dollar_currency_signHow to maximize your ebook profit

Here are a couple of ways to distribute your ebook:

1. Smashwords + Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

At this writing, Smashwords does not distribute ebooks to Amazon Kindle, but it does to just about every other meaningful ebook retailer:

  • Barnes & Noble (Nook)
  • Kobo
  • Sony
  • Apple
  • Diesel

2. Smashwords + Amazon Kindle + Barnes & Noble Pubit!

Reason for going outside Smashwords: to make a tiny bit more per sale.

Reasons for going with Smashwords: to sell on Sony, Kobo, Apple, and others that have costly requirements or other limitations.

Sony does not accept books from individual authors or very small indie publishers—to sell your ebook on Sony, you need to have it on Smashwords (and they recommend that).

Apple, Sony, and Kobo require an ISBN for your ebook (not the same one as a print version).

Royalties they pay

In some cases, Smashwords actually pays you more than the retailer would pay you directly, depending on the price you charge.

Smashwords pays 60% of your list price on sales to all of the retailers it distributes to: Apple, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, and Barnes & Noble.

B&N pays 65% of list for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. However, it pays only 40% of list on books below $2.98 or above $10. So, in this case, you could actually earn more from B&N sales via Smashwords on books outside of the $2.99-9.99 bracket.

Amazon Kindle pays 70% of list for books between $2.99 and $9.99, but only 35% for books outside that range.

Amazon’s price-matching can cost you: Amazon will “price match” prices on other sites, dropping the price for your book to the lowest that a competitor offers.

Recently I raised my ebook prices from $.99 to $2.99. Since Smashwords distributed them to all but Amazon Kindle, I only had to make the price change at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. But, because of Amazon’s price-matching, they continued to sell the Kindle version for $.99 for a couple of weeks after the price change. This was no doubt because their system was detecting the ebook still out there for $.99 at one of the retailers served by Smashwords.

The Kindle price is now what I wanted it to be. Interestingly, after I upped the “official” price to @2.99, sales at the $.99 price on Amazon earned the 70% royalty rather than the 35% royalty.


What you will need to provide:

A book-cover graphic. None of these vendors provide a way to create book covers. You’ll have to have one you can upload in the size and format they want (jpeg files are usually what is accepted, though tiff files will work for Kindle.

A .mobi ebook file for Kindle, an .epub file for the others. But you can do a Kindle .mobi or an .epub file yourself with a Word document on the Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords websites, although it is a little bit of work.

For Smashwords, an .epub file that is okayed by the EPUB Validator or a “clean” Word document. Smashwords offers an excellent free Style Guide to help you with the formatting

An alternative: For all of these sites, you can also get there from here with a Word document and, in some cases, the text in other formats such as .html. The sites will convert your doc into the proper format for free or a small fee (Kobo $29+). One approach would be to generate your Word doc using the Smashwords guide and then using it for other sites.

There are websites that offer conversion of your manuscript document to ebook formats, including this one.

ISBN numbers: For Apple, Kobo, and Sony, an ISBN is required. If you go with Smashwords, assigning an ISBN there takes care of those individual sites. An ISBN from the official ISBN suppliers costs $125.

If you publish on Smashwords, they will give you a free ISBN that identifies Smashwords as the publisher or you can use your own ISBN

Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble do not require an ISBN for ebooks.

It’s recommended by the ISBN vendor that a unique ISBN be used for each format: this means individual numbers for print, .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (Nook, Sony, Apple, Kobo, others).


Their conversion utilities require a file that has been “cleaned” of much of the formatting that you might normally include in a Word doc (including page numbers for the Smashwords converter). A good guide is Smashwords’s free Style Guide t

You won’t have any special fonts included in your ebook file if you convert through these utilities. While it is possible to embed special fonts in .epub files, for example, it is discouraged by the ebook vendors.

Graphics you include may not end up where you want them to be. Specific formatting is called for to get graphics in more or less the right place. It can be iffy.

Going through a designer such as Crrreative will certainly cost you more, but you can end up with a document that provides your readers with an optimized reading experience, from font size, spacing, and graphics. For example, to insert page breaks in a Kindle document you either need to be pretty handy with html or call on someone such as I.

For your cover, be sure you have one designed for Internet effectiveness. See more about concerns that need to be addressed here.