Setting up for Digital

Some things just seem simple–digital publication is one of those. Upload a file and presto, right? But there are a few things that you want to figure out first—it’s another case of a little planning going a long way.


The ISBN is an industry standard for identifying a book. If you want full control of your book listing, buy your own ISBNs, which you can do through Bowkers at

You can buy a single ISBN for $125, or a premium one for $185, or buy 10 at a time for $250. Assigning them is a bit of a pain.

The ISBN is not actually in use until it is applied to a book. To do this, you’ll need the book cover, your bio, your book description, a PDF of your book, and an Excel file saved in the CSV format with the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) terms you want to use.

After you buy your ISBN, login to and follow the tabs and fields to set up all the information. You can also replace an older print ISBN if that print edition has gone out-of-print.

Include pricing and sales areas (countries where you’re selling), and check back in a few days to confirm your ISBN has been activated for that digital publication. It usually takes only a day or two to get this set up.

Then you can do that “easy file upload” for digital publication on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, and Smashwords.

Smashwords is both easier in some respects, and more difficult in others. They do provide a lot of information readily available on their site. The first step is to sign up and set up an account. Set up payment methods and create a profile. Click on the PUBLISH button to start the publishing process.

Fill out all the forms. Set your price (and Smashwords offers a cool graph to show what you’ll be making on any book for each price point). Be honest about if your book contains adult material (explicit sex or graphic violence). Upload your correctly formatted book and your cover. And remember to include the wording that Smashwords requires at the front of your book.

IMPORANT: Always take a look at the preview to make sure your book appears as you want it formatted. If you need to, adjust the text in the file and upload that again to correct any formatting errors or typos.

With the ISBN manager at Smashwords, you can add your ISBN or let Smashwords give this to you. If you’re having Smashwords do your ISBN, but you’re doing your own Kindle and Pubit uploads, set up Smashwords first so you have the ISBN to add other places.

Before you do that final submit, read the legal stuff (the Terms). This is a contract you’re signing with your mouse click.

It can be minutes to hours to actually have the book upload. It will then show as pending approval (that’s okay).

In Smashwords, select DASHBOARD, and now set your distribution for this book with the Distribution Channel Manager.

You can let Smashwords distribute to all formats, including Kindle and Nook. However, you’ll make higher royalties if you do your own Amazon and BN distribution. For Smashwords, I opt out of Amazon and BN formats. I opt into Apple (which requires an explicit opt in selection).

NOTE: Your book will appear in Smashwords right away, but will not be listed there as “premium content” until it’s approved. Check back every few days to make sure it is approve, or if the format needs to be adjusted (and also to see how you’re sales are doing).

UPDATE TO SMASHWORDS: They now allow both short descriptions, and long descriptions of up to 4000 characters. If you have books on Smashwords, you may want to update your descriptions. I’m using the short descriptions for review promos, and then adding in more details about the story in the long descriptions.


For uploading to the Nook via Pubit, this again starts with reading up on the process on their site, and creating an account, this time at B&N requires a credit card to create an account. This is in case a book is returned (for example, you’ve sold 20 books, but one person decides to send it back, but B&N has already paid you for 20 books; they use the credit card to account for that one return). Some folks don’t like this but I had no issues.

When your account is set up, head to Add a Title.

One nice thing about PubIt is that you can save your work as you go (very handy that). So you can add some info, go away, fuss with promotional copy, and come back and add that.

As with all other formats, once you upload your book, make sure you check out how it will look with the preview option (PubIt automatically brings this up for you to view, which is a nice feature). You can also mark if the book is part of a series.

You can add up to five reviews, including reviewer names and quotes. You can post excerpts from the reviews, but you should get clearance from the reviewers before you use their copywritten work.

NOTE: While BN’s PubIt doesn’t require you to have an ISBN, I’ve found it’s easier to add this up front, instead of trying to update the ISBN at a later time. Everything else is much easier to update (cover, copy, reviews, descriptions, even pricing).

Amazon Digital Text Platform- Kindle

UPDATE: Amazon has renamed this to the “Kindle Direct Publishing”. They’re also now putting out a newsletter with useful tips and advice. The old link below still works, but the new link is:

The options at Amazon can be confusing: they have Create Space, and Kindle, and their Associates Program. To actually sell a book on Kindle, you want to head to: If you don’t have an existing Amazon account, you can create it. Again, Amazon provides a lot of information about the process on their site (including a video). The details can be a little overwhelming, so you may want to tackle the basics first, and then improve your publishing and promoion.

NOTE: To help promote your book you’re also going to want an Author’s page at

As with PubIt and Smashwords, you’ll need to set up all your account information so you can get paid.

Again, you enter your book title, cover, and upload your book. Make sure you spell your name as the author correctly. Again, make sure you preview how the book looks on Kindle.

You can mark if this is a series (same as for PubIt). You can set your pricing and opt out of DRM. Add in your ISBN if you have one. When you save your information, the book will go into a pending mode. Once approved, the book will be listed for sale.

And there you have it – the easy (or almost) steps to digital publishing.

2 thoughts on “Setting up for Digital

  1. Wow!!! Really helpful since I’m just starting the process. I’m now a follower. So I can’t wait to learn more about the glitches of the process. Thanks for the help.

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