Apple’s iBookstore/iTunes sells books. Lots of books. It’s not a huge retailer like Amazon, or Barnes n Noble, but it’s one of the Big Four retailers, and it has a large international presence. Being on Apple can potentially net you substantial sales, especially if your book is generally selling well. (Note: having a first free book in a series can get you traction on Apple, too.)
The Easy Way to get on Apple’s store is to use a distributor. The downside is that you lose control of uploads, price changes, and timely distribution (Draft2Digital is better than Smashwords in these regards, but you’re still at the mercy of someone else to distribute). Uploading directly to Apple gives you control over these things. The trick is knowing how to do it and having the right tools.
The bad news about direct-publishing to Apple is you either need to own a Mac (not an iPad) or use MacinCloud – a rental service that emulates Mac on your PC. Is it worth buying a Mac? Or paying the (much lower) MacinCloud fees every time you want to upload? (Note: you can check your sales from the PC.) That depends on your situation. For me, I was losing sales because I couldn’t get Smash to distribute my new books to Apple. I bought a Mac and recouped the costs (from Apple sales alone) in about six months. Now I make enough monthly on Apple that even paying the 10% distribution fee would make me sad. So… for me, it was very worthwhile to buy the Mac. (My family gets other uses out of the Mac as well, and I ended up using iMovie to make a trailer; so the Mac gets more usage than just direct uploading.)
The good news is that if you’ve already done your formatting The Hard Way (or paid someone to do it), you already have an Epub that’s ready for showtime on iTunes/iBookstore. (Note: iBooks Author doesn’t create epubs, but rather produces ebooks that are usable only on iPad.)
Here’s the step by step on how to get your books on Apple/iTunes/iBookstore:
- Sign up for a Paid Books Account on iTunes Connect – this can take a couple days to get approved, so do this early
- Apple recommends you use ISBNs but they are no longer necessary. I’ve published several books without them. Your book will be assigned an Apple Vendor ID when you upload – make sure you write that down.
- Once you’re approved for a Paid Books Account, download iTunes Producer and BookProofer.
- Make sure your epub (formatted in Sigil or fresh from your paid-formatter) does not have links to competitors (Amazon, B n N). Here’s a guide on how to get direct links to iBookstore.
- Make sure you don’t have 3D covers – either for the book itself, or at the end for backmatter. Apple does not allow 3D covers and they will hang you up on processing.
- Create a “preview” file of your epub in Sigil- basically delete all the chapters except the first one, or however much you want to allow for preview. Don’t forget to recreate your Table of Contents in Sigil.
- Create a screenshot (or three) of the inside of your book (title page, first page, etc.) by viewing in Adobe Digital Editions and screencapping it.
- Resize your cover to meet Apple’s required dimensions
- Load your Epub (and preview file, cover, and screenshots) onto your iMac and connect your various devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod) to the iMac (with a cable). If you don’t have the devices, then email your Epub to a friend who’s willing to check the formatting for you (if they can open email on the iDevice, they can use the option “open in iBookstore” on your attached Epub to view it). Check your Epub thoroughly for format errors – the most common ones I found were images needing to be resized and extra (blank) pages. Tweak your Epub until it’s showing up nice on all the devices.
- Upload your Epub (and other files) using iTunes Producer, filling out all the metadata. When you attempt publish (“deliver”) your files to iTunes, you may get more Epub errors that you will have to correct before being able to submit.
- Once you’ve submitted, go to iTunes Connect (which can be accessed on the PC), and log in to check the status of your book.
Whew! Enough of this formatting madness. (And it is enough to drive you around the bend – just remember there’s always that low-cost, pay-someone-else-to-have-the-headache option.) In the next chapter, we’ll put that Mac to use in making a book trailer…