Choosing a Self-publishing Platform
Any writer who has made it to the end of a manuscript (and through the various edits) knows how hard it is to finish, however, there’s something waiting for you that’s even tougher than finishing that book – marketing and publishing it! Nevertheless, it’s not impossible and with self-publishing no longer the domain of Vanity Publishers, there are more choices available than ever before.
Smashwords, founded in 2008, distributes indie ebooks through most of the major retailers. The platform is free and provides marketing, distribution and sales reporting. Authors retain control over their work and manage sampling pricing and marketing. There are over 100,000 independent authors, publishers and agents using Smashwords, so the platform has to be doing something right.
It can be hard to find what you are looking for on the Smashwords site, but once you get going, it’s relatively easy to use. There are plenty of answers to newbie questions, and an excellent guide to pre-order distribution. One of the most appealing aspects of Smashwords is the fact that it is entirely free. All you need to do is correctly upload your ebook, and they supply a free ISBN, free conversion to multiple formats and distribution with multiple retailers. You can also make changes to your manuscript without incurring extra charges.
One drawback is their arrangement with Amazon. According to Smashwords, “Although we have a distribution agreement with Amazon via their Kindle Direct Platform, they’re unable to receive our entire catalog. In the meantime, we’re only distributing a few hundred titles to Amazon out of our catalog of over 370,000”. Unless you earn over $2000 on Smashwords, they won’t distribute your title to Amazon – you will have to deal directly with Amazon. Also, authors outside the US will require an ITIN. If your knees turn to water at the sight of forms in triplicate, enlist the help of a paperwork-wizard friend.
The Bookbaby website has more publishing options, but it is easy to follow. You’ll find most of your questions are only a click away from being answered, and there is a dedicated customer service line (US based). Unlike Smashwords, Bookbaby charges for publishing and cover design and will charge extra for changes made after publication. On the plus side, Bookbaby distributes on Amazon, and you retain 100% of your royalties whereas Smashwords does take a small cut. Having said that, Bookbaby can only pass on what is paid to them by retailers. Take a look at this comparison for an idea of an actual return for dollar spend.
If you want to get in on the ground floor, why not try the new brand for eBook distributor Vook. Pronoun combines the creation, marketing and selling of eBooks to major retailers on one platform. The platform is not charging fees to publish and will not charge royalties. This means authors keep 100% of earnings after retailers take their cut. Like Smashwords, Pronoun pays quarterly, and a PayPal account is required. It is unclear whether an ITIN is required, but it’s best to assume that non-US-based authors will need to wade through the paperwork to avoid withholding tax.
Pronoun offers optional services that will enable writers to put together a publishing team – these services will no doubt cost money. On sign-up, you are directed to reserve an author page and asked to wait until given the go-ahead to publish. Approximately 7000 authors have signed up to date, but the platform is not live yet so it’s hard to tell how successful it will be.
These are not the only self-publishing platforms available. Research as many platforms as possible to help crystallise your publishing wish list and needs. You may dive right in and epublish or decide a traditional publishing deal will serve your situation best, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to make the decision yourself.