Getting started with self-publishing

Due to rise in hand-held devices and e-book readers, self-publishing has become one of the fastest growing sector in the digital market. Self-publishing provides publishing power to authors by not having to wait for agents and publishers to give the green light. Though this article is focused towards self-publishing an e-book, you can also self-publish a printed copy by using services from companies such as CreateSpace, Lightning Source and Lulu.

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) develops, publishes and maintains open standards such as EPUB, for digital publications and promotes the world-wide adoption of these specifications. As quoted in their website, “the EPUB® specification is a distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents. EPUB defines a means of representing, packaging and encoding structured and semantically enhanced Web content — including HTML5, CSS, SVG, images, and other resources — for distribution in a single-file format”. Although, EPUB 2 is still widely used by the industry, the latest major release of EPUB is the third version EPUB 3.

EPUB Software

Several EPUB software are out there, mostly for free, by which you can create, edit and read electronic books:

  • Calibre: Calibre is an open-source cross-platform (Linux, Windows and OS X) software with powerful features, among which some are library management, format conversion, and editing and viewing. The editing and viewing, however, cannot read books protected with DRM. You also cannot create an EPUB book from scratch using Calibre.
    Calibre converts from these input formats:
    CBZ, CBR, CBC, CHM, DJVU, DOCX, EPUB, FB2, HTML, HTMLZ, LIT, LRF, MOBI, ODT, PDF, PRC, PDB, PML, RB, RTF, SNB, TCR, TXT, TXTZ
    to these output formats:
    AZW3, EPUB, FB2, OEB, LIT, LRF, MOBI, HTMLZ, PDB, PML, RB, PDF, RTF, SNB, TCR, TXT, TXTZ
  • Sigil: Sigil is an open-source cross-platform (Linux, Windows and OS X) WYSIWYG e-book editor designed to edit books in ePub format. With Sigil, one gets complete control over creating and editing an EPUB file with Book View, Code View and Preview View. It is also integrated with table of contents generator, and EPUB validator which comes in very handy. Speaking of validator, you can also directly validate your EPUB book at validator.idpf.org
  • Marvin: Marvin is a fast, intelligent and highly customizable e-book software to read books in ePub format . Currently, it is only available for iOS platform.
  • EPUBReader: EPUBReader is an add-on designed to read books in ePub format from within the Firefox browser
  • Readium: Readium is a project of the IDPF and is an open source reference system and rendering engine for EPUB® publications. It is available in Chrome Store for use in Chrome browser
  • Writer2ePub: Writer2ePub is an OpenOffice extension to create ePub documents with OpenOffice

Online Retailers

Some of the major e-book retailers are:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing:
    Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) lets you upload and convert your final draft from several formats such as: Word (doc,docx), HTML, MOBI, EPUB, Rich Text Format (RTF),Plain Text and Adobe PDF.

    Kindle offers 70% royalty if the list price of the book is within the eligible price range of $2.99 and $9.99. Else, it offers 35% royalty that has the maximum price restriction of $200 and the minimum of $0.99. Check their website for more details.

Authors can create their own covers for their e-books by using Amazon’s Cover Creator. Cover Creator is loaded with several combinations of templates, fonts and colors to give your cover a customized look. However, it doesn’t allow you to download the cover you created so you can use it with other retailers. With global outreach and marketing features like KDP Select, KDP could be the right option for you.

  • itunes Connect:
    itunes Connect is a central platform provided by Apple for publishing media, apps and books. Your e-book will be published at the iBookstore which only accepts books in the .ibooks and EPUB format. You have to download their delivery application called “itunes Producer” (requires OSX 10.6 or later) to publish your final .ibooks or ePub draft. MAC App Store offers a free software called iBooks Author for OS X 10.7.4 or later to create and edit books in ibooks format. iBooks Author gives your book a great beginning with templates that include a choice of page designs with matching fonts, colors, and textures. You can export your book as an .ibooks or pdf. iBooks Author is integrated with itunes Producer by which you can submit your book to the iBooks Store for sale or for free download in a few simple steps. Apple offers 70% royalty.
  • Nook Press by Barnes and Noble:
    NOOK Press is an online, self-publishing portal where independent authors can find everything they need to publish their eBooks directly to the NOOK Bookstores. NOOK Press allows users to write new Projects, edit/format existing manuscripts, collaborate with their colleagues, and monitor their sales. Authors can upload manuscript files in these file formats: Microsoft Word (.doc and .docx), .txt, .rtf, .htm, .html, and .epub. If you don’t have a manuscript file in one of these file formats, you can type it directly in the Nook Press’ Manuscript Editor.

    Any file uploaded for sale on Nook Book is converted into an ePub file for customers to download as a NOOK Book.

    e-books sold through the NOOK Bookstores are available for sale on BN.com, NOOK.co.uk, NOOK devices, and on NOOK eReading software for Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows 8, Mac, and PC.

    The price of the Nook Book must be between $0.99 and $199.99. Author will be paid a royalty off the list price in USD according to the following terms:

    For NOOK Books with a list price at or between $2.99/£1.50 and $9.99/£7.99 65% of the List Price
    For NOOK Books with a list price at or below $2.98 /£1.49, or at or greater than $10.00/£8.00 (but not more than $199.99/£120.00 and not less than $0.99/£0.75) 40% of the List Price
  • Google Books Partner Program:
    There are two components to Google Books Partner Program:

    (1) Selling digital editions of your book where you earn royalty (52% of the list price). Google has the ability to accept a file in PDF or ePub format, or a physical copy. If you send them a hard copy, Google will use proprietary scanning technology to prepare your book for display on Google Books.

    (2) the Preview Program is a free marketing program that enables publishers and authors to promote their books online, through Google Books by submitting a digital or physical copy of your book so it can be previewed online.When a reader finds the book on Google Books, they’ll see a limited preview of your book, as well as a series of links to purchase your title at major online retailers. You can also add a custom link to the book’s listing on your own website.

  • Third-party Aggregators

    Since it is a tedious job for authors to sign up for each online retailers and submit an e-book for publishing, authors can use third-party companies to get this done for a certain fee. These companies known as Aggregators will publish your e-book to major online retailers on your behalf. There are several of them, but the ones I know about are: Smashwords, Bookbaby and PigeonLab. Visit their websites and see which one fits your needs.

    Getting an ISBN

    An ISBN is a 10- or 13-digit number that uniquely identifies published books worldwide. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. You do NOT need an ISBN to sell your e-book on any of the online retailers mentioned above. However, if you choose to have ISBN for your books, you can purchase it from Bowker in the US, and from an International ISBN Agency outside US.
    Note that you need separate ISBNs for your e-book and the printed copy of the e-book. In fact, if you plan to publish a book in hard cover, soft cover, PDF, with or without illustrations, you will a separate ISBN for each variation.

    Selling your e-book from your own website

    Unless you have given exclusive selling rights to any of the on-line retailers, you should be able to sell your e-book from your own website. Companies like My Commerce and Kagi provide such services where authors even with minimal IT knowledge can implement shopping cart and payment capabilities to their websites. It is worth looking at selling your own e-book as it allows you to keep 100% of the royalty (minus the small service fee charged by these e-commerce companies).

    Staying up-to-date

    Self-publishing industry is rapidly changing and it is important to keep yourself abreast with the latest and the greatest of what’s going on. I recommend self-publishing authors to frequently visit the websites of on-line retailers and Aggregators. You can get updates about EPUB software by signing up for newsletters from the specific websites. Additionally, you may find the following links very useful:

    5 Replies to “Getting started with self-publishing”

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