There are a lot of reasons to self publish, and a lot of reasons to go the traditional route. If you are willing to do a lot of work yourself, then self publishing might be a good fit for you. Or maybe you want to self publish for another reason?
Either way, once you have decided to self publish, the next step is to figure out where and how you will get your book out there.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Yes, Amazon is getting it’s own section in this list. There are several services that will upload your work to multiple retailers for you, but many of them don’t have Amazon on their list. Amazon is different and stubborn enough you will probably just want to upload directly to them yourself without using third party services. Don’t be afraid, this task is not as daunting as it sounds. Head on over to the website and you can get started in minutes, fill in all of the information, and, after a brief approval process, your book will start to appear on Amazon as a Kindle download.
It’s really easy, with fairly easy to read reports and as the largest ebook retailer you will not go wrong. As long as you keep your book in the $2.99 to $9.99 price range, you receive 70% of your cover price. If you go outside that range you will only get 35%.
Select is a special program you can enroll in after you upload your book to KDP. To be in Select you have to agree to keep your digital book exclusive with Amazon, for 90 days at a time. In exchange, your book will be listed in the Kindle Online Lending Library (KOLL), which includes the Kindle Unlimited subscription service. You will also be given access to promotion services, the option to give your book away for 5 days (out of every 90), or have other sales.
There is a lot of talk about if this is worth it or not. Many people say that having their book in KOLL gets them more money than all of the other distribution services combined. Others say that it’s good to diversify. It’s up to you.
Personally, I didn’t find that many readers through KOLL, but so far my works are all short stories and I’m a new author. Your mileage may vary, but as the contract is only for 90 days, you can test it out and see how it works for you.
Retail Distribution Services
There are several services that will upload your book to multiple retailers, saving you a lot of time and work, for a price. Usually these services will take 15% of what they receive from the retailers, and then send you the rest. This means you get an average of about 60% of the cover price of your book. You can use all of these services, just make sure that you don’t have more than one service delivering a book to the same retailer, as things may get confusing.
Draft 2 Digital
Draft 2 Digital is an easy service to use, with a simple UI, and some great features. Upload your word document to them and they will create your ebook format for you, including options to add front and back matter. If you have already done the work to create an epub, then you can upload that instead. They will still give you the options to add front and back matter.
After you upload your document you get to choose the distribution sources you want, and then just sit back and wait. Within 24 hours my book was up on the Barns & Noble Nook website. Within 3 days my book was on all of the retailers supported by Draft 2 Digital.
Draft 2 Digital does not have as many distribution channels as other options, but they have an incredibly simple UI (User Interface), easy to read reports, and extremely easy upload and conversion process. They do take 15% of what they receive from the distribution channels and they don’t have a way to sell your books directly through Draft 2 Digital.
Smashwords is just about opposite of Draft 2 Digital in every way possible. Their UI is bulky, but not too hard to understand, but the upload process through their “meat grinder” requires you to be extremely specific in how you upload your word document. And by specific, I mean it comes with a 117 page manual. (I kid you not…) They do, however, have a lot more distribution channels, some of which are incredibly hard to get into yourself (i.e. scribd), and they let you sell your ebook directly through Smashwords.
You keep 85% of what’s sold through smashwords directly, but for any sales done through the distribution channels they keep the same 15% as the other services. They also let you have discount codes so you can give away slips with free or cheap downloads to those who buy your book at conventions. This is cool!
If you want to skip the meat grinder process, they do have the ability to upload an epub directly, but their review and approval process is incredibly slow. When I attempted this my book was stuck in “pending” status for 3 months before I gave up on it. I couldn’t figure out who to contact either.
So, if you’re willing to do a lot of work to let smashwords format your book, this may be the way to go. Then again, it might be just as easy to distribute your book through the other platforms directly. But again, you may have a different experience with Smashwords.
I would, however, recommend uploading an epub to smashwords in almost any case (except if using kdp select, of course) just so you can have those discount codes as a way to help promote your book. I’m going to do this so I can give a free ebook download to anybody who buys a paperback book at my table at the next convention. I’ll let you know how that works out. If you are not distributing your epub then it doesn’t have to go through the pending process that my book got stuck in.
Along with ebook distribution there are several ways to get physical copies of your books. I only have experience with one, so for now that’s all I’m going to talk about. I’ll add more as I try them out.
Create Space lets you get paperback copies of your book on demand. The process is fairly easy. I did run into some issues with my book not being formatted correctly the first time so the margins were huge, but it didn’t take too long to fix that once I started to dig in. You will get to see a digital representation of the book after you upload it, and then you have to buy a proof copy.
Receiving the proof copy in the mail, holding it in your hands, with that professional looking book cover that you made, is amazing!
The only thing you will want to know with Create Space is that shipping is expensive. It gets cheaper if you ship in bulk, though, so placing a large order (30, 50, or more) will cut into your book profit margins less than only ordering 10 books. And the cheaper shipping options are rather slow, so expect to wait a couple of weeks unless you shell out a lot of money for 3 day shipping.
It will take a couple of days for your book to appear on Amazon once you select that distribution channel, and then another day or two for Amazon to notice that this book matches your ebook and link them in the same product page.
Some of the distribution services (such as Draft 2 Digital) will do this for you, but I recommend manually uploading to create space. Granted, I haven’t tried using Draft 2 Digital to take care of my create space upload, but my paperback and ebook copies are all slightly different (I move the front matter to the back in the ebooks, for one), they have different covers, and it’s just a different enough product that costs money to produce that I want to manage it myself instead of letting an automated process take care of it.
I am in the process of trying out several retailers directly (instead of using a distribution service such as Smashwords or Draft 2 Digital), and will add my thoughts on them as I can.
What other services do you recommend for distributing your book?