Join Jason Matthews for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding ebook distributors, part of Learning Ebook Publishing.
- When it comes to selling Ebooks there are retailers and distributors. Amazon is a great retailer because you can upload and sell there, in a do-it-yourself fashion. But some retailers don't have that enabled, so it's necessary to go through a distributor to get to them. Additionally, some authors prefer working with a distributor even for the retailers who have self-publishing enabled, because it can be a time saver. It allows them to upload their book to just one place, and then it's distributed to all the major retailers.
You know, one upload, boom, done. Now, Smashwords has worked with independent authors for almost as long as Amazon has, and Smashwords is unique, because it's both a retailer and a distributor. So the company sells your book from its website, and it also distributes to other retailers while handling the financial arrangements after sales. Most authors like Smashwords for its distribution potential than its direct sales. In fact, over 90% of Smashwords related sales are from the retailers it distributes to, not directly from the Smashwords website.
Now, Smashwords is not the only option. There are plenty of distributors. Since Smashwords and Draft2Digital, which we're gonna discuss next, are free to use, they earn their money on a small cut of each sale, about 10% of the retail price. Remember that most retailers also take a 30% cut of the sale as well. There are other distributors who charge money upfront to get into, but they have a range of options, like maybe a one time fee in exchange for no cut on each sale.
Some of these decisions will be based on your needs and expectations, both technically and financially. Smashwords has a long list of distribution partners. One of the things I like the most about it. And many of these places don't have direct lines for uploading. However, some authors don't like Smashwords because it does have tough requirements for formatting. It's common for Ebooks to be rejected by the meat grinder, the automated program that determines if your Ebook passes inspection or not.
It can be seriously frustrating. Smashwords formatting is difficult, but that's because it needs to ensure that your Ebook is gonna convert to all those different retailers, that it's gonna look great, and that it's gonna function well on any e-reading device. So, even though I wanna point out that Smashwords is difficult and some people get frustrated with it, I really like Smashwords because of all of those distribution partners that it gets my Ebooks into, that I can't get into any other way.
Draft2Digital, or D2D, is like Smashwords in some ways, and very different in others. It's newer than Smashwords, and many authors prefer it for its simplicity. Draft2Digital is also a free distributor. Also makes its money on a 10% cut from the retail price of your book. Draft2Digital has a much smaller list of retailers that it distributes to, but these are really the big ones that are most important. Additionally, if you want, Draft2Digital will format your Ebook to be a CreateSpace paperback, so that's kind of cool too.
The main differences between Draft2Digital and Smashwords are these: Draft2Digital is not a retailer. It's only a distributor. Draft2Digital does not have formatting requirements. You basically send them anything, and they're gonna make an Ebook with it. I find this both a relief and a bit concerning. It's nice not having to worry about technical formatting, but the chance of putting an unprofessional Ebook out there is much greater with Draft2Digital than with Smashwords.
As you might imagine, the question of which distributor to use, divides many authors. Just as the choice of whether or not to participate in Amazon's KDP Select. However, when it comes to distributors, there are other options. There are a lot of Paid Book Distributors. Many of these places charge money upfront, but they have pricing options. These are some of the most common examples, and they have a range of services and prices. If you're considering going with one of them, let me mention a couple of things.
First off, these companies offer a range of services that can be downright expensive for what you're getting. Secondly, the majority of most authors' sales come at retailers like Amazon, Google, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, all of which can be accessed through direct uploading. Although Apple does sell a ton of Ebooks. One of my better retailers. Now, in my experience you must sell thousands of Ebooks outside of Amazon before a paid distributor will end up as a sound financial choice.
So you might ask yourself if that is worth the risk. Let me also mention Apple now, since Apple is the only retailer that requires authors to use a certain kind of computer and operating system. Apple, of course. They're also the only one that has an application process. No other retailer demands that. Because of these reasons, many authors like me are unable to upload to Apple directly, and so we need to use a distributor to get into Apple.
If you're interested, you're gonna need an existing and valid Apple ID with a credit card on file, and a seller account at iTunes Connect. This is more ideal for Mac users than PC. For these reasons, I'm not going to include more information on uploading directly with Apple, since the majority of authors do not qualify. However, if you are interested in uploading directly to Apple, go to apple.com, and then you wanna click on iTunes.
And then if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, look for the link that says "Sell Your Content". Click on that, and then you can follow the prompts and do the application to upload directly to Apple iTunes. No what excites me about distributors is they get my Ebooks into all kinds of retailers all over the world, that otherwise I would not be able to upload to, and readers can then find my books at many more places.
Obviously there's a lot to think about when it comes to distributors. I hope that you'll find them exciting like I do, because distributors can get your books into retailers that otherwise you can't upload to.
Jason also reviews crucial details such as table of contents formatting and cover design, and he shows how to upload the complete ebook package to all the major retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and others. The final chapter of the course explains how to market your ebook, including setting up a website, finding fans on social media, and engaging with reviewers and bloggers.
- Understanding ebook retail and distribution
- Formatting ebooks for Amazon
- Formatting ebooks for other retailers
- Designing a table of contents
- Adding chapter text and images
- Designing a cover for an ebook
- Uploading ebooks to retailers
- Marketing your ebook