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Where Should You Self-Publish Your Book?
Maybe you’ve written a book. (That’s amazing, by the way.) Maybe you’re thinking about writing a book.
Or maybe you’ve self-published before, and you’re wondering if the option you used is still the best option for you. After all, book publishing is dynamic.
The best place for you to publish depends on which type of book you’ve written and which marketing ideas (if any) you have in mind (or you’re willing to try with earnest).
99.9% of self-published authors should be thinking one main word: AMAZON.
However, there are different ways to go about making your self-published book available on Amazon.
Even if you get most of your sales from Amazon, there are other ways to help supplement the sales that you draw from Amazon. And there are a few self-published authors who are highly successful with other sales channels.
Which Self-Publishing Options are Best for You?
That depends. First of all, there are different types of books that you can publish.
- E-books. This is the most affordable option for customers. Most self-published novels sell better in digital format, but there are many other types of books that also sell very well as e-books.
- Paperbacks. There are many nonfiction books, such as guides or educational books, where customers like to highlight and annotate. Paperbacks also make for better gifts. They also provide a few marketing opportunities, like sales to local bookstores or libraries and book signings.
- Hardcovers. Many parents prefer this for children’s picture books, for example.
- Both print and digital. Congratulations! You picked the ‘correct’ answer. Maximize your market by publishing your book both in print and as an e-book.
Where should you self-publish your e-book?
- Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This is a must. This makes your book available in the Amazon Kindle store, where most customers shop for e-books.
- The other guys. You could visit Nook Press, Kobo Writing Life, and a host of other places, but it’s much more convenient to choose an e-book aggregator like Smashwords or Draft2Digital.
- Option (C): Just KDP _or_ KDP + Smashwords (or Draft2Digital). That is the question. You see, Amazon dangles this choice before your eyes, which is called KDP Select. If you enroll your e-book in KDP Select, you’re not allowed to publish your e-book with Nook, Kobo, Smaswhords, Draft2Digital, or anywhere else (unless and until you successfully opt out of KDP Select, and also wait for your current 90-day enrollment period to end). So you must choose: Will you publish your e-book with Amazon KDP only (to reap the benefits of KDP Select), or will you publish your e-book everywhere you can (staying out of KDP Select)? That’s a tough question. We’ll come back to that later.
Where should you self-publish your paperback?
- CreateSpace. Since this is Amazon’s original print-on-demand self-publishing company, it’s the logical way to make your paperback book available in Amazon. I recommend CreateSpace: There are no setup fees, you can order inexpensive author copies, they offer Expanded Distribution (to sell your book through other channels in addition to Amazon), you can choose to use a free ISBN (if you don’t mind CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform showing up in the publishing field on your Amazon product page), and being an Amazon company—yeah, this is worth repeating—it seems like the logical way to make your paperback book available for sale at Amazon.
- Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s not just for e-books: You can publish your paperback through KDP, too. That’s convenient, especially for new authors who follow the steps outlined in KDP Jumpstart, Amazon’s new self-publishing guide. However, I still recommend CreateSpace over KDP for the paperback version: CreateSpace lets you order a printed proof (which every author should do), purchase inexpensive author copies, and offers better distribution to channels beyond Amazon.
- Ingram Spark. This is the main competition for CreateSpace. Ingram Spark is Lightning Source’s self-publishing platform, and Lightning Source has been a major book distributor for several years. One reason that I recommend CreateSpace is that CreateSpace has zero setup fees, whereas it costs more to publish with Ingram Spark. If you have reason to expect significant sales through the international market (perhaps because you’re based in another country and have solid marketing plans there), or if you’ve done ample research and have effective plans for potential sales through local bookstores or libraries, in those cases it may be worth comparing the pros and cons of Ingram Spark and CreateSpace more closely to see whether the possible benefits may outweigh the higher setup fees. If you’re an illustrated children’s author or have other reasons to expect significant hardcover sales, you might like Ingram Spark’s hardcover option.
- Option (D). There are authors who use CreateSpace for Amazon distribution and who use Ingram Spark for other sales channels (even though CreateSpace offers Expanded Distribution). I generally don’t recommend this, unless you have compelling reasons to expect significant sales through other channels besides Amazon—since, again, Ingram Spark has higher setup fees, whereas CreateSpace lets you publish for free. Before you try this option, search the CreateSpace community forum (or the great wide internet) for discussions about how to pull this off (and the potential pitfalls).
- There are a few other options. CreateSpace and Ingram Spark are the two major players. Next on the list is Lulu. There are authors who use Lulu. One nice thing about Lulu is that you can sell your book through Lulu’s store: This option may be handy for those authors who can drive significant traffic through their own marketing (though, in general, if you drive traffic to Amazon, customers are more likely to follow through with a purchase, since more customers know and trust Amazon). For the rare author who can move books in person (for example, by selling dozens of copies after a presentation), you can find relatively cheap printing options if you plan to purchase 1000+ books up front: In that case, it’s worth doing some research for inexpensive book printers. If you want to order a few hardcover copies, but don’t need distribution, instead of paying setup fees at Ingram Spark, one possible alternative is to use Nook Press (their hardcover option lets you order author copies, but doesn’t offer print-on-demand distribution).
There is yet another way that you can publish a book: You can make an audio book. For this, I recommend using the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) to make your book available at Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes.
Now let’s come back to that critical e-book question: Should you enroll your Kindle e-book in KDP Select?
If you enroll your e-book in KDP Select, you can’t publish your e-book anywhere else. (But you may still publish a print book anywhere you want.) The benefits of enrolling in KDP Select include:
- Kindle Unlimited. This is the main benefit. Customers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (which costs $9.99 per month in the US) can borrow KDP Select books for free. Amazon pays you about $0.004 per page read (although a “page” usually turns out to be significantly more than a typical printed “page”) by Kindle Unlimited customers. Obviously, $0.004 doesn’t seem like much, since it’s just one page (although it’s usually higher, and has occasionally exceeded $0.005), but if your book gets tens of thousands of pages read through Kindle Unlimited, it can really add up. Amazon currently pays over $19,000,000 per month in royalties for KDP Select books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited, so this is a very significant market. But there are also over a million books in Kindle Unlimited competing for pages read.
- Kindle Countdown Deals. If your book is priced from $2.99 to $24.99 (for $2.99 only, your converted .mobi file size must be below 3 MB), you can run a Kindle Countdown Deal. This lets you put your book on sale for up to 7 days every 90-day enrollment period. The sale price by itself doesn’t always attract the attention you’re hoping for. However, if you find effective ways to promote your sale price, this improves your chances for improved sales. There are several websites that help to promote sale prices, like BookBub and E-reader News Today (note that BookBub is much more expensive, and very difficult to get accepted into).
- Free book promos. Instead of a Countdown Deal, you could choose to give your book away for free for up to 5 days every 90-day enrollment period. I’m not recommending that you earn zero royalties, just including it as a possible benefit. There are a few authors who use this effectively, especially when they have a compelling first volume for a series of books. Again, to get the most out of this, you usually need to promote the temporary sale price effectively. In this case, you’re hoping that any free copies pay dividends down the road, but there are no guarantees.
The main question is this:
- Would you earn more royalties through Kindle Unlimited pages read?
- Or would you earn more royalties from sales through Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.?
That’s basically what it boils down to. There really is no way to know without trying. One option is to enroll in KDP Select for 90 days and see how it goes. (This gives you an extra 3 months to learn how to format your book for Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, or wherever else. Formatting is a little different for other platforms than it is for Kindle.)
And I mean it. I wish every author success with their publishing endeavors.
My advice is to think long-term. However many sales you make this year, strive to make more sales next year. Keep writing, keep publishing. Enjoy your writing and you’re sure to enjoy the experience.
Learn how to do a little marketing, and try out new marketing ideas periodically. Think long-term with your marketing. The best place to start is with a free blog. I recommend WordPress’s free dot com site. Since you love writing, you’ll surely enjoy blogging. I do. 🙂
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Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
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- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
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