The digital age has enabled writers to self-publish their books, meaning the author handles the entire publishing process on their own – including formatting, designing and editing. This is a departure from the traditional method, where a publishing house must approve a book before taking control of its publishing.
A growing number of writers now prefer to self-publish their books on digital platforms, as it allows for greater creative freedom and higher royalties. At the same time, self-publishing in digital formats make books more widely accessible to readers. However, the increasing number of self-publishing platforms has made it difficult for writers to choose one that is best suited to their needs. This article deconstructs the process of choosing where to publish a book, and aims to help you to make an informed decision when you publish yours.
Types of Self-Publishing Platforms
These are services that allow you to self-publish your books on individual online retail stores. However, some companies have special programs, such as Amazon’s Expanded Distribution, that distribute books on other platforms as well.
- Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing)
Amazon is one of the largest book retailers for self-publishing authors, offering authors up to 70% royalties. It incurs low publishing costs and offers high royalties. Besides selling print books, Amazon also sells eBooks through their flagship product, Kindle. Some of Amazon’s popular self-publishing options include:
- Kindle Unlimited (KU)
KU is an exclusive, subscription-based self-publishing platform where readers can read as many books as they want for a monthly subscription fee. Authors earn royalties for every new page read by users. The exact calculation of the royalties is slightly complex and depends on various factors, such as the size of KDP’s Global Select Fund, exchange rates, customer reading behavior and local subscription pricing.
- Amazon (Normal) Distribution Channels
Users can directly order the books from Amazon marketplaces. Under these regular distribution channels, KDP offers 60% royalties to the authors based on the list price of the book. The printing costs are, however, deducted from final royalties paid to the author.
- Expanded Distribution
Through this program, Amazon makes your book available to large distributors, so the retailers (bookstores, online retailers, libraries, academic institutions, etc) can find and order the book directly from the distributor. However, under this program, the royalty rates are relatively lower (40%) than Amazon’s normal distribution channels – and are reduced even further due to printing costs, applicable taxes and withholding – taking into account factors like book size, weight, cover type and more.
Kobo is another popular self-publishing service, famously known for the Kobo eReader, a reading device like the Amazon Kindle. Kobo is particularly interested in first-time, or Do It Yourself (DIY) authors. It has an audience of millions of users, and you can utilize the Kobo Plus subscription for promotion. The advantage of using Kobo over KU is that there is no exclusivity clause here, and you can publish your book or eBook on other platforms as well. The service offers royalty rates varying between 20% and 70%, depending on certain conditions. The highest royalty rate of 70% is applicable if the book is not public domain, the book price is higher than a provided threshold ($2.99 in US), and the eBook price is at least 20% below the price of the physical edition. If these three conditions are not satisfied, the royalty rate is reduced to 45%. If the book is public domain, the maximum royalty rate is 20%.
- Apple Books
Like Apple’s other products, Apple Books is also a very exclusive platform. It is only accessible using Apple devices, such as iPhones, iPads, MACs, and Apple Watches. While the exclusivity may be limiting for some, Apple Books remains a very successful seller of eBooks. If you’re looking to sell your book across multiple platforms, Apple Books is highly recommended. Moreover, the company claims to award 70% royalties on eBooks regardless of their price point and without any additional requirements.
Aggregate services offer to distribute your book across various digital bookstores and libraries online, along with providing you a self-publishing platform. Aggregate services work on a commission-based structure. Some of the most popular aggregate services include:
This service, also known as D2D, distributes to all major eBook retailers. The platform is popular for its simplicity. The platform also provides free formatting services.
Lulu is a veteran self-publishing and distributing company. Their services are not limited to eBooks – they sell and distribute print books as well. Along with distributing among other online retailers, Lulu also has its own retail store. While the platform offers free publishing and distribution, it sells its additional support services such as editing, design, and marketing.
IngramSpark is an ideal choice for an aggregate service to self-publish your book – but it is a tedious process nonetheless. Uploading your book on IngramSpark is affordable, but extra costs will incur if you need to make any changes after uploading. IngramSpark does not, however, offer the option to choose selective retailers, or an eBook option. Once you upload your book on IngramSpark, the platform will distribute your print-on-demand book to all the stores that it works with.
Which is the Right Publishing Platform for You?
This is ultimately a question only you can answer – but hopefully this article has helped shed some light on the variety of options available to you. To recap, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Most services offer higher royalties or commissions on eBooks than on print books. However, print books are still more popular among traditional readers.
- Amazon is the most popular self-publishing eBook platform. It dominates 80% of the global market. On the other hand, Kobo has a 25% market share in Canada and Apple Books has a 30% market share in Australia. Therefore, it is best to combine the services of 2-3 other self-publishing platforms along with Amazon for extended reach.
- If you want to publish your book in print as well, it is best to choose an aggregate service; Ingram and Lulu are ideal options. These services distribute across all major retail stores.
Collectively, utilizing all of these options should allow you to reach a considerable readership, thereby maximizing the popularity of your piece. However, this can be a lot of work – and a lot to manage. Repeating the process of distributing your book on a variety of individual channels can be tedious – not to mention keeping track of them all and monitoring your income from each retailer. This is why many authors elect to use self-publishing platforms like BooxAI, that allow you to publish and distribute your book over multiple channels with the click of a button, and manage your sales all in one place.