I've recently discovered an amazing number of self-publishing platforms and have sat down in horror, holding my head with both hands and staring at the wall, because instead of a simple choice of distributing my books everywhere (the plan was to post Siren Suicides for free, like, everywhere) I was suddenly faced with an impossible task of trying to decide where to do it, without knowing exactly what platform does what, and without having ample time to test each, to be sure. So, what I will do in this blog post is kind of run through the skinny on them all and some other curious practical things that I discovered by accident while posting Blue Sparrow for free everywhere, and then maybe will do a follow up post, to give you an idea of what's out there and what to expect, in case you're a self-publishing newbie like me.
The book market break-down. Before we jump into the million gazillion of little guys, let's take a look at the entire ebook market, and, I mean, ebook market, because bookstores are largely not very accessible to self-publishing authors as we rely on folks like Amazon (if you bought extended distribution) or on the fact that your novel sells like crazy (cause then they're suddenly interested). Therefore I'm largely looking into distributing my ebooks everywhere first and foremost (I only sell paperbacks via Amazon and in my store right now). The numbers are very simple. About 50% goes to Amazon/Kindle, about 20% to Apple/iPad, about 20% to B&N/Nook, and the rest of the 10% is divided between smaller guys like Kobo and others. Now, these numbers might be off a bit as I simply did a quick and dirty Google search on the topic, but it sounds about right. According to this, your goal is to get on Amazon (a must), on iBookstore and Barnes & Noble (would be great), and maybe on smaller sites, if you have time. Now comes the interesting part, namely, how the hell do you do that?
Self-publishing platforms. The current path for many self-publishing writers is, of course, CreateSpace to Amazon (via Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP), unless you don't plan to sell paperbacks and want to go digital only, then you can go directly to KDP. But did you know that you can publish to Amazon from other self-publishing platforms? Until last week, I didn't. Did you also know that if you're not careful, you can actually double-publish to several platforms? Yeah, happened to me with Blue Sparrow. I didn't understand this whole process and stuck my book everywhere. Well, I posted in on Smashwords and Lulu, and both distributed it to iBookstore, and then when I posted on Kobo, I realized that Smashwords posted on Kobo already, so again I ended up with double posts, because I already by hand uploaded to Kobo. Several days ago I stumbled on an amazing start-up Tablo Publishing founded by a 19 year old photographer who wanted to create a pain-free beautiful place for authors to self-publish their books anywhere they want, because there is currently no single place from where you can publish to everywhere. I chatted with the CEO, who is 20 now, and I'll be trying them out, plugging into their process, asking questions, suggesting things, and such, and will report to you, of course, but for now I'm still going to post Siren Suicides for free everywhere myself by hand. For your convenience, here is the list of self-publishing platforms and a little blurb for each. Check them out and decide for yourself what you like and what you don't (bear in mind, some of them are free, some combo free/paid, and some paid only):
- Amazon's KDP. Free. They're the big guys, so you want to be here.
- Smashwords. Free. They will distribute your books to Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, etc.
- Lulu. Free/Paid. They will post to Amazon, Apple, and B&N. Nice interface.
- The rest of the little guys (some are not for novels but rather for short stories, some are not strictly for distribution, some are free, some paid, so check them out): BookTango, Ebookit!, BookBaby, Vook, PressBooks, Draft2Digital, Kobo, ReadMill, Scribd, WidBook, Rhovit, ReadWave, Libboo, Authorgraph, Lelivro, WattPad, Tablo Publishing.
So whom should you use? Well, the big guys, of course! Until a solid trustworthy contender emerges, Amazon rules. So far the only beautiful promise I have seen is Tablo Publishing, and that's why I want to work with them. They don't offer printing books yet, for example, but they will. My biggest struggle with CreateSpace is the quality of printed books, I want it to look a certain way, but I have no control, unless I use an expensive printing company. I will proceed posting Siren Suicides on most of the above mentioned sites and will let you know how it goes. For now my principle is very simple: to spend most of my time writing, and as I have time in the evenings, slowly post it everywhere. My thinking is, once I start cranking out stuff worth spreading, it will spread itself. Until then all I can do is, keep writing.
I hope this gives you enough of an idea on how to navigate this crazy self-publishing maze, and at least gives you one place to which you can come back to, to check out links (I know I will be using this post for this purpose). If I've missed some self-publishing platform, please post it in the comments!