Advice:  eBook Publishing

by Ron Plachno


E-Book Publishing 

Are you interested in publishing a book? Does it seem too expensive to do that? I felt so as well, until I opted for learning about eBook electronic book publishing. For my tastes, I had been thinking of publishing one book since 2002 and now have that book published and being sold plus two more, plus one more in copyright process. Why did I not publish in 2002? Well, if one goes to a publishing house it would seem then the writer gives up control of their own work. If you self publish paper books then you might pay thousands of dollars just to get into the business. But nowadays, there is a new option - eBooks. As an eBook user who prefers to read books electronically on my pad, I believe it is a large and growing market. I should quickly say that eBooks I do not find to be zero cost. There is a cost for a copyright and ISBN numbers, and other costs depending on if you can do the work yourself.

Here are the steps I found to get into the eBook publishing business.  The highlights first and then more detail and links below. 


 * Protect your work until you have a copyright - that means likely - zero distribution till protected

 * Of course - use no one's work in either your text or in your images unless you have full permission.  Some people think whatever is on the net is protection free.  Nope.  I know of cases where people have sought out the person "lifting" another's work - written text or images.

EBOOK PUBLISHING - Main items to be done in order - (details of each item below)

 0.  Step 0 - SAFETY - Suggest No Distribution of your work Till Done

 1.  Write the book.

 2.  Do the artwork including cover to be included with the book

 3.  Copyright it in the US Library of Congress

 4.  Wait till you receive copyright since there may be questions

 5.  Assemble the book within eBooks publishing software that you have

 6.  Modify the book type into formats you will sell

 7.  Get ISBN numbers from Bowker - suggest 10 at a time

 8.  Begin to Market to main places while maintaining ownership 



General - the names below often also become the suffixes for the file, such as MyBook.epub, or MyBook.pdf, or 

EPUB - This is perhaps the most common of the electronic book formats.  It is used for books that people just transmit freely, but also seems to be controlled at least "in the cloud" as one of the formats used by Google Play.  The Epub format is so common that at least the last that I checked, one can download free epub readers for their Windows computer or their Android tablets, and of course likely other computers and pads.  It has been the type I have used almost exclusively till the present time. 

PDF - Yes, this is the Adobe electronic format for books and operating instructions and far more that has been with us for some time.  At first I admit that I ignored this format.  Now I am beginning to like it more and more.  Adobe of course makes their PDF reader (but not writer) free.  However, some later versions of Windows Office MsWord even do translations to PDF type files making it now accessible.  But I am finding even more to like.  PDF files seem far smaller than the rtf files I used to create my books in, such as MyBook.rtf.  Not only that, the pdf files are also smaller than the epub formats that I use - depending on the number of images the book has.  And at the same time, the quality of the pdf output including images is just not bad.  Also pdf along with epub is what GooglePLay and perhaps others may ask for, and also pdf seems the desired format for uploading to the US Copyright Office and also the ISBN service we will speak of later.   It pays, therefore, to make friends with PDF regardless of your initial opinion. 

MOBI - An electronic book format used by some, and in fact is still used by Amazon (Kindle).  Note that it seems that Amazon likes to do its own translation to mobi format, likely from an epub format - which is what I give them.



0.  No Distribution till Done.   While perhaps no one may cheat you, I found with software even if your work predates others, not everyone is reasonable.  Once you get in line to the US Library of Congress, most silly discussion is closed and you win - since now you have both a work and a date and ownership

1.  Write the Book.  Now if you already know your publishing software you will need in item 5, you can begin either writing in that program or in something compatible.  (Note Hazards item above about protection and also ensuring all work you have the rights to.) 

2.  Artwork.  You will need at least a cover, and perhaps if you desire also internal artwork of images, charts, maps or the like for internal pages for your book.  Or perhaps your own photo image.  For the cover artwork, some on the internet suggest that 2100 pixels high and 1400 wide will work most places.  I think I agree, so far.  Also that gives a decent image.  They also suggest keeping the image below 2 megabytes to save cost later since some market places charge for size.  If you are handy with a photo package such as Adobe or Corel or the like, you can do your own cover.  You might then save using a small amount of jpg compression to get the image say less than 2 megabytes.  Amazon for one, may charge for large size books for memory usage.  Moving on, for other images I suggest avoiding lawsuits.  For Christmas cards I might download seasonal images from the web, since no one cares.  However, I know of at least one case where a person used a photo of a lady on a book cover and the lady demanded money after it was taken.  Much on the web, even if you can just take it, does not mean you have the rights to the image.  In my case, for things like books, ALL of the images were photos that I personally took or made or at least grossly modified.  I also ensure I am the only human image - unless permission.  Ensure all work is yours.  Why do this step 2 BEFORE copyright?  You can also check boxes on the copyright to copyright the cover and inside images if you wish.  Why not?  No more cost.  And that protects people from taking your hard work. 

Continued (2):  Having just completed edit after edit on an ebook with internal charts and images, it pays to learn what level of quality you need for your internal book images - if you have any internal images at all.  Are you just showing a picture? - in which case super quality may not be needed, or do you have a chart like I had several of with many numbers that need to be viewed?  If you have internal artwork you should check inside an ebook reader to see how your images look on the inside.  Are they good enough?  Do you need more quality and more detail - more "dpi" (dots per inch)?  Perhaps your book is already too large in file size and you wish to cut down the image quality to save money in distribution?  In all events, it pays as I have learned to closely look at what the final result of your book looks like - in each format that you might distribute it. 

3.  Copyright.  Why copyright in the US Library of Congress and not just claim a date?  It stops arguments I believe before they start - since a date is clearly set, and it only costs $35 or so if you use the electronic submission.  I once had someone write my software site and say that I had to change the name of one of my products since his product was the same name.  Looking at things, I realized my date preceded his.  But where was my proof?  Since I was not selling that program for money I changed its name rather than get into a big battle.  But from that day forward, all went through Library of Congress - to get a date - and to stop the morons.  Also...for the Library of Congress online site, please be careful what format for electronic submission they are asking for.  I once submitted one in rtf.  But the next time it seemed they only wanted pdf but then another page disagreed and said rtf fine.  So, be careful.  I just went with pdf last time since it was safer.  You should be able to find the US Copyright office online via Google or other.  There is generally a short form that is fast and only mildly annoying.  Annoying?  Well if you wrote the book, and are also the person for questions, and also the person to get the copyright, and also .. whatever... get ready to enter your name and address and phone number 4 times or so.  Well, it only hurts for a bit. 

4.  Wait till your Copyright comes back approved.  Yes, you want to be certain you are fine.  At least one early time I submitted work I was sent a question from the examiner.  My fault.  I had listed my companies name on the software as copyright owner but then asked for a copyright solely in my name.  They caught it.  My fault.   A person and a company are not the same.  If nothing else, I can attest that copyright examiners check for consistency.  However, in some other ways, the government does help lately now that they have gone electronic.  The date submitted is usually really the date submitted, or at least the date they open your request and see it.  So you establish a place in line right away if all was received - and in fact it is that date - the day they recognized you submitted - that becomes the final copyright date.  yay!  And also, nowadays you can review progress of your request online at the US Copyright place, even though it often says "in review" or some nonsense like that for months.  And yes, I have seen some software submissions of mine that only took a month or two, but a book that I think took over 6 months.  Well, write another book while waiting. 

5.  Assemble the book to epub.  You will need software.  On windows, I use Atlantis (Atlantis Word Processor).  This product is easy to use, often gives free updates, uses simple rtf files, and helps with setup for where the book cover goes and the electronic index.   When I wrote to Atlantis, it also said I could have multiple copies - meaning one on my desktop and one on my laptop  for travel.  So I can also write when I travel. Okay, if using Atlantis, I suggest that you begin at least the first time with their sample format (if one is provided) and modify it since that is simply easier.  After you get used to it, you will find it is easy to just start totally new. You next will have at least three work items.  (1) Just load your rtf book in back.  (2) Then add your book cover image (likely 1400 pixels wide, 2100 high) as the very first item.  (3) Then fix the electronic indexing.  How does electronic indexing work?  Getting used to indexing may take some getting used to.  You set each chapter head or epilogue or the like to a Heading format such as "Heading 1" - and ensure that other words (lines) are not set to a heading format, but to "normal".  I find you should also leave  a blank "normal" line on the new page before the chapter name done in "Heading 1".  Then you can right click the electronic table of contents, tell it to update automatically, and it finds the headings for you (chapter starts) and their location.  But it takes practice.  Of course if you add any pages - even if you did not think you did - you will need to right click the table of contents again to ensure that it is up to date.  What do I do?  It is the last step before saying I am done.  I update the table of contents whether I think I changed anything at all.  Start with their form till you get used to it.  When done, you can save the file as "rtf" or use "save special" to save to ePUB. One other caution and this is regarding blank lines. If you have extra blank lines at the end of your chapter or before the next chapter that you do not need for the composer you are using, when translating to other formats those blank lines can become blank pages that you did not wish and can be annoying. So only use blank lines between a chapter ending and a new chapter that your composer software demands and no more.

Note:  What does "epub" mean?  Epub is the extension ending of a common electronic book such as "Tom Sawyer.epub" for example.  epub is the most common electronic format and can be used by pc's androids, Google Play, and others.  There are other electronics formats in usage such as mobi, pdf, azw I believe and still others. 

NOTE:  EPUB may look different than your draft copy - IMPORTANT

While I use GooglePlay as an example below, it is not the only issue and not even the worst example I have seen.

I have seen some large format changes when you upload to sales places that use your epub files.  How so?  I have seen some that ignore single blank lines.  I have seen some that ignore hyphens.  I have seen some that ignore bold and italics.  To make this even more difficult, some sales places change what they throw away perhaps based on complaints.  In my case I have some bad surprises.  I tend to prefer books with block paragraphs, as you see here.  Then I tend to separate paragraphs by a single blank line.  Well, you can see the problem if an epub sales location ignores blank lines.  In my case at the start of my sales, GooglePlay seemed to ignore blank lines.  And so, it ran everything together.  The paragraphs were run together and even after chapter titles there was no space before the chapter text began.  I then looked for ways to force this format, but then oddly, it now seems that if I reload my Googleplay books from their copies, it now shows my blank lines.  But perhaps the real issue is not to count on things.  Here are some suggestions I have seen that might help you.  Of course you should look at the final sales product of what is being sold to be certain.  But there are some suggestions that might help to avoid issues.  Note that they might not work in all cases.

  • If your composer for your book allows you to indent each paragraph, that is safer.  I did look at one novel by a famous writer where GooglePlay ran the paragraphs together also, as they did for mine.  But with indented paragraph starts, I found it really just fine.  And so indenting paragraphs, if you composer can do it, may save you from some extreme cases.  In my case I just highlighted my whole book and then changed it to indented paragraph style.  I may need to correct some places after this, but that did most of the work for me.

  • I found that sometimes putting a blank space on a line forces it to be a blank line that stays in usage

  • I of course go to a new page for new Chapters

  • Best if you can avoid italics or bold or different print style being needed.  Okay if it "adds", but needed may disappoint you if you find an epub reader that ignores bold and italics

  • Avoid using hyphens and some other odd characters.  Best to stick to commas, periods, semi colons, colons, exclamation marks, question marks and other more common usage items.  Avoid using dots in a row for a pause.  I have found some epub readers that seem to ignore that also.  Best to stick to normal punctuation.

  • When all done with "your best guess," be sure to look at the final result from your sales location.

6.  Other Formats.  There is some software here or there for sale to convert eBook software formats.  However, I found that downloading "Calibre" book reader for my pc also converts epub say into mobi and other popular formats ... for free.  So once you are done with your work and the copyright and the epub format, you are ready to go with a translator to other sales items. 


Note:  Why ISBN numbers?  They are used to track books - in that great book registry somewhere in the clouds.  (or wherever).  Without one, a person may not know that your book exists.  As you market your book, some distribution places such as Amazon Kindle may ask for your ISBN number.  If you do not have one, they might get it, and you might not like someone owning the ISBN number for your work.  I would not.  I just bought 10 numbers.  Of course I may have three books, but even for one book if I were to sell it in both epub and pdf formats, that would be $250 for two, or $250 for 10.  I think 10 is the better deal.  You might also want to sell in mobi or AZW or another format.  And a separate ISBN number is used for each format, including one needed if God forbid - go the paper book direction. 


ISBN says every format of your book should have a different ISBN number - and they call "different" such items as a paper book, an epub electronic version, a pdf version, a mobi version and others.  But the problem is, even if you try to be a good person, what says distributors are not further changing the type of electronic format?  I have decided to meet the ISBN people at least half way and right now take out an epub number and a pdf number.  Those are the only two formats I really control.  If Amazon takes my epub format and makes it into an odd personalized Amazon form of mobi, well, not sure what to do about that.  That is not the way it left me.  So I take out two and try to at least hit the letter of the law as it leaves from myself, the publisher.  Publishers seem to be defined as the people controlling their block of ISBN numbers.

WORK NEEDED BEFORE ITEM 7 - when out of copyright and getting serious about sales

 * Put together a book description of less than 350 words for ISBN usage and try and ensure it would also work as a sales description later

 * Put together an authors biography of less than 350 words for ISBN usage and also see if at least a portion of it could be used later.  This is up to you, but in my case I began with a general biography and then went to what specifics help the writing of this book.

 * Decide on a price.  Do not ask me why the ISBN people want a price, but you cannot get the ISBN info completed without stating a price.  I do believe it can be changed later.

What is your BISAC?  Your Book Subject by BISAC Code?

Huh?  Someone may ask.  Someone did ask me what mine is.  Well, BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications.  But it also lists codes for book nerds such that they will know the subject using number codes.  My guess is that there is some formula similar to Einstein's equation for relativity that then just converts that code into the Dewey Decimal System.  But of course I could be wrong, since I am merely here to comply as I suggest the best approach for others as well.  For example our book that I and my son Ken did we could say is in the subject of Games, card games, Blackjack, but its BISAC number is GAM002030.  How to find these numbers?  As of right now the list is at:

Get Your BISAC Number here, maybe

7. Get ISBN numbers from Bowker.  I suggest just getting 10 for $250 right away since 1 for $125 is a lousy deal and also you will need one for every format you sell under.  I would imagine that most humans nowadays even if they wanted their book physically printed may want some day to also sell an electronic version.  Well, that would be two ISBNs - or $250 for two.  Why not $250 for 10? 

Note:  Why Bowker?  They seem to be the only final source for US and its member territories for ISBN numbers.  If some other place is selling them, they are getting them from Bowker - says Bowker.  Bowker also sells other services but being cheap, I only got the ISBN numbers and also will use their site to register.  To avoid the junk, the ISBN number link is on page top - at least right now.  Of course, maybe you might like the junk below?  You will need to register your name with the site and get a password before they will sell to you.  They do that since the next step, will be filling in at least one ISBN numbers and all of the data and you will need a name and password for that.



My Advice is that many places may simply decide to not do your book unless your book and the rest of your story looks professional.  I read stories on the blogs that say places like Amazon or Google Play ignore them.  Therefore I would be certain that you have a real copyright with the Library of Congress and also ISBN numbers as those are first steps towards looking professional.  Of course a well done cover, decent writing and good description can also help looking professional.  I find some bloggers complaining they get ignored.  For me the trip getting on Amazon was ... the same day... or at least overnight.  I was accepted by GooglePlay the very next Monday after the weekend when they could check EFT (electronic funds transfer) to the bank routing I specified for payment.  I think the high speed of that was because I had a copyright, ISBN number, and nothing looked silly, and the price $3.99 seemed fine. I now have 3 eBooks selling in three places each.

DRM = What?

DRM = Digital Rights Management.  Some big players which I think include Google Play and Amazon may use DRM if you agree.  What does this do?  It means that they the distributor try to do things to your book to try and make it harder for someone to simply copy it and then distribute it for free to a million friends.  The agreement you must sign says you understand that they will try but cannot guarantee a hacker cannot get into things, but that at least is a start.  I am guessing that if you deal with big players, big name distributors, they may help with this.  But if you go to small distributors, well maybe not.


Up to you, really.  As we all know sometimes low price does not mean more sales.  But I also think one must walk before they can run.  It seems to me that some well known authors are getting $10 or $11 an eBook or more.  However, you might not be well known as yet.  And I have seen some paperbacks selling for $5 and up.  Now, there is no paper here so the buyer might expect a tiny bargain.  The reputable places suggest about 2.99 to 9.99 USD depending on the type of book and your opinion.  I believe I myself will likely stick right now to the 3.99 to 5.99 range - until I am well known of course. 


Decide who you want to sell to.  Some internet information can help you, such as: 


AMAZON  (Kindle) - translates epub into their "mobi"

 Info:   Amazon Info

 Signup:    Amazon Signup

 Note:  There is something called Kindle Select that might offer you 70% commission rather than 35%.  But in return you might need to be exclusive to Amazon only and also allow your book to be borrowed money free from their library.  Also if you are "select" they may charge you a "delivery charge" based on the size of your book in Megabytes.  My advice?  Do what works for you.  But I would certainly use their forms to see if you really make that much more money before going exclusive to them - since now delivery costs may subtract.  I did not take it for my first book since the book was large due to many images and color charts inside making for a high delivery cost.  But for some people, going "select" might be a good deal.

GOOGLE  PLAY - allows both epub and pdf

 info:   Google Info

 signup:    Google Signup

BARNES and NOBLE  (Nook) - epub

info and signup? :  info and signup and status

comment:  They seem a good group, easy to work with, and the highest commissions.  I really like these guys.  They do not seem, however, to sell as many of my books as GooglePlay and Amazon Kindle.


I was approved as a publisher for Apple to sell my books.  But after spending far more time reading their information than the other three above sellers combined, I gave up when I could not figure out how to upload books to them.  A person on the net said that Apple requires an Apple made product in order to upload to them and also to read about sales.  That could easily be the issue.  I have a PC, and really cannot afford to buy an Apple computer for what likely might not be high book sales.  But if you have an Apple product computer, then you likely could be fine.  I most likely will not sell through Apple.


My sister in law wanted to read one of my books.  She had an iPAD.  At first I thought it would be impossible.  But then I learned that at least a number of months ago, Apple iPAD's were able to download a GooglePlay reader application.  That worked.  I set up her iPAD, bot her a GooglePlay account, and downloaded my book to her iPAD.  So those people on PC's at least have or had a way for their books to get to Apple iPADs for reading.



I would at least suggest thinking about Apple iBooks.  But some of these in the links below claim to do that for you.  The main question might be ... if you go to these distribution services, is your book now just simply open to be copied and distributed by any customer?  No DRM?  Not even an attempt to guard your interests?  And of course if you use a middle person in the chain, then you will likely pay the equivalent of two commissions.

20 Sites to Sell Your Book

PAYHIP -  what?

Of the players above in the 20 sites I think Barnes and Noble as of course do Amazon and Google Play.  But there is another interesting player - Payhip.  Payhip is really an extension of PayPal and uses the same mentality.  PayPal thinks more like a merchant service rather than an Amazon.  How so?  Well, if you were to own a real store you would find some merchant services are needed and seem to be quite disturbing.  If you have a store, you would need someone who can take credit cards, debit cards and the like.  There are those services of course.  Some of us see them as evil places that want a percent or two of everything sold in America ... maybe the world.  They like to get a tiny skim of some of the money from the top.  PayPal credit card services are not so different, but often more of a good deal for the small business - perhaps someone selling occasionally online.  I sell CDs on my web site using PayPal.  Why not?  The big credit card services want a large monthly fee and then a cost per transaction.  PayPal may cost just a bit more per transaction, but no monthly fee.  And so for a small user, PayPal is a good deal.  What if you have no sales?  With PayPal credit card services they charge nothing.  And when something is sold, they send me a nice note saying it was sold and who paid so I know to ship it.

I honestly do not know how payhip works, but my guess would be that it is a similar sort of thinking as PayPal credit cards.  They are just looking for a percentage of the take.  They say 5% and just upload your eBook to payhip they say.  I have not verified it.  But it is an alternative for people who do not wish to pay large royalties to the other places.  What are the downsides?  I am not certain since I have not taken advantage of them yet.  But let me guess that the below MIGHT be their deal:

  • They give you most of the money but only keep 5% or so

  • They likely do not advertise like Amazon or Google Play does ... they likely after all might think like PayPal that they hang in the background and take money for goods and just provide service, not marketing

  • Likely you might need to advertise a link to them on a website owned by you for someone to even find them.  This is what I do for selling CDs through PayPal credit services

  • I believe that payhip differs from PayPal in that they will take your book and deliver it and take people's money and ensure the customer is legitimate - so that is an expanded "service" at an expanded price of now about 5% per transaction

Anyway, payhip might be a good alternative for some folks who just might decide to do their own advertising and send customers to them to collect the cash.  I might do that as well from my own website.


Nowadays, I see this as the real issue.  The sellers such as Google, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and others will tell you that they advertise your books.  But honestly?  If someone is advertising 10,000 or 100,000 or whatever their numbers of books are, they really are advertising no one.  It is sort of like being a grain of sand on Pismo Beach.  And so advertising should take some thought.  I need to get better at this myself.  I do have a website that advertises the books, but likely that is limited in exposure.

HAVE FUN!  Hope this helps at least a bit!

Ronald J. Plachno

January 12, 2014 / Some updates July 20,2014

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