Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Are you a self-published author who’s getting ready to post your digital book to an online store? A little bit of preparation can save you a lot of frustration—and ensure that your book is being presented in the most effective way.
Setting up your sales page in an online bookstore is as simple as filling in some forms. However, many of the questions on those online forms require a bit of research and thought. That’s why I’ve created this handy checklist to allow you to gather up the information you’ll need in advance. That way, you can prepare your entries on your own time. This makes your ultimate ebook upload smoother, simpler, and faster. More importantly, this can lead to greater ebook sales.
Answers that are well thought-through can influence a customer to eagerly click the “buy” button. Conversely, answers that are not prepared in advance can lead web visitors to indifferently click the “next” button.
Take a look at this checklist before you finish producing your book. If you fill in the answers at your leisure as you finalize the content of your book, you’ll enjoy the upload more—and you also might enjoy more sales in the long run.
The final title is your book’s “main” title (not including the subtitle). Be sure your title is spelled exactly the way you want it to be seen, including all spacing, punctuation and capitalization.
Not all books have subtitles, so you can leave this blank. However, I encourage you to think about creating a subtitle even if your book is a novel—and even if the subtitle doesn’t appear on your book cover. Why? The subtitle is a great place to include keywords and search terms. If you do some keyword research and create a powerful subtitle, you can get some extra marketing power out of this important piece of metadata.
If your book is not in a series, you can leave this blank.
If your book part of a series, what is its place in the lineup?
Other books in series: Titles
If your book is part of a series, have the titles of the other books handy.
Other books in series, ISBNs
If your book is part of a series, have the ISBN numbers of the other books handy.
Has your book been published before? If so, this may be a second (or third) edition.
Primary author or contributor
Determine how exactly you want your name to appear. Your name should appear the same in all instances, for example, if your author name is A. R. Smith, use this consistently and be careful not to sometimes post your name as “Alice R. Smith” or “Alice Rachel Smith.” The word “primary” in this instance refers to the fact that in some online stores, you are asked to select a single main author, even if you have co-authors. If this is the case, in advance, discuss this with your team and decide which author is primary.
Other contributors and their roles (author, editor, illustrator, etc)
List all of the contributors to give them credit where it’s due. Check spelling and initials, of course, so all names are consistent with their other works.
Your book blurb, or description, is a vital part of its sales story. It’s also a vital repository of metadata and keywords. In other articles in Digital Book World, I offer some in-depth insights about writing effective blurbs. Spend some time writing the best description you can. Include marketing search terms to improve search engine results.
In addition to your one- or two-paragraph book description (blurb), some stores also allow you to enter a short, one-sentence description. So spend some time thinking about the ideal “elevator pitch” for hooking potential readers.
Do you own the book’s copyright or is your book in the public domain? Online bookstores require you to confirm that you have legal rights to publish the work. If the book you’re uploading and all of its content are your original work, then you have the right to publish it. If you’ve acquired the content some other way, be sure you’re officially sanctioned to sell the book.
Keywords (also called Search Terms)
Before your customers can find and purchase your book, they’re probably going to type some words into a search engine. Do you know which words your ideal customers will use? Spend some time researching the keywords and phrases that potential customers are thinking about when looking for a book like yours. Depending on the online store, you may enter up to seven keywords or search terms. Note that a “keyword” could be more than one word, so you don’t have to feel trapped into using single, short words. Digital Book World offers some helpful articles on Keyword strategies, such as this article by Chris Sim.
It may seem like a no-brainer to list the language your book is written in, but some online stores require that you confirm the language of your book.
How much does your book cost? Determine the standard (non-sale) price for all formats (ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook, etc.).
Categories (BISAC codes)
The Book Industry Study Group (http://bisg.org/) runs a categorization structure for books called the BISAC Code System. This system has become a de facto standard for companies and organizations in the book industry supply chain. The BISAC code system contains a large database of categories that allow people to identify your book by its contents. Browse through the database online at bisg.org/page/BISACEdition to determine the categories that best fit your title.
Who is your book intended for? Adults, general, children are some common categories. Note, for children, there are many sub-sections of this market. Know your specific audience.
Age range of readers
If you write books for children, determine the exact ages that are ideal. If you write books with adult content, here’s where you specify that information.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
The goal of Digital Rights Management (DRM) is to reduce unauthorized distribution of your ebook files. If you are more interested in encouraging readers to share your work than you are worried about pirating, you can choose not to have DRM applied to your book. If you choose DRM, your fans will still be able to lend the ebook for a short while. Customers can also buy the book as a gift. It’s important to learn as much as you can about DRM before you start selling your book online. Make a choice that you can stand behind for the long haul. Once you publish your book, you cannot change its DRM setting.
You’re going to be prompted to enter the content of your ebook. Make sure it is edited to perfection.
For an ebook in an online store, you need to upload just the front cover image of your book, not the back. Some stores require specific dimensions and file sizes. Some online stores require a cover in JPEG form, some also allow you to upload a TIFF.
Your ISBN number identifies your book to bookstores and other book industry members. Each format of your book requires a separate ISBN number. For example, a hardcover and a paperback version of the same title must have different numbers. An important exception is that Amazon does not require an ISBN for Kindle ebooks. Many authors acquire an ISBN for their Kindle versions, anyway. There are many ways to acquire an ISBN number, for example, many services and online tools that help authors produce books offer ISBNs for free or for a small cost. You can also acquire ISBNs directly from Bowker. At Bowker, the prices vary depending on the number of ISBNs you purchase at a time.
As a self-published author, you are the publisher. You can make up a company name, use your own name, or even just leave this line item blank.
An imprint is a sub-section of a publishing house. If you’re a self-published author, you probably don’t have an imprint. This line item is optional.
Determine the launch date for your title. This is important for those authors employing a pre-sale strategy. (See below.)
Many authors take advantage of a marketing plan that allows customers to pre-order books for a set period before the book’s actual launch. This can help you enjoy a large burst of sales on the day your book finally becomes available, which can boost your book’s rankings in online stores’ algorithms. The first step is to determine how much time you’d like to give your fans the option to pre-reserve your title before the opening sales date.
How many pages is your book? Some online stores require you to fill in this info.
Write up a bio that describes yourself. Do the same for all of the contributors to your title. If you don’t know what to write about yourself, look at other books in your genre. Do they mention the author’s education? Influences? Family situation? Location of residence? You have a lot of freedom here. Two tips: One, best to stay in the framework of your genre because that’s what readers expect. Two, write your bio to reflect your author brand image. For example, if your brand is snarky, add a touch of caustic wit. If your brand is humorous, by all means be funny in your bio.
Some online stores allow you to enter quotes from influential people. This is something that needs to be done well in advance. As soon as your book is complete, ask at least three people who are either authors in your genre or experts in your field of interest to read your book. Then ask them to provide a short statement that describes their reaction to your book. Be sure to confirm the spelling of their names and the final wording of the endorsement that you’ve chosen to post.
Links in text
Some online bookstores ask whether your ebook includes hyperlinks connected to the internet, either to websites or email addresses.
Color of clickable text
If you have hyperlinks in your book, some online bookstores let you choose the color of the hyperlinks. Blue is standard.
Images in text
Some online bookstores want to know if there are images in the text of your book.
Layout: Horizontal or vertical?
Some online bookstores allow you to fix the format of your book to be horizontal or vertical. The standard for ebook formats is to allow device to dynamically adjust the layout and switch from horizontal to vertical as the users move their e-readers. For some books, however, the best option is a fixed perspective. For example if you’ve written a children’s picture book you may want to control the look of the spreads. Generally, it’s best to leave this blank and allow the e-reader adjust the direction of the text as the reader shifts and moves.
Long before the date of your scheduled book launch, take the time to familiarize yourself with the information in the checklist above. Strong answers to many of these items require some quality time and thought. The content you add to your online store sales page must look professional. A complete, convincing online sales page not only reflects on the quality of your book, but can lead to higher book sales.