Even more attractive than print-on-demand technology is digital – there are no upfront costs, your royalties are generally higher, your book will never go out of print, and it’s cheap enough that readers will be more willing to “take a risk” and buy it. But with all these digital players out there, which site is best for you?
Well, the advantage with digital books is that you don’t have to decide on just one site, you can join them all if you have the time or the inclination! But is it really worth it? Here, with a bit of help from my writer friends, I’m going to look at a few of the major ebook distributors so you can decide whether to keep it exclusive, or spread it around.
KDP are probably the biggest distributor of ebooks on the interwebs. I have three titles listed via Kindle and my sales have been slow, but I have made some (although not enough to reach the payment threshold).
What they offer:
- Free to join.
- Straightforward set-up.
- Pay royalties direct into your bank account (EFT).
- Popular marketplace.
- You can run promotions on your book: free days or countdowns (if enrolled in their KDP select).
- Entering your NZ tax number reduces the 30% taxation. Do not require US ITIN/EIN.
- Their ebook format is unique to their site (use a mobi converter or Scrivener).
- They do not keep a running total of earnings– you have to maintain your own records.
- Cannot set title to be permanently free (but there are ways around that, see below).
- You need to give Amazon exclusive rights if you want to take advantage of their special promotions (ie: not sell the ebook anywhere else).
What Smashwords offer:
- Free to join.
- A range of digital formats: epub, mobi, pdf and more.
- Their infamous “meat grinder” which turns your original file into the aforementioned formats automatically.
- You can price your book as “free” (if you set your book to free here, Amazon will price match).
- Will pay out via Paypal ($10 threshold).
- You can offer pre-orders.
- The meat grinder translator has issues with some format files (and instruction manual is written for Microsoft Word, not OpenOffice).
- Does not seem to be very popular with buyers.
- Seem to require a US tax number to avoid a 30% taxation on earnings (reduces to 10%).
- Smashword’s layout looks cheap and non-professional (petty, I know, but I do judge books – and websites – by their “covers”.)
When I first joined Kobo, it was really hard getting your book up on their website. You had to format everything, create a metadata file and upload it via FTP. Then they introduced Writers Life and things became so much simpler. I have had the epub (with colour illustrations) version of Fellowship listed on Kobo for years, but I just re-trialed the site by uploading Aroha’s Grand Adventure as well. The process was so quick and painless it was wonderful. Of course, in several years I’ve sold exactly 2 copies of Fellowship, but ah well, might as well make it available, right?
What Kobo offers:
- Free to join.
- Extremely easy and straightforward platform, allowing you to upload your epub formatted files, or translating alternative formats. It’s even easier than Amazon!
- Allows you to set your price in NZ$.
- Pay via EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) into your bank account after you reach the US$50 threshold (well, 45 days after).
- Royalties are 45/75% depending on sale price.
- Canadian company means no tax withheld and no ITIN required.
- Does not provide ISBN, but you don’t actually need them for ebooks. And you can get one here for free.
- Not as popular a marketplace as Amazon.
Wheelers: If your book is released in traditional form, it will automatically be listed on Wheelers book site, but ebooks need to be uploaded separately. Wheelers ebooks are available to schools and libraries. I signed up with Aroha’s Grand Adventure and get a lovely email once a month telling me I have no sales. The process is not too difficult as long as you have an ISBN, an epub file, metadata and a cover image, but is more time consuming (for little reward). Joining is done via email and involves filling in other forms as well.
iBooks: I have not looked too heavily into iBooks, as they seem to require you to have a Mac computer.From the website, their process looks fairly straightforward and very visually appealing, but appears more aimed at text books and pictorials.
Google Books: Are not accepting new authors at this time. Obviously more targeted at publishers rather than independent authors.
Note: ISBN numbers are linked to formats, so if you have your book available in paperback, hardback, and epub they should all have different ISBN numbers. However, most ebook sites don’t require them and will give you their own number instead.