Self-publishing has got a bad reputation in the publishing industry. It is the black sheep of the literary world. It indicates that your material is SO bad that no publisher in the world is ready to publish it. But honestly, this is 2020. I believe that content is king. If your material is good and you feel you should self-publish, cutting off the middlemen then go for it.
Many famous authors have self-published before self-publishing was a thing. Self-published books now account for nearly 40% of book sales. That whopping number alone should tell you how relevant it is. Most of these books are eBooks and eventually they will outsell print books in the world. This also encourages traditionally neglected sections of the world who have long felt unheard and dismissed. Self-publishing puts you on an equal footing with the rest of the world. It gives you a platform to share your story without it being diluted by anyone else and their bias.
Before you decide about self-publishing, you should do some research. There are many questions that you must have and need answered before you can decide on a publisher.
- Who retains the copyrights of the book once it’s published?
- Is it worth it to get published with major publishers since they charge a high rate of commissions?
- What about tech support?
- Can a publisher help me with formatting and editing?
- Are there any hidden costs with self-publishers?
There are many publishers who offer self-publishing (also known as vanity publishing) but they do charge you. These companies offer you editorial services, designing, marketing, etc which are included in the package. Some companies publish your book for free and offer you a percentage of the royalties and sales.
There are two main types of publishing service companies. The first kind is retailers. A publishing company that exclusively sells through its retail space and stores. Barnes & Noble Press, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace etc are retailers.
The second type is aggregators. Aggregators offer a distribution and retailing program for books to readers. They don’t directly accept manuscripts or books from authors and writers. Aggregators charge a 10-20% commission on sales. Some aggregators like Lulu distribute and print books as well so they can be considered distributors too.
Below is a list of companies and platforms you can choose to self-publish with-
As much as it behooves me to add to Jeff Bezos and his billions, 80% of all English-language book sales happen through Amazon. A writer simply can’t ignore Kindle Direct Publishing and its market. Self-published titles account for 42% of the sales. KDP publishes and retails eBooks that can be read on Kindle devices or devices that have the Kindle app installed. Writers and authors have to grant Amazon an exclusive 90-day distribution period. This gets them enrolled in KDP Select. It is a marketing program created to promote books through deals, promotions, countdowns, and other gimmicks.
Authors can re-enroll in the program as many times as they want. KDP Select puts your book up in the Kindle Unlimited program and Kindle Owners Lending Library for Amazon Prime Members.
You will need to convert your book to the MOBI format as KDP only uses MOBI. You can use free software like Calibre to convert your material to the accepted formats.
KDP pays authors royalties depending on the list price and it can be anywhere between 35-70%.
Bookbaby has publishing services, distribution, and retail available through various channels. You can find books for sale through their own Bookshop. They provide services like editing, cover design, marketing, and proofreading. These services are priced and can be bought individually or in a package.
Bookbaby has a print-on-demand service if you wish to have print versions of your book. Ebooks can earn 100% royalties after deducting the retailer’s commission. If you have any sales through Bookshop, then you receive 85% royalties. Printed versions of your books will earn about 10-30% of royalties.
Another platform owned by Amazon, CreateSpace is for print books and is a print-on-demand publisher. The company holds no stocks and a book only gets printed when a customer places an order.
CreateSpace Books retail exclusively on Amazon. Authors can choose to opt-in for their Expanded Distribution Program. Under this program, your books can be made available online and offline to retailers like Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc. They become a part of the distributor’s catalogs and can be found online by searching and orders can be placed on request.
The digital and print versions of the book are linked seamlessly by Amazon, allowing customers to choose and pick. CreateSpace takes a 40% cut from every sale and 60% of the sales made from the Expanded Distribution Program. The royalty is paid after deducting Amazon’s commission, a fixed charge, and per-page charge from the book’s list price.
Barnes & Noble has been one of the major American book retailers for years. They eventually expanded into publishing and now offer free, fast, and easy to use self-publishing services for authors and writers.
Their self-publishing platform is growing rapidly and competes with the best and the biggest in the market. Once you publish your book with Barnes & Noble Press, your print book retails only at their stores exclusively. They partner with several other companies to offer services like editing, design, marketing, and publishing resources. Authors and writers get anywhere between 40-65% of the royalties, depending on the price of the book.
Set-up a free NOOK account with Barnes & Noble Press and register as a vendor. Once you have done so, work through the steps of publication. Your work will be live within 72 hours of hitting publish. The Barnes & Noble Press is only available for authors and publishers in select countries such as USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Apple’s iBooks is the second largest eBook retailer after Amazon. It accounts for 10% of the sales in the top 5 countries across the world. iBooks also has customization capabilities which means that each country’s iBook store (nearly 40 of them) can be priced differently and have different discounts. Prices can also be set in local currency, comparable to other books available in the specific region or country. Writers and authors can schedule free discounts, offers, and books anytime they want. Apple doesn’t require an exclusive distribution contract with its authors.
Writers will need a Mac device to publish on iBooks or go through a third party. Apple offers a flat 70% royalty rate to its authors.
Kobo is a Canadian based company and a subsidiary of the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. Rakuten is the world’s 14th largest Internet company. Kobo makes up 25% of all eBook sales in Canada. That number is powerful and huge for any author. It is an open platform, which supports all formats such as EPUB, MOBI, and PDF.
Kobo is completely free of cost for authors who wish to upload their books. One of the most interesting features of Kobo is the Kobo Writing Life. This has an easy-to-publish set up which guides you through any queries or questions regarding publishing. You also get access to analytics and tracking sales in real-time. Kobo operates in over 16 countries outside the US.
The royalty rate is 70% or more on books priced more than $2.99 in the US or 45% for books priced below $2.99.
One of the oldest online self-publishing companies around, Lulu is a retailer and distributor of books. They retail books through their own bookstore and distribute books to other retailers like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc. Lulu provides hardcover and paperback options for print books. You can get their eBook publishing, conversion, and distribution services for free. They also offer other services like editing, cover design, book marketing for a premium.
If you sell a book through their marketplace, Lulu charges a 20% commission after deducting book production costs applicable to print copies. For sales generated through other retailers, they would charge additional commission.
Ingram is the world’s leading book distributor of print books. They launched IngramSpark, a special self-publishing company that allows authors access to some of the biggest book stores in the world. IngramSpark distributes books to stores like Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.
An interesting feature in IngramSpark is the book returns option. Authors who opt-in for this option stand a better chance of being stocked by brick and mortar bookstores. Brick and mortar bookstores are usually hesitant to carry self-published titles. IngramSpark charges a 53% commission for sales to bookstores and 30% to online retailers. This is after deducting book production costs.
Publishing with IngramSpark is not completely free as they charge a $49 set-up fee and a $12 annual fee.
These self-publishing platforms control the majority of the market. While every platform has its pros and cons, it makes sense to try each of them depending on your market and country. You will also have to understand the legal and technical aspects before you self-publish.
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