Question: I have two nearly completed manuscripts and I’m only interested getting them out as eBooks. How can I set about accomplishing this?



It’s no secret that eBooks have experienced growing popularity in recent years. The option of having a library of digital books on your mobile device is very handy, and more readers are seeking out this convenience. For authors, eBooks can serve as a starting place for reaching your publishing goals. The low production costs and the ability to test the popularity of a book in the market can help you make informed decisions about the viability of a print book.

So, how do you get started? These 5 steps can help you get the ball rolling on digital publishing:

When choosing an eBook platform, it's important to know what devices your readers use.1. Research and choose an eBook publishing platform

Choosing the right eBook platforms for distribution of your book is a key element to help you reach your audience. Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and KDP Select are among the most popular digital publishing options, with an estimated eBook market share of 68%*. There are also niche platforms that might make sense depending on the nature of your work. In addition, you can reach readers outside of Amazon through platforms like Smashwords, Lulu, and Draft2Digital.

When choosing a platform, it’s often best to consider the preferences of your audience. What devices do they use? Where do they look for content? These questions can help you zero in on the most appropriate platform and help ensure that your book is reaching your target readers.  

2. Format your manuscript for eBook publishing

You must properly format your eBook file in order for it to be uploaded to the platform of your choosing. There are two main types of eBook formats – fixed and reflowable. In reflowable eBook files, the content adjusts to adapt to a device’s screen size. Fixed files don’t adjust, so the reader experience can be negatively impacted. It’s important to know that some file formats are not readable by certain devices. The most common and widely used eBook formats are:

Different eBook platforms have different format requirements and preferences.EPUB (Electronic Publication)

EPUB is an open standard, HTML and CSS-based format for eBooks created and supported by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). As the industry standard, it is compatible with almost all eReader devices and applications, including major players like Amazon Fire Tablets and the Kindle App, Apple iBooks, Adobe Digital Editions, Aldiko for Android, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Google Play, Kobo, and Sony eReaders.

MOBI (Mobipocket)

MOBI is proprietary to Amazon and is predominately compatible with Amazon Kindle and the Kindle apps for iOs and Android devices. This format is visually appealing, as it gives readers behaviors similar to physical books, such as swiping to turn a page and earmarking a page.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

PDF is a universal format used to share all types of documents, not just eBooks. Many authors and publishers use this format to share early versions or advance review copies (ARCs) of their books. While this format is compatible with most major devices and applications, it is a fixed format. Some text and elements may not convert well and the reader experience may not be as immersive.

Amazon’s KDP platform recognizes the above formats and several more, but also has their own propriety format (KPF) that is produced using their free Kindle Create program. NOTE: As of August 1, 2021, Amazon no longer supports MOBI files when publishing new or updating previously published reflowable eBooks. Instead, they recommend EPUB, DOCX or KPF formats.

Selecting the right fonts and colors for a book cover is important.3. Ensure your eBook cover design looks good when sized down

An eBook cover differs greatly from a standard print book cover. When uploading cover art for your eBook, you’ll only include the front cover design – the book’s back cover and spine aren’t needed. The platform of your choosing will provide specifications on file format, color profile (RGB) and file size, but it’s important to know your cover will typically be displayed at a very small, thumbnail size. Some platforms offer a zoom option so that readers can see a larger view, so be sure to use high-resolution images/photos in your design. When uploaded, there may be some image compression.

When designing your eBook front cover – whether doing it yourself or working with a designer – use darker background colors or a dark border so that your cover won’t get lost against the white color of a website landing page. Make sure your book title and author name are readable by using simple fonts that are legible when sized down.

Be sure to research other books in your genre to see if there are certain color schemes or themes that readers have come to expect. If help is needed, Amazon KDP offers a free “Cover Creator” tool when you use this platform for publishing your eBook.

4. Create your account and add your eBook details

When you’re ready to create your account and upload your eBook, it’s important to pay careful attention to your eBook details or metadata. While account creation techniques can vary by platform, the details you provide about your eBooks are CRITICAL in every context.  When you optimize your metadata, you ensure you're giving your book the best chance of being found by your targeted audience. Metadata typically includes many, if not all, of the following elements:

- Book title and Subtitle (if applicable)
- Author/pen name
- Book format (Paperback, eBook, etc.)
- Publisher
- Language
- Page count
- Publication date
- Book description/About the book (Tip: ensure that your book description is rich with keywords that target your niche audience.)
- Price
- Genre/BISAC codes (Tip: BISAC codes (Book Industry Standards and Communications) tell others how to categorize your book. The more specific you can be, the better. For more information visit the Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) official BISAC Subject Headings List)
- Audience level
- Cover image
- Keywords: A keyword is one or more words that people use to conduct a search. Consider how your audience will search online to find your book. Use Google to experiment with different combinations of keywords to find the results that you feel should include your book. NOTE: Not all websites use keywords in the same way, so do your research to understand where and how they are applicable.
- About the author: This is your author bio—it's should be in line with your book's marketing message and author brand. Keep it short and sweet, and rich with targeted keywords.

5. Create an eBook promotion plan

To create a cohesive branding message, make sure your marketing plan aligns with your metadata. Regardless of the number of digital marketing plan components you implement, you should work to rise above the noise of the web and also present an unforgettable and clear message to draw in readers. In today’s landscape, digital marketing is all about building relationships, not hard marketing. Translation? Nix the pushy “buy my book” messages and focus instead on being informative and entertaining. Respond personally, be kind, and build relationships. Ultimately, this is how you generate interest in your books.

Social media and email marketing can be an effective way to sell books.While social media and email marketing can be great ways to promote your eBook, there are also eBook-specific promotional platforms such as BargainBooksy and BookBub that can provide a boost in sales. Offering your eBook for free or at a discount for a limited time can be an effective way to create excitement and awareness.

If you want to reach even more readers, don’t forget to distribute your eBook through Overdrive so that libraries can make it available to their patrons.

There’s no doubt eBooks are here to stay. They have opened up a whole new realm, and can afford you new opportunities to publish and market your books, while reaching a much broader audience. With so many options available in the world of eBooks, it’s an exciting time to get into digital publishing.

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