One of the things that isn’t often mentioned in discussions on preparing your book for publication is the fact that Amazon charges a delivery fee for the books it sells for you. This fee comes to $0.15/MB on every eBook sold in the US published under the “70% Royalty Option.” You can find the complete list of delivery fees for all Amazon stores here:
15c may not sound like a lot, but think about what it means if you have a boxed set with thousands of pages of text and several cover files prefacing each book. Depending on how many books and images it has, a boxed set can easily come to four or five megabytes or more. And when the delivery fee starts getting close to seventy or eighty cents per sale, it is definitely something to take into consideration when preparing a book for publication. If you’re not careful, Amazon’s delivery fees can significantly cut into your profits. A case in point: the challenge of delivery fees is one of the reasons I have not yet tackled trying to make my one and only travel book, Life in the Fjord Lane, into an eBook. It is mostly photographs with little text, and trying to optimize every single one of those photos would be more trouble than it’s worth to me. It sells several copies a month in paperback, and I find it hard to believe it would sell much more as an eBook. I might be wrong, but I don’t think the work involved would be in any way compensated financially, since the price of the eBook could not not be significantly lower than the paperback if I want to make a profit. I could always choose the 35% royalty option to get around the delivery fees, but that too makes all the work involved in turning a paperback book full of photographs into an eBook less likely to be worth my while.
Books priced under $2.99 are automatically in the 35% royalty category, so if you are reducing the price of your book for a sale, you are in no danger of owing Amazon delivery fees once the sale is over. No worries on that point. 🙂
How do you make your eBooks smaller?
This is the real question, and I have to admit that I don’t have all the answers. And while you might remember how I was raving about the beautiful eBooks produced by Vellum — the file sizes of their compiled books are much larger than those produced by other methods I have used. I’m losing about 30c per sale on Chameleon in a Mirror formatted through Vellum. Is it worth it to me? It is. But I have nonetheless been looking into ways to reduce the bloat a bit.
Here are some of the things I have attempted to keep the file size down.
Reduce the file size of your images
The only image that many fiction books have is the cover, and for Amazon you do not need to upload a file with the cover included, since it will automatically be added later if you don’t have it. But if you are creating only one epub file for all vendors, you don’t have to use the highest quality jpeg for the inside cover. According to what I was able to find out when trying to reduce some of my own images, saving a jpeg at 60% instead of 100% should be adequate for any images you have inside an eBook. In Paint.net, for example, (a free graphics design program) all you have to do to reduce the quality — and with it the size of the file — is to open the image, click “Save As,” rename the file, and in the “Save Configuration” box that pops up, slide the quality down to 60%. In Photoshop, this option is available when you “Save for Web.” There you can simultaneously reduce both the image size and the quality to create a smaller file for the interior of your eBooks.
Just remember, before you start messing with reducing the file size of images — make sure to save a copy! When it comes to covers, you will still want to have that full resolution, 100% quality image on hand when creating the Print on Demand (POD) version of your book.
For interior images other than the cover (for which most stores have minimum size requirements), the actual size in terms of length and width can also be reduced. Don’t overdo it, though — you don’t want the images in your book to be tiny little boxes that add nothing to the reading experience.
One very simple way I have found of reducing image sizes is a free online app called JPEGmini:
Upload your image and download the result — that’s all there is to it. The results tend to be at least half the size of the original.
Here is some further reading from someone who is much savvier about images than I am:
Upload an epub rather than a mobi file to Amazon
Theoretically, it shouldn’t make any difference what type of file you upload to Amazon, since they take any epub file you upload and convert it to mobi, but I have seen significant differences in file size in books I uploaded this way. I used to compile mobi for Amazon and epub for all other vendors as an easy way of keeping them apart. But then at some point I noticed that I wasn’t making as much on my Big Fat Fantasy, Yseult, as I thought I should be making, and I soon realized it was because of the file size. After messing with the map, to little effect, I decided to try uploading the epub file, which was a lot smaller, after all.
I reduced the size of my 200,000 word epic by half.
This method may not be as successful for you, but at least it’s worth a try.
Try different ways of compiling your eBooks
While I was researching this topic, I learned that compiling eBooks with Calibre supposedly results in the smallest file sizes. Since I have no experience with that, I am simply passing the information along for what it’s worth. If it’s true, there may be differences between other methods of creating epub files.
As I mentioned above, I see a big difference in file size between Scrivener and Vellum. The difference is logical enough, since Vellum uses fancier fonts, more elaborate formatting, and ornaments to indicate scene breaks. It turns out you have to pay for that beauty coming and going. You’re the only one who can decide whether it’s worth it for you.
Do the math, and figure out the best royalty rate for your eBook
What if your book isn’t a novel that is all text except for one measly map? What if it’s a children’s book with elaborate color illustrations? Or a travelogue, like my Hurtigruten book (that I have little interest in trying to convert to an eBook because of the challenges involved)?
As I already implied above, your best bet may be to go with the 35% royalty rate, where you are not charged for delivery fees. You can choose this royalty option regardless of price. 70% sounds better, of course, but if you are selling your book for $4.99, and your delivery fee is $1.75 or higher, financially you would be better off at 35%.
Try not to be too discouraged by all of this, though. If you are just starting out, it’s good to be aware that size matters. It was well over a year after I had seriously started my own self-publishing adventures before I even found out about delivery fees, so obviously it hadn’t really hurt me yet at that time. It might well be the same for you. You can always do some adjusting and fine-tuning once you figure out how much it affects you, and how much time you want to spend trying to make 15 or 20 cents more on each eBook sale. 🙂