Platforms, Retailers and Uploading

UPDATED, 4-12-2014:

According to Amazon's latest publishing guidelines, all Kindle books must have an embedded ebook cover and what they call the "Marketing Cover Image," or the "Catalog Image." This "Marketing Cover Image" or "Catalog Image" is what book covers are called when Amazon displays the cover on your book page on their website, and in searches.

So, what are the perfect Amazon cover sizes? It seems that "perfect" ebook cover sizes change nearly monthly, doesn't it? Well, here's the latest scoop.

The latest specifications are:

  • The preferred format for the marketing cover is an image of 2560 pixels on the longest side and 1600 pixels on the shortest side with 350 dpi to ensure image clarity on Kindle HDX devices. The image file size should be 5MB or smaller.
  • If the marketing cover image size is smaller than the 2560 x 1600 recommendation, a reminder message is displayed at time of upload. Covers with less than 500 pixels on the smaller side are not displayed on the website.
  • If your cover image is smaller than the recommended size, Amazon strongly recommends that you create a new image that meets the size requirements. Do not stretch the image to meet the size requirements, because this may lower the image quality.
  • The content of the cover image must not:
    • Infringe another publisher’s or artist’s copyright on the same cover.
    • Mention pricing or other temporary promotional offers.

At Booknook.biz, we'll use whatever ebook covers you provide to us, but please try to ensure that your cover is as close as possible to Amazon's requested sizes and standards. Thanks!

(updated:  4/12/14).

 

If you are not familiar with Amazon's Kindle Delivery Fees, you should check out their HELP Section on this topic, which can affect your book pricing and your subsequent royalties.  As you'll see, if you select the 70% royalty option, a delivery fee of $0.15/mb will be charged, on each sale, before your royalty split with Amazon is calculated. As an example, if your deliverable file size (final mobi file size) is 10MB, Amazon charges you $1.50, deducted from your sale price, before they split the remainder with you, 70/30%.  This is important to think about when you're creating your book, if you are using a lot of images, charts, and the like.

Remember Amazon's Royalty Calculation:  Royalty Rate x (List Price - Delivery Costs) = Royalty

You don't want to inadvertently create a book that's 20mb in size, with a $2.99 sales price; you'd end up with the delivery fee costing $3.00!  Obviously, that math won't work, so always keep it in mind, as you design your book.  For books purchased in Mexico, the delivery fee is $1/MB--not $0.15, so if you are creating a Spanish-language book, this could really hurt you.  (All figures in USD).  

Important note:  if you create a "coffee table book," you may decide instead to opt for the 35% royalty option, which incurs no delivery fee.  Some of our artwork-book clients have chosen this route pretty successfully.  It's a viable alternative, if you know that your book needs a lot of imagery to work.  

 

About once every few days on the Amazon KDP or Createspace forums, I see a question that goes something like this:

If I've co-authored a book with another author, how do we go about getting 50/50 royalties?

I can only assume that these good folks haven't reviewed either the Amazon TOS (Terms of Service) or created and logged into their own Bookshelf, at the KDP.  Once you've done that, it's fairly clear that there's nothing automatic that can be done about it. One person is the publisher, and the other has to trust the publisher to pay them their due royalties. Amazon will not pay out royalties to multiple people.  That's the job of the publisher, which isn't what Amazon is; they are, in essence, your distributor and your storefront.  Your retailer. You, as the publisher, are the publisher, and those jobs, along with all those other publishing duties, are yours to fulfill.

This doesn't mean that multiple authors can't all share a single Amazon account--of course they could, if, say, it were some type of publishing cooperative.  But the payments will still go solely to the person in whose name the account is held.  Period.  Don't try to ask Amazon (or B&N, iBooks, etc.) to do the accounting and the payment work for you. They won't go for it.  

Bear this in mind when you enter into Publishing partnerships with your friends, or fellow authors. Will your friendship stand the test of auditing Amazon payments, to ensure that you've received your due?  Alternatively, perhaps you can set up a Kindle publishing account, into which you can both log-in.  At least that way, you can always keep abreast of what's been paid out.  Generally speaking, authors, as a group, tend to think that their publisher (or in this case, their retailer) didn't pay them everything that they were owed, so if you decide to jointly publish with someone else, keep this in mind. Set up all your accounts, agreements, etc., to address this almost inevitable scenario. 

Happy Publishing!

 

Is Your Amazon Book Suddenly All In Italics?

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I received a panicked email from a long-time editing acquaintance of mine.  Her award-winning book needed some updates, so, being über-competent in making her own ebooks, she made the changes and uploaded the book.  She checked back a few hours later, and it was one of those, "good news, bad news" moments.  The good news?  The LITB (Look Inside The Book) had updated, almost immediately.  The bad news?

Holy Typography, Batman!  Her entire Look Inside The Book was in italics.

What Happened?

What happened?  She asked me if I could very quickly fix the book, because she had recently received a prestigious award, and sales were brisk.  She had had such a shock about the "all italics" that she'd taken the book off sale.

Now, I would love to say that I'm a genius, but the truth was the same thing had recently happened to another client of mine, who had not updated her book, a mobi file that she got from us.  So:  what the heck had happened?

Both author-publishers had created their own nightmares, through sheer inadvertence.  Both had read recent blog posts or "how-to" information on how to use HTML in their book descriptions in order to draw more attention to their books.  They used header tags, bold, italic; all the things that any diligent publisher would do.  But they had made one mistake. 

Ruh-Roh....

Somehow, somewhere, they hadn't closed an italic tag.

But WHAT, you say?  How can something in Author Central affect what is inside of your ebook?

The answer is, it doesn't.  But what it can affect is the rendering of the LITB, which is, after all, just part of a web page. If my editor friend had downloaded a new sample from Amazon, she would have seen that the book itself was perfectly fine.  But of course, the LITB is a crucial part of the selling process, second only to fabulous covers and of course, a great book (and wondrous, professional-looking formatting, naturally). 

Why Did It Happen?

A web page renders like people read.  Top-to-bottom, left-to-right.  When your Amazon page comes up, the page renders top to bottom.  The very last thing that gets rendered, long after the rest of the page, is the Look inside the Book.  If, in tweaking your Book Description or your About the Author page, you've left a formatting tag in HTML open, then the formatting will continue, throughout the web page, until a new command tells it to stop.  So, if you have forgotten to close ANY of your HTML tags on your Author Central page, you will accidentally make your entire book look like a total, unprofessional mess on the LITB. 

 

See the letters between brackets?  That's what makes HTML work.  Pay attention!
See the letters between brackets? That's what makes HTML work. Pay attention! Click to enlarge in a lightbox. 

So, today's lesson is, if you do try to tweak your Author Central pages, take a tip from old programmers. Every time you OPEN a tag, like italics, with an <i>, create the closing member of the pair right away, like this: <i></i>. Then start creating your content, inside the pair of tags. Never open a tag without creating its closing partner. Place your cursor between the closing bracket of the opening tag, and the opening bracket of the closing tag, and the type or paste your text. If you do this, you will never have to solve the problem of The Mystery of The Corrupted Book.

Remember: your Look Inside The Book (LITB) isn't your preview. It isn't your free sample, or the downloadable sample. For example, fonts don't show up on the LITB, even though the fonts may be there and working. But while it's not your free sample, it's your window for buyers, so be sure to pay attention, both to it, and to your Author Central page.

Unfortunately, unless you are an iTunes producer or iTunes Connect member, you can't self-publish to Apple's iBookstore.  In order to become an iTunes Connect or iBooks publisher, you have to meet the following criteria (as of 10/4/11); if much time has elapsed since this was written, check this link for updated data (or Google for "iBooks iTunes Publisher Requirements):

 

  • An Intel-based Mac running OS X 10.5.8 or later
  • At least 1 GB RAM
  • QuickTime 7.0.3 or later. This is so you can encode and deliver content using our dedicated software.
  • At least 10 GB of available hard drive space (more for larger catalogs) is recommended.
  • A broadband internet connection with an upload rate of 1 MB/sec or faster is recommended.

 

You must also i) have ISBNs for all titles you intend to distribute in the ePUB eBooks format and ii) be Able to deliver book content in passing the latest version of EpubCheck.  Lastly, insofar as financial requirements, you must have
A valid U.S. Tax ID; A valid iTunes Store account, with a credit card on file, and, lastly, they want you to know that:

"Apple does not pay partners until they meet payment requirements and earning thresholds in each territory. You should consider this before applying to work directly with Apple as you may receive payments faster by working with an Apple-approved aggregator."


As shown in our ePUB Basics category, above, you can find a list of current Apple Content Aggregators here (essentially, publishers who publish your book to the iBookstore, as well as other epub and mobi channels/retailers, for a fee and a percentage of your sales):  Apple-Approved Aggregators List.

 

Good luck!

Barnes & Noble has its own e-reading device, called the Nook, and its successor, the NookColor.  Their self-publishing platform is called "NookPress" replacing their previous portal, "PubIt!"  It's a shame that they renamed it--at least "PubIt" made the type of file you're supposed to upload there easy to remember because Barnes & Noble, with whatever name they choose this week, takes ePUB-formatted files.  Not MOBIs, like Amazon; ePUB.  (If you need a refresher course, revisit our article What Are the Main eBook Formats? While some people use the term "ePUB" to mean an "eBook," much as "Kleenex" has come to mean "tissue," ePUB is actually a specific ebook format.  It's now one of the two primary eBook formats, the other being MOBI (Amazon Kindle).  

The Barnes & Noble Publishing Portal:

Barnes & Noble's portal is located here:  NookPress and once you've uploaded a book to Amazon, uploading to PubIt! is remarkably similar.  Once nice thing about Barnes & Noble's platform, compared to Kindle's, is that you may upload up to five (5) reviews or blurbs your book has received, in addition to the description of your book--so make sure you have those handy when you get ready to upload.*

You'll also need your cover image readily-accessible, and to make sure it's NookPress-friendly, make certain that it's not less than 1000px wide on the short side, in jpg format.


* One not-so-nice thing about B&N's portal is this:  if you have a professionally-made ePUB, or an ePUB that you've made yourself, whatever you do, don't edit it in the NookPress publishing portal, where they allow you to make changes. Why?  Because if you do, B&N inserts what's called a "stylesheet" (CSS, in the business) that overrides the one that you or your eBook Conversion company made for you, specifically for your book.  This overriding stylesheet may significantly alter the look and even the functionality of your book.  So:  don't edit, or make any changes, while in the NookPress portal.  You've been warned!

 

Amazon, Amazon.  Truly, the 900-lb. gorilla of the ebook world, and, as of this writing, not likely to be dethroned anytime soon.  So, how do you upload to the KDP?  Where do you go, and what do you do?

Places to Find Help At Amazon:

They used to have this really cute video, that I thought was more helpful than all the text, but, alas, that seems to have gone the way of the quill pen.  They do have a pretty awesome site-map/FAQ, which is a hotbed of quick-links to get you right to the question you want answered:  Amazon Help Quick-Links

I personally like the step-by-step instructions better, for the first-timer:  Getting Started With Amazon Self-Publishing

And then you can login at the KDP (Kindle Digital Platform) yourself:  https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin

Of course:  if you run into trouble, you can EMAIL AMAZON for help.  How? Go to your KDP page. Even if you don't have an account, just click on this link:  Help! I've Authored And I Can't Give Up! and scroll down.  On the LEFT-hand side, at/near the bottom, see that yellow button? Says, "Contact Us"?  Just click that.  On the next page, they have some topics you can choose from, but they also have a handy contact form.  Simply fill it out, and send the message.  Just in case you're not logged in when you want to send it, make sure that you include the email address you've used on your Publisher's Account. Amazon is uber-friendly, and they'll get back to you amazingly fast!

 

 

If you are planning on distributing your ebook through Apple, (and don't own a Mac) as well as other ePub outlets like Sony, Diesel, Books on Board, Kobo, or other retailers that do not allow self-publishing, you'll need to use a distributor.  To save yourself some trouble, you may as well use an Apple Aggregator.  You may find a list of Approved Apple Content Aggregators at this link:  CLICK HERE.  You may research this list in order to find a distributor that meets your needs. 

 

 

Will You Upload My Book For Me At Amazon?

We are often asked to upload books for clients, to Amazon, NookPress or iBooks.  Sometimes even Kobo.  

Generally, No, We Won't.

With regard to uploading, we do not do that for you.  Why not?  Because it’s in your best interests if we don’t.  To do the uploading for you, you’d have to give us your username and passwords, and for that short time we’d have access to your financial information, purchase history—you name it.  At Nook, in order to upload the book, we’d be able to see your Social Security number, as well as banking information.  We don’t want to know that information, you shouldn’t want us to know it, and, if those reasons aren’t enough, it’s actually against Amazon’s Terms of Service for someone else to do your uploading for you.  Yes, we know that some companies advertise that they’ll do it, and they do—but they shouldn’t.  Uploading is not hard to do, and it’s better for you to be safe than sorry.  (See Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Terms of Service, section 4.3, under "Account Security.")  

Remember:  you're the publisher.  Don't get taken in by so-called "digital publishers" that charge you the same or even more than we do to make your ebooks for you, charge you to upload the books, and then, on top of all that, take a percentage of your sales as a "publisher," just for uploading your books.  Uploading is easy, once you have a completed book, and you shouldn't pay someone a piece of your royalties just for doing that.  

BUT, If You Feel You Need Help:

If you feel really uneasy, we do offer our "Author's Concierge" consulting service, starting at $50/hour, and we'll sit on the phone with you while you upload, if that makes you feel more comfortable.  If you'd like, we'll do a Face-to-Face Video conference, via Skype or a Google Hangout.  

Believe me when I say, of the 100+ times a year I'm asked this, not 3 clients ever come back for uploading help, because as we said--once you have a professionally-made book, the uploading is EASY.  

How Can I Protect my eBook from Being Stolen?

When a prospective client asks us about "Protection from Sharing" he or she probably means "DRM" or Digital Rights Management.  This question is frequently asked, along with inquiries about how to sell your book from your own website. These two ideas and questions seem to go together--security and selling from one's own website, more than DRM as provided by Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and the rest of the e-tailers.

 What is DRM?

DRM, or "Digital Rights Management" is simply an acronym that means, encrypting an eBook so that it will only work on a specifically-authorized device.  In other words, if you, Jane Doe, buy a book from Amazon, they ensure that those books are downloaded only to your registered devices.  This is primarily intended to deter what is called "casual theft." If you are old enough, you'll remember that software on floppy disks, way back when, like "Lotus 1-2-3," was frequently stolen by folks taking the disks home, copying them, and then passing those along.  DRM is crackable, by any remotely determined hacker, or even a 13-year-old kid with some technical capacity.  But generally, DRM works to prevent casual theft--where Susie likes your book so much that she "gives it" to her friend Dolly, who gives it to her friend, and so on and so forth.  These folks don't mean ill; but without thinking, they are stealing from an author's livelihood. 

For most authors and self-publishers, DRM will be provided by the digital retailer:  Amazon, B&N, iBooks, KoboBooks, Sony, etc.  And they'll never have to worry about it. But...what if you want to sell from your own website?

Can I Sell My Book From My Own Website?

  • If you are selling from your own website, you can embed a form of "digital watermarking" (as opposed to DRM--DRM discussed further below in this list)  in every book you sell, in which you would embed your own information and the customer's information. This can be done visibly or invisibly. However, it should be noted that there's no way to do this in such a fashion that a determined person couldn't find a way to remove it, fairly easily.
  • If you plan to do this, you'll need to either hire someone or have a fundamental understanding of how the eBooks are made, because this has to be done individually--book by book, customer by customer. There is no "ready set go" instant way to do this. You have to open the book file, enter the information (type it, basically), encrypt it, and then save the book file again (or in the case of MOBI, rebuild the entire Kindle book file)--one at a time.
  • If you are selling through the major retailers, there is, quite simply, no way to do Digital Watermarking (in lieu of DRM), because they won't tell you who is buying your book, and it is they, not you, who are performing fulfillment. They simply make a copy of your book and send it to the buyer, after applying their own DRM, assuming you've opted for it. You never see/know the "copy" that is being sent to Jane Doe versus Susan Smith.
  • If you choose to sell from your own website, you'll want to investigate Adobe Content Server, for DRM for the ePUB versions. It costs about $6200.00 USD (yes: Sixty-Two Hundred Dollars) to license it, and operators trained in performing the DRM-application are generally paid ~$2800.00/month or more.
  • There is no available private DRM scheme for selling MOBI (Amazon Kindle) format from your own website. That DRM is proprietary and is owned, entirely, by Amazon. Therefore, your Kindle books will not be able to be DRM'ed if you are selling them from your own site.  Obviously, you can use Amazon's DRM, if you are selling from there. 
  • The DRM is part of what you are paying Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobobooks, etc., for, in the percentage of your sales that they retain. 
  • Oh, don't forget--if you plan to sell from your website, you require an optimized digital cart that can handle encrypted digital files, like the watermarked ePUBs and MOBIs, or the ACS (Adobe Content Server)-encrypted books. Most web "guys" don't know how to add this type of cart, so be sure you have the suitable web capabilites.
  • We don't/can't put encryption on a book that we give to you, because then you couldn't give it to someone, or upload it anywhere, or sell it. We'd have to de-encrypt it each time (like providing Adobe Content Server and running it _for_ you, essentially).  As I mentioned above, applying/managing DRM is part of what you pay Amazon, B&N, iBooks, KoboBooks, etc., for.  
  • Note that Smashwords does NOT provide DRM at all.  

But The Bigger Obstacle Is Tech Support

Frankly, in terms of selling from your own website, the single biggest obstacle is the Tech Support, which is needed for the dozens or (hopefully!) hundreds of buyers that won't know how to get the book to their device or reader.  I emphasize to clients, repeatedly, that you have no idea how onerous tech support is until you are forced to provide it.  Unless you are prepared to take phone calls, answer emails, and explain the "how' of how to sideload eBooks, for those dozens/hundreds/thousands of buyers who won't know, then an ePDF is likely your best way to go.  That, or stick to the big retailers.

 

Can I Use A Fake Name When I Publish At Amazon?

Yes, you can publish on Amazon with a pseudonym, to preserve your identity, for whatever reason.  You can do the same thing on Nook, iBooks, Smashwords and Kobobooks.  Don't let anyone tell you differently.

A lot of people get confused because they know that they have to create a "publisher's account" at Amazon and the others with their real name and Social Security Number.  This is so you can be paid.  It's for EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer), and checks.  You also have to provide all your own banking information, so that you can receive the Wire Transfers. But, just because you have to use your real name on your Publisher's Account doesn't mean you have to use it for your author name.

How To Publish Under A Pseudonym

Click the images below, to enlarge and read the details/instructions.

At the KDP, you'll enter the PUBLISHER NAME for each and every book you upload.  This is where you do that.
At the KDP, you'll enter the PUBLISHER NAME for each and every book you upload. This is where you do that.

 

Still at the KDP, this is where you will list each contributor.  That includes you, as the author--with whatever name you want.
Still at the KDP, this is where you will list each contributor. That includes you, as the author--with whatever name you want.

 

Type whatever you want, right there.  Click to enlarge to see details.
Type whatever you want, right there. Click to enlarge to see details.

 

 

A lot  of authors use a Kindle publishing pseudonym. It's not even hard to do. You log into your KDP Publisher's Account, go to your Bookshelf, and then "Add New Title." 

Then, under 1, "Enter Your Book Details," you'll do two things. You'll type your Publisher name, which is optional. (See image)  

Then, you'll click "Add Contributors." In that section, you'll type the Kindle publishing pseudonym that you've chosen, as the Author. (See image). Simply by doing that, you've created your Amazon self publishing pseudonym.

Is There Anything Wrong With Publishing a Book Under A Pseudonym?

No, there isn't. Many of the greats started out publishing under a pseudonym, like Mary Shelley (Frankenstein). Publishing under a pseudonym on Amazon or any other retailer is in the same great historic tradition.

Whether you want to use a pseudonym to guard your feelings, or keep your loved ones from knowing you've started your writing career, there's no reason not to use the "nom de plume," which is another phrase meaning "pen name."