You’re all set to publish your first book, but how the heck do you get it on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Nook, Google Play, and more, right? Here’s some info and tips.
There are two primary ways to get your indie book on the biggest sale sites. One is direct and another is through distributor sites like Draft2Digital (D2D) and Smashwords (SW). Let’s start with the latter.
D2D and SW are two of the largest distribution sites for indie authors (there are others though) and have been around for years. Once you set up an account with them and provide your banking or PayPal information (so they can pay you), you can start uploading your books.
- Make sure you check their formatting guidelines first so your book looks nice and pretty when it’s downloaded by readers. If you use a formatting program like Vellum or hire someone to do it for you, most likely you can skip this step.
- Add all your social media links and other books to the back matter. Make sure you use non-book sale site links. Amazon will not approve a book with a Nook link in it and vice versa. Send readers to your website, Bookbub author page, or Goodreads author page.
- You’ll need to upload a Word or Epub file, or any other file format they accept, but those are the two common ones. Check out Calibre if you need to convert to Epub or other formats. (D2D and SW will convert the Word doc for you too.)
- Enter all your metadata and other info—blurb, cover, bio, genres, keywords, price, etc.
- The sites will provide you with ISBN numbers for free or you can enter one you’ve purchased.
- Once your files are approved, D2D and SW will then send your book out to all their partner sites, such as: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Scribed, and many more, some you’ve probably never heard of! They’ll also list your books in their own library. With D2D, you’ll be provided with the link to a landing page (Books2Read) that you can post on social media and the readers will then have the option to choose which site they want to purchase from. (I was told readers could follow you on Books@Read and receive an alert when you list a new release.) For Smashwords, at the moment, you’d have to create your own landing page to redirect the readers to all the other sites, or just list all those links on social media (it’s a pain to do that).
- Many authors prefer this over listing on the individual sites because they only have to enter everything once and can update the book files and prices from one site.
- D2D and SW will take a small cut of your royalties—you can see their royalty rates on their sites. You’ll then be paid at the end of their billing cycle.
- You’ll be able to list your books with sites like Overdrive, which make ebooks available to physical libraries.
- One disadvantage to using a distributor like D2D and SW is you will not be able to enroll in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited if you want.
- Also note that Google Play is not one of the available partner sites to either D2D or SW.
- It may take a few hours or, more likely, several days to be listed on all the sites and even longer to remove a book if you want to unpublish for a reason, such as listing it in Kindle Unlimited.
Direct to Individual Sites:
This is what I do, along with many other authors. I have accounts set up with Amazon’s KDP, Nookpress, Google Play Books, iBooks, and Kobo books. Each one has its own upload page and accept one or more format files—Mobi, Epub, PDF, Word, etc. If I’m putting a book on all the big sites for wide distribution, I also list with D2D so I can take advantage of the smaller sites. These are not big money makers for me, but I do receive a small royalty check each month.
A few points are repeats from above:
- Check out Calibre to convert your books to other formats.
- Make sure you follow the correct formatting for each site. I have two different files for each book, Mobi and Epub. (Three if you include a print version.)
- The Mobi file gets sent to Amazon only and includes Amazon links for my other books in the back matter.
- The Epub file gets sent to everyone else and the links for the other books go to their corresponding pages on my website, where the reader can click on the link for the available sale sites. (This way I don’t need four more versions of the book for each of the other larger sale sites.)
- Some find it too time consuming to list on each individual site, especially when uploading each backlist book file when the author’s back matter has been updated, so the decision is up to you. I prefer to list my books this way because then I don’t have a distributor site taking an additional cut of my royalties—the sales sites are taking enough of my money already.
- Google Play—GP had been open a few years back and then closed their doors in the wake of rampant pirating. After another popular site, Pronoun, which was one of the only sites GP was partnered with, closed its doors, GP opened up to new authors again. After a rush of author signups, they again shut the doors briefly, but as of this post, I understand they are accepting new accounts again. It will take a few short days to have your account approved. Another note about GP is they have a habit of “discounting” your book prices to compete with the other sites and don’t tell you if they do it to your books. Discounting on GP happens more often than not. You’ll still get paid the same royalty though. The disadvantage is sites like Amazon will want to price match the lower listing. Here is a list to consult to list your books on GP and have them “discount” it to the price you want it to be. (Yes, it’s a pain.) ***Copied from the KDBoards
- iBooks—Publishing direct to iBooks can be done two ways. Well, one is an indirect way. 1) Get yourself a Mac computer (or use MacInCloud) and use iProducer. 2) Hire someone with a Mac to do it for you. There are several companies out there that will do this, but you’ll probably be charged a small fee to upload any updates. (You can also use D2D or SW to list just on iBooks.)
A few other things to mention:
- If you’ve listed on the individual sites or the distributor sites, make sure your books are completely delisted from them before entering Amazon’s KU. Delisting a book does just that. It removes the books from the sale sites, but your files and all the metadata will still be stored in their dashboards in case you want to relist it again. If you do that, you’ll reviews will be restored as long as you use the same ISBN. If for some reason you relist using a different ISBN, then contact the site and see if they’ll transfer your reviews to the new listing.
- Updating your back matter in every book is very important each time you release a new title, so plan on making a day of it if you have a large backlist.
- You can list your books direct through one or two of the bigger sites and then also through a distributor site for the others. In other words, you can list direct through Amazon, then use D2D and SW for all the other sites. You just have to unclick Amazon as a site you want the distributors to list on.
- Whether you use the individual sites or a distributor site, download the preview of the book or look at it online to make sure everything converted properly. Do NOT assume it did.
As with all the posts on this site, these are tips and suggestions to help you discover what’s best for you.
2 thoughts on “Should You Self-Publish Direct or Through a Distributor Site?”
Thanks, Samantha. Great information!