Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Self-publishing 101 (3): Distribution Platforms

When you mention self-publishing, everyone thinks about Amazon because that’s where the big bucks are made, and Kindle is oh so popular. We all heard of those spectacular cases of self-published writers who sold millions of copies at $0.99 and made a fortune that way. We secretly hope to become one of them. Well, it’s probably not going to happen, but Amazon cannot be ignored, even if their algorithms changed, and indie writers are not that advantaged anymore.

A few considerations regarding Amazon:
- formatting – it’s easy if you’re used to keep clean doc files, and even easier if you know HTML.
- uploading – easy again; I like the option to stop in the middle of the two steps process and continue from the same point later on and the possibility to check how the ebook looks like before publishing it.
- time to wait before the ebook becomes available online – Human Instincts took one day. Blue Moon Café Series took five days (and counting!), but I uploaded it before the weekend so I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt. Waiting is annoying, though.
- DRM – No. If my readers want to store my ebooks on 20 different devices, they can just as well do so as long as they read them. Those who prefer to pirate the ebooks wouldn’t have paid for them anyway, and there’ll always be pirate copies on the internet. You can’t help it.
- KDP Select – No. Go exclusively with Amazon for three months for one title or another? No, thank you. I will never put all my eggs in one basket and force my readers to depend on one format. Besides, those rumors about someone having their Kindle wiped clean by Amazon? No, no. Do back up your files, people. Once you paid for something, it’s yours forever.
- tech support – quite prompt the one time I contacted them.
- reports – sale reports are made available monthly with the number of copies sold and the money gained. I would prefer to have the number of sales listed per day for my own analysis, but in the long run it doesn’t really matter. Silly story, when I published Human Instincts, I gave all my family and friends a copy so they wouldn’t feel pressured to buy it. Then, after some reviews showed up, I had three sales one right after the other and I was like “Who bought it?!”

An alternative to Amazon is Smashwords:
- formatting – their metagrinder is pickier, and even if you follow their formatting guide sometimes it still finds errors, and you have to use the nuclear method and redo all formatting from scratch like it happened with Blue Moon Café Series.
- uploading – easy if you don’t get error messages from the metagrinder. You can’t check the ebook before becoming available on their site, though, and that’s a bit of an inconvenience.
- time to wait before the ebook becomes available online – the ebooks become available in a couple of minutes, right after the conversion is done.
- you can select the format for the ebooks to be available in – I chose all, even if readers can use Calibre to convert the ebooks to their preferred format.
- premium catalog – if your ebook’s quality qualifies for it (mine both did), Smashwords ships it to other retailers like Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes and a few others, including Amazon, without you having to move a finger, which is really neat. You can get approved in a couple of days, while shipping can take longer, up to a few weeks.
- coupons – discount coupons are great for promotion and sending free copies for review, especially since Smashwords stores several formats of each ebook so you don’t have to ask everyone what format they prefer.
- reports – it’s possible to download Excel sheets with all your sales, including the coupon ones, with the exact dates.

There are other options out there, but I settled for these two, which seem to cover most of the market.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about prices and costs. Until then, check out “Blue Moon Café Series: Where Shifters Meet for Drinks” (Amazon, Smashwords), discounted from $2.99 to $0.99 during the holidays, and let me know what you think.


Ihrielle said...

Q: Then, after some reviews showed up, I had three sales one right after the other and I was like “Who bought it?!”

A: I think one of them was me :)

BTW, good idea to share with us some of your self-publishing experiences:

Weird Vision said...

That is very possible. LOL

Yes, I thought some people might find it useful and get some tips on how to start at least.