These days, publishing to the iBookstore is a prerequisite for authors who hope to build an audience for their writing. With over 130 million downloads worldwide, the Apple iBooks app is the e-reading app of choice for most iOS device users—a massive market no writer can afford to ignore. So how hard is it to publish to iBooks? (Answer: not hard at all!)
Set up an iBooks account.
The first step toward getting your title listed on the iBookstore is to set up either a free or paid iBooks seller account, which can be done here. The functional difference between the two is that the free account only allows you to distribute free ebooks, while the paid account allows you to distribute both free and paid titles. The major catch here is that you can’t convert a free account into a paid account, which means that if you decide to start selling your books later, you’ll have to start over with a new account. Obviously, if you’re an established indie author or an aspiring writer hoping to build a legitimate career, this is an easy choice—you need to be able to make a profit off of your writing, and one of the best ways to do that is to sell your work on iBooks. For hobbyists, though, the choice is a bit more difficult.
One new-ish benefit to the paid accounts is that you no longer need to buy an ISBN to sell a title, making the barrier to selling your work a bit lower. On the other hand, the paid accounts are a bit more complex, and Apple will take 30% of your sales. A good idea for young writers might be to set up a paid account but offer their titles free for a limited time. This is a great way to build a following without giving up the potential to profit in the future. As your following grows, you can make the jump to selling your content seamlessly. Of course, if you truly write for the love of it and have no plans to sell your work in the future, a free account will be the easiest option.
If you decide to sign up for the paid account, you’ll need a US bank account and tax ID. The tax ID can be your social security number if you’re a US citizen acting as the sole proprietor of your business, or a number issued for tax purposes. If you’re not a US citizen, you’ll need an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer ID Number) or an EIN (Employer Identification Number). The ITIN is for individuals, while the EIN is for businesses. If you’re planning to expand your writing business in the future, you may just want to apply for an EIN now, as you’ll need one eventually anyway for business banking and credit. If you plan to simply operate as a sole proprietor (without employees), then you should use your SSN or ITIN.
Once you’ve chosen your account type and entered your information, you’ll receive an activation email from Apple. Follow the link, login to your account, agree to the terms of service and you’re ready to go!
Download iTunes producer.
Under the “Deliver Your Content” link in iBooks you’ll find a link to download iTunes Producer. Download the program and follow the included installation instructions. Once it’s installed, launch Producer and sign-in using the Apple ID that’s tied to your iBookstore account.
Upload your content.
If you have a free account, just follow the instructions to upload and categorize your “book package”. The book package is simply the collection of assets that make up your title, including the ePUB file, an ISBN number (if you have one), the book’s description, cover art, screenshots and so forth. Make sure you have all of this together before you start the submission process.
If you’re using a paid account to sell your book, you’ll also have to create a sample book for iBooks users to preview. This can be done automatically based on one of your book’s chapters, or manually if you wish to have more control over the preview’s content.
Now that your book package has been submitted, you must wait for Apple to approve it before it will appear on iBookstore. This could take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on a variety of factors. If you’re submitting a book for the first time, it will take longer than if you’re already using iBooks to distribute your work. Other factors that can affect wait time include the length of your book and how many others happen to be waiting for approval at the time that you submit. That being said, Apple has been steadily improving their approval process over the last two years or so, and wait times longer than a few days are becoming rare.