Choices for Publishing, 2017 Edition

publish buttonI admit it. When it comes to where and how I publish my books, I’ve been on autopilot for the past several years – I put all of my eBooks in KDP Select and publish my paperbacks with CreateSpace. So when someone in the IU Fans Facebook group asked what alternatives exist today for indies who don’t want to put their books into KDP Select, I figured it was time to do a little digging.

It turns out that not much has changed in the three years since we last looked at publishing choices. Indies still basically have four options for eBook publishing: Amazon’s KDP, Apple’s iBooks, Nook Press, and Kobo.

Earlier this year, Author Earnings released a report showing Amazon is far and away the leader, with more than 80 percent of English-language eBook sales worldwide – both indie and traditionally-published – and 91 percent of indie eBook sales. iBooks is in the number-two slot. Nook Press is third, but only in the US; elsewhere, it’s not even a blip on the radar screen. Kobo does very well overseas, but is outsold by Google Play in the US.

So if you’re looking for the biggest audience for your work, Amazon is still the place to be. Now, that doesn’t mean you must be exclusive to the Zon; you can opt out of Select and go wide via a distributor like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. The guys at Author Earnings acknowledge there’s no easy answer here. But they do point out: “KindleUnlimited has grown into a Top-3 ebook retail channel in its own right; KU is now paying indie authors twice as many dollars as Barnes&Noble’s Nook is paying to all publishers combined. To completely ignore a retail channel of that size makes zero sense.”

One more point: Nook Press got some bad press in August when it began locking authors out of their accounts for alleged violations of the terms of service. The Digital Reader reports those accounts are being slowly reinstated.

As for paperback publishing, the top dogs these days are still CreateSpace, IngramSpark, and Lulu. IngramSpark is drawing a lot of interest, and I’ve heard some indies talk about publishing with both them and CreateSpace. IngramSpark has better terms with brick-and-mortar bookstores (they will buy back books that don’t sell – CreateSpace won’t) and CreateSpace has faster distribution to Amazon.

However, as of this year, we have a new player in Amazon’s print book service. RJ Crayton recently wrote about her experience there, so I won’t go into detail – other than to say that many indies are finding the inability to order a proof copy through Amazon’s new platform to be a deal-breaker for them. Amazon owns CreateSpace, too, and you have to wonder whether Amazon intends for CreateSpace to go dark eventually.

Also new since our last update is a slightly expanded list of publishers for hardcover editions of your book. For a long time, only Lulu would do hardcovers for print-on-demand books; now, IngramSpark and BookBaby also offer them.

That’s pretty much the state of things these days, and I’m relieved. I’m not as far behind the times as I thought. Whew!

One more thing: As always, if someone wants you to pay them to publish your book, RUN. Run far and run fast. Vanity presses might work okay for ten copies of a book of Aunt Edna’s favorite recipes, but they are not viable publishing platforms if you want to make any money in this business.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

20 thoughts on “Choices for Publishing, 2017 Edition”

  1. One place that wasn’t mentioned, and I think needs to be is Pronoun, it’s a distributor like Draft2Digital and Smashwords with a few differences; unlike the other 2 Pronoun can get your books into Amazon and Google Play, so if using KDP is out of the question, it is a good option on that score (I use it because past issues prevent me having a KDP account).
    In addition Pronoun doesn’t charge either a fee or a percentage for using their service, I know, it sounds too good to be true, but they don’t. They are backed by MacMillan, and they have a few helpful options when publishing through them, such as assistance in picking categories and keywords, and they provide regular email suggestions for changes you could make to your categories that would enable you to rank higher.
    A big thing for me is they have the capacity to list a book as free on Amazon, which is something no-one else, including KDP, can do. If you want to put a book out for free, like the first title in a series (I have done this) being able to list the book for free instead of trying to get Amazon to price match it makes all the difference.

      1. You really should check out Pronoun. There are several benefits to using them, including 70% royalties even on $.99 books on amazon. They are very responsive to suggestions/comments/ideas from authors/indie press… which is a heck of a lot more than one can say about amazon.

      2. Really helpful post, Lynne. I too am feeling massively out of date, so thank you!

        I agree with the two others who commented about Pronoun. My proofreader/formatter has used them for a couple of her books and is really pleased. I must find out more about them.

  2. Very nice summary, Lynne, thanks. My e-books are in KDP Select, but I’ve been printing with Lulu since 2010, and while I’m very happy with their paperbacks, I would add that their hardbacks are prohibitively expensive. I only tried hardbacks once, about four years ago now, so it might have changed, but if you want hardbacks from Lulu, you really, really need to get your credit card limit raised first.

    1. I’ve never bothered with hardbacks for exactly that reason, Chris. But I know some authors don’t think they’ve arrived ’til they have one of those with their name on the cover. 😉

  3. Great post, as always, Lynne. I’ve spent the last three months on a learning curve with CreateSpace and I’ve discovered two things – CS is great for Amazon, not so great for non-US Indies. The cost and lead time to get proof copies from the US to Australia is rather surprising, in a not-so-good way. The books themselves are very cheap but the postage can cost 4 times the cost of each book. That’s why I’m about to investigate IngramSpark here in Australia. Their per book cost is more than that for CS but the cheap postage means I’ll probably be sourcing all my local needs from them. By local I mean samples for local bookshops, signings, competitions, and gifts for friends and family. As Indies, we can cherry pick the best of both worlds. 😀

    1. I’m very surprised that CS hasn’t yet partnered with a printer in Australia, Meeks. They’ve certainly been around long enough. And I can imagine the postage costs from the US would be crazy. If IngramSpark has a local print shop, I’d think that would be the way for you to go. Good luck! 🙂

  4. Great information, Lynne.

    My question: Does anyone sell their books from their own websites in various formats using calibre to save them in various formats? Several years ago, I have seen heard other authors do this and I’m wondering if they still do, in what formats, what form of payment do they take, and how popular or not would it be to do this?


    1. Thanks, Jacqueline!

      I had a page on my website for selling signed paperbacks at one time. Most of my eBooks are in Select, so I wouldn’t be able to sell them directly anyway. But maybe someone here does it…

  5. I’m spoiled. I’m American – which makes KU and Amazon and CreateSpace easy.

    But I sometimes wonder – and now you’ve done the research, and I don’t have to.

    Much obliged – it takes a lot of energy to produce this kind of post. It is good to know that, with my limited energy, I’m not missing a lot of potential sales by not being wide.

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