It is fairly accepted practice today that every published book must be accompanied by an eBook version. Many authors decide to forgo the extra cost of printing and make electronic medium the sole focus. If you are planning on publishing an eBook, there are some best practices of which you should be aware. If this is your first attempt at publishing an eBook then the process may seem overwhelming but it is in actuality not too difficult. The three areas covered in this article are formatting, pricing, and promotion.
A common area of confusion pertains to the various file types that can hold an eBook file. Kindle Direct Publishing accepts quite a few formats but the focus here will be on the three most popular. They are Microsoft Word (.DOC or .DOCX), eBook specific files (HTML, MOBI, EPUB), and Adobe PDF files.
The best and most versatile solution involves hand coding the eBook in HTML. This way you can be assured that there will be no problems in how the system interprets your HTML file. HTML will also allow for the greatest level of customization. Of course, this will require some base level coding skills. If you are not comfortable with simple html tasks then consider hiring a professional. HTML requires more work up front but will result in fewer headaches down the road.
The common option that does not necessarily require coding is an EPUB file. The EPUB file format is open source and as result, there have been reports of design discrepancies, but by ensuring to preview your book on multiple devices, you can alleviate some of these issues. KDP can convert the EPUB file to its own format automatically. EPUB eBooks are built with HTML but when auto generated from eBook creation software, there can be formatting problems. You may find that the generated file looks fine but when seen on Amazon, the layout is not quite as expected. Again, the best way to avoid this is to hand code the HTML.
It is probably best to avoid PDF files for your eBook. PDF is a file type best suited for print and therefore not a wise choice for eBook publication.
It is also wise to avoid using Microsoft Word to create your eBook. MS Word formatting will bloat the finished file. This could result in poor formatting and an unnecessary increase in file size. There are some tricks to get a round this but they only amount to extra hassle.
The best solution is to simply write the book in your favorite word processor and hand the file along with some money to a pro and say, “Here, turn this into an eBook.”
Once your file has been created you may want to preview how it will look on various types of e-readers. This can be done with a Kindle emulator called Kindle Previewer, available for free from Amazon.
Some places you may want to consider uploading your eBook will be Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks Store and Smashwords. A more simplified version would be KDP, Smashwords and Createspace. You will still receive wide distribution but the initial set-up time will be much lower. KDP is the largest marketplace and therefore a must, Smashwords can distribute the eBook to other retailers like B&N, Kobo and Apple; while Createspace will make your eBook available in paperback format.
When you upload to Samshwords, do not use their Meat Grinder tool. It claims to be able to convert Word documents into a multitude of other file types but the result is not always as expected. Instead be sure to format your own EPUB file to your specifications and upload via the Smashwords Direct system. Just make sure the file is right before you upload. Hire a professional if need be.
EBook pricing has been a source of contention but through experimentation, some precedents have been established. For most new authors it is recommended to set the price between $2.99 and $9.99 to be eligible for the 70% royalties from Amazon. However, if achieving word of mouth praise is a top priority, it may be beneficial to set the price at $0.99. At this price the royalty rate will only be 35% but no shopper will have reservations with taking a chance on an unknown author when the price is that low.
Amazon has the ability to automatically set prices on a worldwide basis but you may want to consider some customization in this area. Just as we have become accustomed to psychological pricing in the U.S., so too have customers been exposed to similar pricing schemes in other countries. Setting the price at $2.99 with automatic conversion will result in a suboptimal price for other currencies. Avoid this by manually setting the foreign price at a psychological level like £1.99.
You are probably aware of the option to run a free promotion period on Amazon for a maximum of 5 days out of every 90 days. Prior to running the free offer, price your book at $9.99 for a while so consumers will perceive the free offer as a higher value. Going from $9.99 to free gets people more excited than going from $0.99 to free. Once your free promotion period ends raise the price to $0.99 and leave the price at that level for a week. Next change the price to $1.99 and leave the price at that level for another week. Finally, raise the price a third time to $2.99 for an indefinite amount of time during which you can try some experimentation.
During this experimentation period, you may want to try the Amazon beta program called KDP Pricing Support. This feature allows you to see how various pricing levels have affected sales and earnings in the past for other authors in your genre.
Finally, a time honored tactic for any type of business is studying your competitors. Evaluate their pricing and price your book higher or lower based on factors such as your author reputation and the complexity of your book.
Put a lot of thought in to the title, the cover, the description and the table of contents. These four elements combine to create the hook for a potential reader. Each element should either project the core concept of the book or serve to reinforce that concept in the reader’s mind. These four parts of your eBook are like a sales pitch. You will only have a few seconds to entice the consumer so make sure your pitch is strong.
Promotion and marketing for your eBook is really a never ending process but there are some steps to take around the launch of your eBook that should provide a boost. Be very specific with the keywords associated with your eBook. These will be the keywords that your eBook will show up for when users search. Don’t just use keywords like “science fiction”. Instead use “science fiction space opera”. This will help your eBook stand out in a crowded market.
Be extremely proactive in garnering reviews. In the weeks leading up to launch, send your eBook to 100 people and ask them to post an honest review. Amazon frowns on reviews from friends and family so avoid reviews from those too close to you. Positive reviews will help your sales immensely. You will need to send the eBook to as many people as possible because not all will post a review. Temporarily giving away your book for free on Amazon can also be a great way to get reviews. A lot of reviews under your listing help instill buyer confidence.
Consider a short print run of your eBook. Even if you are content to focus on the electronic space, a print version of your eBook can still be helpful for promotional purposes. There are still many traditionalist readers that assign value to an author and their book based on whether that eBook has a print counterpart. There are some book reviewers and other review sources in media for which it would be more appropriate to send a print copy. It is also difficult to give away copies of an eBook at in-person events. The best method for self-publishing an eBook involves all three publication technologies. Sell your eBook, make your print book available on demand marketplaces, and do a short print run of 50 -200 copies to start.
However you go about creating, marketing and selling your new eBook, adhere to these three rules:
- Utilize objective opinions and be honest with yourself on whether or not you have written a good book.
- Do not be cheap when it comes to hiring contractors.
- Accept the fact that marketing your book will be a tough, never-ending task and for at least your first book, you will most likely be working for free.
James A. Rose is a writer for InstantPublisher.com, a self-publishing company that has been helping authors bring their visions to life for the past 15 years. James has worked in the publishing industry since 2010 and during that time he has seen pretty much every problem that authors encounter during the self-publishing process. It is James’ goal to utilize his experience at Instant Publisher to help budding authors avoid common mistakes and self-publish the best book possible.
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