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How to Publish an eBook on Kindle, Apple iTunes, Google Play, and more!

Updated on April 2, 2015
drpennypincher profile image

Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

Check out the Penny Pincher Journal eBook! Distributors include Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, Apple iTunes Books, Google Play, and many more!

How to Publish an eBook for Free
How to Publish an eBook for Free | Source

How To Publish an eBook: Overview

There are many ways you can publish your eBook and get it distributed to booksellers. Here is the process I used to publish an eBook for free and get it into all of the major distribution channels:

1. Produce a Smashwords edition of your eBook. For 10% of each book sale, Smashwords will distribute your eBook to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, and several other distribution partners. Use the Smashwords Style Guide and Word template to prepare your manuscript for publication as an eBook. Use the Smashwords "Meatgrinder" tool to produce your eBook formats. You can also get your ISBN free from Smashwords. An ISBN is a serial number for your book that some libraries and bookstores use to track books. You will need to develop or purchase book cover graphics before you publish. Use Adobe Digital Editions to check your eBook format before publish your eBook.

2. Produce a Kindle edition on Kindle Direct Publishing. Smashwords does not currently distribute to Kindle, so you'll need to open an account, upload your file, and produce your own eBook for Kindle. You can re-use your Word document from Smashwords, just remove any of the license notes that mention "Smashwords". It's your book, so you are free to do this. Note that you will not be able to sign up for "KDP Select", which is an exclusive agreement to sell your book only through KDP Select if you are also selling through other distributors.

3. Produce an eBook for distribution on Google Play. Use Calibre to convert your Word document (re-use the one from Kindle) to epub format. You'll need to set up an account on Google to upload your book.

After following these steps, you will have a published eBook with an ISBN that anyone in the world can buy. I was able to format my material for eBook and get it published over a weekend.

How Many Pages Long Is an eBook?

When I started working on my eBook, I wondered how many pages long an eBook should be. One of the first ideas about eBooks that I had to understand is that the concept of pages is no longer an absolute. The reader can choose a larger font, and the number of pages in an eBook increases. Different eBook devices have different screen sizes and show more or less text on each page. When I am editing a printed document, I worry a lot about page breaks and where pictures are positioned on the page. With eBooks, the layout is variable. The layout of eBooks that works best is to format the text and pictures with no extra spaces. It is hard to look at a document that does not have page breaks that make sense- but remember, the pages on eBooks vary, so just let it flow.

Back to the question of the length of an eBook: My book was about 40,000 words which works out to about 145 pages on my epub format of my book displayed on Adobe Digital Editions. The number of pages varies depending on the size of the window and the size of the font selected. The length of 40,000 words seems to be a pretty typical length for non-fiction eBooks that are competing with mine.

Use Hyperlinks in Microsoft Word to Make a Table of Contents for Your eBook
Use Hyperlinks in Microsoft Word to Make a Table of Contents for Your eBook | Source

What Are the Differences Between a Blog/Webpage and an eBook?

A lot of the material for my eBook came from Hubs here at HubPages and from my Blogs. One difference between webpages and blogs vs. eBooks is links. eBooks can still have links, but the preferred style seems to be to use less links. People using eBook readers have a tendency to accidentally click on links, so too many can be annoying. Plus, web browsers in eBook readers such as Nook or Kindle may not be very powerful. When I made my eBook, I reduced some of the links and beefed up the text. eBooks are focused on text.

Another difference between webpages/blogs and eBooks: ads. I think affiliate links to relevant products can add value to an article. They show a picture of the product and its current pricing. If readers want to know more, answers are just a click away. However, affiliate links are not allowed in eBooks if you want to have your eBook distributed through major distribution channels.

Finally, pictures have a different role in eBooks. I reduced the number of pictures I used to a maximum of about 1 every 4 pages or so. Some eBook readers only show greyscale. Big pictures can be difficult to display on eBook readers. I went with 1/4 page size pictures when I needed to use a picture. Again, I beefed up some of the text to work with fewer pictures.

So the key difference between a webpage and an eBook stems from the fact that the eBook may be viewed on a small greyscale screen with limited processing power to show big graphics and links to webpages. The focus of an eBook is more on the text itself.

How will your eBook look?  Preview epub format in Adobe Digital Editions.
How will your eBook look? Preview epub format in Adobe Digital Editions. | Source

What are the Major eBook Formats?

Another early question I had: What format is an eBook? For a webpage, the format is .html. For a printed page, Adobe .pdf or Microsoft Word .doc are popular formats. But what format do eReaders use? The answer: there are several popular eBook file formats.

epub is a format that is used on Google Play and at Apple's book store. Barnes and Noble's Nook eReader uses epub format. Kindle does not use epub, but uses AZW and KF8 file formats. There are a number of other eBook formats available as well to support a range of eReaders.

I used a free "Meatgrinder" tool from Smashwords to produce an edition of my book in multiple eBook formats. The input to "Meatgrinder" is a Word file (.doc) and the output is many different eBook formats that Smashwords delivers to various distribution channels such as epub, mobi, lrf, pdb, and more.

I used a free program called Calibre to produce an epub version of my eBook for distribution through Google Play and Google's book distribution channels. I had a epub version from Meatgrinder, but Smashwords asks that you use the Meatgrinder files only for Smashwords distribution channels. So I downloaded Calibre and made an epub file from my Word doc and my .jpeg book cover file.

I used Kindle Direct Publishing to make the Kindle version of my eBook. Again, this used a Word document and the .jpeg book cover graphic.

Example of a Small Picture in an eBook
Example of a Small Picture in an eBook | Source

Can eBooks Have Pictures?

Yes, eBooks can have pictures- but remember the eReader screens are small and some have black and white displays. I followed advice to use pictures fairly sparingly and keep them small. I also tried to ensure that the text could do most of the work if the pictures are not viewable due to limitations of the eBook Reader.

The image to the right shows an example of how I used pictures in my eBook. I thought it was interesting to have a picture every few pages, but I kept the size of the picture small- about 1/4 page. I also used small picture files so the file size of the eBook would be small, allowing fast downloads of the eBook. Some eBook upload sites have maximum file size of 8 Mb for the entire book.

How Can You Turn a Word .doc File into an eBook?

Formatting an eBook properly takes a bit of work. A Microsoft Word file seems to be the most common starting point for the conversion process to eBook formats. But the Microsoft Word file must be formatted correctly in order to be converted to an eBook format.

I used the "nuclear option" approach. I copied my material from a web browser or from a Word document and pasted it into a notepad file. I then copied from the notepad file and pasted "clean" text into the Word template I was using to produce my eBook. This approach keeps the Word document free of any formatting that can cause problems in the conversion process.

Another part of the formatting process is to eliminate extra line breaks and spaces. The Smashwords style guide calls for a fairly specific approach to make the first paragraph of each chapter have no indent, with all subsequent paragraphs having an indent. You can download a Word template from Smashwords that has styles to help get the formatting right before the conversion process.

Making a table of contents for your eBook is an important step that requires some skill using Microsoft Word. You will need to add hyperlinks to the chapters or major sections of your book. The Smashwords Style Guide explains how to do this. The basic process is to highlight the chapter heading, give it a name, and add a hyperlink to this location in your list of chapters.

When your eBook is formatted, you upload your Word file and your cover image to the Meatgrinder. After a few minutes, you get several eBook files to check.

You can make your eBook cover using simple graphics software.  Key elements are the book title and author's name.
You can make your eBook cover using simple graphics software. Key elements are the book title and author's name. | Source

How Do You Get a Cover for an eBook?

Producing the book cover was actually one of the most intimidating steps in the process of publishing an eBook. The old saying goes "never judge a book by its cover", but apparently most people don't follow this advice. The cover is a big factor on whether potential readers will click on your eBook to learn more or not. Lots of eBooks have sloppy or amateur looking covers, and that scares readers away.

I ended up making my own book cover using a couple images files and some text with the book title and author's name. The tools I used to make my book cover were Microsoft Office Picture Manager and PowerPoint. You can use almost any graphics programs that you are familiar using to make a book cover. I think my book cover turned out OK, but I did spend a couple hours designing it and making the final image the desired size.

If you aren't up to designing your own book cover, you can purchase a professionally designed book cover. The Smashwords Style Guide offers some contacts to have a book cover designed for you. Kindle Direct Publishing has some tools to create book covers, but I did not explore these since I had already designed my book cover when publishing on Smashwords.

How Do You Set the Price for an eBook?

One nice thing about self-publishing an eBook is that you get to set the price. Kindle prices must end in 0.99 cents. The best royalty rates are paid for eBooks in the $2.99 to $5.99. I set the price for my book at $3.99. The royalty rate depends on the distribution channel and ranges from about 45% to 85%. I am getting around $3 per book that I have sold so far.

The prices for eBooks are noticeably lower than for print books, and there are lots of eBooks that are offered for free. Low price seems to be a big factor for readers of eBooks.

What will be the price for your eBook?

See results

How Much Money Can You Make Selling an eBook?

I am happy that I now have the experience to answer this question- I have actually sold copies of my eBook, so I have been able to see how royalties and payments for eBooks work. For my book that sells for $3.99, I get paid about $3.00 per copy. There were no expenses involved with publishing my eBook, so the $3 per book is profit. We'll see how many copies I can sell, but the table below shows some possibilities for how much money you can make selling eBooks.

Example Earnings from eBook Sales

Number of Books Sold
Profit
100
$280
1,000
$2,800
10,000
$28,000
100,000
$280,000
How much money can you make selling an eBook priced at $3.99 with 70% royalty rate?

If I manage to sell more than 100,000 copies of my eBook, I'll have to come back and add a line to this table!

How Do You Get Bookstores and Online Booksellers to Sell Your eBook?

So, you have written a book and managed to get it converted into eBook formats. But how do you get your book into on-line bookstores where readers can buy your book? This is where distribution channels come into play.

You could put your eBook on your own website and set up e-commerce software to allow visitors to purchase your book. With this arrangement, you could keep 100% of the selling price. However, people who are shopping for books tend to go to booksellers to browse and make purchases. You need to get your book for sale on the sites where people buy their books to have a chance to sell very many copies.

There are many bookselling sites. You can approach them individually, or you can find a service to help distribute your eBook. Smashwords offers distribution eBooks to a number of booksellers. You can upload your book to Smashwords and your book can be delivered to the following sales channels:

  • Sony
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Apple
  • Diesel
  • Page Foundry
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  • Library Direct
  • Baker-Taylor Axis360
  • Flipkart
  • Oyster
  • Scribd

There are a couple of key booksellers missing from this list, however. Kindle (Amazon) represents a large market share of eBook sales. Smashwords has not been able to work out an automated upload to Kindle, so you'll need to open an account on Kindle Direct Publishing yourself and upload your book to get it on Amazon for Kindle.

Also missing from the list of Smashwords distributers is Google Play. You can open an account on the Google Play Books Partner Center to upload your book to Google Play.

How to Sell an eBook for Kindle

Kindle is one of the biggest marketplaces for eBooks. You'll want those millions of people who have Kindles to be able to buy and read your eBook. Use Kindle Direct Publishing to get your eBook on Amazon's Kindle.

Amazon KDP Select Program

Looking over my sales figures, it is clear that my book sales on Amazon Kindle are far greater than other marketing outlets. When I publish my next eBook, I plan to give Kindle's KDP Select program a try. This is a way to publish exclusively on amazon and receive some promotional benefits and enhanced royalties. Since most of my book sales are from amazon anyway, I am willing to try an exclusive release on Amazon. I can always withdraw from this program and publish my book on other platforms if this doesn't work out.

How to Sell an eBook in the Apple Store

Selling books through Apple for iPad and iPhone is another big market channel. I used Smashwords to distribute my book to Apple at the cost of 10% of each book sale. Smashwords provides a style guide and Word template that is designed to help you meet all of the requirements to have your eBook accepted for sale by Apple.

How to Sell an eBook in Google Play

Google Play was not a distribution parther with Smashwords, so I went directly to Google Play to publish my book. I used free Calibre for Windows software to convert my Word document and book cover graphic into epub format.

How Can You Publish a Print Version of an eBook?

Amazon offers access to CreateSpace through Kindle Direct Publishing. CreateSpace offers a print-on-demand service, which is a great way to get books printed as they are ordered so you do not have to pay for a big printing run up front. I have not decided yet whether I will pursue a printed version of my book, or stay exclusively with a digital eBook. The cost of the printed book will be higher, but it would be nice to have something to autograph at book signings!

Video Overview of eBook Publishing

How to Publish an eBook: Conclusions

Overall, I found the process of publishing an eBook required learning a lot of new things. There are so many eBook file formats and so many distributors to deal with. I decided to use Smashwords to simplify things by handling many of the eBook formats and about 10 or so distribution channels with one upload. The process of editing the book into a format that works well for eBooks took a lot of work and study of the Smashwords Style Guide.

Kindle is too big of a market to overlook, so I opened an account on Kindle Direct Publishing and uploaded my book file for distribution on Kindle.

Google Play has a lot of potential, and I like the idea of having text from my book in Google search results, so I set up an account with Google Play Books Partner Center so I could upload my book for that channel as well.

It is a lot to keep track of, but I like having my eBook in all of the major distribution channels so anyone can find it and buy it. I was impressed that I could publish my book for free over a single weekend with some hard work.

Publishing a book is very rewarding- I hope the information in this article will help you get your eBook published. Good luck!

© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher

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    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Ron, glad this post was useful for you- best of luck with your book!

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I'm just starting down the ebook path, and I found this info to be very useful. Thanks for providing it.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Homeplace, thanks for your comment. I'll check out Lulu for my next eBook.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I used Lulu.com for my recent eBook. It worked very well. Seems there are new options available every few months. Thanks for this useful hub! ;-)

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Nadine May, I had never even read an eBook when I started working on writing mine! I read a few to see what they were like and then went for it...

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      This hub on how to create an ebook was very informative, even from our publishers desk. We always learn more and more about the electronic book world. Thanks you.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Caleb Melvern, my English teacher in high school used to say that anyone could write a book- the trick was to get it published. Now anyone can publish a book too. There are no excuses left, so go ahead and publish your book! Good luck!

    • Caleb Melvern profile image

      Caleb Melvern 3 years ago from Philippines

      Fantastic article! I've been thinking about writing an ebook and this enlightened me about the process. Thank you! Sharing this awesome article.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      StoneCircle, Best of luck on publishing your eBook. It's fun to see your own book on sale!

    • StoneCircle profile image

      Susan McLeish 3 years ago from Rindge, NH

      Glad to see a next step that can be affordable, do able and actually get me motivated to keep on writing! I will be referring back to this hub to get that ebook off my computer and into the virtual world.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      ignugent17, thanks for reading and commenting!

    • profile image

      ignugent17 3 years ago

      Very helpful hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      MartieCoetser, I hope you find this useful- good luck!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 years ago from South Africa

      Well-needed information! Thank you, drpennypincher :)

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Crissylite, thanks for reading!

    • Crissylite profile image

      Crissylite 3 years ago

      Very helpful! Thank you for sharing this info.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Thank you for your suggestion, DrPennyPincher!

      Have a good day!

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Cavallo, I found publishing an eBook to be a great experience. It is fun to share your book and see how people react. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • cavallo profile image

      cavallo 3 years ago from Newmarket,UK

      Excellent article. Sure anyone writing an E-Book will know all there is to know after reading it. Wrote mine years ago,for fun really while recovering from broken back in FL.

      http://www.livingslimdietbook.com/apps/webstore/pr...

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      prasetio30, the hard part of publishing an eBook is writing your material. Once you have it written, the mechanics of publishing an eBook aren't too hard. It's exciting that anyone can publish an eBook for free. Good luck!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very interesting hub. I learn many things here. I can't wait to publish my own eBook. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up :-)

      Prasetio

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      kidscrafts, I think you have enough good material for a book. A book on craft projects might work better in a printed book rather than an eBook format. I would think that high resolution, high quality images would be important and that is not a strength of eBook reader devices. You might want to look at CreateSpace to publish a print-on-demand book. That way you could control the layout and use high resolution color pictures. Thanks for your comment, compliment, and vote up!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      What a great article, DrPennyPincher! And good for you for publishing a e-book! I have a lot of materials that could be published but my problem is that I rely a lot on visual. I was happy to see that you added pictures. One of the problem with the e-books and pictures I think it's the fact that you can change the size of the font and just that fact moves everything around.

      I will keep your article in mind to expore that avenue further!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Definitely voted up, useful, interesting and awesome!

      Enjoy your evening!

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Writer Fox, thanks for voting up and sharing! I wanted to write down the things I learned publishing me eBook while it was fresh in my mind.

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Grant's World, publishing an eBook is not that difficult. It does take some patience and a bit of learning to get the format right, but publishing s book is worth the effort. Good luck!

    • drpennypincher profile image
      Author

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Victoria Lynn, thanks for sharing and pinning! I made two editions of my book, both very similar. The only difference was a mention of Smashwords in the license notes for the Smashwords edition but not for Kindle and Google. I have not checked out book covers on Fiverr, but I think $5 for a good cover would be money well spent. Good luck with your eBook!

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Excellent information on the process of self-publishing eBooks! I think more and more HubPages' writers are discovering this profitable avenue for earning income with their writing. Voted up and shared!

    • Grant's World profile image

      Grant Handford 3 years ago from Canada

      wow what a great tutorial. I have always thought I might like to create and publish an ebook and honestly after reading this I just might make an attempt at it.

      Thanks for this.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      This is perfect! I've been wanting to read something on specifically how to create ebooks. This is it! Now, did you upload the same book on all three of the venues that you mentioned--Smashwords, first, then Amazon Kindle, then Google Play? I hope you do well. I like your book cover with all the pennies. What do you think about book covers made on Fiverr? I've heard that people go that route for just 5 bucks. Have you looked at their quality? Just curious.

      I love this hub. I'm sharing it and pinning it to my freelance writing board for reference. Thanks!