Q&A on Ebooks with Book Editor Rob Bignell

Today, I’d like to share the answers to a few questions about ebook that I often receive from clients and readers of this blog.

Q: How does the ebook publication process work?
A: There are a lot of different platforms to publish ebooks on, and you likely want to get your book up on the big four – Kindle, iBook/iPad, Nook, and Kobo. To do that, you’ll need to format your manuscript to fit the requirements of each platform. There are some automatic converters out there – Kindle DP allows you to convert any paperback published through CreateSpace into a Kindle ebook, for example – but at least of this posting, those converters result in messy-looking ebooks. You’re much better off to learn how to format the books yourself or to pay a professional to do it for you.

If you do it on your own, you can format the books in Microsoft Word and without using any coding. I recommend formatting the book to the standards required by Smashwords, where you can upload a single manuscript that then is automatically converted so it can be sold in each of the big four platforms. You then can take that formatted manuscript and play with its appearance in Microsoft Word for a new upload to Kindle, which is much looser with its formatting requirements than Smashwords.

Before uploading, you’ll need to have a variety of other bits and pieces ready to go. Among them is the book cover, a back cover blurb or teaser for your book, and an author’s bio. Thinking of some keywords that people using a search engine could use to find your book and deciding on the price also are a good idea.

You next upload the book and cover to Kindle DP and then to Smashwords. Those companies are your “printer” and distributor. Each automatically creates an online web page for your book. You then go about marketing your ebook to generate online sales.

Q: How does the money start coming in?
A: Before your book goes up for sale on Amazon.com or Smashwords (or the Nook, iBook/iPad and other online book catalogs that Smashwords can get you into), you’ll need to complete some “paperwork” in which you tell those companies how and where to pay you. You can receive an old school paper check or have the royalties direct deposited in your bank account.

Where the payments get tricky is if you co-author a book. The distributor doesn’t split the earnings, so you need to work that out with your co-author. An easy solution is to have the payments simply go to one of the authors, who then writes a check for half of that amount to the other author.

Q: How is sales tax handled?
A: The online distributor – meaning Kindle DP, Smashwords, or the company with the online catalog selling your book – takes care of that for you. When a book is purchased online, the distributor calculates the sales tax based on the state the book is being “shipped” or sent to and then takes care of sending that collected tax to the appropriate state. As an author, you don’t have to worry about that at all.