April 2016 Roundtable: The Ins and Outs of Ebooks

Facilitated by Christopher Robbins

The Basics

  • Barriers to entry into publishing fell—now we can self-publish, publish ebooks, and sell audiobooks.
  • Publishing a book is easy. Selling a book is hard.
  • The market for coloring books has boomed. Majority/all of market growth came from coloring books last year.
  • Romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and mystery all do very well on the market because of power readers. They consume a lot of books—multiple a week. Good markets to be in, but also competitive.

Converting a Manuscript into an Ebook

  • If using Adobe InDesign, it’s relatively simple to turn the manuscript into an .epub file, which is the standard format except for Amazon, which uses .mobi.
  • Even if you’ve never made one, it’s not difficult!
  • Lynda.com has tutorials.
  • Search on Google to find people who can format for you.
  • Hire a university student who knows how to format ebooks.
  • Some distributors will format your ebook and distribute it (e.g., Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo).

Ebook Distribution

  • Distributors include Amazon KDP, Nook, Kobo, Hummingbird Digital Media, iTunes, and Google Play.
  • Amazon has a huge market share. You may be locked into an exclusive distribution deal or a certain amount of time. Higher royalties (70%).
  • Some publishers use separate ISBNs for print, ebooks, and audio. Some publishers even use different ISBNs for different ebook formats. You can get away with only using two (one for print and one for digital), but it’s helpful to know how different digital formats are doing in terms of sales.
  • Try not to depend on only one distribution platform. Determine which platforms will be best for reaching the target audience.


  • Marketing is the hard part!
  • Use trending hashtags, book tours, interviews on local and national radio/TV, guest blog posts, and interviews on blogs.
  • Ebook-only publishers won’t likely do author tours.
  • Don’t “silo” ebooks or print—it’s one product with multiple formats.
  • Consider creating audiobooks.
  • Focus on metadata—the descriptive info that surrounds the book: title, author, publishing data, price, and descriptive copy.
    o Metadata is the marketing tool of the 21st century.”
    o Including keywords that will reach people interested in the topic. Make the book discoverable.
    o Identify keywords with searches using Google, Google Play, Google AdWords, Amazon, Kovo, etc.
    o Think of phrases you would type in if you were looking for the topic of the book. (E.g., “wife has cancer.”)
  • Find a love group—at conferences, on blogs, other social media. Find the “big mouths” in the industry!
  • Sometimes you work really hard to get a book noticed, but sales remain flat. Sometimes you hardly do anything and the book succeeds. (Got to get the big mouths to notice it and give word-of-mouth referrals.)