Friday, April 2, 2010

E-Book Publishing

Ebook Publishing

As an indie author, part of your publishing strategy MUST be e-books. If Kindle and other ebook formats aren’t part of your sales and marketing strategy (Yes, I meant MARKETING), then you are doing your book a huge disservice. I never understood what a vital part of indie publishing that Kindle and other ebook formats would be. But in the interest of telling you the things that I would do differently if I could do it all over again, ebooks would probably lead my marketing strategy—no doubt about it. I’ll tell you how in a minute

What format should I use?

So, people often ask me whether they should use Smashwords or Kindle or one of the many other ebook services out there. I’m gonna cut to the chase and just say use Smashwords AND Kindle. Why? Because I said so!

Okay, kidding. Seriously.

Between these two services they will provide your readers with access to ALL major e-book formats: Kindle (.mobi), Sony, iPad, PDF, HTML, JavaScript. Epub (open industry format, good for Stanza reader, others, PDF (good for highly formatted books, or for home printing, RTF (readable on most word processors, LRF (for Sony Reader), Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices), Plain Text (download) (flexible, but lacks much formatting), Plain Text (view) (viewable as web page).

The great thing about using Smashwords is that through their premium distribution program, you will get distributed to Sony, iPad, Kobo, AND Barnes & Noble. My book ebook is listed on Barnes and Noble through Smashwords.

How much does it cost?

It’s free!


Nothing’s free. Of course they will allow you to upload your files for free. But you will receive a royalty from any sales. Smashwords, by far, offers the best royalty splits with the authors. You get 85 percent from regular ebook sales. They also offer 42.5 percent for your Kindle sales. Amazon offers 35 percent on each book sold. However, thanks to Apple iPad and, for Amazon, the ever-dreaded iBookstore, Amazon will be increasing royalties to 70 percent sometime in June—but you must list your book at $2.99 or above.

So, Karla, why don’t I just list my book on Smashwords since they have a Kindle format?

Good question. I am going to give you both the business perspective and the Kindle user perspective.

The vast majority of my ebooks are sold on the Amazon side of Kindle. I might make more per book on Smashwords, but I sell way more books on Amazon Kindle. That's because Smashwords has a much smaller customer base than Amazon--a small fraction really. And for me, it's not about the royalties. It's about reaching the largest audience possible, and Kindle has the largest customer base for ebooks, even higher than B&N. As B&N and the Nook catch on, maybe their sales will increase. Right now, Amazon is the way to go. Hands down.

As a Kindle owner, I have another theory about why sales are much higher. When I want to buy something from my Kindle on Amazon and I’m sitting in my cozy spot on the couch and I don’t really want to move, all I have to do is click a button and boom, the book is there in a matter of seconds. If I wanted to buy an ebook from Smashwords, get myself up from my cozy spot, find my USB cord (which could be anywhere), go to my office and plug it into my desktop, pull up the Smashwords site, and download that book to my Kindle, unplug my Kindle, go back to the couch and get in my comfy spot and get re-comfortable (is that a word?), pull up the book, and start reading. MOST kindle owners bought the Kindle, with its Whispernet wireless service to avoid all that. In my humble opinion, until all formats are that easy to access, Amazon Kindle verison will continue to outsell any other. So, you must set your book up on Amazon Kindle!

I sell HUNDREDS more on Amazon than Smashwords. But Smashwords will be great for B&N, Sony, and Apple iPad.

Do I need an ISBN?

Neither Smashwords or Kindle requires you to have an ISBN number to upload your book. As a matter of fact, when they submitted it to Barnes and Noble, B&N assigned one for me. Amazon linked my kindle version to my paperback edition but did not assign it a new ISBN. They have an internal number they use.

If you have a paperback version, and you just want an ISBN number on your ebook, then you'll need to buy a separate number for it. You cannot use the same number as your paperback or hardcover version.

Setting up your files.

I’m going to give you a long drawn out set of instructions on how to format your files for Smashwords and Amazon. This is how I did it.


1. I pulled up the paperback version of my book format.

2. I deleted all the fancy formatting (i.e., drop caps, extra returns, extra spacing) –Italics are not fancy, keep them in.

3. I saved it as an .html file in Word.

4. Whew!


1. I pulled up the paperback version of my book format (in Word).

2. I deleted all the fancy formatting (see above).

3. I saved it—as a .doc (Word file).

4. Whew!

Can you handle that?

I think so.

These instructions are for files without any photos or images. If you have anything other than standard text in your book, each site has formatting instructions that will help you through it.

How should I price my book?

When I first published my Kindle version, I was a little delusional. I thought because I worked hard and published a book that could at least minimally compete with major publisher books. They sold theirs at $9.99 so I figured I could go…$7.99. Little discount, right? HA!

My rude awakening came when I visited the Kindle owners were like, “Nuh uh girlfriend, I don’t know you from a can of paint. You betta drop that price if you want me to check out your book.”

I got the hint.

For them, the risk of an indie book totally sucking is pretty high, so the price to get them to try you out must be low low low . I experimented with a lot of prices and, if I had to do it all again, here’s how I would do it.

I’d start out with a price at $2.99 and once I racked up some reviews, I’d lower the price to 99 cents. Why those prices? Well, at $2.99 my theory is that it’s cheap enough to get people to try it out and someone who pays $2.99 probably won’t be strictly an impulse buyer. They’ll probably care enough to read it at that price. After you’ve stacked up reviews (I’d say ten or more), then you should drop the price to get the word of mouth spreading. When people see your book has great reviews, at 99 cents, the purchase requires no thought at all. Let them buy it, read it, tell their friends about, then they’ll buy it and read it and so on and so on.

This is not the perfect strategy nor is it scientific…but I can say it has worked for me…and very well for me. My Kindle version is selling like hotcakes, word of mouth is spreading—and it has even attracted a publisher. If you don’t have a strategy, it certainly couldn’t hurt to try this one. But if you see it’s not working, drop the price and promote to get more reviews. Reviews are key.

Where can I promote?

I recommend,, and Be respectful and keep your posts to the boards that allow indie authors to post. And DON’T SPAM!!!

That’s all for now.

Any questions?

Until next time, keep it real and keep it real cheap!


  1. Hi Karla, Love your blog.

    I have listed my book separately on Amazon Kindle and have opted in for all other distribution on Smashwords. I often wondered whether I should opt in for Amazon Kindle too, only because I think they will probably do a better job with the formatting than I did. I'm not sure if I should keep everything as is, or have Smashwords distribute to everyone instead. Do you have any advice?


  2. Hi Alison,

    Thanks for the compliment on my blog! I'm glad it's helpful to you. As for your question. If I understand you right, you have your book listed directly with Amazon Kindle and Smashwords and you're wondering if you should opt into the Smashwords Kindle version. At this point, I would say no. Smashwords has not worked out the "feed" to Amazon so people would still have to go through Smashwords to find the Kindle Version of your book. That's a kink they are supposed to work out over the coming months, but, by the time that happens, I believe Amazon will be offering the 70 percent royalties and it will be a financial disadvantage to use Smashwords for Kindle at all. My suggestion would be to just fix your Kindle file if you think there are issues with it. I'm realizing I'm using an older version (than I thought) of my manuscript on Kindle, so I'm going upload a new file.

    Long story short, I would say no right now. At least, not until Smashwords gets the feed worked out. Amazon has the bigger customer base so you don't want to mess with that. Hope that helps.

  3. Thanks for the advice. I'll keep things the way they are.

  4. Another great post Karla. I had figured out your kindle strategy as your number 1 stalker (wink, wink) but I was waiting for my revised edition so that when I upload it, I can then lower the price. I missed this post last week as I wasn't on the computer much over the weekend so I was surprised to see it and encouraged.
    Revised edition out now by the way and should populate on soon. Check out the front and back covers here:
    Keep up the good work:)

  5. Thank you for clarifying that information. I thought that was the case, but I wasn't sure.

  6. I published something on Amazon just yesterday and will be keeping a detailed blog of experiences and stats, since i noticed a lack of such information (especially with regards to personal statistics) online...

  7. Thank you for posting this. I'm planning on launching my own e-book soon so this was very helpful.

  8. Great post you have in here.

  9. I just stumbled on your blog, and I'll definitely be back. Great advice!