Fifobooks, Smashwords & Lulu Authors Publish eBooks On Kindle & iPads In Minutes

Do-it-yourself (DIY) eBook publishing is the latest online technology that's slowly becoming the new standard for many new authors and publishers, due to its economic efficiencies. Uploading a book to an eBook publishing platform saves the publisher and editors time and money by not incurring assembly and distribution costs and shifting most of the heavy lifting over to the author.

While the last decade ushered in the print-on-demand (POD) delivery channel, there was still costs involved in printing and shipment books. Today with the introduction of eBook readers like Kindle and tablets such as iPad, POD is slowing being replaced by DYI publishers that offer authors a quick and easy way to get their books from idea to marketplace. And for readers, they are literally weighing the advantage of a light-weight eReader with thousands of books in one device versus carrying around 'one' often-times heavy book in print.

Additionally, digital books “compress the time from the distributor’s inventory to the online retailer or library’s shelf, due to the elimination of shipping, unpacking and shelving for the channel,” according to David Burleigh, director of marketing for OverDrive, a leading distributor of eBooks and audiobooks.

Here will take a look at three DIY eBook publishing platforms that are attracting new authors who are looking for alternatives, particularly after many have received 'rejection notices' from traditional publishers. All three of these companies offer those authors the opportunity to have their novels or non-fiction tomes finally reach a more digitally-attuned audience.


Smashwords, an eBook publishing platform and online bookstore that launched a year ago helps book publishers make the transition to e-books, and offers an attractive alternative to traditional online retail outlets because it pays publishers and authors 85 percent the net proceeds from the sale of their titles.

Their eBooks are sold to customers DRM-free and multi-formatted, making them readable on any e-reading device. (note: Digital Rights Management-free is most important because it allows readers the option to read an eBook on multiple readers, e.g. Kindle and iPad)

The Smashwords service is free to publishers and authors. Each are provided a custom-branded online bookstore, and can list an unlimited number of e-book titles and from multiple authors, if they like. Publishers gain access to numerous free promotional and selling tools, including the popular Smashwords Coupon Generator which allows users to run innovative promotions across online social networks, blogs and web sites.

Mark CokerMark Coker“Smashwords makes it easy for publishers to publish, promote and sell their e-books,” said Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. “Publishers simply upload their books as Microsoft Word .doc or .RTF files and we automatically convert them into multiple e-book formats, ready for immediate sale online at a price set by the publisher. Our books are also distributed in the native catalog of Stanza, the popular e-reading app used by over 1.5 million iPhone and iPod Touch owners to read ebooks.”

Sample Smashwords eBook
(click image to be taken to the store)

While started out as eBook print-on-demand publisher, Apple has approved this publishing group as an aggregator of content for the iBookstore, and they have designed a one-stop solution for publishing and selling Lulu authors.

Lulu lets content owners retain complete creative and copyright control and gives them 80 percent of creator revenue when products sell. Since the company's inception in 2002, more than 1 million creators have chosen Lulu, publishing approximately 20,000 new projects a month.

Their ePub services include the following:
  • Tagging and linking of the Table of Contents. (TOC)
  • Proofing of the illustrations to make sure they’re resized properly
  • Removal of the original page numbers and page headers (to prevent them from appearing in the middle of the page)
  • Re-flowing of the text by chapter and re-pagination of the entire book
In the case where the complexity of the manuscript file requires work outside the scope of their service, Lulu may charge the publisher or author a minimum charge of $100 an hour.

For authors and publishers concerned about costs, according to Lulu's Senior Product Manager Daniel Wideman ," in his April 3 blog, he noted that for "a limited time, Lulu will provide 'free' distribution to the iBookstore."

He also made point of a restriction for authors who have not published with Lulu previously. "We can help you get any project into the iBookstore, even if you’ve published only a printed copy of your work on Lulu so far. The key is that you must already have a project on Lulu — or publish a project now," says Wideman.

Sample Lulu eBook
(click image to be taken to the store)


The latest entry into the eBook publishing space is Fifobooks. This past year, Joubert Nel and Denis Papathanasiou created a partnership when they noticed an accelerating shift in the economics of book creation and distribution. Since traditional publishers were tied to print and feared the cannibalization of their established business, Nel and Papathanasiou saw an opening to provide a new product and service using digital technology.

Nel notes, "as content creation becomes more and more democratized, authors need the tools and platform to produce their work easily and sell it to a world-wide audience, while retaining most of the revenue and maintaining full rights to their work." As a result, Fifobooks' goal is to provide a means for authors to generate eBooks that are compatible with all eReader devices and to provide them with a marketplace where they can monetize their work easily and in an expeditious manner. "In short," says Nel, "we want to do for authors what the Apple App Store did for independent developers."

Since they are 'new kid on the block,' one of the promotional methods they used to attract authors to their Web site was to conduct a writing contest. Fifobooks' "Summer 2010" Writing Contest" is an exciting opportunity for authors to not only get published but actually compete in a contest based on their book's popularity. It's different from other writing contests because any genre of work (poetry, short stories, novels, graphic novels, etc.) on any subject (fiction, non-fiction, biography, science, etc.) is eligible, and the contest is open to anyone over the age of thirteen.

According to Nel, "we believe the winner should not be judged by the subjective review of a panel, but rather by the marketplace. That’s why the winner will be determined by the most sales."  The $1500 grand prize is a great reason for new writers to register with Fifobooks versus another ePublisher. However, it is important to act quickly as the ending date for the contest is June 30, 2010.

Some of Fifobook's others differentiators that distinguish them from other ePublishers are the following:
  • Provide a very good conversion experience. We can convert a very wide range of content automatically (including complex formatting such as TOC, tables, images, etc.).
  • Revenue shares provide 80% for the author.
  • Authors are not locked in- their agreements with authors is non-exclusive, so they can also sell their work elsewhere and in other mediums; and, authors can remove their work from Fifobooks at any time
  • Work published on Fifobooks is available immediately, worldwide, compatible with all the eBook readers
  • Fifobooks are experts in ePub (the universal eBook format) - they contribute to the open source Sigil project and have presented on the topic of ePub creation at BarCamp NYC
As Nel sees the future, he would like Fifobooks to become "the number one DRM-free eBook marketplace in the world for original and out-of-print work."

Sample Fifobook
(click image to be taken to the store)

"Crude Behavior" available for sale at FifoBooks"Crude Behavior" available for sale at FifoBooks

So these are my top eBook publishers on the digital scene today. It makes readers want to go out and buy that Kindle or iPad today, doesn't it? As the digital landscape keeps changing, our reading experience is adjusting as well. These publishers have adapted to our evolving needs, and in so doing are offering new authors an opportunity to present their work to a marketplace that didn't even exist just a few years ago.

If you know of other ePublishers that provide authors and publishers with as streamlined an experience as these three, please provide us with that feedback in the comment section below.

Oct 7, 2010
by Anonymous


I've published ebooks under the name John Blandly and hope that they will be read