Part 3: How to Publish Your Ebook (Sales and Distribution)

We have now reached the half-way point for the workshops  How to Publish Your Ebook. They are made available by The Australian Society of Authors and convened by Linda Funnell. Every week a different aspect of publishing ebooks is covered. Over six weeks participants attend two hourly workshops on the background and current landscape of ebooks in Australia and internationally; preparing and producing an ebook; sales channels; metadata and promotion.

In week 1, Joel Naoum, Publisher, Momentum Books, Pan Macmillan’s digital-only imprint, presented Part 1: The growing market for eBooks and recent developments. You can read about his presentation and view slides.

Last week I spent two hours presenting Part 2: Preparing and Producing an Ebook. You can read about the session here and also read about Kobo Writing Life as it launched after the presentation.

Part 3: How Can I Sell my Ebook?

Jim Demetriou, Sales & Marketing Director, Allen & Unwin, has more than 20 years experience in the book industry and up-to- the-minute experience of dealing with etailers.

Jim outlined the 4 Ps of marketing: 1. Product. 2. Packaging. 3. Placement 4. Price.

In the case of ebooks the product is the book; the packaging is the format. Placement is where you sell it and price is how much you sell it for. His seminar focussed on price and placement.

Before retailing:

  • Make sure you have a really great product. Ensure you have fully edited your title, it is of the best quality you can produce and and formatted correctly.
  • Invest in cover design. Sometimes this may involve outsourcing to a good designer (preferred in my opinion) and if you consider the DIY approach then study what makes a great ebook cover. I covered this in my previous post.
  • Have an ISBN. Although  you may not be required to supply an ISBN if featuring with just one retailer, other retailers may require you to have one and it ensures you are approaching your ebook in a professional manner.
  • Metadata matters! This will be discussed next week.

Options for distribution:

Do it yourself:

  • Deal with each individual etailer.
    • The best reason to do this is you will make more money BUT it is a lot more time and work.
    • As an author you have more control over your content and can adjust pricing more easily.
    • You will be paid faster as you won’t need to wait for the ‘middle-man’ (or woman) to be paid and then pass your portion along.
  • Amazon have the bulk of the market both in Australia and worldwide.
    • Allen & Unwin have seen a 300% growth in their sales on Amazon in the last year.
    • Amazon want to make it easy for you to upload your content and have even produced a free book called Building Your Book for Kindle.
    • Some interesting figures: there are over 1.2 m ebooks on Amazon with 46,000 ebooks added each month. There are 130,000 self-publishers on their site.
    • Amazon have two royalty rates – 35% or 70% but do be aware that the higher royalty rate is only available in certain countries. (IE being an Australian doesn’t mean you can’t get 70% on your US and UK sales). These are where Amazon has a retail presence and Australia is not one of them. At Allen & Unwin around 90% of their titles are sold within Australia so self-publishing authors may find themselves in the same situation.
    • Other stipulations to be included in the 70% royalty option include your price must be in the range of US$2.99-$9.99 and at least 20% cheaper than any print edition of your title. Authors should read this page on Amazon to get a better understanding of other options.
    • Using Amazon’s Create Space enables authors to have their book printed to order as a Print On Demand book.
  • Kobo has just launched their Writing Life and you can read about it here. Don’t miss the comments as it gives you some interesting feedback! 
  • The iBookstorehas around 15-20% of the market in Australia.
    • It is possible to publish directly with them, but they don’t really encourage self-publishers.They prefer you to go through aggregators.It is said that they prefer to work with companies vs individuals but when you deal directly they take 30%.
  • Google Playhas around 5% of the market in Australia.
    • They sell epub files and are device agnostic. You can read  mostly through Google app, on screen or with the Google Nexus 7 tablet retailing for $249.
    • The first step is for an author or publisher to read about selling books on Google Play and to sign up to the Google Books Partner Program.
    • They pay you 52% of sales.
  • Bookish and ReadCloud are two local ereading applications primarily for independent booksellers to sell ebooks. They don’t deal directly with self-publishers but you may be able to access them through local aggregators.


  • An aggregator takes (or converts) your file and distributes it to a range of retailers. As mentioned, Apple prefer to deal with aggregators rather than directly with an author.
  • Smashwords are one example of an aggregator and they will also sell your title on the Smashwords website passing along 85% of list price. A word of caution though – they may not actually sell too many ebooks on their site as they are primarily a wholesaler.
    • When Smashwords distribute your title to other retailers an author will receive 60% net of what they receive from the etailer.
    • Smashwords do NOT have Amazon distribution.
  • BookBaby are another aggregator and they DO have Amazon distribution.
    • They will distribute your title for US$99 and higher prices for conversions as well.
    • It is important to understand they will charge you US$19 per year per book but you receive 100% net for sales from retailers.
  • Lulu is another option for ebook AND printed book distribution, printing to order. They distribute to Barnes & Noble, the iBookstore, Amazon and the Lulu Marketplace.

Full Service (Do everything)

  • The benefit of dealing with full service outfits is that an author is able to access any or all of the service they may require. These include editing, conversion, design and marketing..
  • There are a number of these now available but a few that have been around and working with authors for a while include Palmer Higgs and Publish-Me! 

What price should you set for your ebook?

  • Major publishers tend to set the price for their ebook at around 50% of the print edition.
  • When we talk about price $9.99 is the ceiling price for  major publishers for major authors.  The ceiling for self-published books is $4.99, and Jim recommended $2.99 as good place to start.
  • Many authors set the price low to get the rankings up on the Amazon best-seller lists then test raising the price to see how it impacts rankings. An interesting fact I hadn’t considered is that some authors may set the price at $2.98 or $0.98 to get their book higher when users sort by price.

Parts 4-6 of the How to Publish Your Own Ebook

Week 4: Wednesday 25 July 2012

How can people find my eBook? Metadata and DRM.

Getting your eBook listed in the right places and making sure people can find it. Digital Rights Management – what is it and do you need it?

Airlie Lawson has more than 15 years experience in subsidiary rights, including translation, film, television and digital.

Week 5: Wednesday 1 August 2012

How can I let people know about my eBook?

Promotion and social media. How to make sure people know it’s out there.

Natalie Costa Bir, Web Content Editor, University of Sydney; former Manager, Voyager Online Marketing at HarperCollins. she also co-presented the course Excellent Ebooks for the APA.

Week 6: Wednesday 8 August 2012

Stories from the world of epublishing.

Convener of the workshops: Linda Funnell has over 30 years publishing experience. Linda worked for ten years as HarperCollins Publisher, Fiction and Literary Non-fiction. She is a book editor and publishing consultant and co-editor with Jean Bedford of  The Newtown Review of Books

Information on the course can be viewed on The Australian Society of Authors site.

You may also like to read:

Part 1 of How to Publish Your Ebook –  The growing market for eBooks and recent developments.

Part 2 of How to Publish Your Ebook – Preparing and Producing an Ebook.

Launch of Kobo Writing Life Self-Publishing Platform.

What Makes a Great Ebook?

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