Your book is written, edited, and ready to go… but how exactly will you put it in the hands of your eager audience? Before self-publishing a book, you’ll have to decide how and where you want to distribute it. Your decision will depend on your goals: Do you want to promote your blog and build your email newsletter? Or maybe you’re trying to grow your reputation as an industry expert, get speaking gigs, or simply earn a more passive income. Think carefully as you make your decision, and your book will help you to accomplish all your goals.
First: Free vs. Paid
Before deciding where to publish your book, it’s worth considering whether you want to give it away, or charge for your words.
Giving Away Your Book For Free
Giving away your book for free is a good option to help you promote your website or build your email list. But be careful about giving away your book: you want to make sure that it’s actually achieving those goals. If your goal is to build your email list, you must make sure the topic is highly relevant and useful for your ideal subscribers. Offer your book only to new email subscribers – don’t make it available anywhere else. Or, you can decide to offer your book for free on a publishing platform such as Amazon KDP in order to reach a new audience and promote your blog. In order for the content to be more closely linked to you and your blog, be sure to keep your branding intact by using cohesive graphics that match your blog, writing in your own unique style, placing a header/footer with your name and blog URL on every page, linking back to your blog within the book, etc. If you do decide to make your book free on a publishing platform, you can promote it using the following tools:
- Indie Book of the Day: Authors submit their book two days before it is available or promote your book before it actually goes free on their “Soon to be Free” page.
- Digital Book Today: Authors can list their book for up to four days.
- Ignite Your Book: Only free books are promoted and can only be featured for a total of 14 days.
- One Hundred Free eBooks (OHFB): Featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, TIME and Edudemic; this website has a large following a reputable history.
- Ereader News Today: Books must be at least 125 pages, except children’s books, cookbooks and nonfiction.
- Free Book Dude: Authors are only allowed to submit a book once every thirty days.
- The Reader Cafe: Books that are submitted must have a minimum of three reviews of four or more stars.
Selling Your Book
But while giving away your book is an option, we’re focusing on selling books in this blog post. After all, self publishing is kind of “level up” from your blogging career. It allows you to create a more passive income than your blog, and is more prestigious. As a book author, you’ll get more opportunities to stand out in front of the crowd with opportunities such as book promotion events and speaking gigs, and market yourself and your blog. (Need advice on pricing? Check out Lori’s post on Are You Charging Enough for Your Products and Services?) If you’re selling your book, there are plenty of ways to go about it! Here are just a few:
1. On Your Own Website
Selling your book on your own website is the easiest way, since you don’t have to worry about strict formatting requirements, low royalties, or learning how to use a whole new platform. Usually, you can set a price for an e-book much higher on your own website. On Amazon, people tend to expect certain prices. Many readers will balk at having to fork out more than $5 for a Kindle book. But popular bloggers often charge anywhere from $20 to $100 for e-books on their own websites. The downside to selling your book on your own site is the marketing and promotion. If no one reads your blog or visits your website, you’ll never sell a single book. So, you’ll have to make sure you already have an engaged audience who’s willing to pay for your book.
Tools for Selling Your Book on Your Website
- E-Junkie: A popular tool to sell digital goods for many years. There’s a monthly subscription fee, but no setup fee, no transaction fee, no bandwidth fee, no transaction limit and no bandwidth limit.
- Gumroad: Packages start at $10 a month and include unlimited bandwidth, and payments are just 3.5% + $0.30 per charge.
- WooCommerce: For WordPress websites. Comes bundled with PayPal for accepting payments.
- Shopify: Authors have the choice of multiple online monthly packages.
- Selz: Easily create a digital product store to add to your existing website (or just host it with Selz).
With Amazon publishing, you have two choices: Amazon KDP to publish an e-book for Kindle, or Amazon CreateSpace for publishing physical books.
CreateSpace by Amazon allows authors to independently publish their books. Here’s what you can expect when choosing to work with CreateSpace:
- Royalties: Authors earn royalties every time a book is printed to fulfill a new customer order.
- Publishing tools: The interior reviewer tool lets you see formatting issues with your content, while the cover creator allows authors to design an original cover online.
- Wide distribution options: Make your book available through Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, Kindle, and Expanded Distribution options (including Barnes & Noble and other sellers).
- Add-on services: They also offer in-house design, editing, and marketing services.
CreateSpace by Amazon is a good choice because it will help you to reach a broad audience. With over 300 million active users, Amazon has a massive following compared to its competitors.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows authors to publish their books in less than five minutes and have it available for purchase in as little as 24-48 hours. You will have full control of your book, setting a price that you decide on and the ability to make changes to your book whenever you feel fit. Lastly, authors earn up to 70% royalty on sales to customers in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and more.
With KDP, there’s another option you can choose called Kindle Select. If you choose to enroll your book in KDP Select, you commit to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. Authors that enroll in KDP Select will earn higher royalties, reaching a new audience, and are able to run their own promotions.
Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. The Smashwords online bookstore has a built-in audience, and they’ll also distribute your book for you to Apple, Barnes & Noble US and UK, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo, and more. Here’s what you can expect when working with Smashwords:
- Quick and easy e-book distribution to most of the world’s largest e-book retailers
- Free tools for marketing, distribution, metadata management and sales reporting
- Complete control over the sampling, pricing and marketing of their written works (including the ability to create coupons)
- All author contracts with Smashwords are non-exclusive. The author retains all ownership rights to their work and are still free to publish their work elsewhere
- Smashwords provides a free ISBN number (these can normally cost hundreds of dollars, believe it or not!). An ISBN number is required for distribution to major retailers and library partners such as iBooks, Kobo, Gardners, Tolino and Odilo.
But one downside to Smashwords is that they have very strict formatting requirements that many authors have trouble with, due to the vague error-reporting system. For Smashwords, it may be worth looking into hiring an expert to edit it for you. This usually costs less than $100. It’s free to publish on Smashwords. However, their commission is 10% of the retail price for sales through their retail distribution network (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.) and library distribution network (Baker & Taylor Axis360, OverDrive, and others coming). At the Smashwords Store, their commission is 15% of the net for regular sales and 18.5% for sales that are originated by affiliate marketers.
Lulu allows authors, educators, artists, and nonprofits a platform to create, publish, and sell their books to major retailers for free. What to expect when publishing with Lulu:
- Lulu makes your books available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, the Lulu.com bookstore and many other retailers.
- Marketing tools such as author spotlight, how-to guides and other tutorials as well as a range of paid services.
- Revenue tracking: authors will receive payments every month and are able to keep track of all creator revenue by sales channel.
- Discounts available on mass distribution orders.
- Lulu only offers 3 cover options and does not have any built in photo editing tools.
Royalties and pricing vary from book to book based on the size, whether it is hardcover or paperback, color or black and white, and whether it is print or ebook. The retailers you choose to distribute to will also factor into royalties and pricing. For example, if you sell a 6×9, 200 page, black and white paperback on Lulu’s website, the list price will be $14.95, Lulu’s share will be $1.94, and your total profit will be $7.76 (just over 50% of the list price).
Kobo focuses primarily on eBook publications, versus its competitors who offer both print and eBook options. What to expect when working with Kobo:
- Kobo Writing Life will automatically reformat Word, OpenOffice, or Mobi files into ePubs (industry standards for eBooks) for free.
- Authors do not need an ISBN to publish on Kobo’s catalog, but you can purchase one if you want to.
- You can track book sales by region or eBook with Kobo’s Dashboard Dynamics.
- You can select particular regions for book sales.
Royalties/pricing: Kobo will pay authors in their particular currency and by direct deposit monthly once they have earned more than $50. If this payment threshold isn’t met, they issue payments biannually.
How Will You Sell Your Book?
Distribution is something to put careful thought into, especially if you have big goals for your book! It’s important to research various self publishing companies in order to find the perfect fit for your particular needs. Next up in the self publishing series, “How to Self Publish Your Book #4: Designing and Formatting Your Book”!