Q: What is ePub?
A: ePub as an e-book format type has been around a long time. It has become even more popular since Apple came out with iBooks. An ePub is not much more than a zip file containing a collection of html files, images, and formatting that tells an e-reader how to display a book. Anyone with a good understanding of HTML should be able to work with ePub files. The Kindle supports .mobi, which is a step away from ePub. It’s very easy to get a .mobi file from an .epub file by converting it in Calibre. The very best way to control the look of your Kindle file is to upload a .mobi file that you’ve created from an ePub. When you think ePub, think website. When you think .mobi, think Notepad.
Q: Can I convert my book to ePub by myself?
A: Sure. Converting to ePub can be simple, but to do it right, you’re going to need some HTML and CSS experience. Converting from PDF is the most difficult, followed by Word, and InDesign. Even InDesign requires some file tweaking to make the book structure understandable on an ereader.
Q: Amazon offers a PDF or Word to mobi document conversion service for free. Should I go this route?
A: If you have a very simple file, you may find the online conversion will work for you. From our experience, books that are converted well sell much, much better than books that go through the online conversion service. Readers of ebooks are generally pretty offended when they get a file that they can’t read because of a poor conversion, and they’ll either not buy it at all or they’ll return it. In some cases, Amazon and iTunes will remove a book from sale if they’ve received complaints about it.
Q: What kinds of things will an ebook do? What will it not do?
A: Text, images, tables, lists, charts, and links are all great ebook features. Complex tables are ok on ePub but not great on mobi (treat complex tables like images for the Kindle). Kindle can’t handle floated textboxes (ePub will). A floated textbox is also known as a callout. An ebook will not always look exactly like the printed book. It will not have the same page numbers as the printed book, due to text reflow.
Q: How do I get listed on all the main sites?
A: Your options for becoming a published author are better today than they have ever been in history. If you own the rights to your book content, you can go directly to the main outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes/Apple (listed in order of overall book sales, Amazon as highest). All of them offer online account setup and file uploads. The easiest is Amazon, then B&N, then iTunes (for iTunes, you must own a Mac to upload your files). Amazon is here: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin, B&N is here: http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?t=pi_reg_home, and iTunes is here: https://itunesconnect.apple.com/WebObjects/iTunesConnect.woa/wa/apply.
Q: What do I need to have to set up accounts with each of “the big 3?”
A: Amazon requires a US tax ID number and a US bank account. B&N requires the same thing – be sure to get your tax id number EXACTLY right – it must match what the IRS has exactly. iTunes requires a Mac for iTunes Producer, plus a US tax id number, US bank account, and 3 ISBNs. I am not sure if you even need to own the ISBNs yourself, or if you plan on using them for any content you upload. I really think they just want to make sure you know what an ISBN is and if it’s a valid number. Word to the wise: be sure that ALL your information is the same from the application process through to the end – especially your tax id number. Don’t switch from personal to business or vice versa. I’d recommend doing Amazon 1st, then B&N, then iTunes, that way you’ll start with the easiest and work your way to the hardest.
Q: Do I need an ISBN?
A: iTunes is the only one of the big 3 that requires an ISBN. It’s optional for Amazon and B&N. You can use the same one for Amazon & B&N as you use for iTunes, if you want. You can use different ones if you need them for reporting purposes. The ISBN doesn’t HAVE TO be a part of the ebook metadata. You’ll be adding it to the book info when you upload it.