Using eBook Retailers for Distribution

Blog 60 ImageIn my last two posts under the category How To Self-Publish, I’ve given an overview of distributing a self-published book and discussed direct sales of eBooks by website or social media. This post is about the distribution channel most self-published writers use to sell their books: eBook retailers.

With an eBook retailer, a self-published writer uploads files of her book and cover to an online platform that sells thousands of traditionally and other self-published books. The platform gives readers a secure payment environment and simple downloading of the writer’s book to an e-reader, tablet or other device. The writer and retailer share the purchase price. Per book, the writer usually gets much more than if a traditional publisher was selling her book.

The concept came to the fore in 2007 when Amazon began selling Kindle devices to download books and other written materials. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) was set up so that self-published books could also be downloaded.

Since then:

  • Many other eBook platforms that sell self-published books have emerged, including Apple’s iBookstore, Google Play and Kobo.
  • EBook distributors like Smashwords have also emerged, offering a central point for a writer to upload her book for many of the eBook retailers, other than KDP.
  • Many readers now use tablets, phones and even PCs to read eBooks instead of dedicated e-readers like Kindles. The books are often read on free apps like Kindle for iOS.

Self-published writers, then, have a variety of eBook retailers to choose from and must imagine readers accessing their content in different ways. Unfortunately, the eBook retailer marketplace is fragmented, and the details and mechanics of the various platforms require tenacity to master.

A detailed comparison of eBook retailers is beyond the scope of this post. An excellent resource is Ape: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book by Kawasaki and Welch. Instead, I’m going to outline the considerations I found important in choosing between eBook retailers. Maybe they’ll make the choice easier for other self-published fiction writers.

  • KDP is important. Everything I read says that KDP is dominant or very significant in the markets where I want to sell eBooks of The Case for Killing and False Guilt: Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Readers know to go to Amazon to buy books and are drawn by the thousands of other products on offer. Customers give, and value, book reviews on Amazon. For writers, the KDP site may be a bit old and clunky, but there’s excellent support and writers keep 70% of royalties for books between $2.99 and $9.99 (U.S.). I know that Amazon’s might bothers many people but I figured my eBooks just had to be available on Amazon through KDP.
  • Readers don’t need a Kindle. This decision was made easier by the fact that readers buying my eBooks from Amazon don’t need to have a Kindle. They can read the books using the free Kindle app available for most devices.
  • I like simple and KDP Select. Having decided I needed to be on Amazon through KDP, the question became what other eBook retailers to use. This was the hardest decision.
    • I knew that some readers simply wouldn’t buy my eBooks through Amazon. For example, they might read eBooks only on a Kobo device, which doesn’t read Kindle files, or simply prefer to buy through Apple platforms.
    • However, I also knew I wanted to put my time toward writing and promoting, and not managing too many eBook distribution platforms. I also was interested in KDP Select, in which an eBook is offered exclusively through KDP. In return, the eBook is eligible for special promotional capabilities such as discounts for specified periods and is included in the recent Kindle Unlimited subscription service.
    • In the end, I thought KDP Select offered me sufficient reach for eBook sales. I’m only aware of one sale I’ve lost by not joining other platforms.
  • Arranging print copies has priority. More important, I think, than worrying about how many eBook retailers to use is ensuring that readers can buy print copies of my books at bookstores and on Amazon. That’s a topic for another blog.

Other considerations will be more important to different writers and the considerations will change over time. Every self-published writer will have to spend some time researching the eBook retailer options when she publishes and periodically after.

Right now, simple is better for me. We’ll see what I decide when the next book is ready.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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