Last week, we talked about publishing your ebook by uploading your file to a distributor such as Smashwords or Draft 2 Digital. There are valid arguments for letting a distributor do the job for you. For one thing, you only have to upload to one place (well, two places – more on that in a sec), which means that you only have to prep one electronic version of your book. And when you need to correct the inevitable typos, you only have to upload the corrected file to one place.
But there are disadvantages, too. For example, a distributor won’t pay you for your sales until the merchant has paid them, and merchants don’t update the distributor in real time. For another, you are going to get a smaller royalty if you use a distributor, because the distributor is going to take their cut before they pay you. Let’s use Barnes & Noble as an example. If you upload your book directly to Nook Press, B&N will pay you 65 percent of your list price (assuming your list price is between $2.99 and $9.99). If you put Smashwords in the middle, B&N will pay Smashwords 65 percent of your list price; Smashwords will pay you 60 percent of list, and keep the other 5 percent for its trouble. And while Smashwords pays quarterly – and must wait for B&N to report sales to them first – Nook Press pays 60 days after you’ve made a sale (although, like Smashwords, you must accumulate $10 in sales before they’ll pay you anything).
You should also keep in mind that you’re going to have to prepare a separate file for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) anyway, because KDP doesn’t play nice with any distributors. So you may decide that it’s worth the hassle to cut out the middleman and prepare separate files for each retailer. Your call.
Let’s run down the Big Five:
KDP: Say what you will about Amazon (and rest assured that you’re not the first to say it), they are the Mighty Favog of eBook sellers. If you’ve prepped your file using the Smashwords Style Guide, you’re nearly there; run Find-and-Replace in Word to swap “Kindle” for “Smashwords”, and you’re set. KDP pays 60 days after sale, and unlike everybody else, they now send you a payment regardless of whether you’ve accumulated $10 worth of sales.
Out of all the individual retailers, KDP offers the best opportunities for indies to promote their books. The downside is that in order to take advantage of most of them, you have to enroll your book in KDP Select (sometimes abbreviated KDPS). Enrollment in Select is not required. But if you do enroll, you can make your book free for five days out of every 90, or set it up for a Countdown promotion once every 90 days. Amazon Prime members will also be able to borrow your book for free as part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library (which is not the same thing as Kindle Unlimited).
Nook Press: Barnes & Noble is probably the next biggest book retailer after Amazon, at least in the U.S., and Nook Press (which used to be known as PubIt!) is B&N’s indie publishing platform. Their system is a little wonky – or it was, the last time I used it – but the upload process is similar to KDP’s.
Good luck, though, if you have a problem with your uploads or payments, or anything else. Nook Press’s customer service is notoriously hard to get hold of.
Kobo Writing Life: Kobo is the up-and-coming eBook device outside the U.S. They started their own publishing platform for indie authors in 2012. At one time, Kobo expected indies to provide their own ISBNs. Kobo is headquartered in Canada, and I guess they didn’t realize that Americans have to pay a third party to get an ISBN (Canadians get theirs ISBNs free from their government). Nowadays, if you don’t have an ISBN for your book, Kobo will give it an internal stock number (similar to KDP’s ASIN).
Last year, Kobo dropped the upper limit on their royalty rates. If you price your Kobo book higher than $9.99, you’ll earn 70 percent of the list price. Amazon still pays 35 percent of list for books priced over $9.99.
iBooks: Some folks in the industry believe iBooks is the only eBook seller that could realistically give Amazon a run for its money. If you have a Mac, you’re in good shape for publishing to iBooks – you can download an app from Apple that will walk you through the whole process. If you have a PC, as far as I know, you will have to go through a distributor to make your eBook available from iBooks. If anybody knows of a work-around for PC users, please let us know in the comments.
So the choice is yours. You can publish your eBook via KDP and a distributor, or five separate retailers, or some mixture of the two. And remember, if your first choice ends up not working out for you, you can always change your mind and do something else. Good luck!