Digital and Physical Distribution. Online and Offline. PDFs and Physical Books.

Once your sheet music is finished you can submit it to a publishing company to be published, or sell it yourself in paper or digital format. The major sheet music companies like Hal Leonard and Alfred won’t be interested in your sheet music until you’ve sold millions of CDs, but there are several websites that offer distribution services for books either in digital or physical form that are available to you.

When a website publishes a book (PDF, eBook or physical book) it means they put it up on their own website to be sold. When a website offers a distribution service, it means that they send your book to other companies to be sold in digital or physical format (this usually includes their own website as well). Printing is when a website site offers a service to print out multiple copies of your book, to be then sold by you or another company (this may include the company that printed the book in the first place).


An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a special book identifying number that appears on top of barcodes. It’s used to identify different editions of the same title (paperback, audio-book, eBook, etc.) The Standard Address Number (SAN) is $75 extra and not necessary for self published musicians. It’s a number that represents an address and is for the benefit of Distributors, Wholesalers, and Schools. You can purchase these on the Bowker Identifier Services website. Discounts are available if you buy in bulk. If you are selling your book at retail stores you will need an ISBN and a barcode. If you are selling an eBook online, then the website you’re going through will supply you with one. If you are selling your book on your own website, then you will not need an ISBN.

PDF Publishing

Publishing your sheet music in PDF format is available on a website called Musica Neo where you can publish, sell, buy and download sheet music and performance licenses. It’s free to sign-up and there are no monthly fees. They take one-third (33.3%) of your sales and you can set your prices to whatever you want, but they have to be at least $1. You are paid immediately, but your account balance has to be at least $10 before you can make a withdrawal. Payments can be received directly into your bank account, a mailed check, or through PayPal. Musica Neo may limit you to withdrawing no more than $500 per month. Also, you can upload your music as a Finale or Sibelius file and they will convert it to PDF for you.

Physical Book Printing

You can also have your sheet music printed and published as a physical book. Lulu and Book Baby offer book printing, publishing, and distribution, and Lightning Source offers book printing. Prices will vary a lot depending on the number of pages, the size, whether it’s in color or black & white, paperback or hard cover, the type of binding, etc. So, check their websites for the options that are available.

Physical Book Distribution

Lulu offers a free physical book distribution service called ExtendedReach that will get your book on Amazon and databases, and they will supply you with a free ISBN that belongs to them. Which means, you’re only allowed to have that number for your book on Lulu’s website or any website Lulu sends it to. If you want your physical book available to retail stores around the world, like Barnes & Noble, you have to choose Lulu’s $75 GlobalReach distribution service, and it’ll require an ISBN and barcode. You can buy your own for $150 on the Bowker Identifier Services website, or you can use a Lulu owned ISBN for free. Lulu has “Mandatory Requirements for Distribution”, so make sure to check their guidelines before you submit anything. You can do all the separate steps yourself to submit your book, or you can pay for a Lulu Pre-Publishing service. Their basic service “Best Seller” is $629 and includes: Basic Book Cover Design, Advanced Manuscript Formatting, Editorial Quality Review, GlobalReach Distribution, Lulu ISBN. Basically, they’ll design, format, edit, and publish your book for you. Their more elaborate service “Masterpiece” is $1,429 and has more advanced cover design and formatting, an ePub conversion (more will be explained about this in the next step about eBook Distribution), plus Phone Support. Their most advanced service “Laureate” is $4,729 and includes everything mentioned in the last service and adds a Full Copy Edit, 100 Paperbacks, plus 25 Hardcovers. there is another service called “Children’s Imagination Package” for $549, and is of course designed for publishing children’s books. They also offer marketing packages for advertising your book.

Print and Publish Yourself

Finally, there’s the option of just printing and binding sheet music or physical books yourself. Then selling them on your own website in paper or digital format. Binding machines usually run around $100, or you can just go to a copy store and have them do it for you. You can also set-up an online store on your website using Pay Pal “Buy It Now” buttons.

eBook Distribution

Publishing other forms of books, like a Band Biography or a Tour Journal, as an eBook is something else you may consider. An eBook (electronic book) is a book published in digital form like a PDF or EPUB to be readable on a computer or an electronic device. An Amazon Kindle is a typical device on which you can read eBooks. Book Baby, run by CD Baby, is an eBook digital distribution service to submit your eBooks to online retailers like iBookstore and Amazon, and Lulu is website that sells eBooks.

Book Baby

Book Baby offers digital distribution to the following online stores: Apple iBookstore (for iPad), Amazon (for Kindle), Barnes & Noble (for NOOK), and Reader Store (for Sony Reader) for a $99 setup fee per book plus $19 a year. A barcode with an ISBN is $19 extra, and is required for online distribution. They take no commission, which means you get 100% of the royalties, after the online stores take their share of about 30%. Book Baby accepts submissions in the following formats:.doc,.docx, txt,.rtf,.html, or.pages. Most text programs on Windows, Mac, or Linux will be able to save in one of those formats. Some suggestions would be: Microsoft Word, Open Office, Gedit, TextEdit, or Pages. They also convert your file to an electronic publication (ePub) for free, which is the file format your book has to be converted to in order to be submitted to online stores. They have a free eBook publishing guide on their website in PDF format that’ll help guide you through the process called “The How-To Guide for Writers”.


Lulu offers publishing of ebooks on their website in PDF format. Once you’ve registered you can upload files in the following formats: PDF, DOC, DOCX, RTF, JPG, PNG, GIF, or EPUB. You can then create a very simple cover design, choose from on of their images, or you may upload your own image. You can add text to an image later, so you don’t have to have text on an image you upload. They recommend your image size be about 612 x 792, and they accept the following formats for images: PNG, JPG, or GIF. You will then set whatever price you want your download to be and there will be a $1 base price fee per book and Lulu will take 20% of your sales.

Lulu also offers digital distribution of eBooks. It’s free to setup and they take 20% of your sales after the online digital store takes about 30%. Lulu will supply you with a free ISBN, but it’ll belong to them and you won’t be able to use it outside of your eBook distribution. If you don’t want to use their number you may purchase your own ISBN. They do not require a barcode for digital distribution, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have one on there. Lulu requires that your submission be submitted as a validated ePub file. You can pay Lulu $99 to convert your document to an ePub file. Books more than 250 pages will cost $199, books more than 500 pages will cost $299, and books more than 750 pages will not be accepted. Or you can convert and validate it yourself using software. Pages for Mac is a good choice because you can create text files and then export them as an ePub. Calibre is a good converting program that’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Adobe InDesign is another, but will cost you $700. You will also need to validate your ePub file once it has been created. You can do this by downloading the program epubcheck and then follow the instructions on the threepress website. You can do all the separate steps yourself to submit your ebook, or you can pay Lulu for a Pre-Publishing service. Their basic service is $629 and is called “Best Seller”, but you will also have to add their $99 “ePub Conversion Service”. It’ll include a cover design, formatting, a review, physical book distribution, and a Lulu ISBN, plus the ePub conversion at an extra cost.

You basically have two choices when it comes to publishing a book. You can do everything yourself or you can pay someone to do it for you, which applies to both physical books and eBooks. Each has their own benefit. It can get a little complicated and time consuming if you do everything yourself, but it won’t cost you as much as paying someone to do it for you. Lulu offers services on everything you’ll need to do to publish your book, or you can hire a third party to do it for you. Websites like oDesk, Guru, and Elance will have plenty of people willing to help you with your project.

Both an eBook and a physical book will require a front cover design. Design attention getting and relevant artwork and text, place the barcode on the bottom right of the back cover, 1.5″ wide x 1.0″ tall, 0.25″ from the edges, and leave room for copyright information. Copyrighting sheet music is considered separate from an audio CD recording and would have to be submitted as a different copyright submission if you want an official copyright from the Library of Congress.

Receiving Payments- Pay Pal

There are several options for receiving payments from websites that sell your music. You can give them your bank account information and have them directly deposit the money to your account. You can have them mail you a check. Or you can have them pay you through Pay Pal. PayPal is the Internet standard and several websites will only pay you through Pay Pal. To set-up an account you need to choose which type of Pay Pal account you want: “If you are a business, choose “Business”. If you are an individual, choose “Premier”. “Personal” is for people who only buy online. You will need the Premier account if you want to sell items online, along with being able to buy and receive payments. There are no set-up fees to get started. Once you have an account they will need your bank account information. For confirmation they will send two small deposits to your bank account. Once you tell Pay Pal what the amounts are of these two small deposits, you will be confirmed and ready to go. Once you have a Pay Pal account you can also start selling items on your own website.

Sheet Music Distribution:

Musica Neo: PDF Sheet Music Publishing, FREE to setup + 33% of sales

Lulu: Book Printing

Book Baby: Book Printing

Lightning Source: Book Printing

Lulu: Physical Book Distribution, $75 per book + 20% of sales


Book Baby: eBook Distribution, $99 one-time setup per eBook + $19 ISBN barcode + $19 a year after the first year

Lulu: eBook Distribution, FREE to setup + 20% of sales

Bowker: ISBN number + Barcode $150

TextEdit: Comes FREE on any Mac

Gedit: Comes FREE on any Ubuntu Linux system

Open Office: FREE download

Microsoft Office (Includes Word), Home and Student- $150, Office Home and Business- $280, Professional- $500



Adobe InDesign, $700 (Windows & Mac)





Receiving Payments:

Paypal- FREE to setup and upgrade

These prices are all subject to change, so please visit their websites for a current price list.

Source by Doug Clyde