Tag Archives: calibre

Amazon Delivery Fees and Reducing the File Size of Your E-Book

Starting out as an indie author

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:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A29FL26OKE7R7B

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:

http://www.jpegmini.com/main/shrink_photo

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:

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2015/10/preparing-images-for-your-e-book/

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. 🙂

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author

A dear friend of mine recently got the rights back to a novel she published some time ago, and she is now nearly ready to brave the waters of indie publishing with it. Many of the questions she had, however, were not things that I immediately and / or spontaneously had answers to. So I promised her I would try to organize what knowledge I had in a series of blog posts. Of course, my experience is not exhaustive, but I hope it will help others as a starting point for getting their books out there.

Ebook format

The most common format required when submitting an ebook to online distributors is EPUB. There are many different ways of creating epub files for ebooks, and this list naturally only includes a few of the many available options. The prices for the various programs are as of July 2014.

1) Scrivener – This is what I use. It is extremely simple to create an epub file with Scrivener — all you have to do is compile your manuscript as epub. Scrivener has the added advantage that it’s also a great writing tool. Windows $40, Mac $45 (more features). More on compiling epubs with Scrivener here:

Youtube Tutorial

Scrivener: The Ultimate Guide to Exporting Ebooks (Kindle, ePub, etc.)

– Note: If you’re starting from a fully formatted DOC or DOCX file, rather than a file you have been writing in Scrivener, you need to divide the file up into sections at each chapter (Ctrl+K) and make sure the compile options in the meta-data pane are all checked (Include in Compile, Page Break Before, Include As-Is).

2) Mobi Pocket Creator – I tried this long ago but never had much luck. Others swear by it though — and it’s FREE. 🙂

3) Atlantis – Atlantis is a word processing program that will also compile documents as ebooks. Worked pretty well for me when I tested it a while back, but I did lose some formatting. It also has the disadvantage that it is yet another word processing program, of which I have too many already. $35

5) Jutoh – I haven’t tried it, but check out this discussion for a lot of rave reviews. $39

6) Sigil – I have no experience with the actual conversion to ebook with Sigil, but I do use it for testing the epub format of the files created by Scrivener. FREE

7) Calibre – I have not used this method, but a tutorial can be found here. FREE

Whatever method you use, it is important to validate your epub file before you upload it. You can do that here.

Formats accepted by various distributors

While ePub is the most common format required for ebook publication, a number of retailers also accept other formats. Here a list of some of the most important, including guidelines and my experience (if any):

Amazon – KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

Formats accepted:
Word (DOC or DOCX)
HTML (ZIP, HTM, or HTML)
MOBI (MOBI)
ePub (EPUB)
Rich Text Format (RTF)
Plain Text (TXT)
Adobe PDF (PDF)
Guidelines: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2MB3WT2D0PTNK
My experience: When I first experimented with publishing to Amazon, I uploaded a DOC file, since that was what I needed for the aggregator Smashwords. (I will talk about Smashwords and Draft2Detail in more detail in my next Indie Beginners post.) It was a mess. Luckily, soon thereafter Scrivener added the ePub compile option to their Windows version, and I haven’t had a problem with Amazon uploads since, with the exception of a bug with the Kindle Paperwhite a while back. I talked about that here.

Barnes&Noble – NOOK Press

Formats accepted: Word, HTML, Text, ePub
Guidelines: https://www.nookpress.com/support
My experience: After my experience with a Word file with KDP, the only file type I have uploaded to B&N is ePub. From what I can see on the Barnes and Noble store, my books there look fine. One problem with B&N for many writers is that it is so US-centric. For a long time, you could only publish if you had a US address and bank account. They have since expanded to the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Nonetheless, that still leaves out many writers who have to find other means to publish there, such as through Smashwords or Draft2Digital.

Kobo – Kobo Writing Life

Formats accepted: .epub, .doc, docx, .mobi, .odt
Guidelines: http://download.kobobooks.com/learnmore/writinglife/KWL-Content-Conversion-Guidelines.pdf
My experience: I have only uploaded ePub files to Kobo, but that works fine. I sell next to nothing through Kobo, however, which makes me wonder if I should switch my books to an aggregator to earn the minumum amount for royalties to be paid out more quickly.

iTunes

Formats accepted: Only files uploaded through iTunes Producer
Guidelines: http://www.apple.com/itunes/working-itunes/sell-content/books/book-faq.html
My experience: None. I do not use a Mac, and since ebooks for iTunes can only be submitted through the submission app, iTunes Producer (requires OS X 10.8 or later), I have to rely on an aggregator. For authors with more serious sales, it might be worth it to buy a Mac just to be able to submit to the store yourself (and not give up the ~10% of your profits that aggregators take), but for me it is definitely not worth it at this time.

Google Play – Google Books

Formats accepted: PDF
Guidelines: https://support.google.com/books/partner/answer/166501?hl=en
My experience: None. I’m still wary of Google Play because of their policy of randomly discounting books. Lindsay Buroker has a good summary of why authors should still be careful about publishing to Google Play here.
I may eventually try and experiment with one or two of my short stories or collections that don’t sell all that well. That way, a deep discount and a price match by Amazon would not be a big loss of revenue. Naturally, if I do so, I will blog about that too. 🙂

For my next post in the Indie Beginners series, I intend to blog about aggregators (Draft2Digital and Smashwords), how you use them, and why you might want to.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers