Book Path

The PDP of Self-publishing an e-Book
July 23, 2012 – Maddie Martinez

Pricing, Distribution, and Production

You’ve written the most brilliant book mankind has ever had the chance to read.  The cover is eye-catching and even looks great as a thumbnail.

With the Internet, the world, that is, every being with access to almost any electronic device from a desktop computer to a smartphone, is your marketplace.

You are ready to self-publish that masterwork as an e-book and bask in the fame and fortune that are sure to be yours.

Here are just few things you may want to consider before unleashing your wonderwork.

At what price point fame ?

To be "free" or not to be "free"? What a good question.

According to Smashwords, the online e-book publishing and distribution platform with more than 125,000 titles from over 40,000 authors, a free e-book is downloaded at about a rate of 100 more times than one with a price attached.

Free may get you fame but it doesn’t add much to your fortune.  Unless, of course, you are using that free first masterwork download as part of a marketing strategy for even greater ones soon to come with a price tag. Marketing and development of a readership are very important.

Even an e-book priced at 99 cents will get lots of downloads.  And according to Lulu, an online print book publisher that also offers e-book publishing services, authors sell more e-books and earn more when they are priced between 99 cents and $2.99.  But Smashwords says the most profitable range is $2.99 to $5.99.

A Royal(ty) Fortune?

The effect that pricing has on sales is only a part of a possible e-book publishing fortune.  Royalty rates are often linked to the price of the e-book.

Amazon’s Kindle Direst Publishing (KDP) pays a 70% royalty rate but only on Kindle books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.  The royalty rate drops to 35% for e-books not priced in that range.

Barnes & Noble pays a 65% royalty rate for e-books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. E-books priced below or above that range have a 40% royalty rate.

According to Smashwords, it pays 85% or more of the net proceeds from sales at Smashwords.  E-books distributed by Smashwords and sold at Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store have a royalty rate of 60%.  But at Kobo, the 60% royalty rate is only for e-books priced under $12.99 and paid in US and Canadian dollars.  The royalty rate drops to 38% at Kobo when another currency is used for a purchase.  Sales at an affiliate marketer pay 70.5% of the net purchase.  The royalty rate is 45% of the list price for the For the Baker & Taylor Axis360 library platform.  Libraries purchase a single copy at list price and are allowed to lend the e-book multiple times but to only one patron at a time.

Booktango advertises a 100% royalty rate from e-books sold on its website.  However, it does charge 30% of the list price for each e-book sold which makes the royalty rate 70%.  It also claims a 90% royalty rate when an e-book is sold through its distribution network.

Instead of taking a part of an author’s royalties, BookBaby charges a $99 fee upfront and a $19 yearly fee per title.

Royalty rates do differ among e-book publishers and aggregators, as do the terms of publishing agreements.  As always, read all contracts carefully.  Be on the lookout for rules and restrictions.

For example, KDP Select (Kindle Publishing Direct Select) is a program offered by Amazon that distributes a $500,000 monthly pool of cash to participating authors based on the number of times an e-book is "checked out" from their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  The e-book is offered free but Amazon still pays the author a percentage of the monthly pool at the same rate it is downloaded.

However, there are restrictions.  The e-book must be 100% exclusive to Amazon for the period to which the author agrees (at least 90 days).  That is, it cannot even be offered for sale on your own website or blog, let alone, through any other e-book publisher and/or distributor.  And it must be removed from all other distribution channels during the enrollment period.

Unless an author opts out at the end of the commitment, the agreement will renew automatically.  Enrollment in KDP Select is only an option when publishing with Amazon, so read the fine print if this not something in which you wish to participate.

Apple, like Amazon, also pays 70% to authors who sell through the company’s iBookstore but there is an application process.  Authors sometimes use Apple approved e-book aggregators to ease the process.

Many online e-book publishers provide an e-book ISBN number free. Apple, however, does not.

Speaking of free, Smashwords offers its online e-book publishing and distribution services for free. Amazon, Lulu, and others offer free and fee based services.  And others, like iUniverse and Xlibris, basically offer various fee based publishing packages for e-books and POD books.

Distribution, Distribution, Distribution…and Marketing

E-book aggregators, like Smashwords and Lulu, distribute e-books through many channels.  Those channels usually include the company’s own website.  But the attraction for an author is the multiple major outlets, like Barnes & Noble's Nook eBookstore, Apple's iBooks, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and Baker & Taylor's Blio, through which an aggregator can distribute an e-book.  These outlets are international.  For example, retailers in France and the United Kingdom use Kobo for e-book sales.  Lulu is also a print book publisher and distributes print books through Amazon and the Ingram Catalog.

Other online e-publishers, like Booktango and BookBaby, also distribute through multiple e-book sellers.

Amazon, not only has Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), but the print-on-demand (POD) service Create Space, which allows an e-book to be sold from an eStore with Amazon handling the payment processing and order fulfillment.

The right tools, like a good word processing program or Microsoft Word, dictionary and thesaurus, are essential to today’s writing process.  It is also so with the conversion of Word files into formats that can be read on the various devices, desktop computers, laptops, the many makes of e-readers, and smartphones and others, used by e-book consumers.

To make e-books available to readers on electronic devices, many e-publishers provide free conversion tools to turn Microsoft Word files into formats for readers, smartphones and other devices.  Amazon supports its Kindle devices.  Apple offers iBooks Author, which is a free-to-Mac-owners software program that helps authors create multi-touch interactive e-books to be viewed with the iBooks2 app but only on Apple devices like the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.  PubIt is the free B&N conversion tool for making Word files into EPUB files that can be uploaded to Barnes and Noble’s (Nook) eBookstore.

Smashwords provides a free tool to convert a Word file into nine different formats including EPUB (for Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and apps like Stanza, Aldiko, and Adobe Digital Editions) and MOBI (for Kindle).

Lulu distributes through Apple and Barnes and Noble and provides a free EPUB conversion tool.

Fee based online self-publishing services may charge for file conversions.

Access to Amazon’s Kindle-verse, the largest e-book marketplace, may be the best strategy for your masterwork, at least, for now.  But Apple’s lock on the market of technology crazed consumers may be the choice for your placement of your masterwork now or in the future.  Perhaps an aggregator like Smashwords or Lulu is the best marketing choice.

Revision is not only a part of writing but it can also be a strategy in e-book publishing.

You don’t have to choose just one online e-book publisher.  You can combine, overlap, and/or switch as contracts permit allowing you to reach that world audience in any way in which you wish.  New online e-book publishers and distributors, like Scribd and others, combination e-book and POD self-publishers, like Lulu, eBookIt, iUniverse, Xlibris and many others, as well as, small press POD and e-publishers, like Melange Books LLC, are also options for the self-publishing e-book author.  Choose from a variety of fee based services from the many e-book houses for self-publishing or a free more DIY service like Smashwords.

Some of the online e-book publishers and distributors offer marketing strategies.  Amazon’s KDP Select is one example. Smashwords Coupon Generator allows an author to create coupons codes for reader discounts to encourage downloads, reviews, or future purchases that can be promoted through your own mailing list, on your own website and/or blog, and through your social network postings.  Other e-book publishers offer incentives and marketing tools.  Fee based services usually have marketing programs from which to choose.

Online e-book publishers and distributors can provide free tools for authors to track sales and revenue.

A Pretty Face

By definition, a masterwork is exceptionally well written, thoughtfully edited and scrupulously proofread.

With some help from a website, an e-book or online article or an actual human being, the e-book for which the world has been waiting has been converted into multiple formats for distribution through multiple channels.

It’s written and formatted.  So, you’re done, right?

Not really.  Your e-masterwork, just like a printed book, needs an eye-catching cover.  Unless you have design experience, it may be best to hire a professional.  Choosing a graphic designer with whom you can work to make the perfect cover for your masterwork is as important as any of the decisions you make.  There are lists (Smashwords has one) of graphic designers who create e-book covers that are attention getting even as tiny thumbnails.

All you need is a great e-book with a fantastic cover that is priced right and formatted for distribution through the most appropriate channels and e-book stores.

Now let the royalties roll in.