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Essential Tools (& Tips) for Digital Publishing

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 8.18.51 AMNot long ago, the closest an author could achieve to creating an e-book himself or herself was converting a word processing document into a PDF and then e-mailing copies to close friends and family members.

Today, though still a burgeoning industry, e-book publishing is becoming creative and fruitful in ways comparable to traditional book publishing. The good news? There are many resources and publishers available online. The bad news is, well, there’s almost too much information.

Opportunities for authors in e-book publishing are boundless and a bit overwhelming. As Digital Book World’s Editorial Director Jeremy Greenfield told me, it’s the Wild West of Publishing.

I keep abreast of developments in digital publishing best I can to serve my clients, you, and myself.  To help you and the authors you care about, here is a roundup of some of the most popular tools (and extra tips) authors can use to write, publish, and distribute an e-book. 


It’s time to unlock the powers of superapp EverNote. The portable program can be used via phone, web, tablet, or PC and syncs all data. Because of its portability, when inspiration strikes, even during an inopportune time, EverNote is available.

The magic of EverNote is its search feature, where snippets of information can be culled from captured information from anywhere – photos, web clips, recipes. There are also several add-ons for additional uses.

Still love the grip of a pen and pad? The Moleskine Evernote smart notebook can be used to sync handwritten musings.

Price: Free for up to 60MB per month (that’s an estimated 20,000 notes!); Premium accounts are $5 per month and users can get up to 5GB of space.

Quickly becoming a hot program in word processing for authors, Scrivener utilizes old-school styles of organization combined with newer methods. An author can view notes and ideas like Post-It notes on a corkboard or as a Windows-like file tree.

Multiple documents can be managed and edited at once (called “scrivenings”), and the program contains visual formatting styles for book writing or scriptwriting.

Price: Licenses start at $35 for PCs, $45 for Macs

Author Tip: E-book authors need to learn the impact of metadata in their manuscript. Much like using alt tags and keywords for proper search engine optimization on websites, metadata for e-books is an important tool for readers to discover e-books.

Metadata, put simply, is data about data. Any piece of identifying information about the book is considered metadata. That includes the title, price, book description and category.

Keeping metadata error-free and robust is just as vital as the content being created.

Publishing & Distributing

Just browsing the myriad e-book publishing platforms can ignite an author’s dream to create a best-selling book.

Several popular ones offer multiple features, including cover design, formatting, distribution and marketing.

Before scoffing at the start-up fee, consider this: BookBaby offers 100% payout of net sales to authors. Free publishing platforms cannot offer that high of a payout.

They have also partnered with Scribd, an author social network that touts having the largest online library. Scribd users can sample up to 10% of books at no charge.

Larger publishing packages include graphics and document conversion and an author website.

Price: Basic package starts at $99


The claims of Smashwords are big: they are the “world’s largest indie ebook distributor” with more than 200,000 titles by 55,000 authors.

This site is ideal for cash-strapped authors, as they offer free International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), nine conversion formats and marketing tools.

Authors receive 85% of the proceeds and retailers outside of Smashwords don’t receive all of the metadata tags.

Price: Free

LeanPub offers a bigger royalty for authors (90% minus 50 cents per sale), and authors can create three formats to sell via PDF, iPad and Kindle.

Another interesting feature is authors can preview drafts to get reviews from readers. Authors can use that feedback to edit and recreate manuscripts.

This is an ideal choice if writers are comfortable marketing and distributing their materials without a lot of assistance.

Price: Free

Unlike other popular crowd sourcing sites such as Kickstarter, PubSlush only focuses on books.

This aspect makes PubSlush the most unique of e-book tools. Whether it’s just an inspiration or a full manuscript, authors whose goals start at $500 can get funds and award participants for making their publishing dream a reality.

Most folks shy away from crowdsourcing because most sites require the goal to be met before paying, and sometimes authors won’t get paid beyond the stipulated goal. 

Pubslush is unique because it allows authors to set both a minimum goal and a maximum goal. So, to fund and complement the costs of publishing your book, you might stipulate a a minimum goal of $20,000 and a maximum goal of $100,000. If you raise $43,000, you will receive that amount, but if you raise $19,000 you will not receive any funds.

Pubslush includes analytics and multiple marketing tools, including web site badges and social media tools to help authors with their campaigns.

The site also offers publishing options for e-book or traditional print publication.

Price: 7.5% in processing fees

Author Tip: For platforms such as PubSlush or for the savvy DIY writer, bookmark Bowker.com. This site distributes all U.S. ISBN registrations.

Authors can also access publishers from Bowker’s site. The site’s claim to fame is one-click multiple publisher manuscript distribution.

The variety of tools available for e-book publishing is almost as abundant as the topics brewing in an author’s mind. Evaluate every opportunity based on preferences, cost and target audience.

May these tools help you on your quest to captivate and elevate your ever-growing patch of the planet.

Teaser: Our Author’s Publishing Comparison Guide

Stay tuned for the Author’s Publishing Comparison Guide that details a lot of good, insider information for authors and their options – from DIY digital to the New York Big 5 to indies.


What digital tools, apps, and companies are you hearing about or already finding indispensable?

Thanks for running with me,
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