Where Should You Publish Your Book? by Erin Elizabeth Long

April 15, 2013

Lots of information ahead. But first, a cartoon!

Barnes & Noble recently rebranded its self-publishing portal, changing the name from “PubIt!” (which, because I am immature, always pronounced “pube-it”) to “NOOK Press.” (Sidebar: Is “NOOK” actually an acronym? If not, why it is in all caps?) David Gaughran speculated that the move is part of a larger plan to sell off the Barnes & Noble brand while maintaining the lucrative NOOK brand. Even if that’s not the case, I think the rebranding was a smart move. They added an online editing tool that looks pretty neat, although perhaps not as beautiful or shiny as Apple’s iBooks Author. What’s less exciting, however, is that you can no longer update or correct an eBook on NOOK Press without losing your reviews, ratings, and sales rank.

There are a dizzying number of platforms and distributors for your indie book. Here’s my  take on some of the major players. Please note that the following constitutes my opinion, based on my personal experience and/or research that I’ve done online. Platforms which I have personally used are marked with an asterisk.

Wattpad*

  • No royalties paid; all books are free
  • Ability to connect with an active community of readers
  • Post works-in-progress or serialize your book
  • Bottom Line: Best for getting initial feedback on a WIP, or to gain fans by posting selected content for free

Amazon KDP*

  • 70% royalties 65% royalties on $2.99-9.99 books, 30% on books priced under or over that limit
  • KDP select program allows for promotion and Prime member borrowing, but it requires exclusivity for at least three months.
  • Largest market share of eBooks
  • Books are sold in Amazon’s proprietary .mobi format (won’t work on NOOK, but an app is available for iPad)
  • Amazon seems dedicated to promoting its self-published authors, often features success stories on home page
  • You cannot set the price as “free” unless you use a promotional day through KDP select
  • Bottom Line: You should publish with KDP. Whether you decide to use Amazon exclusively depends on how well you do in other markets, but you don’t want to miss out on the lion’s share of readers who shop via Kindle.

NOOK Press*

  • 65% royalties on $2.99-9.99 books, 40% on books priced under or over that limit
  • 2nd-largest market share of eBooks
  • Online writing tool (write your book directly in the browser)
  • Ability to invite beta readers (collaborators) to read and comment on an unpublished work
  • Inability to edit a title after it has been published without losing reviews, ratings, or rankings
  • Platform is, at the time of this post, rather buggy, but when it does work, it’s easier than the old PubIt! site.
  • Bottom Line: Unless you go all-in with Amazon, you should definitely consider publishing directly with NOOK Press…just make sure that the manuscript you upload won’t need any changes.

Apple iBooks Author

  • 70% royalties for all price points
  • Gorgeous Mac-only app for creating books (including full-color templates)
  • Projects in the .ibooks format created with the app can only be sold in the iBookstore (as opposed to selling them directly from your own site)
  • Bottom Line: A good choice only if you’re a die-hard Mac devotee and plan to sell exclusively on iTunes, or if you want to create a graphics-heavy, interactive project instead of a text-based eBook

Smashwords*

  • 74% royalties through Smashwords’ store, 60/30/10 split for author/retailer/Smashwords for all other sales
  • Distributes to Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Page Foundry, as well as their own online store
  • Allows you to set price as free
  • Allows creation of coupon codes for promotions
  • “Meatgrinder” crunches your eBook file into a variety of popular formats
  • Offers no peripheral services like formatting, editing, or cover design, but does maintain a message board for freelancers
  • Bottom Line: If your goal is to distribute to as many potential readers as possible, then Smashwords is worthwhile. The convenience of managing one dashboard instead of eight is worth 10%, in my opinion. 

Lulu

  • ebook and Print-on-Demand services available
  • Encourages authors to buy expensive (and uneccesary) publishing packages
  • Distributes only to B&N, iBookstore, and their own online store
  • Bottom Line: To be avoided. Distribution channels are limited and customer service is allegedly a nightmare. 

Vook

  • Royalties from Amazon at 43.2%, Barnes & Noble at 50%, and iBookstore at 70%
  • Ability to incorporate multimedia into eBooks
  • They supply copy editing, cover design, and book layout for an upfront fee which varies from book to book.
  • Distributes to iBookstore, Amazon, and B&N
  • Bottom Line: I’m not sure what Vook does that you (or a good freelancer) can’t do for yourself. When they first started out, they charged a flat monthly fee (about $10) and paid out 100% of net royalties. They’ve changed their pricing model–and perhaps even business model–a couple of times since then. 

Bookbaby

  • Distributes to all the major retailers (Amazon, B&N, iBookstore) plus a number of minor stores not covered by Smashwords
  • Author must provide their own files in the proper formats; extra fee for conversion from Word or PDF
  • Charges an upfront fee ($99 per book + $19.99 a year), but the author keeps 100% of net royalties
  • Offers add-on services such as cover design and also print runs
  • ISBNs cost $19; usually free on other platforms
  • Bottom Line: If you’re comfortable doing your own conversion work, and if you believe that you’ll be selling enough copies to break even (at $2.99, that’s about 400 copies per book, per year), then this may be a good choice.

Kobo Writinglife*

  • Really nice, clean interface
  • Uploading a book requires more effort–had to convert the Word file to an HTML file to get it to work
  • Has a very small market share compared to Amazon and B&N
  • Bottom Line: Although it is very elegantly designed, Kobo simply doesn’t move enough eBooks to make managing a separate dashboard worth it.

My Distribution Plan

I’ve experimented with both direct distribution and third-part distributors, and from my experience, managing more than three or four dashboards isn’t worth the effort. I’m willing to pay a distributor a small fee to streamline the process–especially since it makes getting paid and filing taxes much simpler. I’ve tried KDP Select in the past, but I didn’t make very good use of it. (Pro Tip: Since Amazon Prime members only get to borrow one book per month, they aren’t going to waste it on a $.99 short story. Live and learn.) Using what I’ve learned, here’s how I plan to distribute my books in the future:

  1. Upload my shiny new book to KDP and enroll it in KDP Select for three months. Make strategic use of my free promotion days to increase visibility and get reviews.
  2. At the same time, use Amazon Createspace (a print-on-demand company) to offer a trade paperback. KDP Select only restricts eBook distribution, not print.
  3. After three months, step down from KDP Select. Expand channels by distributing directly to NOOK Press and using Smashwords to distribute to minor retailers.
  4. Monitor sales. If I find that I’m selling more than 400 copies of each title through Smashwords channels, I may consider switching to a flat-fee, 100% royalty model such as Bookbaby.

This plan will work best for novels and short story anthologies. For individual stories, which I price at $.99, I intend to skip steps one & two and go directly to three.

So, how do you distribute your books? Leave a comment below.

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You can find more information about the author and the original post on Erin Elizabeth Long’s website.

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5 thoughts on “Where Should You Publish Your Book? by Erin Elizabeth Long

  1. Interesting discussion. some of these I never heard of. (Bookbaby?) I just went through about 9 months of pulling my books from other sites, and putting them on KDP. It was worth it, but the well goes dry, and then you have to put them back up again. LIke the article states, using Pubit, Amazon, Smashwords, works well. For paperback, I have been very happy with Createspace.

    I didn’t notice a huge difference when pubit changed to Nook, but it did make me pay more attention to Barnes and Noble. As for the ‘inability to edit a title after it has been published without losing reviews, ratings, or rankings’ on B&N, I am probably not understanding this, but from my experience, you can edit a manuscript and load it back up and replace without losing a thing. This is the same with Amazon.

    I’m getting close to my first Non-fiction book, and plan to start with Amazon KDP until it runs dry, and then expand elsewhere.

  2. Awesome post! I’m definitely loving the KDP concept, because I’ve heard it’s worked out amazingly for a number of authors, and hey, you’re only locked in for three measly months, right? 🙂 Hadn’t heard of some of the other sites, but good to know!!!

  3. Pingback: Choosing where to publish | Rebecca Hurd

  4. Pingback: A free copy, as promised | Jaye Em Edgecliff

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