Jeremy Gratton, a fellow writer, asked me to make a list of all places where I upload my self-published books once they're ready. Ready for reading, that is. Reading, buying, being used as a doorstopper. Well, I suppose not a doorstopper, because we're talking mostly about digital books here, unless you want to crush your Kindle. Anyway, last year I've written a blog post about navigating self-publishing platforms, but it's a bit outdated, so I suppose a new post is due. On where you put up your glorious baby, your bloodied and checkered and dappled with tears tremolo of a soul, your all and everything and precious and...yeah, I know, I know. But we all feel that way about our books, don't we? I know I do.
Well then. Where the hell do you put it online after everything is said and done? (Or, rather, written and edited and proofread and formatted and stuff?)
On the shiny coruscated Internets, that's where.
Here, let me list places where I put up my books, and the reasons I do it, and how easy or hard it is, and what to expect, in a neat little list, and at the end of it I will tell you where I live and you will come to my house bearing gifts for all this time and trouble I have saved you. Deal?
Note of caution. I'm a bit unorthodox, or, in other way of putting it, I'm a bit weird when it comes to self-publishing books. I do things other writers don't do, or not many do. So what you will read applies to my method of making a fortune writing novels (I'm totally raking up gold by the mounds every morning, I swear). I give away all my e-books for free, I publicly post all my drafts, I don't copyright any of my books, I publish my books under a Creative Commons license (so you can do whatever you want with it, as long as it's not commercial), I dance in tutus... Just saying. Just wanted to mention. Be wary of this, before you start perceiving what I tell you here as some ultimate self-publishing truth. It ain't, okay? I stumble around like a blind puppy and simply try things and learn just like you. Clear? Are we clear on this? Good.
OH, THE PLACES YOUR BOOK WILL GO...
1. Your sparkly chintzy website.
This is the first place I worry about. My website is my online shop. My only place, ideally, where I want my books to appear. Of course, with giants like Amazon and Apple, it's impossible, but it's still the main place where my readers find my stuff, because they come directly to it. I don't do any ads anywhere, so unless people know me, they have little chance of discovering me elsewhere. Just scroll down ROSEHEAD's page and look at the file formats. What I do is, I offer a paperback that I sign and ship (I print via CreateSpace), and free files in the PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats. So far nobody asked for any other formats, so that's about it.
2. CreateSpace (the printing part of Amazon).
You can't ignore Amazon simply because so many people buy books through it. I hardly make money there (I make most money on my site), but I still upload there because people ask. Also, I'm using CreateSpace (a small company that Amazon bought) as my fulfillment center. They print on demand. That is where I order my paperbacks. That is the first place where I go and upload the book file after it's up my site. They accept specifically formatted PDFs for both interior and cover of the book, and I have Stuart format my books and Anna, my daughter, make covers to their specifications. The approval process takes up to 24 hours, and every change you make will take another 24 hours, so be careful about uploading the right files and checking and double-checking the proof before publishing the book. The process can be cumbersome, but they are really good at customer service, so just call them and they'll walk you through it.
3. Kindle Direct Publishing (the digital part of Amazon).
This is the next place I go to. I upload a specifically formatted MOBI file on their site. After about 3-5 business days the book appears as the digital version on Amazon, and after another week or so both print and digital versions link up to one page. So don't fret, it takes a while. Here the approval also takes about 24 hours, but they usually do it faster.
I love Goodreads. My to-read list is on there. And it somehow feels like a library. You will notice that I have their book reviews embedded into my book pages. That is because I like their design look better than that of Amazon, and because I couldn't find a similar widget on Amazon. And I can change colors in the code to match the look of my site, and that is important to me. I want my readers to have a beautiful experience. So I upload on Goodreads for the same reason - for people to add it to their list to read. Be careful, though. Once you upload your book cover, YOU CAN'T CHANGE IT. That's right. Not unless you publish a new edition. I know, it's a pain.
5. iBooks (or iTunes or that Apple thing).
This is the second largest marketplace for books after Amazon, so of course my books go here. You have to download all kinds of software for it, and, surprisingly, despite the great design reputation (I love Apple products and use them, like my iPhone and laptop), the process of putting up the file is so confusing, I often found myself tearing out my hair. Changing things is painful too. I find one solution. I call them with sob stories and they always help me out. I post there because people ask me to, but so far I'm not making much money there.
6. Nook (the Barnes & Noble thing).
Oh, I love them. The easiest online site to upload your book with the easiest way to make changes and best compression algorithm for covers. Just a couple buttons, and you're done, and your book appears on the site in about 24 hours. Why here? My readers, those who have Nooks, asked me to.
I don't know how I came across this one and I can't remember, but it seems to have a good market. One way I have been testing these platforms, I'd go and search for big name books on them. If they were there, I would put my books up there too. For example, I don't use Smashwords because they post your stuff on their behalf, and the automated posting doesn't necessarily look the way I want it to look. I like to give my readers the best options everywhere, so I do it all by hand. Kobo is easy, as easy as Nook.
8. Google Play.
Okay, Google is big, okay? That's why I post it there. No clue how my books do there, but the funny thing is, I went there to look today, and my books got reviews! People actually load it from there. Oh, wait, another reason I post my books on Google Play is because this allows people to find them when they Google them and then search inside. I know I like to do it, so I want to give the same opportunity to others for my books.
This little platform - well, back when I found out about it, it was little - was suggested to me by my teen readers. Actually, they demanded I post it there. That's where people can read your book for free. I'm still not sure how people do it, but they asked, so I did it. And ROSEHEAD...are you ready for this?...ROSEHEAD was read so many times, it got featured there, and now it's been read over 100,000 times! Crazy, right? I have picked up a lot of teen readers there, and I will keep putting up all my books there. Oh, and on every one of my book page I insert their reading widget. It allows people to start reading my book. You know, like on Amazon, "look inside"? That's my way of doing it on my site. Oh, oh! And people leave comments on highlighted sections, and it actually helped me become a better writer! And I love chatting with my readers, answering their questions.
Not sure why I still post here, maybe it's a habit, but it's the site that allows you to print out whatever you choose, so at some point I think someone asked for it. I looked, saw that Chuck Palahniuk posts his stuff there, and did the same. I will keep posting it there, simply because it's easy. You just upload a PDF, and you're done.
You might be scratching your head now. All these places to post! What a pain! Why? I'll tell you why. And it's a formula I have been following from the start.
PUT YOUR BOOKS WHERE YOUR READERS ASK YOU TO.
That's what I did. Start small. Put up your stuff on Amazon, because it's the biggest fish in the pool. And go from there. People will tell you where they want to see your books. Until then, save yourself time and energy and spend it instead on writing more books. You want at least 10 books in your portfolio by the time one of them blows up. It doesn't have to be a big blow up. It can be small. But people will want to read everything else you wrote, and if you have nothing to show, they will leave you and forget about you and move on. But if you have a bunch of good stuff, you will get them hooked on your style and quite possibly make them into life-long fans.
And that is what you want. A handful of people - in fact, 1000 is enough to make a living - who love everything you write. They will market your books for you, telling their friends to read them, while you will spend your time where it belongs: WRITING MORE BOOKS.
P.S.: You can send your gifts here.