All self-publishing authors, publishers and small press face this decision.
Which ebook sales platform do you choose and why? There are no easy answers because all of them offer advantages and disadvantages.
The simple solution would be for Amazon to drop its demand for exclusivity when you enrol in KDP Select.
It seems that this will not happen any time soon. But the perks of KDP Select are not as attractive as they were a few years ago.
KDP Select gives self-publishers and small press the opportunity to make their ebooks available to Kindle Unlimited readers.
It also allows you to give away your ebooks for free for a limited time.
This might be a plus or a minus for some authors. But exclusivity stands in the way of being able to sell your ebooks on other retail ebook stores.
So what are the pros and cons of the three publishing platforms?
Draft2Digital and Smashwords open publishing
Both Draft2Digital and Smashwords are aggregators and offer authors access to a wide range of ebook retailers, libraries and ebook subscription services. These include Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo plus many more.
It means that you can try to find more potential readers and book buyers. Smashwords are perhaps marginally ahead in this regard.
There are no international barriers or scaled royalties. Unlike Amazon KDP, both Draft2Digital and Smashwords pay a set royalty rate for sales to customers in all countries and all points of sale.
You are free to choose your pricing – even free if you want to. You can also offer discounting for your book on individual retailers you select or by geographical zone.
Both aggregators are very open and clear about their royalty rates on your book list price.
Both of them pay monthly by Paypal, which is very easy to set up and is a convenient way to get paid. This is practical for authors outside the US.
There is also no minimum payment threshold.
Where Draft2Digital really shines is in how easy it is to publish a beautifully formatted ebook with tailored end matter.
Smashwords has a little way to go yet to catch up in this regard. But for those authors who are used to the Smashwords’ style guide recommendations by Mark Coker, and the metagrinder and autovetter process, there is no pressing reason to change.
Both companies have excellent customer service. If you have a problem and need assistance, both reply promptly and are always extremely helpful in trying to solve the problem as quickly as possible.
Book marketing is not so easy when you have 5, 8, 12, or more ebook retailers selling your ebooks.
Promoting book links to each retailer is definitely not workable, so you have to choose where you place your marketing efforts.
For most authors, promoting the ebook version on Kindle is the easiest choice, which somewhat defeats the whole purpose of open publishing.
However, Draft2Digital offers a service called Universal Book Links, which is working to solve the problem. It can help a little in promoting ebooks on a lot of retailers with one simple link.
There is no bucking the truth. Amazon dominates the ebook market, and by some measures generates nearly 70% of ebook sales.
This is a tough statistic to fight against. While open publishing might offer new channels, it will be at best 30% of the ebook market.
Sales ranking and traction is difficult to achieve when your sales are spread across many small ebook retailers.
It’s a fact that Kindle owners read a lot of ebooks, and then there’s the rest.
While ebook readers use many other devices, the ease of buying and downloading an ebook on a Kindle from Amazon is too easy for some readers to bother with other retailers.
Only Apple can compete to any degree with its iBooks. But this, of course, is restricted to Mac, iPhone, and iPad users.
Amazon KDP Select Exclusivity
Amazon is by far the biggest seller of ebooks, so you will definitely want to have your ebooks available on Amazon Kindle.
However, when you enroll your book in KDP Select, you are granting total exclusivity to Amazon.
The benefit is that it will hopefully increase an ebook’s sales potential by gaining access to millions of Kindle Unlimited readers.
Having your ebooks available on Amazon exclusively makes ebook marketing very easy.
You only need to use one link to your Amazon book page for all your online ebook promotion. You don’t need to worry about promoting your ebook anywhere else.
It is much easier to gain a reasonable sales rank on Amazon, either from reviews, free ebooks, or by sales, than on other retailers. This is because your ebook sales are not diluted across a larger number of retailers.
Amazon demands exclusivity for ebooks, but it does not do so for paperback and hardcover versions. This means that cross-over sales are possible.
The enrollment period is quite short at only 90 days. If you change your mind and want to open publish, you can do so after the end of your enrollment period.
Exclusivity for ebooks is, of course, the big downside for many authors.
There can also be a difficulty in changing from open publishing to Amazon exclusivity. It can take a very long time to completely remove your ebooks from sale on other retailers. Amazon strictly enforces this rule.
In reverse, when changing from Amazon exclusivity to open publishing it can take an awfully long time to gain any sales traction on all the new book retailers.
There is a much lower royalty return from Kindle Unlimited reads. Often as much as 50% lower than what you would earn from an ebook sale.
It also becomes difficult to calculate because Kindle Unlimited readers may only read part of an ebook.
You will sometimes see page reads for only one or two pages, which means making the calculation between an ebook sale and page read earnings almost impossible.
Having all your eggs are in one basket. This is normally bad business 101. But then again, the reality is that Amazon is so dominant in today’s ebook market, you have to be there.
But the danger is always present of something going amiss, and then all your eggs are broken.
If you have a problem with any service or feature on Amazon KDP, be prepared for a long frustrating wait. KDP help and customer service are not very good at all.
There is no right or wrong answer or best alternative. It’s a choice for each self-publishing author or small press to make depending on their situation.
For new authors, I would always recommend using Amazon first, and granting exclusivity, as it offers by far the best possibility of gaining some market traction for a new book and author.
For those with more than a couple of titles, a mix and match approach is always a possibility by moving titles in and out of exclusivity.
In the end, it’s about choosing what you believe is best for you, and your ebook sales.
It is important to note that Amazon exclusivity only applies to ebooks.
If you self-publish print versions of your book using Blurb for trade books or KDP print on demand, there are no restrictions at all.