ebook publishing & distribution | Best Practices in Publishing & Distributing eBooks at Scale

Best Practices in Publishing & Distributing eBooks at Scale

Every once in a while, there comes a revolutionary technology that disrupts the entire industry. Integrated Circuits revolutionized the computer industry, LED technology revolutionized the television, capacitive touch revolutionized UI in digital computers, and over the past decade, eBooks have revolutionized the publishing industry with ebook publishing.

Even though most of the research regarding the impact of eBooks and eBook publishing has been conducted in the USA, some studies have shown that other countries may have undergone greater penetration.

Back in 2012, a study by Bowker found that India emerged as the country with the most number of people (24%) having used eBooks, compared to the UK and Australia (21%) and the USA (20%).

According to the 2017 version of the Global eBook Report published by Wischenbart, eBooks have quickly taken around 15 – 25 percent of the largest publishers’ sales in North America and the UK. Among the emerging economies, China has seen a unique and continuous rise in book sales.

All these numbers suggest that eBooks have impacted the book publishing market in a significant way, especially in places like the US and the UK.

The Importance of Scalability in eBook Publishing -

Publishing books previously required a lot of resources and capital, one that only the big publishers could afford. There used to be book signings, launches, marketing, and distribution in bookstores. The supply chain and cost equation weren’t so favorable for independent publishers.

But now, publishing operates in a world increasingly being dominated by the likes of Apple, Google, and Amazon, which sell eBooks. But it’s certainly not their primary business. However, these tech giants certainly pose a threat in terms of taking away a significant portion of the sales from major paperback publications.

Previously, publishers didn’t need to be careful about the categorization of books while publishing content — the bookstore would do it for them.

Nowadays, everything is available on a single platform and made available to the user via searches, internet marketing, etc. It has become essential for publishers to consider the users’ interests while publishing content and selling them online.

Finally, eBooks have significantly lowered the cost of publishing, making it possible to publish them at scale, for different platforms, to a worldwide audience at a fraction of the cost required for paperback publishing.

Also, once you publish an eBook, you can make it available on multiple platforms, and depending on the readership, you can earn royalties for a single book for over a lifetime.

As the eBook publishing business grows, it becomes imperative to keep up with the ever-changing market demands. Scalability matters because, with more customers, data, and resources, publishers need to find a way to handle growth effectively.

How eBook Publishers Publish and Distribute eBooks at Scale?

1. Before you publish

What eBook format do you use?

There are two main eBook formats used by eBook distributors, retailers, and digital eReaders — EPUB and MOBI. MOBI is the proprietary format used by Amazon, while EPUB is used by everyone else.

Note: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform supports EPUB files if they are well-formatted, converting them automatically to MOBI format for Amazon devices. So technically, you just need to convert your manuscript into EPUB.

Here’s more about the Best Formats for Publishing eBooks

Design a professional cover page for the eBook

Usually, on platforms like Amazon, there are provisions to upload the book cover separately as an image file. It’s vital to consider the exact dimensions specified on each publishing platform, as they vary depending on the platform. You don’t want your cover page — which contributes to the books’ first impressions — to be pixelated or stretched disproportionately.

Convert the manuscript into an EPUB

Assuming the manuscripts are document (either MS Word or PDF) files, there are several interactive eBook creation tools available online which can help you create the EPUB file from a PDF or Word document.

You can also create your cover page for the books using these editors. However, it’s recommended that you outsource this activity in the interest of time..

How to Automate PDF to ePub3 Conversion

2. Choose Your Metadata Wisely

When uploading your eBook to any of the digital publishing platforms, you’ll be asked to select specific “categories” or “keywords” to indicate where to feature your eBook. This is for distribution platforms like Amazon, which is fully algorithm driven. Remember, this is vital. Here’s how to select the best Digital Publishing Platform.

3. Publishing your eBooks — Exclusive v/s Wide Availability

Now that you have your EPUB files, you’re ready to publish. There are various publishing platforms available to do this, but you can decide whether you want to go exclusive on a single platform or make your eBooks available on all possible platforms.

There are a few perks of going the exclusive route. For example, when uploading your eBooks to Amazon through KDP, you have the option to choose KDP Select.

Enrolling in KDP Select means you won’t be able to sell or distribute your eBook on any other platform, or through any other channel, for at least 90 days. In exchange, you get access to free promotions, deals, and even automatic Kindle Unlimited enrollment.

Kindle Unlimited is a popular subscription service that pays publishers a percentage of the royalties based on the number of pages of their books read by the subscribers.

Other eBook publishing platforms may provide similar perks for choosing to publish exclusively. (How to Select the Best eBook Publishing Platform)

Amazon dominates about 80% of the eBook distribution market in the US and the UK; their market share is much lower in other countries, however. In Canada, Kobo holds over 25% of the eBook market share, and in Germany, Tolino dominates the market.

If you’re trying to reach these markets, going wide (instead of going exclusive) might be your best chance. Also, when you’re a beginner, building a significant presence on smaller publishing platforms may be easier than trying to get noticed on big platforms like Amazon, even with the exclusive KDP Select perks.

One of the factors you might want to consider while deciding on whether to go exclusive on Amazon or wide across all platforms is to take into account the categories your eBook falls into, and whether they hold a significant percentage of the Top 100 books on Amazon.

Certain genres are even exclusive to Kindle Unlimited, and Kindle Unlimited “reads” contribute significantly to the overall rankings.

Most importantly, whatever is good for you and whatever you choose, you need to stick to it. Sometimes, it takes years to build a good relationship with the readers on a given platform, so being inconsistent is not going to help. You need to play the long game here.

Different Mediums of eBook Distribution

Now that you know the fundamentals of eBook publishing, let’s talk about distribution. Generally, you have two different approaches — direct-to-retailer or using an aggregator, depending on the “go exclusive or go wide” debate.

Going directly to retailers gives you a chance to obtain higher royalties. But it also means uploading book files and metadata individually across all the platforms, and then, if any changes need to be made, do it individually on each platform as well.

Some of the major eBook retailers include:

  • Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing
  • Apple – Apple iBooks (iBooks Author even lets you design and create eBooks right from your Mac or iOS devices)
  • Kobo (Publishing here makes your books available to Kobo’s and Overdrive’s distribution network)
  • Barnes & Noble (also known as Nook Press)
  • Google Play Books (Requires the publisher to be a part of the Google Books Partner Program)
  • Kitaboo Digital Publishing & Distribution Platform (a cloud-based digital publishing platform for eBooks)
  • Scribd (A document sharing service that quickly evolved into a platform for premium readers)

Here’s more on how to distribute ebooks on online platforms

Alternatively, using an aggregator allows you to distribute your eBooks to a large number of retailers at once; it takes the approach of upload/update once, distribute everywhere.

In exchange, they’ll either take a cut from your royalties (usually 10% of the list price) or charge you an upfront fee on a per book basis or a subscription fee for offering their services.

Some of the popular eBook aggregator platforms include:

  • Draft2Digital
  • Smashwords
  • PublishDrive
  • Streetlib
  • Lulu
  • BookBaby
  • Blurb
  • eBookIt

Once you publish your eBook, you’re all set to reap the rewards and royalties as per the eBook sales. If you have an established business and you own a website, you can even put up a sale on your own eBookstore.

But it’s always a good idea to opt for a well-known digital publishing platform, which can handle the increasing demand of your eBook sales, as your business grows.

Get your ebook publishing and dritribution at Kitaboo. Request for Free Demo!


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Mike Harman

Mike Harman

Mike is the SVP Business Development at KITABOO. He has over 30 years experience in achieving consistent top-line revenue growth and building mutually beneficial relationships. More posts by Mike Harman