be in to reach Amazon’s gigantic database of readers. Read the royalties and right’s information carefully. If you set a price below $2.99 for your e-book you will make only 35% of the sale of each book. The good news, you have the authority to change your price whenever you want.
Smashwords – mass e-distribution made “somewhat” easy. Smashwords will convert your work into 10 different formats making your work readable on virtually every e-reading platform in existence. The catch? Your work must match their guidelines and style sheet or it will not pass muster.
E-junkie – E-junkie provides shopping cart and buy now buttons to let you sell downloads and tangible goods on your website, eBay, Facebook, Google, Craigslist and other websites using PayPal Website Payments Standard, PayPal Website Payments Pro, PayPal Payflow Pro, Google Checkout, Authorize.Net, TrialPay, ClickBank and 2CheckOut. While technically not a mass e-book distributor, e-junkie enables you to easily sell your work from your own websites and social media properties.
Lulu – Lulu can help you reach millions of readers in more markets, like on the iBookstore℠, and Barnes & Noble NOOK with an ePub formatted eBook. With the Lulu ePub Converter, creating an ePub from your Word or RTF files is a snap, and the best part? It’s FREE.
FastPencil – If your manuscript is finished you can import it into the FastPencil Book Editor and choose a design template. FastPencil automatically typesets your manuscript using a professional design and gets it ready for publishing. Automatic formatting for Print-on-demand and eBook Publishing. For this service (which others do for FREE, you have to pay $149).
XinXii – Digital self-publishing with ease: On XinXii you can now start publishing and selling your works in your own eStore – in 3 simple steps and in real-time, so that visitors can purchase the download already in a few minutes from now. You don’t need any technical skills, you don’t need a web hosting account to store your files, you don’t have to understand FTP file transfer to upload your files and you don’t need an online shop.

No matter which e-book distributor(s) you choose – do your homework, check the forums for feedback from fellow publishers, and follow their instructions to the letter. We wish you success as you venture forward into the wide-open spaces beyond!

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