How to Publish a Book Online

Woman reading her self published book

Writing a book and finding a publisher used to be a time-consuming process where you more likely than not would have your manuscript accepted. With the Internet, you can now self-publish your book in a number of ways that are easy to do and reasonably priced.

Publishing a Book On Your Website

One of the easiest ways to publish a book online is to put it on your website. You can either create the website yourself or hire a web designer to set it up. You will be required to either maintain the site or hire a professional to do it for you, as well as pay for hosting, domain, and potential advertising such as Google and Facebook ads to drive traffic to the site. The best part of this option is you have complete control over the process and keep all the profit from the book sales. The downside is it can be much more work for you, especially if you aren't website savvy.

Options for Publishing On Your Website

There are a few different ways you can publish a book on your own website.

  • Some authors choose to put the entire book online on the site which works well for smaller novellas.
  • Others will post each chapter in a sequential format at regular intervals. This keeps people coming back to the site in anticipation of the next chapter, as well as grows an email list of subscribers for the author.
  • A third way to publish your book on your website is to have it available in downloadable format (MOBI, ePub and PDF). Some authors may have it available for free while others will set up a shopping cart to sell access to the book files.

How to Publish a Book On Your Website

Obviously the first step is writing your book. After that you may want to hire an editor to go through the book for you. You can find resources through Editorial Freelancers Association as well as on websites like Reedsy and Ebook Launch. Additional steps you will need include:

  • If you are making a downloadable book, you will need a cover design which you can create yourself if you have design experience. Otherwise it's best to hire a graphic designer to create attractive cover art that presents a professional appearance. You can find artists who specialize in book covers through Reedsy, Author Packages, Book Design Templates and Ebook Launch.
  • Formatting is important. If you are putting the book on your website in HTML, you'll need to have some basic knowledge of how to update a site, or have someone who can do it for you.
  • Likewise if you decide to make an eBook, there are multiple formats you'll need to offer. You'll need software to do this or you can hire a professional. Some resources for professionals include Ebook Launch, Draft2Digital, BookBaby and Reedsy. If you want to do it yourself, some software options are:
  • If you are only publishing your book on your website pages, you will not need an ISBN. However if you are making an eBook version and intend to print the book someday, getting an ISBN is important. Rates for an ISBN range from free to around $125.

You will also need to create a website and the costs and steps for this vary widely depending on whether you do it yourself or hire a professional and the platform you choose. There are many free or low cost web builders you can use such as Wix and Squarespace, or you can go with the popular WordPress CMS platform. You'll need to budget for the costs of hosting, domains, designers, and if you're selling the book, credit card fees and the cost of possible ecommerce plugins and software.

Friends working on their book

Using a Direct Publisher

If publishing on your own seems like too much work, or you want to have your book directly available to potential buyers, using a service like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is a great option. With these services, you will need to follow the same initial steps as above to format the book yourself, edit it and have a cover designed. However, once you have your files ready, these services make the remainder of the process easy by walking you through it on their system. The advantages of "direct publishing" is you have immediate access to buyers, don't need to deal with running a website, and make marketing your book much easier. On the downside, you will need to give a percentage of each sale to the publisher and you will need to market it for sale to get buyers to take notice.

Direct Publishing Retail Sites

Some of the most common sites used to self-publish books are:

  • Amazon Kindle Direct - Free to publish and royalties are either 35% or 70% depending on the sale price of the book and countries where it will be available.
  • Barnes and Noble Press - This service, also known as Nookpress, works similarly to Amazon's although you have the option of promoting your book to appear in brick and mortar stores if it sells well enough. Royalties are up to 65% per book.
  • Kobo Writing Life - This site does not require publishing exclusivity so you can publish your book in several places to widen your audience. The cost to publish a book for free and Kobo will even do the formatting of your book into ePub format for you for free. The royalties are 70% of the list price for books $2.99 or higher, or 45% for books priced lower.
  • iBooks - Using iBooks is done through a free Apple account and iTunes Connect software. ITunes Producer is free software you can download to format your book. Your royalty is 70%. You will however need an Apple iOS computer in order to use the iBooks software.
digital books on a tablet

Self Publishing With an Aggregator Website

Aggregator sites are ones where you can publish your book and then they will distribute it for you to various platforms, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The benefit of using an aggregator is it will handle the work of publishing to different platforms. The downside is that you will have to update each edition that is published to a different site, and this can be difficult the more books you do.

Publishing Aggregator Website Options

Some of the most popular aggregator sites you can use are:

  • Draft2Digital - In addition to providing tools to help you format your book, Draft2Digital will publish and promote your eBook to other online retailers like Amazon. It will even set you up with an author page if you don't have a website. Formatting the book is free and Draft2Digital keeps 10% of the retail price of each book sold.
  • Smashwords - Like Draft2Digital, Smashwords will publish your book to major sellers like Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Baker & Taylor and many more, as well as to their own store. Publishing, ebook conversion, author website pages and sales reporting is free and authors are paid usually 85% of the net sales from a book.
  • BookBaby - This site sells books as well as distributes books published on its platforms to other retail sites. You can earn up to 100% of royalties once the commission for the retail site are taken out and books sold on BookBaby get 85% royalties. BookBaby provides formatting, editing, cover art and other services to authors for a fee.
  • Lulu - Lulu sells books from its own site as well as through other retailers like Amazon. They offer free services for formatting and publishing and you can purchase related services like editing, design and marketing for a fee. You will get 80% of the sale of a book, less any costs for producing the book. Lulu also helps you sell directly by integrating with Shopify so you can have your own store.

Using a Print on Demand Service

With a print on demand (POD) service, buyers will purchase the book online and have a printed physical copy sent to them. The benefit of this service is having actual physical books to sell, which you can try to distribute to book sellers as well as sell on your own website. It also allows you to sell the book without paying large fees to print a run of several books and then have to take a loss if you don't sell all of them. You can update your book as needed and not worry about editions already printed and waiting for sale that have outdated information.

books on demand expresso book machine

Print on Demand Online Publishers

The two largest POD providers are Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and IngramSpark.

  • With Amazon KDP you can have a POD edition made available along with your ebook sold through Amazon's website. You'll be charged for the cost of printing the book which will vary based on size and complexity. Amazon purchased the CreateSpace self publishing site in 2005 and has since merged it into its KDP division.
  • IngramSpark is a better option if you are looking to sell in stores other than Amazon. IngramSpark sells packages which range from $25 for an ebook and $49 for an ebook and print version, plus the cost of the book production which will vary based on the book.
  • BookBaby has a POD option with two packages. The Global Print On Demand package for $299 covers sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many more. The BookShop Only Direct-to-Reader Print On Demand is $99 and sets up your own online storefront where you will make 50% royalties on sales.
  • Lulu also offers POD services and you can choose from a few set book size options and prices. They also will do POD for photo books and calendars. The cost to print will vary based on the size of the book. For example, a premium trade paperback with 100 pages would cost about $3.54 to produce. Volume discounts are available if you print more than one copy at a time.

How Does Self Publishing Differ From Using a Vanity Publisher?

A vanity press is often confused with self publishing. In self publishing, you will do the work involved to publish the book which involves the editing, formatting, publishing, and promoting the work, whether you do it yourself or hire others to help you. With a vanity press, you pay the publisher to print your book and sell it. While this may seem much easier, you will lose all rights to your book once you have sold it to the vanity publisher. Vanity press publishers have a negative reputation, but if your desire is simply to have a book published, a vanity press can be a great option. However if you're looking to retain the rights to your book and sell it and keep the profits, then you will need to go the self-publishing route. Some more well known vanity press companies available online are AuthorHouse, Dorrance Publishing, iUniverse, and Xlibris.

Using the Internet to Publish Your Work

Don't let the process of publishing your own book online intimidate you! There are many services that can help you with everything from formatting the book to cover design to marketing to bring in more buyers. Find the service that works the best for you and keep writing!

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