Self-publishing has taken off over the last few years, as e-readers and ebooks have made it far easier for anyone to upload a book. With so many platforms and formats, it can be confusing to know where to put your books. This covers the pros and cons of ways to release your titles and several sites where you can get started.
Places to publish ebooks
With the increasing popularity or e-readers publishing today is easier than it has ever been, but with so many choices how do you know which to use? Here are the pros and cons.
This article is about releasing an ebook. It assumes you have written your ebook, possibly formatted it into html, mobi or epub and are now wondering whether to release it, who through and how.
There are hundreds of ebookstores out there. This is an overview of the biggest, and the different ways to release books. The current biggest debate is Amazon Exclusively or all the other sites. I hope this will help you make your mind up.
Which ereader do you own?
When releasing books, consider which ereaders you own, and what are the most popular ones locally. If local press cover your book, it helps if local readers can buy it.
Extending your Reach
Which book sites you release through can have a serious effect on where your ebook can be found. For example, Kobo may not be as large as Amazon, but in the UK they supply WHSmith's ebook store - a major source of exposure. It is important to know who supplies who. e.g. Waterstones is supplied by Overdrive, WHSmiths is supplied by Kobo.
Unless you are going with exclusive distribution, this is something you need to consider.
Distributors and Aggregators
The first thing you need to decide is whether to upload to each of these sites yourself - and there are a lot of storefronts - or use a middleman.
Rather than sell your ebook themselves, there are distributors who specialise in distributing your ebooks to other storefronts. Some smaller storefronts may also have cross-selling agreements, for example OmniLit can ship certain titles to Apple.
While distributors take a percentage cut for their services, they provide several advantages. Royalties are aggregated in one place, there is only one set of tax paperwork to file, and only one file needs to be created for each book.
Two of the largest are Smashwords and Draft2Digital.
A long established distributor
Format: upload in .doc or .epub. Converts for you.
Smashwords covers a lot of outlets, including nook, kobo, apple, diesel and more. It also does format conversion into .epub, Sony, .mobi etc. for you, so as long as you follow the guidelines you can upload directly from Word. Royalties are gathered across multiple sites, and paid through Paypal as a lump sum. There are also extras: publisher accounts, an affiliate scheme to promote your books and more.
It can also make your books free on its outlets, which is one of the few ways to get a free book no Amazon: authors can force Amazon to pricematch down. And finally it will give you a free ISBN if needed, which makes it far easier to get your book listed across multiple sites.
Much younger than Smashwords, D2D takes .epub files only so you will need to be more technical. They distribute to a smaller range of sites, but like Smashwords they can make books free, aggregate royalties and have comparable benefits.
While they only handle .epubs, they are known to be faster on conversion and distribution, and are making a good name for themselves.
Amazon, Nook, Apple and more
These are the places that sell books directly to your customers. Not all storefronts have their own hardware ereader, but many do.
In general they will take one of two formats: Amazon uses .azw which is limited to Kindle. Most others use .epub. .Epub books are open format and can be used on any epub-capable reader.
This is about releasing an ebook you have already formatted, so I won't go into details about how to create them here - just the places you can sell them.
Site: Amazon KDP to publish (to buy, well, it's Amazon)
Amazon is one of the largest sites out there and the owners of the Kindle e-reader. It is the largest market you can upload your book to, but the real question is whether or not you want to go exclusive.
If you agree to only upload your ebook to Amazon you can access KDP Select. Once your ebook is in this program, you can either make the book free for up to five days a month, which helps to get reviews, or set it at a discounted price (called a Kindle Countdown deal) on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk for up to five days. This does however prevent you from accessing other markets, and you are locked in for three months. Recently books in Select were also given a small payment if readers borrowed them.
Some authors prefer to upload books initially into Select for three months, then exit Select and go for wider distribution. If you choose this route, be careful - Select is set to auto re-enroll authors, so you need to uncheck the re-enroll box or you will be locked in for three more months.
You don't need to be Select to use one of the other advantages of KDP: matchbook allows you to link paperback and ebook editions with a price discount - so purchasers of one can get the other cheaply.
Fire Season below is an example of a Kindle ebook, this one uploaded by my publisher.
Is it worth releasing a title exclusively on Amazon?
The big debate at the moment is whether to go exclusively with Amazon or sell your books as widely as possible.
|Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch eBook Reader (Wi-Fi Only)|
Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch Wi-Fi ReaderIncredibly easy-just touch and read; Ultra-light, thin and the longest battery life; Most advanced E Ink 6" display w/ crisp fonts; ...
Barnes & Noble
Originally owned by Barnes and Noble, now largely out on its own. The nook device was briefly discontinued in 2013 but is now being made by a joint partnership of B&N and Samsung.
It was the second most popular ereader after Kindle, although at the time of writing Kobo is now close.
For authors there is one problem: if you are outside the US, you will have to use an aggregator to publish through it. Smashwords and D2D both offer this service.
Site: The iBookstore (e.g. http://www.apple.com/uk/ibooks/)
Device: Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.)
This supplies books to all apple devices, phones, tablets, etc. It's a way to access a market you may otherwise be locked out of. However Apple has one real limitation: its store is only accessable, to read or to publish, if you have an apple device. Anyone else will be using an aggregator to get their books in.
Device: Kobo range
Kobo is an interesting one. The site is hard to navigate and it came under fire for its choice of content - including the extreme end of adult material.
What makes Kobo worthwhile is the number of companies it supplies, as it has deals to supply ebooks to many bookstores. Your ebooks can be made available from many large newsagents and chains. For example, WHSmiths in the UK. They are also partnered with Indiebound so you can support your local bookstore by buying books (details here)
They have also taken over the Sony bookstore (press release here) so have access to all the Sony readers as well as their own hardware.
If you want to reach an international audience Kobo are pretty essential but, in my experience, they aren't good at taking books down quickly so you are in it for the long haul. Dropping in and out to go in and out of Select would not be a small undertaking.
All Romance Ebooks
Device: None specific (any epub reader)
This site is, as I have heard from my colleagues who write romance, the single best argument for a romance writer to not go exclusive with Amazon.
It is one of the smaller bookstores. It is genre-specific, it has a smaller audience than Amazon, and it does not have its own e-reader. What it does have is a devoted user base who know what they want to read, read quickly, and want more of it. If a romance book takes of here it will do well - but you'll be competing on an even footing with Harlequin, Samhain, and other big romance names.
It does have a smaller spin off site Omnilit, which takes other genres but does not have the sheer pull of ARe.
Other book sites
There are a range of smaller booksites to also consider, many of which will sell epubs and therefore do not have their own readers:
Diesel is probably the largest.
OmniLit is the general fiction branch of AllRomance Ebooks. Like ARe it takes epubs. It is much smaller than its larger sibling, but it does have a tie-in with Apple that could be useful.
Scribd and Page Foundry are available through a number of aggregators.
Overdrive is a supplier to libraris and bookstores, but is difficult to access unless you are a major publisher (or with an aggregator)
Oyster does book borrowing, similar to Kindle Unlimited, and pays per number of borrows. Again, it is easier to access through an aggregator.
Choosing between Amazon Select and wider distribution.
The big decision
So, Amazon Exclusive for Select bonuses or the rest of the e-reader markets?
Many authors combine options: launch a book for three months in Select to get reviews and then exit it and distribute to the epubs.
I can't say what is right for you, but my publisher is now going for wider distribution on launch. The reasons are simple: Amazon Select no longer counts free downloads towards sales rank, so after a free run books don't get the same boost they used to. There are so many books in perma-free (price matched against free on other stores) that free isn't the same draw it used to be. Kindle Countdown (a discount price) also has limited effect because of the quantity of 99-cent titles available.
Also, with so many people going for Amazon exclusively it has opened the market on other ereaders up a bit - the entire Apple market is growing quite strongly at a time when ebooks are being pulled out of their market. If you are in Romance, ARe is definitely something to consider.
What do you think? Leave comments below: