This is a post about where to sell your books for beginning selfpublished writers.
As I said in an earlier post, when you’ve been doing this for awhile, you tend to forget that many new people enter the scene all the time, and they don’t always know, or have easy places to find out the most basic information. Unfortunately, googling self publishing is likely to drive you into the arms of vanity publishers, or other services that exist to wring money out of hopeful writers’ pockets.
No, you do not need to pay a service to list your books anywhere. You can do it yourself with a few easy steps.
It is however necessary that you format your books, and you can also do this easily and for free online. I will tell you how.
You do not need an ISBN for ebooks. Save yourself the money.
These are some things you do need:
- A tax ID in your country
- A bank and/or paypal account to receive funds
This is the time to think about setting yourself up as a business, since it allows you to claim expenses as a tax deduction.
When you think about selling books, it is very important that you make the distinction between the different formats. The marketplace for ebooks is very different from print.
While there is a level of nostalgia attached to selling print books in book stores, in reality most self published authors, especially those of fiction, will sell the vast majority of their books in ebook.
This is a good thing, because ebooks are cheap to produce. Your margin on ebooks is likely to be much higher than on print books. The print market is pretty much stitched up by traditional publishers, and if you want to go specifically into print, many of the things in this post won’t apply. But remember, that if you’re reading this, and you’re an author of fiction, you are much better off concentrating on ebooks, anyway. Sure, do offer them in print, but make them print on demand only.
Places to sell ebooks
The elephant in the room is Amazon. You can sign up with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Amazon runs Kindle Unlimited, an exclusive subscription program.
They will require a tax ID number from whatever country you’re in. You will have to fill out some US tax forms. You can do this online, and there are examples of how to fill them out. If in doubt, ask another author. We’ve all done it.
Every Tax ID number is allowed one account. You can set up one personal account and one for your business, but all your documentation needs to be different, including your email. They will pay you into your bank account, and if you’re not in the US, it is worth investigating options like Payoneer, but most of us use a company called Wise.
Then there is Kobo. They are based in Canada, so don’t require any US tax forms except just your local tax ID number. Kobo has its own subscription program in the form of Kobo Plus. They also distribute to Overdrive for libraries, they allow you to upload audio books, and they distribute to a long list of regional stores. If you find your ebook at Chapter, Waterstones, Booktopia or FNAC, this is how it gets there. They will pay in your local currency into your local bank account. They’re easy to deal with.
People from a limited number of countries can sell books directly through Barnes & Noble. The account setup process can be a little bit wily. They tend to be very finicky about your US tax forms. I can’t really see the reason, but I suspect they’re very small team, and they just do not have enough people to deal with little inconsistencies. Once you have it set up, however, it is a beautiful, easily navigated site that doesn’t present too many problems. They also allow you to upload print books which get sold on the website and in the stores.
Apple allows you to set up an account. Just a word of warning, before you start doing this, if you have an iPhone, make a new Apple ID with a new email and enter your business details for it before you start applying for an account. When you use your regular Apple account, they link all your personal details, and you might prefer not to have your legal name on your books. Setting up an account is a little bit cumbersome, but once you’ve set up an account, it’s all pretty straightforward.
Google Play also allows you to set up accounts. There is an application process and a real human being (TM) checks whether you are a proper author. It is not uncommon to hear from people that their application has been rejected, but Google Play has a pretty good chat function and real human will sort it out for you.
Aggregators distribute to platforms on your behalf.
Draft2digital is the biggest of these. They can distribute your book to all the previously named retailers, plus a few that you can’t reach otherwise, including library distributors, Scribd and Tolino. They take 10% of your income, so if you are expecting your sales to grow, you might not want to take that option for the main retailers. People most commonly farm out their distribution to Apple and Barnes & Noble, because they can be a bit of a pain to deal with. They don’t distribute to Google Play. They have a print book option, using Ingram Spark’s distribution (below).
An account at Draft2digital costs nothing, and I would highly suggest that you open one, even if you have no intention to use their distribution. There site has two other very useful features.
In the first place they can format your books for free. You upload the document, and they turn it into a nice ebook. It’s free to download the files and you can use them anywhere you want.
The other one is the Books2Read Universal Book Link. This is a link that leads to a page displaying all the retailers where your book can be bought. It pulls these links automatically from the main retailers and their sub distributors. You can manually enter other links, for example for audiobooks or print books. This is a very handy feature. It’s free.
PublishDrive is another aggregator. They distribute books to a number of different retailers, including in China and reading apps like Dreame in Singapore and Bookmate in the Nordic countries. Unfortunately, PublishDrive is now a paid subscription, so you will have to see whether the service would be worth it for you.
Where to sell print books
For print books, there are fewer options.
Amazon offers KDP print which makes your book available on Amazon. They offer extended distribution, but it is very limited. They will distribute to Barnes & Noble and a few other retailers, but they won’t send your book to libraries, and your book won’t be in bookstores. In fact, bookstores actively boycott buying from Amazon.
Ingram Spark has the widest distribution for print books. They will distribute to libraries and bookstores. They are a very large company and not really friendly to individual authors. Their site can be glitchy and may require knowledge to navigate all the options. This is the *only* distributor of all the ones mentioned in this article where bringing your own ISBN is an advantage.
A new entrant on the scene is BookVault. They are based in UK, but they also print in the US these days. The print quality is great, they do coated paper for photobook quality print, but they also do single colour pages. They’re working on other additions such as slip cases and sprayed edges. Their books are beautiful. Their prices are great.
Beautiful print books is an area where there is a lot of movement right now, and you will probably find different types of options available to you if you come back to you this page later.
Some of you might want to ask me the question: which of these companies do you use?
I use all of them.