By John Wilker
Self-publishing. You have choices.
One of the best parts of being an indie author/publisher is control. You are the sole decision maker on where and how your book is available. A lot of first-time authors come into this thinking that Amazon is the only place to sell books. Sure they have a large share of the ebook market, but they’re only a piece of the pie, and in some regions of the world, not even the largest.
I’m going to go over the benefits and features of some of the big(ger) online stores that you should look into. This isn’t a comprehensive review but more of a high-level primer about the stores you can publish directly to as the author/publisher.
I’ll start with my personal favorite, Kobo. Kobo is the largest ebook store in Canada and has outperformed Kindle in France, Japan, and Australia at various times. They have a line of dedicated E-ink reading devices that offer a variety of features that no Kindle does. I’ve owned several Kobo readers and love them.
One of the things you’ll notice is that the Kobo Writing Life team relies less on algorithms than at Kindle Direct Publishing, and more on personal relationships. I mean, algorithms are everywhere, but the Kobo team curates promotions and merchandising opportunities directly. Authors can apply for any number of opportunities from monthly features to time/holiday-specific sales events. You can email them when you have a special promo like a BookBub featured deal and they may (no promises) work with you to give you an additional boost.
Kobo also offers a service similar to Kindle Unlimited, called Kobo+. Unlike Amazon’s offering, authors can participate in Kobo+ without being exclusive to Kobo. It’s a great source of additional income without giving up anything. It hasn’t launched in the US, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t sooner or later.
One other interesting aspect of Kobo is that, through a partnership, they’re the bookstore for Walmart.com. This could be a big opportunity for you if your readers are likely walmart.com shoppers.
Apple is one of the more interesting ebook stores. They don’t make dedicated e-readers, but their Books app comes with every iPad and iPhone sold. The app is integrated into the OS like no others can be, pushing notifications to the user of new releases, including “You might like” opportunities and other promotions. You can also buy books directly in the app, unlike the apps for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.
Apple is widely known to be secretive and, in many ways, mysterious. Their books team is no different. Unlike the Kobo team, the Apple team lives in the shadows. They don’t have any in-house promos you can apply for, but Apple does occasionally reach out to authors with opportunities, special sales, and genre lists that they’re curating in-house. It’s rare but a great way to boost your sales on that platform.
Barnes & Noble
When people hear the name Barnes & Noble, they often ask, “They’re still around?” Not only are they still around; they have a solid user base of die-hard Nook users who only buy books from the venerable bookseller. They’re still releasing new e-readers too. Like Kobo, authors can apply for promotions through the merchandising team. They have a mix of ongoing “Free Friday” style opportunities as well as time/holiday related sales and promotions.
A unique benefit is that you can offer your print books through their author portal as well, allowing any B&N store to order your book for their shelves. The odds of ending up on a shelf aren’t great, to be clear, but as indies, any opportunity is better than none.
Google is one of the weirder storefronts. They don’t have dedicated ereaders, and at least for now, books are sold through their Play Store like games.
Once again, as an indie author, you need to offer your books when and wherever you can. Some authors are killing it on Google, making more there than any other store. There’s a market for everything and having options means you might find an audience in a place you aren’t expecting.
Google doesn’t have a merchandising team or promotions.
Draft2Digital, Smashwords (Now owned by D2D), and PublishDrive are the largest distributors around. If you’re not familiar with the term, a distributor is a service where you upload your manuscript to a single place, and they handle getting it into the various stores. We’ll get more details on them in my next article.
John began his writing career in the 3rd grade, winning the Lake Washington Young Authors Competition. It’s been downhill since then, but he’s trying. His books are available wherever fine electronic books are sold. He’s a vocal component of selling your books everywhere and building your author brand widely.