Now that we have talked about the Amazon exclusive vs. wide distribution options, we need to talk about the options besides Amazon. What do we mean, exactly by wide distribution? How do you get your books on all of those different channels? It sounds like a daunting task.
It can seem like it at first, and there are services that will actually do that work for you as well. You can use services like Smashwords, Draft2Digital, or Pronoun. These are called aggregate publishing platforms, and they will handle the distribution of your eBooks either for a fee or a percentage of royalties.
The video below talks about the different aggregate platforms, but not too much about the pros and cons of each.
Of course, if you want to follow Dale’s rabbit trail of other videos about eBook distribution, just understand that they contain his experience and opinion (much as the information that follows here follows mine). I’d recommend you doing your own research, because no one’s book or journey is the same, and what works for one person may not work for you.
They key to these aggregate platforms is they are much like having a publisher: they take a percentage of your royalties or a fee for distribution, which means you make less money than if you did all that distribution work yourself. At the same time, you don’t have to do all of that distribution work.
Another factor to consider is that only a few authors and publishers can still publish their work on Google Play. Some of these aggregates, like Pronoun, are among them.
You can publish your book to the individual platforms as well. We talked briefly about Amazon already, but here are the others (in no particular order).
Apple is the second largest eBook platform in the US market. The Apple platform, however, could stand some improvements.
The reason is simply this. As with other Apple initiatives that have fallen off the radar of top management, iBooks, while it has some cool features for creating enhanced books, has languished. Apple is known for being the best in many areas, and in this one they fall short.
Outside of using an aggregate, uploading books to the iBooks Author platform can be a bit tricky, and is something it will take time for you to master. While many authors get good results from iBooks, it is a small percentage compared to Amazon.
Still, if you are going to distribute widely, iBooks is almost a must. You will need to have an Apple ID, connect that ID to iBooks author, and ideally upload a properly formatted ePub edition of your book.
There are tons of tutorials out there, and once you have mastered the process it will go smoothly.
Barnes and Noble
The bad news is this: the Nook itself and Barnes and Noble eBooks are decreasing in popularity, and it looks like at any moment the entire division could disappear. Of course, so could Barnes and Noble, whose attempt to compete with Amazon has met with constant obstacles struggles in the big-box, brick and mortar world of publishing, a tough spot to be at the moment.
Does this mean you should not publish on Barnes and Noble? Nope. It just means you need to be aware that although Nook still has a faithful, but small following, you may wake up one day to see that your books, and everyone else’s, have disappeared from Barnes and Noble virtual shelves. Another step in that direction was the recent closure of the Nook Forums online.
Uploading is pretty easy overall, but like iBooks, the process can seem painful the frist few times. It can be mastered, or again done through an aggregate.
I have known some authors who have had decent sales success through Barnes and Noble, and others who have had so few sales they have given up the platform altogether.
If Barnes and Noble is in the sunset of their business lives, Kobo is in a pretty good spot. In Europe and Canada, Kobo has a large presence.
Publishing on Kobo is, therefore, well worth pursuing. One of the advantages of self-publishing in the digital world is that your audience is worldwide, not just in your town, your state, or even your country.
Once you have created a Kobo account, publishing directly with them is pretty easy. Your book can be uploaded as a .doc or .dcox file, and Kobo will handle the conversion process, or you can choose to upload an ePub yourself.
You can preview how the file will look on Kobo once you have uploaded it if you have an online ePub reader.
Depending on your genre and your marketing efforts, you will may get a large number of sales on Kobo, certainly enough to make this relatively simple upload process worthwhile. Developing an international following can also spread to your Amazon sales, and even your sales on other platforms.
Overdrive for Libraries
The Easiest way to get your ebook onto overdrive and available to libraries is by using an aggregate. The issue for Overdrive with most authors is the marketing piece of this: simply because your work is available to libraries does not mean they will actually carry it. Library budgets are small, and the ones for digital books are even smaller.
The other debate is ownership. While a library can buy your print book if they wish, when they “buy” your eBooks, they are only getting the rights to use them in a specific way. Therefore, unlike print books, the library is not fulfilling one of its primary missions: preservation.
Still, if you can get enough people to request your books, a library will carry them, and if you sell enough books, this will happen organically.
Either way, if you are distributing widely, you should find a way to offer your book on Overdrive, even if you don’t end up making a lot of money from them.
The library dynamic is changing. Overdrive is offering new pricing models that make it easier for libraries to offer more eBooks. Don’t neglect this important area in your distribution, and again in your marketing further down the road.
The list of other sites where you can distribute your book is huge, and could go on for days. In fact, you could spend days uploading your books to all of them (another argument for using an aggregator) only to get few or no sales from some of the lesser known markets.
However, you never know when one sale will lead to another, and you will develop a new audience. Many authors take the chance on these smaller markets for that reason alone, and it is not a bad strategy if you can do all of them quickly.
As we mentioned in a previous post, for many wide distribution is the best answer, and once you are distributing widely you might as well go all the way.
Look, anyone who pretends to tell you they have all of the answers to the distribution puzzle is probably lying through their teeth. What works for one author will not always work for you, and even if it works once for you, it may not continue to work the same way the next time. The publishing world is constantly changing, and you need to keep up if you are going to treat your writing as a business.
Next, we will talk about protecting your work, and the risk of piracy involved with wide distribution and aggregate sites.