Currently there are two major avenues open to the self-publisher, Smashwords and Amazon’s KDP. It is through these gateways, for most writers, that the greatest number of potential readers will be reached. Here is a brief rundown on what they offer. Keep in mind though that they continually change and morph—and that’s a good thing for us. There are others trying to muscle in but for now these are the two most important.
Smashwords, and their sadly/aptly named “Meat Grinder,” takes your Word doc and converts it into a number of formats used in the e-book industry. For free. You can host your books and even an author site on their site as well as buy e-books directly from them. Mark Coker, the founder and brains behind the operation, has single handedly changed how e-books are processed and delivered. This site also distributes directly to Barnes & Noble, iBooks (iTunes), Kobo, and a few other retail sites (you can also directly submit to these sites as well, but why bother if Smashwords will do it all). Percentages and royalties vary; they are spelled out on the site. There is an excellent PDF manual on how to submit. Study it; your life will be easier. There is much to improve though, but it is a great resource.
The gorilla and elephant in the room is Amazon. They control well over half of the ebook downloads and, it’s my guess, a lot more than that. While there are some out there who won’t deal with the evil empire, I know for a fact they go to Amazon’s amazing and intuitive search engine, find what they want, then go to iBook, B&N or Kobo to buy the e-book—sad but true. There was a time that the size of the book’s file made a big difference (lots of images) using Smashwords; Amazon’s site didn’t have that problem. I hope that has changed. Amazon’s Author Central page, and resources for self-published authors on following your sales, is far better than anyone else’s. And like Smashwords, for free. You can adjust the book’s categories (a future blog in and of itself), price, cover art, and even updates in the manuscript everyday if you want. And they pay on timely basis. There are numerous permutations on sale price and royalties, lending, exclusive access, and connections to paper books through their Createspace print-on-demand (POD) operation. All very clean and incredibly helpful to authors and publishers. And there are dozens of books out there that help guide the author on how to best use their services.
I have been told at conferences to get your e-book out there to as many venues and sites as you can. This is all well and good, but your time is valuable. If you have to manage six or even four places where your book is placed the time sink is amazing—time better spent writing. Every time you change the cover or the update the manuscript means five or six changes.
With three new books coming out in the next six months, I am reevaluating the “all formats is best” option. Right now I’m leaning toward Amazon and structuring all my efforts around their ability to reach more customers, and make my books more visible to greater and greater numbers of readers. And remember that paper books bring in a whole new world of self-publishing options and opportunities. I will continue to keep you up to date on how it’s all working.
More later . . . . . . . . . .