7 Tips for Self-Publishing Profitable e-Books

UPDATED 04/15/2014
J. K. Rowling-author of the popular Harry Potter series-recently made headlines when she announced that she would begin selling the digital e-book version of her series through her website. It turns out that while she sold the print rights, movie rights, and the rights to make a countless number of Harry Potter themed products-including the Universal Studios ride based on the film-she has kept her digital rights for herself and will soon begin cashing in on them for what is likely to be a much larger return then she was able to receive from the royalty for her books.

Here are seven tips that will help you self-publish profitable e-books of your own.

Tip #1: If you do not already have an ISBN, purchase a pack of 10 from BowkerLink for $250. 

There are several services that offer free or discounted ISBNs, but the catch is that the person who provided the discounted ISBN is usually registered as the “publisher” of the work and they can dictate where and how you can use the book you’ve assigned the free or discounted ISBN to.

Why limit what you can do with your book to save a few dollars? And you can buy a single ISBN for $125, but if you plan on publishing your e-book in another format (like a print book or audiobook) or even if you plan on publishing more books, you will need the additional numbers anyway.

Each book format and each new title needs its own ISBN.

Tip #2: Create your own professional e-books using tools like Scrivener, Calibre or a template by Joel Friedlander.

Before you jump into designing your own e-book, take some time to learn about book design basics so you can avoid making any classic rookie mistakes.

Scrivener is a popular author tool for only $40 that allows you to research and write your book before formatting it for an e-book.

Calibre is a free tool that allows you to manage your collection of e-books and convert them into any of a number of formats to suit the requirements of each of the popular e-readers (because of course there is no universal e-book format-that would be too easy).

Award winning book designer Joel Friedlander designed a variety of print and e-book templates for the DIY author . The Microsoft Word compatible e-book templates are $27, if you want the bundle with the matching template for your print book it will only cost you $47. There is even a small collection of templates that allow you to format both the print and e-book version at the same time.

Click here to visit Book Design Templates.

Tip #3: If you prefer to hire someone, you can hire a pro at Book Design Templates or hire a designer to give you custom design.

Fiverr.com is an incredible website where you can find creative people from around the world who can format your e-book-or do almost any other creative service you can think of-at prices that start at only $5. Before you choose your designer, I recommend browsing their portfolio and asking them questions. The artist only receives money after you are satisfied with the work. 

1106 Design and Wordzworth are professional design companies that can create custom designs for you.

BookCentralStation.com is a site created by book marketing guru Brian Jud that serves as the “Angie’s List” of the book publishing world by allowing you to read reviews of thousands of service providers before choosing the best one for you.

Before you hire someone to design your e-book, I recommend that you read my post about avoiding common self-publishing mistakes.


Tip #4: For easy one step e-book publishing, use Smashwords.com.

Smashwords is the original ebook publishing platform for independent publishers and consistently adds new features to stay competitive. Smashwords allows you to publish your ebook on any of the following channels that you choose: Amazon (Kindle), Apple (iBooks), Baker & Taylor (libraries buy from this catalog), B&T Axis, Barnes & Noble (Nook), Diesel, Flipkart (India’s major bookseller), Kobo, Library Direct, Oyster, Page Foundry, Scribd and Sony.

Unlike most of their competitors, it’s free to sign up, there are no annual fees, they have tools that can convert your Microsoft Word document into an ebook format for free, and they allow you to make changes for free. They also foster a community of authors who provide success tips.

Visit Smashwords.com for more information.

For a detailed head-to-head comparison of Smashwords to five leading competitors-BookBaby Free, BookBaby Paid, eBookPartnership, D2D (Draft 2 Digital), and my beloved Ingram Spark that I favor for global print book distribution-read Giacomo’s blog.

Tip #5: For maximum profit from your ebooks, use Smashwords but also publish your ebook directly with AmazonApple, Google Play and Kobo.

Although Smashwords does allow you publish on each of these channels, you will make more money if you publish on them directly and opt-out of the Smashwords distribution to those channels.

Think about it, Smashwords gives you a lot for free, so they have to make their money somewhere-and they make that money by cutting into your book sales. It doesn’t make them a bad company, but if you are interested in maximizing your return, you need to know this.

Giacomo’s blog post “eBook Distributors-Which One to Use?” offers a thorough explanation on how this yields better returns.

Tip #6: Take advantage of Smashword’s pre-order programs and author self-interviewing tool to boost book sales and maximize exposure. 

Pre-order sales have proven to significantly boost book sales, so using Smashword’s pre-order tools for your books is a smart move.

They also have a new tool that allows you to answer a series of questions-or interview yourself-and make the answers visible to potential buyers.

The more people understand you and your message, the more likely they are to purchase your book and come to you for additional services or products.

Tip #7: Sell books through your website and blog. 

Avid readers who shop virtual bookstores are not your only potential readers. Tools like PayPal, JotForm, e-Junkie, and even mailing list management tools like Mailchimp will allow you to setup a payment process to collect payment for your book and immediately make the book download available to buyers.

Just keep in mind that the actual payment transactions will need to come through merchants like PayPal or Stripe to get the money from your buyer’s account into your bank account. For tips on how to successfully sell books, and other products, on your website, check out Penny Sansevieri’s guest blog entitled “Making the Sale: How to Sell More Books on Your Own Website.” 

Take these e-book publishing tips and run with them!

In the meantime, I have a question that I would love for you to answer in the comment section below:

Question: What is your biggest hesitation about self-publishing an e-book? 


Image: By Netallow, via Wikimedia Commons

Disclosure of Material Connection: The "Book Design Template" link in the post above is an "affiliate link." This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers.

Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at DanielleFetherson.com.


  1. Thank you.
    I’m a self published Author, myself, who’s looking to advance my accomplishments in the book world. And this definitely help…