Question: What is the hardest thing about publishing an ebook?

1568 printer - wikipediaThis question was recently asked in a group I’m part of.  Here’s the whole question:

Question: What is the hardest thing about publishing an ebook?  I’m curious what problems here people have had with publishing ebooks themselves. i’m currently working on two books that I want to release as ebooks, but I’d like to avoid some of the common mistakes and problems if at all possible. I’ll be making enough of my own as it is! 🙂 Thanks!


The hardest part about publishing an ebook is marketing. It’s exactly the same problem authors have with publishing through a traditional publisher. Marketing will always be the most difficult part; it’s the actual sale to the consumer. In order to get your book to the person who has the least resistance to buying your book, you have to let them know it exists, and that – even for the Big Six … or Big Five … or Big … well, Big However Many Publishers There Are Still Left Dragging Their Dinosaur Tails Behind Them Out There – is a problem. At least with a publisher there’s a possibility that you might – maybe – get spot on a shelf without you having to personally intercede or promise sexual favors (at least initially) for awhile.

I completely disagree that writing the book is the ‘first and foremost job.’ That’s not publishing. That’s bondage and discipline. Completely different animal than publishing. Writing is individual. Publishing is less so. Marketing is being the life – and host – of the party.

As far as formatting goes, if you hire a competent professional you’ll get good results. In fact, you’ll get excellent formatting if you find the right person; as Scotty from Star Trek said, the best advice is: “The right tool for the right job.”

And – just to be clear to every author out there – Word is not the right tool for the right job of producing an ebook; it will insert all kinds of crazy stuff that is not only unnecessary, but could actually screw up the end result, giving you an unusable ebook. I point to many earlier ebooks up on Amazon – put out by BigPub as well as Indies – that were “just” converted from Word and dumped on the site for sale. I’ve returned books because there were blank pages, questionable format, missing or teeny tiny graphics, etc. You’ve got to use the right tools or hire the right formatter. Regardless of whether you hire an editor or not, the formatting is the first thing a reader will see. If it’s crap, they’ll return it.

While we’re on the subject of formatting, ‘work arounds’ aren’t always the best way to go. Why? because they may not work on more than one or two eReaders, and they may not work at all in an Android or IOS app – or on a computer.

Zen, man, Zen; flow the book, don’t force the book.

Fixed formatting? Again … you can force formatting all you want, but – at the end of the day – the reader can (and will) return your book if they can’t read it the way THEY want on THEIR ereader. As long as there are eInk Kindles, Nooks and the MILLIONS of other devices out there that have limited real estate and resources (like, for instance, 16 shades of grey) when it comes to display, you’re going to be hemorrhaging potential readers the more you tell the consumer what they want; neither you nor I are Steve Jobs. Not even Guy Kawasaki is Steve. The reader wants what the reader wants the way the reader wants it.

Bullet points do work, as do ordered lists – with the caveat that you’ve got a REALLY limited bullet design, and ordered lists only go up; you can’t do a Letterman-style “Top 10” list in descending order by default in HTML.

Yu can also make lists easy to read, flow across pages, and look good without having to resort to jpg or other image tricks.

And don’t EVEN get me started on the dead-and-best-forgotten idea of a PDF ebook. It’s a dead format, it has been buried, and it should never be dug up on an ereader again. Ever.

Finally, unless you’re making a coffee table or children’s book, EVERY work is suitable for the ebook format. You may think you’re building a McMansion that will never fit on the lot, but – in ebooks – the amount of real estate available is INFINITE. Straight text, scientific work, tables, special characters … it all fits. The industry is ready to support you TODAY and forever into the future. Anyone who says different needs to remove their blinders.

The ebook world is infinite. Embrace the infinity.