eBook Publishing (A Crash Course)

on 03 July 2017


When it comes to eBook publishing these days there are a raft of service providers out there who can help authors to realise their books in digital format. All these sites demonstrate different ways of achieving the same goal, getting independent authors ‘out there’ and into the selling space with as little hassle as possible. 

Some examples include: 

·         Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com)

·         Lulu (http://www.lulu.com/create/ebooks)

·         Kobo (https://www.kobo.com/writinglife)

·         Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_on_smashwords)

·         Bookbaby (https://www.bookbaby.com/)

Now, whilst these offerings are usually free, they do have to cover themselves in terms of their own costs. Typically this is done through a percentage royalty agreement. For example, Amazon’s KDP offers a 70% royalty rate on books selling below $10 meaning an author takes 70% whilst Amazon gets the remaining 30%.   

But, before an author can start considering their slice of the profit pie, they obviously need to have a product which is saleable.

                Obviously it’s one thing to write a compelling manuscript but if said manuscript isn’t legible, your reader is going to have a tough time getting past the first few pages. In a digital environment where your work can be ‘sampled’ before being purchased (usually a single chapter or a handful of pages), it is incredibly important that what you’ve written reads well without spelling or grammatical issues (a thorough editor can with this) and is presented correctly (something which a desktop publisher well-versed in layout can help with). On top of this, without an arresting cover, something which really catches the eye, people may overlook your book completely. A concise and compelling back cover blurb can also help hugely when it comes to hooking potential readers.  


                 If we think about going to our local bookstore, we look more favourably on those books which go the distance in terms of ‘presenting’ themselves to us. Having an eye-catching cover, an exciting blurb, and an opening chapter which really grabs the reader guarantees they’ll be taking whatever you’ve written straight to the tills. 

                  Another point to bear mind here is the pricepoint you sell your book at. The ‘correct’ selling price doesn’t really exist but by searching for books of similar length in similar genres should give you a good idea of how much you should ‘set’ your book at. To really boost your sales numbers (and also attention!) consider lowering the price as a special or offering a few copies as a giveaway.  

                 Now, whilst the majority of these websites do offer free services which automate the eBook conversion process (typically changing Word documents or PDFs to whatever format the site favours), an author still has to have a presentable manuscript to ‘plug’ in.

                Here there’s a bit of a caveat emptor (‘buyer beware’) with regards to this process, as these automations can sometimes result in ‘oddities’ cropping up in your finished manuscript. The problem with a simple conversion from a Word doc or PDF to any ebook format is that the resulting layout in these cases is usually a ‘fixed’ one. Being ‘fixed’ is, in this particular context, a bad thing. In reference to eBooks, we’re talking ‘stuck’, ‘unmoving’, ‘immobile’, ‘unable to shift’ and, considering the variety of devices which one can view an eBook on nowadays, the differences of screen sizes and point sizes for fonts, you really want your converted file to move around as much as possible so as to accommodate these various displays. 


                At this point, contacting a professional eBook layout service to do this work for you would be the way to go. Sadly, you’ll have to budget for this sort of thing because it does require the same kind of work one encounters when laying out a physical book, which means having human hands and, more importantly, human eyes to checking everything over. If there’s one thing that an author should spend their money on when it comes to eBook publishing, it’s having this kind of professional layout work done. A well laid out eBook accommodates the majority of devices, so whether your reader is seeing the file on her smartphone, tablet, Kindle device, or laptop, the text remains consistent throughout with elements like page breaks, chapter headings, indentation and that sort of thing all ‘staying’ where the author intended them to be.  


The majority of eBook distributors mentioned above are fantastic when it comes to guiding their would-be authors along the eBook-publishing journey. With comprehensive step-by-step tutorials, fleshed-out FAQs for all their customer’s queries and helpful humans you can get in touch with if all else fails, getting digitally published has never been easier. Most independent authors do have their particular favourites though (for varying reasons) so checking up on their ‘reviews’ either via YouTube vids or their blog postings, might also be a good place to start!  

 Either way, realising your work in a digital format, really is only a couple of clicks away.

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