Where to Publish (For New Writers Who Are Looking to Self-Publish)

Below is a video Janet Syas Nitsick and I did on publishing, specifically self-publishing.  The question came in, “What places can an author publish his book?” In this video, we answer this, but I’ll include the highlights below so you can read it instead if you wish.

There are two main options you have when you self-publish.  

1.  KDP Select (which means you can only publish through Amazon).

Amazon has a program called KDP Select which is exclusive.  It means you can’t publish anywhere else.  (You can, however, publish your paperback in several places.)  This exclusivity applies to the ebook.  And you must be exclusive with Amazon for three months.  After that, you can upload your book to other sites.

When you enter Amazon Select, your book will be automatically put into Kindle Unlimited (KU), which is a subscription service that allows people who pay for it to borrow KU books.  If someone reads 10% of the book, that counts as a borrow.  Each borrow doesn’t earn the same as a sale.  For example, if your book is $2.99, you will make 70% off that sale.  When your book is borrowed, you get a portion of whatever Amazon has decided to put into the pot for the month.  So if Amazon decided the pot is going to be $3 million, it will divide up that $3 million with all the borrows that were made on Amazon that month.

There are pros and cons to the Select approach.

Pros include: Amazon gives preference to these books.  For example, the book will come up more easily in searches.  Borrows count toward sales ranking, which can also help toward better exposure.  It is only three months, so you don’t have to be locked in for a long time.

Cons: While some books do well in Select, not all of them do.  It’s not a guaranteed ticket to instant sales/exposure.  In my opinion, this is not a good long-term plan.  The best strategy for a career as a self-published author is to be diversified.

You have to decide which is best for you.

2.  You publish on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, D2D, etc…

You can upload directly to Amazon (via KDP), Barnes & Noble (via Nook Press), Kobo (via Writing Life), and iBooks.  I believe you can publish directly to Scribd, too.

What I do is use Smashwords to publish my books onto the channels they offer.  I don’t use them for Amazon, but I do use them for Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Baker & Taylor, Library Direct, Page Foundry, Overdrive, Flipkart, and Scribd.   Now, I have published some books directly to Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

You can also use D2D (Draft 2 Digital) to publish to various sites, but I haven’t used them and have no experience with them.  What I do know is that unlike Smashwords, you can’t sell on D2D.  Smash words will allow you to sell books (and yes, it’s not a whole lot you’ll sell there).  But D2D is pretty much a middleman to get your books from your computer to the other retailers.

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No matter what option you choose, something to keep in mind is that the average author is not going to have instant success.  I understand it’s easy to think there’s some magic formula you can use and make a living right away.  But the truth is, for most writers it will take hard work and persistence to pay off.  You will need to improve your storytelling ability while you’re also improving your promotional techniques.

The self-published author wears many hats.  You’re not only writing a book, but you also have to take care of the cover, format it for ebook and/or paperback, publish it, and then promote it.  If you need help with formatting or covers, here’s a link at Smashwords to help you find people who can help you with these things.

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Are there any questions you have or experiences you want to share with publishing?  The more input we have, the better we can all learn.  There might be something I missed. 🙂

42 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    I AM, I AM !!!!!

    1. Thanks for sharing this! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. 🙂

      1. THANKS! I will ask. 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Silver Threading and commented:
    There is great information here. I will use this in the near future!

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you found it useful. 🙂

  3. K'lee L. says:

    Just to add my voice here, this is great information! Thank you for posting it. I’m preparing to self-publish a first novel as well as several photo related books this year. Having this kind of information is absolutely invaluable and deeply appreciated!

    1. Thank you! If there’s anything else you’d like to know, don’t hesitate to ask. I could always use more ideas for blog posts and You Tube videos.

      1. K'lee L. says:

        Absolutely! I’ll be sure to send a few suggestions and questions your way. I’m always looking to learn a bit more!

  4. ronfritsch says:

    Ruth, I do what you do for the ebooks: KDP for Amazon, and Smashwords for all the other online stores. But I also use Createspace for the paperbacks. Some of my readers still insist upon a print book, and that’s okay with me.

    1. I forgot to mention paperbacks. I use CreateSpace, too. I know there’s Lulu and Lightning Source, but those are more expensive than what I need. I like to buy paperbacks when a book is a keeper.

  5. Thank you so much for this very important information!

    1. You’re welcome. 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing this! Much needed information 😀

    1. You’re welcome. 🙂

  7. olganm says:

    I have used Draft 2 Digital because I found the Smashword instructions a bit too daunting and Draft2Digital don’t have many (hardly any) formatting requirements, and they also offer the possibility of publishing through Create Space (you still need the cover but they produce the PDF). Unless you have an Apple computer it’s not possible to publish to Apple unless you use an intermediary (like Smashwords or D2D or I imagine others). Sometimes depending on where you live it’s also quite difficult to publish directly to some platforms as each one might have different requirements (I’ve recently published to a site for Spanish e-books but you need to have an Spanish bank account).
    Thanks so much for the info.

    1. Thanks for sharing all this great information! I didn’t realize D2D helped with getting books on Create Space. That’s a nice time saver. I do like being able to use one place to upload on multiple platforms, but there have been times when I had to go directly on Barnes & Noble and Kobo. I have a Macbook, but I heard uploading directly to iBooks can be tricky so I haven’t bothered trying for that one.

      You seem to know a lot about publishing. I was wondering, do you know anything about Google Play? Someone in the comments was asking about it, and I haven’t ever used it.

  8. Has anyone published through Google Play? I’ve heard negative and positive comments.

    1. I haven’t checked Google Play out. I’m not sure if they are worth it or not. Based on the brief research I did after seeing your question, it looks like the biggest issue is them discounting books with Amazon price matching. However, some authors suggested upping the prices of your books so if Google Play discounts them, it will discount to what you really want.

      1. Thanks Ruth. I also heard that VAT might have to be considered as well, so I need to do some more maths! And here I thought I’d done it already with Amazon LOL. I’ve decided that I’ll upload one of my earlier ebooks and see how it goes. Have 4 days off work over Easter, so will do it then.

        1. I think the main thing with VAT is whether or not you will take up the cost and lower the price of your book or have the reader pick up the cost and up the price. Either way, it’s a no-win. 😦

  9. Hi Ruth (hope you and the rest of the SPAL team are well!) … thanks for the post, there were a couple of outlets I hadn’t thought of. Always appreciate the support and advice you all give … WRITE ON!
    Cheers Dave

    1. Hi Dave! It’s nice to see you again. 🙂

  10. KL Caley says:

    Just to say the same as everyone else, thanks for sharing this. It’s good to have the options explained and from someone who has experienced them. Great post! 🙂

  11. Reblogged this on The 960 Writers and commented:
    A good overview about our options in Indie Publishing.

    1. Thanks for reblogging. 🙂

  12. Barb says:

    Unlike Smashwords – who pays quarterly – D2D pays monthly. And their “meatgrinder” is much better.

    1. I do like the monthly payment feature. I’ve had to delay a couple of quarterly tax payments for two-three weeks because I had to wait for Smashwords to send the payments out. The meatgrinder can be a pain. It seems as soon as I think I’ve figured it out, I miss something.

      1. Barb says:

        especially Q4 (which I managed to “cash” this year for the first time) takes a lot of time on SW! 😦
        D2D doesn’t have all the channels SW has yet (Apple, Kobo, B&N, Scribd, Tolino and Page Foundry only) – and I go direct to Kobo anyway. Can’t be bothered to learn the Apple thingy (also because apparently you need a Mac anyway) and have too many titles out to go direct to Nook (that only recently opened to other countries – I’m in Italy). Besides knowing that Author Solutions has infiltrated B&N…
        Other places I upload to: DriveThru (Fiction and Comics, since I have also some comics). I gave un on XinXii (the “European Smashwords”) because in 3 years I haven’t sold a copy, so I took down almost everything (and they distribute also to Google Books, which someone told me is a very bad deal for authors, so I’m stayin well away from them)…

        1. I heard Apple can be a pain to upload to. I have a Macbook, but I’d rather use Smashwords to get on that site. I’m sure the time it takes to get on Apple from D2D is just as fast as it is at Smashwords. I have a small publisher for a couple of books, and she goes directly to Apple and the books take over a month to go live over there. If I go through Smashwords for Apple, the book is up in a week or less. So to me, it’s worth it use Smashwords to take care of that distribution.

          Someone was asking about Google Play above in the comments, and I’ve never used them so I didn’t know what to say. All I really found in my research is that Google Play likes to discount books, which can mess things up at Amazon when it price matches. I do like that D2D and Smashwords acts as a buffer between us and the sites that sells books. It’s nice to have the extra layer of protection. (All that being said, I do upload directly to Kobo and B&N for some books.) 🙂

      2. Steve Vernon says:

        I am glad that I am not the only one who has trouble with Smashword’s meatgrinder.

        Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE Smashwords. They reach a lot more distributors than D2D do – but every time I try to upload a manuscript to Smashwords something goes clunk and it gets rejected.

        1. Just yesterday I was publishing a book on Smashwords, and I had to use the nuclear method because none of my other seven attempts turned out right. The manuscript was fine everywhere else. I love Smashwords, too. Mark Coker has done a lot for authors, and I have a lot of respect for him. But I do wish the meatgrinder was easier to use.

          1. With Smashwords, one of the easiest ways to keep your formatting for a new book – I keep the title and contents page, bio and books listing (which are the last two pages) then delete everything else. Then I start with Chapter One after the contents page. This way, the manuscript is already formatted! I just have to fill the bits in-between with the story, change the contents page a little if needed, add to the other books page if I want. Then I just do my checks fro errors. Cheeky shortcut

            1. When you do this, do you have to go back and insert the bookmark for each chapter to link to the table of contents or does it automatically do that? I’d love to get a short cut on the table of contents if possible. Linking it each time I do a book gets old. 🙂

  13. Steve Vernon says:

    Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING… and commented:
    Some info for all of you writer-types out there.

    There is ALWAYS something new to learn.

    1. Thanks for reblogging!

  14. revgerry says:

    Thank you so much for the great information…and a special KUDO for publishing the transcript. It can be so frustrating for those of us who are hearing-disabled when people publish videos only.

    1. Sometimes I don’t feel like taking the time to listen to a 10 minute video, so I like it when people have a written version for me to read through. You’ve given me another great reason to keep doing it. 🙂

  15. cav12 says:

    I am glad you added there is no instant best sellers and perseverance is the key! I am slowly learning that! ;D

    1. I wish there were instant best sellers. It’d make life a lot easier. 😀

      1. cav12 says:

        It would be nice 😀

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