eBook Publishers: Apple
April 10, 2015
Welcome back, everyone, for another installment in my ongoing series discussing the different platforms I used to publish my eBook, Satin & Sutherland – The Golden Curse. This time I’ll be recounting my experiences with the final platform I used for publishing: Apple’s iBooks Store.
Before launching into the specific details of submitting to the iBooks Store, it’s important to point out a key difference between this and submitting to the other electronic platforms. Amazon, Kobo, and Google, which I’ve previously reviewed, do not care what kind of computer you’re using. As long as you’re able to create your eBook and have access to a web browser you can publish with any of those three platforms.
To publish in the iBooks Store you absolutely must* have an Apple computer. You are required to use an Apple application called iTunes Producer to submit your book. It’s an actual Apple application not a web application so you need a computer running Mac OS X to run iTunes Producer in order to submit your book.
I already had a Mac for tooling around on as a programmer but if you do not have access to such a machine then the cost of buying one may be a bit of a barrier of entry to you.
* For the technically minded, yes I know it’s possible to run a virtual Mac on a regular Windows PC but for the average writer that may be even more daunting, if cheaper, than getting a straight up Mac.
I’ve primarily been a Windows user since the days of Windows 95. I’m used to doing things in Windows. I’m used to the shortcut keys and to where things are stored. I’ve tooled around with Macs but readily admit I’m not as familiar with them. Some things on Macs drive me bonkers (the Home and End keys jumping to the beginning and ending of a document instead of the beginning and ending of the current line immediately come to mind).
I will try to keep my personal biases out of this blog but I did want to put it out there that some such bias may creep in. And with that, we’ll move onto…
Apple can be used by individuals to sell more things than just books, such as music and apps. Regardless of what you’re selling, it becomes available to people for purchase through iTunes. It should come as no surprise then that you first need to have an iTunes account.
I had an iTunes account from way back, so the account creation details are a little fuzzy. Looking up the information on Apple’s website, you first need to download iTunes (to any supported platform such as Mac or Windows PC). Within iTunes you can then click Sign In and create an Apple ID. You should be able to use this same process to create a new Apple ID if you don’t want to use your existing ID as your “seller” account. In either case, when you set up an Apple ID you will need to provide an email address and a valid credit card.
It should also be noted that you cannot use the same Apple ID to sell both books and other items, such as music or apps. Apple requires that you have a separate Apple ID specifically for selling books, so if you’ve sold other things through Apple you may be required to create and manage an additional Apple ID anyway.
Once you have your basic iTunes account created, you can move on to creating your additional iTunes Connect account. iTunes Connect is a web application that you use to manage your book sales after you have uploaded your book content. From the iTunes Connect page you can log into your account once it’s created or you can click the “Learn More” link which will guide you to where you can create your iTunes Connect account.
When you create your iTunes Connect account you’re basically upgrading your existing iTunes account. You are asked to enter in your Apple ID and matching password, which you will have entered when creating the basic account. You will also need to enter in your publisher name and whether you will be submitting your own books or you will be representing an actual publishing company.
After you’ve submitted these details, Apple will send you an email verifying that your account has been upgraded. You can then return to the iTunes Connect login page to log in and deal with the rest of your account creation.
Once you’re logged into iTunes connect you’ll be placed on the main dashboard where you can access everything else. You’ll need to go to the Agreements, Tax, and Banking section. Here you’ll have to agree to Apple’s standard publishing agreement. As with any such agreements, do take the time to read it through carefully.
Apple’s agreement is much longer and quite a bit different from the other platforms. For selling your books, you will find that you do not control the exact price they’re sold for. Apple requires that your books be sold for an amount ending in 99 cents. For example $2.99, $3.99, etc. At the time of writing, you can’t set a non-99 cent price. Well, you can, but it will still be listed as ending in 99 cents. Apple takes a 30% commission off the selling price of your books, which means 70% goes to you.
You’ll also need to set up your banking and tax information. For the bank account you will need to add a new account and indicate the country, bank, account number, account holder, and account currency.
You can then set up your tax forms which minimally will include the main U.S. Tax Form, as Apple operates under U.S. jurisdiction. Unlike the other platforms, where you have to deal with an actual federal tax form, here you enter the basic details of the country you’re working from and whether you’re a sole proprietor or an actual company. Apple takes care of the rest.
As a Canadian resident, I also had to setup a GST/HST tax form, with Apple. This is a touch more inconvenient than the U.S. form as you have to print and fill out a form authorizing Apple to collect GST on your behalf. You then have to snail mail the completed form to Apple. Sometime later you’ll receive a copy back with their part of the form completed.
While you’re in iTunes Connect you’ll also want to visit the Resources and Help section available from the main dashboard. Scrolling down the page that is presented you will find a sub section called “book Delivery”. From here you can download iTunes Producer, which is an actual Apple application that you must have a Mac running OS X to install. Without iTunes Producer you will not be able to upload your books.
Once you have your iTunes Account all sorted out and iTunes Producer downloaded from iTunes Connect and installed on your Mac you’re ready to submit your book.
Before getting to the submission details, I will offer one helpful suggestion. If you are running Mac OS X version 10.9 or later then you will have the iBooks application on your Mac (you should be able to find it under Applications in the Mac Finder window). If you do not have 10.9 or later, then you’re out of luck as you cannot download iBooks to your Mac as far as I can tell.
Nowhere in the submission path does apple give you a place to preview your eBook as uploaded. However, you can use iBooks to view your ePUB file and at least check how it should appear to an actual reader.
On to the submission process. To submit a book you will use the iTunes Producer desktop application from your Mac. You will need to enter the email and password you set up with your iTunes Connect account to start iTunes Producer.
You will be placed on the Templates Chooser screen where you can choose between a normal book or a textbook. Obviously, I went with the normal book. At this point you will be presented with a screen requesting information similar to what is filled in for all the other platforms. This includes:
- Drag Your Cover Art Here – On the left hand side of the window is a faint gray box where you can drag in your cover art. For my book I used a 1600x2400 JPEG image.
- Drag Up to Five Screenshots Here – You can add additional optional images that will appear on your book page in iTunes. You could, for example, add an author shot here.
- Title – At the top of the window in faint gray lettering is “Title” for the title of your book. As it visually looks different from the rest of the fields it’s easy to overlook, but iTunes Producer will stop you from submitting if you have left out any required fields.
- Subtitle – Optional field for the subtitle of your book if there is one. Also visually different from the other fields and easy to overlook.
- Series Name – Optional.
- Roles – By default you are given one role for the primary author. However, you can add as many additional roles and authors as your book may require. When entering your author name you fill it in two different ways: “First Name Last Name” and “Last Name, First Name”.
- Description – Your back cover blurb, which iTunes Producer says can use rich text formatting (so things like bold, underline, italics, etc.). Formatting can be applied using the “Format” menu from the main menu bar.
- Subject Category – You can add up to three categories for your book. These are the same types of categories used on the other platforms presented in a series of dropdowns. For my book, I first picked the general category of “Fiction”. This then presents an additional dropdown from which a more specific category, such as “Science Fiction / Adventure”, can be chosen.
- Interest Age – Here you can optionally specify different ages or school curriculum grades that the book is intended for. By age you have a breakdown for different ranges of years under 13 or else the general “13 and older” option.
- Contains Explicit Content – A dropdown from which you can choose if your book has explicit content or not.
- Publisher – The name of your publisher or your name if you’re self-publishing.
- Publication Date – The date that your book is first published. This does not control when the book will become available in the iBooks store.
- Book Language – The language the book is in, chosen from a dropdown.
- Print Length – If you know the number of actual pages your book is you can fill that in here, otherwise you can leave it blank.
- Book Type – This will default to “Book” from the template chooser but can also be changed to textbook.
- Vendor ID – Read only field that Apple automatically assigns when you create your iTunes Connect account.
- ISBN-13 – The 13 digit ISBN for the iBooks version of your book. iTunes Producer takes an ePUB file, validates it, and converts it to the iBook format. Since the format does get converted it technically counts as a different edition of the book from your other ePUBs and so should have its own ISBN.
Once you’ve filled in the book details you can move to the “Price” screen via the navigation buttons at the top of the window. Perhaps it was just my machine, but I found this screen to be a bit buggy. It would sometimes get into a state where I could enter a field and type a value but that value would not show until I moved to another field. The application is still responding but it gets a little quirky. Just something to watch out for. Anyway, here you will enter the following:
- DRM-Free – A checkbox used to indicate if there is no DRM (checked) or if there is DRM (unchecked).
- Sales Start Date – The date you want the book available for purchase and download from iTunes. You can leave this blank for it to be made available immediately.
- Pre-Order Sale Date – Optional date indicating when the book becomes available for pre-order.
- Publication Type – A dropdown indicating if this book is digital only, a new release, or “other”.
- Currency – The local currency that you’ll be entering your price in and that will be converted from to generate the prices for other regions.
- Physical List Price – The price for any physical copy of the book. This appears to be required unless the publication type is set to digital only.
- iBooks Store Price – The price the book should appear for on iTunes. All other prices are ordinarily calculated from this, although you can choose different prices for specific regions if you so desire.
- Region – You can choose all regions or individual regions.
Once you’ve filled in the details you can hit Save and then the screen will change to show you the prices for all the different regions. You can adjust the details as necessary here.
With the Prices filled in you will next move onto the Files screen, again via navigation buttons at the top of the window. Here you can drag in both an ePUB (or native ibook) file for your entire book and one for your sample as well. This gives you complete control over the sample that people will receive so that you can end on a dramatic cliffhanger moment to encourage people to pick up the full book. You can also indicate if the sample is available during the pre-order period if you’re making your book available for pre-order.
Once you have all of your data entered in, you can hit the submit button in the top-right corner of the window. iTunes Producer will verify that all required information has been entered and, in theory, that your ePUB is valid. Your book will then be uploaded to Apple for their review. They state that 95% of books are made available in the iBooks store within 24 hours.
When I submitted my book I did not receive any sort of email notification indicating that it had become available. I had to keep checking via iTunes to see if the book was there or not. I do know that it was available by at least four hours after submitting. Results may vary.
After you’ve actually submitted your book you no longer need to use iTunes Producer to manage it (unless you need to update any of the meta information or book content). You can keep track of your book entirely through iTunes Connect.
From the main iTunes Connect dashboard you can use the Sales and Trends area to see reports on the day-to-day sales of your book for any time period you’d like to see, including “Lifetime” which lets you get a total unit sales count. You can also access the Payments and Financial Reports which gives much the same information but more from a dollar amount. The reporting is fairly minimal but it tends to be the important information, although I couldn’t find any place to see gross and net sales after returns.
I did have an interesting experience when submitting my book. As it happened, there was another Richard Hoover with his own book out there (something about blueberries if I recall). I saw that when my book became available in iTunes that the other Richard’s book was listed as another work by me. I got in touch with Apple support (through iTunes Connect) and asked for the two Richards to be separated. There was no problem with that and they got it taken care of within a couple days of me sending the request.
After using three entirely web based solutions (Amazon, Kobo, and Google) to submit and manage my book, I did find splitting my attention between iTunes Producer and iTunes Connect to be cumbersome. On top of that, some of the design choices in iTunes Producer are rather rough around the edges.
I can’t point to anything in particular that slowed me down, but it took about 55 minutes to get my book in order and submitted to Apple and I don’t see that time coming down much with repeated use. That time was after I had updated Mac OS X to the correct version and installed both iTunes Producer and reviewed my book in iBooks. I was also a little worried that Apple didn’t make any sort of book preview available to verify that nothing glitched during the upload process.
In general, between having to upgrade my standard iTunes account to an iTunes Connect account, with the proviso that I'll need another account if I sell other types of media in the future, and having to use three applications (iBooks, iTunes Connect, and iTunes Producer) the whole process felt over engineered. I much preferred the more streamlined processes of Amazon and Kobo.
Come back next month for the final installment in this series on the different publishing platforms. I’ve covered all the platforms individually now and next month I’ll pull all the pertinent information together in a handy-dandy chart format for easy comparison between them. See you then.