Comparing the Ebook Submission Process: Self-Publishers v. Publishers

I recently wrapped up a freelance project with a small publisher, where I uploaded/submitted ebook files and metadata to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google. In the process, I thought about the similarities and differences between how a self-publisher would go about distributing an ebook versus a publishing company that is submitting files themselves instead of using an intermediary such as Ingram.

One of the biggest differences is that regular publishers have the option of also distributing and selling enhanced ebooks. However, currently only Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble accepts and sells enhanced ebooks. For this particular project, I worked with standard ebooks and enhanced ebooks which contained video files. 

Up until recently, regular publishers were the only ones with the option to put books up for sale before their release date, but Amazon recently announced that KDP authors can set up preorders (read “What You Need to Know about Amazon Pre-ordering” by Laurie Boris for more details), and Smashwords also allows for preorders for all its vendors, including Kobo and B&N, and Smashwords even gives a guide to preorder strategy.

Now on to the specific vendors/retailers.


Indie authors can publish via KDP. After signing up for an account, you can simply add a book, and fill in two pages of information, which includes title, subtitle, keywords, description, the mobi file, and pricing.


Publishers use a similar system, but instead of KDP they sign up to be an Amazon vendor. As a vendor, they use the vendor dashboard to upload the mobi file, cover image, and metadata. All three files must be named by the ISBN number, so that the system knows they go together. The metadata file must be uploaded first, and it is a template you can download from the vendor website. The template includes information such as book title, subtitle, description, BISAC codes, author name, and pricing information. Books will not appear on Amazon’s site until all three files are uploaded and processed. For ebook files larger than 50 MB, such as the enhanced ebook file I uploaded, publishers must upload via Amazon’s FTP. It is fairly straight forward to set up an account. One thing to keep in mind is that if a file is larger than 650 MB, there will be issues adding DRM to a title. Amazon will have to add dRM rights manually in order for the system to ingest the ebook correctly, and appear up for sale on the site.



Apple uses the exact same system for indie authors and publishers: iTunes Producer. The only catch is you must have a Mac to use it. You also have the option to upload screenshots of the book to accompany the sales page.


Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble probably has the most differences. Indie authors use Nook Press, their new and improved interface that is fairly easy to learn how to use. With Nook Press, they can either upload their epub or copy/paste/write the book inside the platform, as well as add cover image, title, subtitle, description, author name, categories, and editorial reviews.


Publishers, on the other hand, must set up an account with Barnes & Noble, where they are given access to three different FTP accounts. One account is for submitting cover images and metadata, and the metadata is filled out using a template. Another account is for submitting epub files, and the third account is for submitting enhanced epub files. Some of these accounts have specific folders for where to include what files. Once all files are submitted, someone must email 5 different people at B&N to let them know (6 if it’s an enhanced ebook). Here’s what an FTP account looks like using CyberDuck:



Indie authors can use Kobo Writing Life to submit their ebooks. It’s a slick interface, with four pages of information to fill out, including the usual title, subtitle, categories, book description, cover image, epub file, and pricing information.


Publishers must use Kobo’s FTP account. The cover image, epub, and metadata files (Kobo also provides its own template) must be uploaded, and are typically named the ISBN number to make it easier to keep track. One person on the Kobo team must be notified after everything has been uploaded.

Sony was, until earlier this year, another option for publishers. But now that Sony has shut down its Reader Store, it has sent all its customers to Kobo.


I believe indie authors can sign up for their own Google account via Google’s Partner program, and it would probably be the same process publishers use. Once signed in, publishers can use Google’s dashboard to fill in information about the book and upload the cover and epub.


Google also makes it easy to upload multiple books at once using its own CSV template.


It’s pretty interesting to compare how retailers treat publishers and self-publishers. I’m hoping that in the future, indie authors will also have the option to sell their enhanced ebooks on major retailers. What do you think? Please share in the comments!


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