A Wrap-up of Publishing Options Today
The publishing industry is an ever-changing one. It really keeps an author on their toes. I know that I’ve written about different publishing options on this blog before, but I thought–just for ease–I’d summarize everything here in one place.
When I first started (it feels like eons ago), the only choice an author had was to find an agent who would pitch your work to one of the major publishing houses. If that didn’t work, they might approach a smaller publisher, but it was more likely that they would simply tell you to write a more marketable book and try again.
Today the majority of authors are self-publishing and worrying not only about writing to the market, but where they’re going to find that market—is it going to be on Amazon? Kobo? Barnes & Noble? Apple? Is it going to be within the U.S. or will more sales come from outside? Should you publish in print? Audio? Large print? Should you put your book into Kindle Select or stay wide?
The possibilities can sometimes seem endless and endlessly confusing. So, here to help is a current (as of mid-October, 2018) list of where you might want to publish:
Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing, also know simply as KDP): It is where the majority of people around the world buy and publish their books still. No matter how much we love to hate on Amazon, it’s still the front-runner. To publish through KDP, you need to use your Amazon account and accept their terms-of-service. As always, Amazon must be different—you need to upload a file called a .mobi file to Amazon (some people upload an ePub, and that works fine as well. Sadly, some authors upload a Word doc (or docx), which never converts well and you’ll end up with a (sometimes) unreadable mess).
Amazon Kindle Unlimited aka Kindle Select: This is the subscription-based platform of Kindle. You pay a certain amount every month and get free access to books. For authors, if you put your book into Kindle Select you do so for 90 days at a time (which is then auto-renewed, so be careful!) and your book must be exclusive to Amazon. The catch is that you get paid by the number of pages read and that amount can change every month depending on how much money Amazon puts into the pot from which they pay authors. By enrolling you get access to Kindle Countdown Deals and five days during which you can set your book free for anyone to download.
Kobo: For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a huge Canadian-owned online store with ties to Waterstones Books in the UK (and worldwide), some other international e-retailers and OverDrive (the library catalog). They also have a subscription option for readers in Belgium and the Netherlands called Kobo Plus. Right now, you can put your book into Kobo Plus without it being exclusive to Kobo.
Barnes & Noble: This huge American chain of physical bookstores and an online store is, as of this moment, still in business. But every few weeks there are more and more dire warnings of how badly the company is faring. This is one to watch! One small caveat with B&N—you cannot publish directly to Barnes & Noble from outside the U.S. You must have a U.S. bank account to publish with them. The way around this is to use an ebook distributor.
Apple Books (formerly iBooks): More people have Apple phones in the US than non-Apple and a large number of people also own iPads and Mac computers. Around the world, a huge number of people own Apple products as well. This all adds up to an enormous market. The only problem with publishing your book on Apple Books is that the only way to upload your book to their store is through their proprietary app, which naturally only works on an Apple computer (I purchased an old MacBook Pro—10 years old!—just for this purpose). For those of us who prefer a PC, the only way onto Apple Books is either through a friend (or formatter, like me 😊) or through an ebook distributor.
Google Play: For those who have not been sucked into the Apple Universe, Google Play is an alternative. It’s a large online store where you can buy movies, tv shows, music and, yes, books! There are two problems with publishing on Google Play. Soon after they opened up their book publishing arm to indie-authors, they closed it again! That means that only those first few thousand people got Google Play accounts. After that, they’ve allowed some authors who’ve applied to get an account. Generally, the easiest way (if you don’t have a direct account) to publish on Google Play is through an ebook distributor. Also (and this is Very Important), Google discounts books! And it will do so without telling the author!! Once your book has been discounted on Google Play, Amazon will price match your book (because Amazon must always have the lowest price!). The only way to keep your book the price you want it is to use a complicated formula (there is a price chart for this. If you’d like a copy, message me).
Starting with Smashwords, there are a number of companies that offer ebook distribution for authors. Each one is slightly different in what you need to upload and to which online stores they distribute to. How do you pick the right one? Go with the one (or two or three!) that will distribute your books to the most stores in the easiest fashion. Do remember, though, that if you can go direct (publish directly to an e-retailer) do so—you’ll earn more money since you won’t need to pay the middleman (distributor).
Since I recently published a blog post on the major ebook distributors, I’m not going to go through and list them all again, but simply refer you to that post: https://meredithbond.com/going-wide-ebook-distributors/. Sorry!
Finally, print-on-demand for those who want to make their books available in physical form! There used to be CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), Ingram Spark (owned by Ingram, the huge retail book ordering service), Lulu and a few other smaller printers.
CreateSpace has been subsumed into the new KDP Print and all authors who previously had uploaded their books to CreateSpace have had or are in the process of having their book migrated to KDP. There have been some issues with this, but on the whole, the process has gone pretty smoothly (see my blog post about it here). KDP Print, like CreateSpace, does offer Expanded Distribution which allows your book to be purchased by bookstores other than Amazon, including libraries and academic institutions. You receive a different (lower) royalty rate on those books.
Ingram Spark is the other big alternative to publishing your POD book. The biggest differences between KDP Print and Ingram Spark are two: 1) you must pay to have your book published by IS ($50, plus more for any changes or updates you make to your book), 2) your book will be listed in the Ingram catalogue and therefore easier for brick & mortar bookstores to purchase and carry in their stores.
Lulu is an alternative to both of the larger operations mentioned above. It too costs money to publish with them, but it depends on the size and style of binding what you pay. They’re very good because they offer different bindings like coil bindings and hardback. Their distribution is limited to their own online store, however.
I will not forget to mention audiobooks. That is not an avenue I have yet ventured into because of the large cost involved in producing them (as mentioned before, at least $1000). A lot of people go through the largest producer and distributor ACX. Many people are really happy with Findaway Voices, and there are other places as well where you can find voice actors and audio editors to help in the creation of your audiobook. According to Joanna Penn (an industry expert), audiobooks are the future of publishing. We’ll see!!
As mentioned at the top, this is an ever-changing industry. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the future holds!