By opting for ePub and shipping free tools like iBooks Author, Apple has made it easy to create books for sale through its online iBookstore. Creating the books themselves is only half the story, though, as we’ll explain.
Selling books on the iBookstore: Multi-touch vs reflowable books
The iBookstore sells both fixed layout Multi-touch books created using iBooks Author (free from the Mac App Store) and largely text-based reflowable books produced using apps like Scrivener. Use the former for layout-dependent textbooks and digital coffee table publications, and the latter for novels and other titles where the text can flow from page to page as the rear resizes and changes the font.
Bear in mind when making your choice that Multi-touch books can only be opened in iBooks on an iPad, or a Mac running OS X Yosemite or later.
Once you have finished creating your book you'll need to publish two editions. One is the complete manuscript; the other is a sample that readers can download for free. If you're using Scrivener to produce a reflowable book, create the latter by unchecking most of the boxes in the export dialog until only the sample pages remain, then export this second copy in ePub format. If you're creating a Multi-touch book in iBooks Author, clicking Publish on the toolbar creates both the complete book and the sample at the same time.
The free iBooks Author app is the easiest way to create multi-touch books for reading in iBooks on the iPad and OS X.
Selling books on the iBookstore: Opening an account
Before you can sell books on the iBookstore, Apple needs to know who you are so that it can pay you any royalties that are due. Accounts are free to set up (Apple deducts a 30% fee from each book sold, so if you sell nothing you pay nothing) but you do need to decide whether to sign up directly, in which case you keep the whole of the remaining 70%, or through an aggregator, which simplifies the process but means the aggregator themselves – a company that acts as a front for multiple smaller publishers – takes a further cut itself.
Selling books on the iBookstore: Signing up to an aggregator
Aggregators accept your book and publish it on your behalf, taking care of all tax and administration issues and passing on a proportion of the takings once they've passed a certain threshhold.
You'll find a list of Apple's approved aggregators here and can click through directly to each one for instructions on how to provide your content, what services they offer (which may include ePub conversion itself) and how often they pay our your earnings.
Selling books on the iBookstore: Selling your books directly
If you'd rather sell your books yourself and keep the full 70% you'll need to set up an account with iTunes Connect, which requires an Apple ID. You may already have one of these for downloading music, but if you're already using it to sell music or other media through Apple you'll need to set up another account, as Apple requires discrete IDs for each media type you want to sell through its stores.
Point your browser here and click Get Started. If you already have an Apple ID that you're not using to sell other media, enter it in the boxes on the following page to enable it for selling books. If not, click the link to create a new ID.
Apple requires that you set up a separate ID for each media type you want to sell.
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Selling books on the iBookstore: Paying your dues
It's not possible to sell books without registering with the US tax service. This is a simple process, but requires that you submit to a telephone or form-based interview for enrolment. You can enrol as a person or a company, and you'll be issued with a tax number that you need to enter as part of the iTunes Connect signup process. You must sign up for iTunes Connect using whichever name matches the tax ID, so consider what this should be before completing your tax enrolment.
You can apply for your Tax ID at here or by calling +1 267 941 1099 between 6am and 11pm Eastern Time (11am to 4am GMT). Once you're enrolled you'll receive a paper notification through the post and will need to fill in a simple tax return to submit to the US authorities at the end of each tax year detailing any earnings you've made selling books through Apple.
You’ll need to register with the US tax service and obtain an identifier, which Apple will need you to enter before you start selling through the iBookstore.
Selling books on the iBookstore: Uploading your book
When your application has been approved you're ready to upload your book to the store. If you're publishing through iBooks Author you'll already have completed the first step when you clicked Publish on the toolbar, as it will have created a new project in iTunes Producer – the app used to upload it to the store – and attached both your book and the free excerpt.
If you’re creating a Multi-touch book, click the Publish button in iBooks Author to compile the full book and a free excerpt.
If you’re publishing a re-flowable book created using an alternative application you need to complete the first step manually, so open iTunes Producer and create a new project, then add your exported EPUB file and excerpt.
However you created your book you now need to fill out the form detailing your author name, book title, publisher (which can be yourself) and so on. The more details you provide, the better you'll perform in search results, and some of them, such as category, are compulsory. If you miss out any that are required, iTunes Producer will throw up a warning so you can go back and fix it.
You’ll need to provide Apple with a lot of detail about your book so that it can accurately index it within the store.
It's up to you whether you add any screen grabs showing the interior of your book, but you'll know from your own experience of browsing the iBookstore (and App Store) that grabs really help to sell a product.
Work your way through the three tabs at the top of the iTunes Producer window, specifying a price and making sure that the book you want to submit is attached. Apple can work out the appropriate price to set for your book in various territories based on the one you provide for the UK if you don't want to set each one individually.
If you’d rather not provide individual prices for each territory in which the book is sold, Apple can work out the exchange rates for you.
Check each of the tabs to make sure you have provided all the information you need and then click the Submit button. iTunes Producer will upload your book to the store so that Apple can approve it. Although this used to take the best part of a week, approval usually now takes less than one working day.
Selling books on the iBookstore: Monitoring your sales
Once your book has been approved it will be available for purchase on the store. You can monitor your sales and make changes to the price and description by logging in with the Apple ID associated with your iBookstore account at itunesconnect.apple.com.
Once your book is in the store you can monitor your sales and royalties through iTunes Connect.
Plus, here are some other ways to make money via Apple: