Publishing Directly with iBooks – Peeling the Apple – Part 1

applePublishing directly on the iBookstore is a little like running a marathon.

It takes a long time.  It’s painful.  And at the finish line, you’ll be exhausted but glad you did it.

Or you’ll never again run farther than the curb.

Hard to say which beforehand.

But you will make more money per copy sold.  Nearly all the aggregators who can publish on iBooks for you will take a cut of your royalty.  Publishing directly with Apple, my books earn 70% of my list price. If I used Smashwords to distribute it for me via their Premium Catalog, they would pay only 60%.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, or like me, are somewhere on the control-freak spectrum, these posts will show you the steps necessary to publish on Apple’s iBookstore.

Please keep in mind, I’ve been to the bar many times and haven’t found a single genius.  As far as hardware products go, I loathe Apple.  They have some clever gadgetry (love the magnetic power cord), but I routinely want to do something on their devices and find that I simply can’t.  Won’t let me.  It reminds me of those arranged tours that make you stay at a distance from anything really cool.

I will never understand the homage given this company and their products.  They use the same hardware platforms as the PC clones, and their OS is just Linux with a proprietary feature governor in place.   Ah.  I feel better.

Now that my bias is understood, let’s begin.

First up, a list of things you will need:

1.  Apple ID

2.  iBookstore seller application

3. ISBN ?

4.  eBook File

5.   Cover art

6.  Mac computer

7.  iTunes Producer software

1.  Apple ID:

 If you’re already iTuned in, you have one of these.  Otherwise, before you can publish with Apple, you need to apply for an Apple ID.  So download iTunes to get one.

2.  iBookstore seller application:

Even if you currently sell apps or music through iTunes, Apple still wants a new application before you can sell books.  If you want to give your books away, apply for a Free Books Account, otherwise, use the Paid Books Account link, and they will collect the usual information such as contact, banking, and tax details. It will take them a day or so to confirm your information.

Please note, if you choose the free account and change your mind, you will need to register again if you want to charge for you books.  Here’s the iBooks FAQ sheet. For the duration of this post, I will only discuss the paid side of publishing on the iBookstore

After you submit the application, then, and only then, can you download the iTunes Producer software.  I’ll discuss this in more detail in a later section.

3. ISBN:

Way back in 2012, an ISBN was a requirement for any books sold on the iBookstore.  Now, it is only recommended:

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is not required but recommended for any book you are offering on iBooks. An ISBN uniquely identifies the book and its current edition, and helps you to ensure that you are marketing the right book. The ISBN is also required for reporting your book’s sales to the industry reporting agencies and charting organizations.

The choice is yours.  If you decide to buy them, buy them only from Bowker.   Otherwise, the agent you purchased the number(s) from will be listed as the publisher and not you.  Please note, the link I provided came from much poking around the main Bowker site even though the domain is different.  It’s a little hard to find, but you are welcome to poke it yourself.

And if you buy ISBNs, make sure to go back to their site and register you books with them.  I use one for print and a second for ebooks. Use this link and go to the My Account tab and Manage My ISBNs.

4.  eBook File:

Apple’s iBookstore accepts either an .epub file or an .ibook file.  Most people are familiar with the .epub file,  but what is an .ibook file?

The .ibook file is created using the Apple’s free software iBooks Author.   Using this, you can create and format ebooks that look spiffy on an iPad, but are, of course, unable to run anywhere else.  In fact, if you charge a fee for your book, then you can only sell your work through the iBookstore.  The .ibook file format is a modified and proprietary derivative of the .epub. So unless you want to stay exclusive to Apple, or you’re giving all your stuff away, why bother?

The .epub file you have, however, may still not be good enough for the gang in Cupertino.  You want to run the file through this little validator before you consider it Apple-ready.  If it passes this check with no errors,  iTunes Producer should be happy with your file when you upload it.

Please note, if you use an ISBN, then the thirteen digits that comprise the ISBN must be the name of the epub file when you submit it. For example:  9780983202738.epub

5.  Cover art:

Internal to the .epub file – I use 900 X 1200  – but no image can be over 3.2 million pixels.

External and submitted via iTunes Producer –  I use 1800 X 2400  –  but it can’t be less than 1400 pixels wide.

6.  Mac computer:

All book providers must deliver their content via a Mac computer.  No one is surprised.  Right?

The following is directly from the iTunes Producer manual:

iTunes Producer 2.9 for books requires a Macintosh with an Intel Core processor, at least 512 MB RAM, and Mac OS X v10.6 or later installed.  Apple recommends at least 20 GB of available space (more for larger content) and a broadband Internet connection with an upload rate of 1MB/sec or faster.

Once you have an account with Apple, you can check sales and make price changes from any machine via iTunes Connect.

I’m out of time and energy for this.  I will finish next week with the iTunes Producer and will provide a dinghy-load of images stepping through the process to upload an ebook (deliver a package) to the ibookstore.

Thanks for reading!


p.s.  my thanks to Ant Smith for the cool image

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4 Responses to Publishing Directly with iBooks – Peeling the Apple – Part 1

  1. Wow, you sold that so well, lol

    You’ve turned me off with the amount of hard work and unfortunately with being here in Australia it does make things easier by simply using Smashwords and Amazon. Not only because it reduces the amount for places to deal with, but because dealing with the tax and legalities would be an absolute killer.

    • Helen says:

      Ha! My husband always tells me I’m a miserable salesperson. I tend to highlight the cons over the pros. But when I stepped off the curb to publish with iBooks, I didn’t understand any of this. I’ve had a variety of people ask what it takes to pub with Apple, and I wanted to paint a realistic picture of the challenges. Even the ugly parts :)

  2. Do they seriously think restricting this to Apple users is somehow going to increase their sales of Apple Macs?

    I officially no longer need to worry about publishing direct with iTunes LOL.

    • Helen says:


      Apple has built a fortune in part from their proprietary mentality. Absolutely they build cool-looking products, but it’s their corporate mystique of chic that enables them to get away with it. The PC v Apple commercials amused me. While they painted the Apple dude as hip and cool and the PC dude as stuffy and uptight, I could only envision the Apple dude as the ultimate nerd from Galaxy Quest. Great flick, and I heart nerds. But the Apple ads attempted to tap into the viewer’s insecure inner fifth-grader. Even if I’d planned to buy a Mac, I would have delayed the purchase. Couldn’t let them think this kind of thing worked on me . . .