Publishing Online

Online publishing is a great alternative to print publishing, especially if you’re trying to publish your first book. Online publishing also complements print publishing, as it makes your book more accessible to more people – at more affordable prices.

Technically speaking, online publishing comprises three different elements:

  1. Website copy.
  2. Offsite copy, including blog posts and articles.
  3. Ebooks.

What this means is that anyone with a blog site can be considered a published writer.

However, ebooks take centre stage here.

Ebooks are books that are published online; they can be self-published using self-publishing software, or they can be published by small publishing companies that offer ebook publishing alongside print publishing services. Moreover, many big publishing companies that represent famous authors opt to release ebook versions of print books to open up more avenues of revenue.

One of the reasons why ebooks have become so popular is the abundant platforms on which they can be made available. It used to be that authors could only sell their ebooks on their own websites, which would have involved wading into the murky waters of ecommerce – and they could only be read on desktops or laptops. Now, authors can sell their ebooks on a variety of online stores (e.g., Amazon) and they can be read on the many mobile platforms available, including Apple iPads, Kindles and assorted ereaders.

Online publishing tools

The number of platforms available significantly simplifies the online publishing process. This is because digital publishing software is now tailored to upload ebooks directly to online stores, for example, Smashwords is a platform that distributes ebooks to Apple’s iBookstores internationally, as well as to major franchises like Barnes & Noble.

CreateSpace is an online publishing tool that is favoured by Amazon and which helps authors showcase their self-published ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle Store. In fact, Kindle has its very own online self-publishing software called Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which provides tips on how to create ebooks, as well as a range of services, such as translating ebooks for different countries, securing publishing rights, and managing sales and merchandising.

Some other tools include Lulu for Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble; iBooks Author; AuthorHouse; Booktango for Kindle, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble; BookBaby; and Barnes & Noble’s Publit.

Some of these tools are free but have paid premium packages, and some charge a fee from the get-go. The fees are not generally expensive, but if budget is an issue you’ll have to research the different platforms before you make a choice.

Pricing your ebook

Pricing is a delicate matter, and one which gives many authors sleepless nights. How do you put a price on your treasured work; how do you weigh up what you think it’s worth against what people are willing to pay for it?

For starters, make your peace with the fact that ebooks sell for lower prices than print books, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for ridiculously low prices. It helps to look at what authors of similar books are charging. And it helps to find out the percentage of royalties different online stores pay.

Mill City Press has a great chart that shows the different royalty rates from the most well-known online stores: Amazon, iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble. For example, Amazon’s rates vary across price ranges. You’ll earn 35% for books that are less than $2.98, 70% for books that are between $2.99 and $9.99, and 35% for books that are between $10 and $199.99. iBookstore has a flat rate of 70% no matter what the pricing structure, Barnes & Noble’s rates vary from 40-65%.

You also need to consider the type of book you’ve written. Speciality books or educational books, for example, can go for anything between $14.99 and $200. Business-related ebooks go for anything between $2.99 and $9.99.

Finally, you need to consider your book’s real value. Not your subjective idea of its value, but what it’s really worth in terms of what it offers readers.

Should you venture into online publishing?

It appears that the answer is yes. Many established print authors are moving online because they believe that it generates more revenue and they get more exposure. If established authors prefer online publishing, surely first-time authors and those trying to break into the industry should give it a go?

Digital publishing is great for first-time writers because publishing ebooks online saves them the stress and hassle of trying to find literary agents and publishers who are willing to publish their books. Online publishingis also great because you can publish your short story without having to wait until you have enough material for a compilation and you can publish your poetry, which is notoriously difficult to sell to publishers.

Online publishing might not quite have the prestige of print publishing – yet – but it’s certainly easier to become a self-publisher or approach an ebook publishing company than to wade through the print publishing process.