Self-publishing is on the rise, especially in countries where English is a primary or major language. Authors can choose from many publishing services, but how do you know whom to trust? This a tricky question, and hopefully this article will help you decide between different ebook publishing platforms. What are the services they offer? When do they pay? Which stores do they distribute to?
Depending on your needs, there could be many good answers; you can choose a self-publishing platform at the beginning of your career and change later, or use multiple platforms simultaneously.
If you are not yet sure whether self-publishing is the right fit for you, why not check this article?
(Article was updated on July 16, 2018.)
Ebook Publishing Services
When speaking of ebook publishing services, there are several very different things in play. Firstly, there are companies pitching ‘author services’ or ‘publishing services’ for a price. These companies usually offer an extensive publishing service, starting from developmental editing to POD or e-distribution. While these companies can be similar at first glance, they are very different regarding their approach to the author and their books. There is a thin line between genuine publishing services and vanity publishing, as there are steps that can be expensive if done properly (like editing or cover design).
Generally speaking, if a company charges you for publishing your book and is fairly vague about what they are spending your money on, be alert. Once you sign your rights away, it is difficult to get them back. Other than vanity publishers, there are several companies that act as retailers and distributors and offer some publishing services (conversion or editing) as well. There are some things you’ll need to consider before signing up anywhere:
- Who owns the rights (the IP)?
- Is the service exclusive?
- Who decides the pricing?
- Can you leave whenever you want to?
- Can you select which services to use?
Ask for a second opinion
As it is impossible to vet every service beforehand, we recommend that you check the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) watchdog reports. ALLi members regularly check different self-publishing service providers to make sure that you only work with trustworthy partners. Check the list here.
If you are considering a new service, you can also seek help in a Facebook group. The community of indie authors is always ready to help.
Consider the following when choosing the right publishing platform for your book:
- Royalty: If you decide to publish your ebook on a platform, you probably already know that the service will take a cut of the take. The cut can vary depending on whom you choose. More information on some of the platforms in the table below.
- Pricing: Some services have limits on how to price your book. For instance, Amazon doesn’t allow authors to offer their books for free, and both Amazon and Kobo offer different royalties in different price ranges. This may not be a bad thing (after all, they know the pricing “sweet spots”), but you want to avoid getting stuck in a situation where you don’t like the price and can do nothing about it. Finding the right price for your ebook is not easy; choose a platform where you can experiment before committing.
- File format: Today most platforms out offer ebook conversion for free. This is great!
- Exclusivity: Some services may demand exclusivity; such as Amazon’s KDP Select. Self-publishers with a handful of titles often offer some titles exclusively on Amazon, while going “wide” with others.
- Ebook retailers: The five largest retailers on the market are: Amazon, Google Play, iBooks, Scribd, and Kobo. Most of them sell globally, in most countries of the world. Offering your books in all major retailers is crucial, and offering them in smaller, local retailers is recommended.
Ebook publishing platforms
The following table contains some popular ebook publishing services. We only consider services with no upfront payment or setup fees required.
|KDP||Smashwords||Kobo Writing Life||PublishDrive||Draft2Digital||Streetlib|
|Royalty||35% – 70%||up to 80%||45%-70%||10% cut or $100 flat fee||10% cut||10% cut|
|File Formats||ePub, mobi, HTML, doc, docx||ePub, doc||doc, docx, ePub, odt, mobi||ePub, doc, docx, mobi||ePub, doc, docx, RTF||ePub, doc, docx, RTF|
|Exclusivity||Exclusive / Non-exclusive||Non-exclusive||Non-exclusive||Non-exclusive||Non-exclusive||Non-exclusive|
|Payments||monthly||monthly||monthly (threshold: 50 CAD)||monthly||monthly||monthly / quarterly|
|Reports||daily||monthly||daily for Kobo||daily for some partners||daily for some partners||daily for some partners|
|Retail Outlets||Amazon||Smashwords, Amazon, iBooks, OverDrive, Barnes &Noble, Kobo||Kobo and partners||Amazon, iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Google Play, OverDrive, CNPeReading, etc.||Amazon, iBooks, OverDrive, B&N, Kobo, etc.||Amazon, Google Play, iBooks, OverDrive, B&N, Kobo, etc.|
How to publish your books effectively to more stores and gain global distribution?
There are certain platforms in the ebook market who identify themselves as ebook aggregators. An aggregator stands between the author and the retailer such as Amazon. As Brookes describes: “ebook aggregators are companies that take a file from the user, convert it into multiple formats and make it available through multiple distribution channels (platforms, stores, libraries).”
Most of the aggregators offer various services other than ebook distribution and aggregation such as ebook conversion, cover design, editing and some even have print-on-demand services. They can also provide help with ISBN acquisition, copyrighting and tracking user payments. However, their primary focus is on distributing content to more than just one store. An aggregator helps authors and publishers reach the stores globally with their ebooks. As an ebook aggregator, PublishDrive delivers ebooks to iBooks, GooglePlay, Amazon Kindle, Scribd, OverDrive and 400+ stores and 240k libraries in US, China, India, Europe and over 100 countries. To learn more about PublishDrive, click here.