eBOOK AND ePUBLISHING FAQS


eBook frequently asked questions

Have questions about what an eBook is – where you can sell it from – or how it will benefit you? This is the page for you. Written to help explain the technology and how it practically affects an author.


An eBook is a digital version of a book. eBooks can be read from most tablets, smartphones or eReader devices such as an iPad or Kindle. An eBook will shape its content to fit almost any screen size. This is known as being reflowable

No. PDF documents are not true eBooks. PDF files cannot easily reshape or reflow their content to look better on smaller screens. A PDF might be legible on a computer screen however it will more than likely look terrible on a smartphone screen. Certain online shops also might not accept PDF files, preferring the ePUB format.

Question time.

  • As an author, how many new readers could you reach through printed books alone?
  • Are you worried about the notoriously low royalty % from the sales of your paperback?
  • Are you on a tight budget when it comes potential production and publishing costs of your new book?

Get published in weeks rather than months. Creating and publishing an eBook is fast. In fact, in the time it takes you to read this, you could already have your eBook created. (Well…almost.)

Publishing an eBook directly through a store like Amazon gives you full control of the process. No more waiting on rejection, delays or disappointment from a traditional publisher. 

Pay less. Instead of paying for every new print run, you only pay once to create an eBook. This means that after recovering your costs, your returns are unlimited.

So; why would you not want to create an eBook?

eBooks come in two main flavours:

  1. MOBI/ KF8. This version of your eBook will only be accepted within the Amazon store
  2. ePUB. This version of your eBook will be used in almost all other online retailers such as the Apple iBook store, Barnes & Noble and Kobo stores.

Updated versions of the traditional ePUB eBook do exist.

 

  • Enhanced ePUB (aka ePUB3): These are eBooks that are able to incorporate multimedia such as video or sound into the reading experience
  • Fixed-Layout eBooks: These are eBooks that are able to retain their print layout. Best for visually detailed book, such as a children’s book.

If your manuscript is text-only then yes.

If your manuscript is image-heavy or it has styling elements such as tables, graphs or lists then no.

Reflowable eBooks work best with a manuscript that is mostly text. This does not mean that non-fiction authors are excluded from a digital Utopia, it just means that you need to educate yourself as to what is and isn’t possible when creating your eBook.

These print elements are not easily translated into an eBook format:

 

  • Page headers and footers disappear
  • Fancy or commercial fonts might not work. The user’s reading device now controls the preferred font face, size etc. Consider rather using a more common fonts in your eBook
  • Footnotes or endnotes will need to be specially treated and hyperlinked
  • Images in floating positions will need to be either left, right or centre justified.
  • We do not recommend wrapping of text around images. Images should rather appear above or below text
  • Page numbers in an eBook are no longer a thing. This means you should avoid referencing page-numbers within your text. It also means your index needs to be specially treated
  • Page borders and full-page backgrounds are not recommended.

For image-heavy books such as a children’s books or cookbooks we would recommend creating what is known as a fixed-layout eBook format. A fixed layout eBook means that the eBook’s layout will closely resemble the printed version. However, it will only be compatible on newer reading devices and in certain online stores such as Amazon and Apple.

There are a number of international eBook retailers where you could publish your eBook. These include:

 

I normally advise new authors to simply stick to selling their eBook through Amazon KDP. This covers the lion’s share of the world’s eBook market. There are also other benefits to making your eBook exclusive to Amazon.

This answer applies to our local online mega-retailer TakeAlot but equally applies to the numerous tiny online eBook shops that have popped up and then disappeared over the years. Getting your (eBooks) listed within local shops will not (greatly) benefit you.

In fact, you are more likely to suffer from nasty headaches caused by dealing with these sorts of people. Their irregular pay-outs, unfriendly user-interfaces and the risk of people pirating your eBook from their websites are simply not worth the effort.

Most importantly -> why would you need to sell within a South African specific eBook retailer if SA readers can easily buy directly from Amazon? (Rhetorical, don’t answer.)

Most online eBook shops such as Amazon will not charge an author to have an eBook published. The online shops get paid by deducting a percentage from each book sold. Naturally, a busy first-time author may choose to hire an expert to help them publish their eBook, who is then paid for the time needed to correctly list the eBook within the online shelves.

Hell yes! A shotgun approach to eBook distribution is a strategy that tends to benefit those authors who have more than just the single title published. Going wide should improve the amount of royalties earned however will also increase the admin of the authors who need to monitor multiple sales platforms.

Note for those authors choosing to publish into multiple stores; ensure you are not opted into digital exclusivity with Amazon KDP! (aka KDP Select.)

Yes you can! (For those authors with an eCommerce enabled website.)

That said, selling eBook files directly to readers can cause some confusion as many readers will not understand how to open the ePUB eBook file. To reduce potential tech support I recommend most authors simply hyperlink your website to direct readers straight to your book sales page on Amazon.

Unfortunately, true eBook formats (ePUB or MOBI) were not designed to be printed.

If you plan to only publish your eBook through Amazon – then an ISBN will not be needed, or of any benefit. For the other smaller eBook retailers an ISBN is sometimes required, depending on the exact store you plan to publish through.

This ISBN application form was designed to help you do just that.

Most online eBook retailers pay (South) African authors using a mixture of the following methods.

  1. Posted cheques. This is the default method for many eBook stores for authors from Africa. 
  2. PayPal(Works with most online bookstores – except Amazon.)
  3. Payoneer(Similar to PayPal, but compatible with Amazon.)

For most (South) African authors looking to publish an eBook (or paperback) through Amazon I recommend using Payoneer. Unless you are one of the chosen few who has a bank account from within the first world.

Our current favourite way for an author to preview an ePUB or MOBI eBook on their computer is by using the free Kindle Previewer software. This software is currently a 325MB download and available for both Windows and Apple users. It helps a writer understand how an eBook will seen by their readers. It’s a perfect opportunity to preview an eBook before is published to ensure all the gremlins are ironed out during the eBook conversion process.

No surprises here. Our BFF eBook reading application is the free Kindle reading app. Available for iOS, Android, Mac and PC users. It differs from the Kindle Previewer software mentioned above as it’s really only meant for the reader to enjoy reading your book.

Amazon is the mega-store. Kindle or the Kindle store refer to Amazon’s e/Book division. An author can buy a garden fork from Amazon today, and then self-publish their book within the Kindle store tomorrow. The terms Amazon and Kindle are generally interchangeable and refer to the same business. A Kindle also refers to the propriety eBook reading device than Amazon sells.

No. An eBook is a one-way experience and can’t accept input from a reader.  The latest eBook technology (ePUB3) can play sound and video however this is as good as it gets.

Nope. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. If a sufficiently motivated baddie wanted to pirate your eBook from a legal copy, it would still be possible.

 The best way to combat piracy is by making sure your book:

  1. Is priced fairly
  2. Is widely available from the world’s leading retailers.

DRM or Digital Rights Management is a technology used to limit copying of your eBook by forcing people to have relevant credentials before they can access the eBook. Authors publishing their eBook on Amazon have the option to enable DRM protection for their eBook. If selected, people who pay for and download the eBook will need to first logon to their Amazon account through their reading device before they are able to read your book.

There are several drawbacks of “protecting” your work via DRM and we normally recommend that our authors do not implement DRM from Amazon.

Print on demand is a method of printing your paperback that avoids being forced (by the printer) to place large orders. Instead, your paperback books are only printed when there is an order and even then, only the exact amount are printed.

Our favourite print on demand platform is…you guessed it…Amazon.

A reader ordering a copy of your paperback funds both the printing and the shipping of the order. This means once the initial design work on the cover and interior are completed, the author does not need to pay again when paperback books are ordered off Amazon. *Insert happy face here*

For those authors outside the US and in love with the A5 (14,8 x 21,0 cm) trim size, take note, this will not be supported on Amazon. Look instead to having your book & cover size adjusted to the similar 5″ x 8″ (12.7 x 20.32 cm) size. See there full list of supported trim sizes here.

An ePDF is a user-friendly PDF document that has been optimized for web delivery. This means that all external hyperlinks point to the relevant resources and all internal links also point to the correct location in the document. This includes linking items like the Table of Contents, chapter-level bookmarks and any other internal links present in the PDF. In short it makes for a more pleasant reading experience.

Here is a checklist of the work needed in getting a user-friendly and optimised PDF ready.

 

  • Trim and crop: All pages trimmed to the final printed size with no registration/crop marks
  • Page Numbering: All pages numbered in order
  • Bookmarks: Chapter level bookmarks
  • TOC: Table of content linking in the front matter
  • Cross reference links: Linking the internal reference such as chapter, figure, table etc
  • URL links: Linking all website links in the PDF
  • Embed fonts: All fonts must be embedded
  • Remove security settings: Acrobat security settings must be removed
  • Image colour: Save all colour images as RGB
  • Images optimized for web delivery
  • Insert cover pages
  • Adding the Document properties and initial view of the PDF.

Fancy a Helpful Video or TWO?


How an author can sell books from their website
Explaining how an author gets paid by Amazon
What is the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program?
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