Should I SMASH through the Amazon?

ebook-distribution-partnersE-book writers have plenty of options for platforms to sell their wares – but therein lies the problem.

Which platform will sell the most copies of your e-book?

In all honesty, it’s not the platform that does the selling. As a not-so-famous author, YOU have to do all the marketing for yourself. Sure, some of these platforms offer marketing packages, but let’s be honest – how many of us really have the money to throw down on these packages? Plus, there’s no guarantee of a return on our investment!

Marketing aside, there is something e-book selling platforms can offer us: VISIBILITY.

Yes – you will have to include the right meta-tags, link your book to the right genres, etc., etc., etc., but at the end of the day, here is the cold hard fact:

People buy books from book stores.

While having your book for sale on your own website that’s linked to a plethora of social media sites may get you some traffic, you don’t have the infrastructure, the marketing, or the branding to compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s, or the iBookstore. So, if you can’t beat them, join them and use them as your distributors =0)

Once again, we’re back to our problem: Which platform should you use?

Quick Bit of Jargon

If you are publishing an e-book, you should definitely know the difference between an aggregator and a distributor.

  • An aggregator is a company that will sell your product through multiple stores, who will then sell your books to their customers.
  • A distributor sells directly to the customer.

What’s the difference? Royalties. Some aggregators charge less royalties up front, but that’s because both they AND the store who did the selling EACH get a piece of the net sale.

For the sake of this article, I will refer to aggregators and distributors as platforms. There is an important distinction between the two, as I stated, but let’s try to keep things simple in and already convoluted topic.

The Platforms

Although there are many of platforms out there, the main ones are as follows:

  • Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
  • BookBaby
  • Booktango
  • iBooks Author
  • Lulu
  • NOOK Press
  • Smashwords
  • Vook

Alex Palmer provides an excellent review of each of these platforms here, and David Carnoy offers great insight about these platforms and more here.

Everyone has different needs when it comes to publishing e-books, but, for me, the choice really comes down to either going with Smashwords or Amazon.

My Comparison Review: Company Highlights
  • Free conversion software (Meatgrinder)
  • Free e-books to help you through the process (Mark Coker provides a real treasure trove )
  • Company focuses on promoting indie authors
  • Their commission: 15% of the net price
  • You can get your ISBN number through them and save a truck load of cash
  • If you’re book meets the standards for their Premium Catalog, they will sell your book through their retail partners, including Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Oyster, and Kobo
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
  • Lots of easy-to-follow guides for formatting and publication preparation
  • Customer sampling options to let readers try before they buy
  • Royalty options available at either 35% or 70%, but terms and conditions apply
  • Choosing the KDP Select program gets your book into Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) — EXPOSURE!!!!!
Why Am I STILL so Torn?

Both platforms offer lots of help, and both have great potential for reaching a large clientele.

While the numbers make it look like Smashwords offers a better percentage of royalties, you should know that this company is an aggregator AND a distributor. Therefore, if they sell your book on their site, they will only take a 15% commission. However, if they sell your book through Barnes & Noble’s, then both they AND Barnes & Noble each get their own cut of the profits, which diminishes your share.

Comparatively, Amazon is a distributor, so the profits are only split between you and them. While they do take a larger cut than “distributor” Smashwords, you can’t beat the brand recognition of Amazon. After all, when people make online purchases, the majority go to Amazon. While Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore also get a large amount of traffic, I would wager that most people think of Amazon first.

Of course, as I’m in the midst of going back and forth on which platform to choose, one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, posts this information on his Tumblr, which discusses the current battle between Amazon and Hachette, two rival distributors who are not playing nice and are trying to get their authors to jump in the trenches. When it comes to bickering distributors, Gaiman eloquently stated:

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“I don’t see an enemy. I see two huge multinational corporations having a fight over contracts and terms, and authors staring up at them from ground level. It’s like Godzilla battling Gamera, and we’re looking up from the sidewalks of New York rather worried that a skyscraper might topple on us.”

Although this information doesn’t necessarily help me choose a particular distributor, it does make me realize an important fact we writers may forget during this whole publishing/marketing process:

No matter which distributor/aggregator I choose, or even if I go with several of them at once, they are huge companies focused on their bottom line only.

While optimistically I would like to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of my e-books, if not more, my sales numbers are really just a drop in the bucket to these guys! They will treat me professionally, and they will offer me a platform to use for selling, but they really have no interest in me beyond jargon-heavy contracts.

Plan of Attack

Before you can choose your platform, or platforms, you have to have a clear set of objectives. Although your objectives will vary significantly, mine are as follows:

  • Build a fan base
  • Develop my author brand

Yes, I do want to make money, because writing is what I do for a living. However, since I only have a few professional writing credits to my name, I am not going to bank on the idea that my e-books will be my sole source of income. That’s just ridiculous at this point in the game! Perhaps someday I will make enough with my e-book writing to support myself, but not right now.

On the upside for me, since I’m not in this to make a fortune, I think I have a clearer head when it comes to deciding which platform(s) to go with. To meet my goals of visibility and brand power, I have to go with the Amazon KDP Select Program.

Even though Amazon is in a hissy-fit with Hachette, it’s not really affecting Amazon as an organization. (Big corporate giants – remember?) Plus, the KDP Select plan will put my book in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited, which puts me in a nice position for TONS AND TONS of exposure, which is what I really want.

Additionally, after 90 days, I can also sell my e-book with other platforms, such as Smashwords. Therefore, this plan lets me capitalize on Amazon’s brand power, and then lets me utilize Smashwords’ big-name retail partners.

3d person planningFor me, it’s a win-win situation. There is still LOADS of work to do on my end for this and every e-book I write, but after all this research, at least I can step away from my computer confident that I have a plan that works for my present goals.


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