Read This Before Publishing Your First E-Book!

By Rohi Shetty

Most writers are clueless about how to publish their first e-book and where and how?

Here are the definitive answers to the nine top questions about publishing your first e-book.

Q1. Where should you publish your first e-book?

You have four choices:

  1. Your own site
  2. E-book retail sites like Amazon, iTunes, Nook, and Kobo.
  3. Aggregator sites that allow you to upload and distribute to the e-book retail sites mentioned above and other e-book retailers and libraries. They save you time and effort but take a larger share of the revenue.
  4. Other sites like Gumroad, Clickbank, e-junkie, Leanpub, Kickstarter, and Unbound.

Q2. Should I publish my e-book on my own site?

If you publish on your own site, you retain full control of your e-book and can get 100% of the revenue. However, if you are a new author with little or no audience, very few of your prospective audience are likely to know that your e-book exists. You will have to spend a lot of time, energy and money to attract traffic to your website. That’s the reason why most authors prefer to publish their e-books on other sites.

Q3. Which are the top sites e-book publishing sites?

The biggest advantage of the following sites (except Clickbank) is that you don’t have to pay any money upfront. So you can publish your e-book for free. Instead, all these sites take a percentage from your sales revenue.

  1. Amazon KDP

About eight in every ten English e-books are published and sold in the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) store. One of the biggest benefits of selling your books in the Amazon KDP store is the exposure to millions of potential readers.

Royalty: Amazon pays 35% for e-books priced below $2.99 and above $9.99. However, you can get a royalty of 70% on all Kindle titles priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

  1. Apple iBooks Author

Apple accounts for ten percent of all e-book sales, which is small but significant and growing.

Royalty: iBooks royalty rates are a flat 70% for all prices and all territories. Publishing on iBooks requires the iTunes Producer program, which is only available for a Mac. Unless you have the software to make your PC run Mac programs, you’ll need to take one of two steps to get your books on the platform. You’ll either have to borrow a Mac to publish, or you’ll have to go to a third-party publisher like Draft2Digital or Smashwords.

  1. Nookpress (Barnes & Noble Press)

Your book will be featured on BN.com and across all NOOK devices and apps, reaching millions of readers of all ages and interests. B&N Press e-books can be read on any device with the free Nook app or Nook Web Reader.

Royalty: Barnes & Noble Press pays author royalty of 40% for e-books priced between $0.99 and $2.98 and 65% for e-books priced between $2.99 and $199.99.

  1. Kobo Writing Life

Kobo Writing Life is allows authors and publishers to publish and sell e-books to millions of readers in over 200 countries. Though Kobo has only 2% of the e-book market you need to consider this platform for international sales.

Royalty: Their royalty rates are 70% for books priced between 1.99 and 12.99 (USD) or 1.99 and 7.99 (GBP) and 45% outside of this range.

  1. Smashwords

This is the original and oldest aggregator site with a larger reach than Draft2Digital.

Smashwords was set up by author Mark Coker in 2008 and allows you to distribute your titles to the many smaller e-book retailers like B&N, Baker and Taylor, as well as library networks like OverDrive and Gardeners.

Pricing: You’ll be charged 15% of the sales you receive (after the cost of the e-book retailers has been deducted).

  1. Draft2Digital

Similar to Smashwords, this site converts your e-book and distributes it across iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and other smaller stores.

Pricing: Same as Smashwords – 15% of your sales revenue (after deduction of the cost of the e-book retailers).

  1. Gumroad

It is a popular site for selling books and digital products. You can sell audio, video, and additional documents with your e-book.

Pricing: If you opt for the free version, you will be charged 8.5% + 30 cents per transaction. On the other hand, if you choose the premium version at $10 (USD)/month, you will be charged 3.5% + 30 cents per sale.

  1. Clickbank

As a top 100 online retailer with 200 million customers, ClickBank sells digital products worldwide created by entrepreneurs. From advice for getting in shape to healthy cooking recipes and dating advice, ClickBank delivers digital lifestyle products to customers in 190 countries. Unfortunately, Clickbank does not sell fiction books.

Pricing: To sell your e-books on Clickbank, you have to pay a one-time fee of $49.95 (for product approval/legal compliance review). Clickbank then charges you $1+7.5% per sale. So Clickbank is only suitable for higher-priced non-fiction info-products.

Each one of these sites has their pros and cons. Fortunately, none of them require programming or any technical expertise. Set up an account on the site best suited to your needs and try it out for a little while to see if it’s right for you. If you have the relevant files and information ready, it will take less than an hour to publish your book.

Q4: Should you publish exclusively on Amazon KDP or on multiple platforms?

If you are just starting out and this is your first book, then it’s definitely worth using KDP Select for the first 90 days. It takes time to build your audience so it is better to start with a single store so that you can focus your book marketing efforts. Later, after you have written more books, you can sell your books on the other platforms. Successful freelance writers like Mridu Khullar and Meera Kothand have chosen to publish exclusively on Amazon KDP.

Q5. What is Amazon KDP Select?

When you enroll your book in KDP Select, you agree to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through Amazon KDP for 90 days. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.

In return, your books are added to the Kindle Lending Library in Kindle Unlimited, where Amazon Prime members can “check out” their books for free with no due dates. (You get paid royalties for every book borrowed based on pages read at the end of each month.) You can also choose between Kindle Countdown Deals or a free book promotion.

Q6. Should you publish directly on e-book retail sites or use an aggregator?

Most authors publish on Amazon KDP directly and use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or Smashwords for all the other sites. For example, Joanna Penn publishes direct to Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life and iBook. She also uses Draft2Digital for Nook and other sites as well as Smashwords for some books.

If you choose to publish directly on each site, you have greater control over pricing and metadata. You can also take advantage of specific promo opportunities on some stores that are not available if you go through an aggregator. However, it takes time and effort to publish and update your books on all the different platforms. If you want to save your time and energy, you can use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or Smashwords and they will publish your books on different sites in return for 15% of your sales revenue.

Q7. Can you publish print books as well as e-books?

You can use KDP Print (Beta) or Createspace for creating and distributing print books. Publishing a paperback can help you reach new readers. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties. That means you don’t have to pay any costs upfront or carry any inventory. You can also order proofs and author (wholesale) copies of your paperbacks on KDP.

Q8. How can you protect yourself from book piracy?

All the sites that publish your book have strong security systems in place to avoid illegal sharing of your e-books. However, there is no absolute foolproof way to stop others sharing your book with others. Most of your readers are not pirates and keen to support you. So don’t let fear of book piracy stop you from publishing your books. Also, people who pirate books are not going to buy your books anyway.

If you want, you can set up alerts with sites like https://www.google.co.in/alerts and https://mention.com using your book title or lines from your book. It is possible to get your pirated books taken down but there is no guarantee they won’t be put up on some other site.

On the flip side, authors are more likely to suffer from obscurity than from piracy. So if you are a new author, you need not worry too much about piracy. Interestingly, some famous authors have used piracy as a marketing tool. For example, Tim Ferriss launched his book, The Four-Hour Chef with a promotion on Bit Torrent which resulted in massive sales. Paulo Coelho released his book on Russian pirate sites, which eventually resulted in increased book sales.

Q9. How should you price your e-book?

You can change the price anytime, so start with something and move it if it’s not working for you. Check out the price of other books in the same genre. For example, if the top best-selling book in your genre is $9.99, you should price your book way below that price.

Another option is to offer your first book for free. This strategy is especially useful if you have written a series of books. Once they read the first book and like it, your readers will buy the rest of the books in the series.

If you want to offer your e-book for a discounted price on Amazon, you have to change it to the discount price and then change it back after the discount period is over. However, in Kobo and Apple iBooks, you can schedule pricing promotions and the price will automatically revert to full price after the designated discount period. If you want to make your e-book permanently free on Amazon, you have to make it free on Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords or Draft2Digital, and then request Amazon to price match it to $0.

Time-limited offer

If you have any more questions or doubts about publishing your book, let me know. I will be glad to help.

(15 April 2018)


Rohi Shetty is a doctor, health writer, and digital publisher. Check out his Kindle books on Amazon and connect with him on LinkedIn. You can contact him here if you want his help to publish your books on Amazon or with other e-book retailers.

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