Making sensible retailer choices to help you to sell books online.
There is no right or wrong way when it comes to deciding on which book and ebook retailers you are going to select to sell your books online.
Your aim is to use the best possible routes towards potential book buyers to gain sales for your titles.
There are many online book retailer choices available, but when it comes to ebooks, there are a few decisions you will need to make before you list your book.
The first is to decide if you only want unit sales at your cover price, or do you also want to offer your ebooks to ebook subscriptions services?
Note that ebook subscription services usually pay a much lower royalty than for ebook unit sales.
The second decision is whether you a willing to accept Amazon exclusivity, or do you want to remain totally independent?
In other words, do you want your ebooks available on many ebook retailers as possible, or only on Amazon Kindle?
To make these decisions, you need to understand what online retailers can offer you, and more importantly, what they demand from you.
The details below of the major online book and ebook retailers will give you a brief outline before you start doing your own research.
Amazon, FBA, Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, KDP and KDP Select
Amazon sells books. Every type of book you can imagine. It is the place to sell textbooks, paperback novels, colouring books, hardcover bestsellers as well as university and college textbooks.
In my teaching job, I buy all my course books from Amazon because it offers free shipping and even textbook buyback if I overorder.
If you are publishing outside of Amazon, you can still sell copies of your printed books on its store by using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). You need to get a price quote and shipping labels to use Amazon’s service to sell for you.
It goes without saying that almost all authors choose to have both their paperbacks and ebooks available on Amazon.
As it is by far the largest global online book retailer, it is always the best place to sell your books. This is especially true if you are new to self-publishing and looking to publish your first book.
For paperbacks, hardcover and audiobooks, Amazon is absolutely the primary book retailer to use.
When it comes to ebooks, however, Amazon plays it a little tough with how you can offer your ebooks on the Kindle Store.
When you upload and publish an ebook on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), your ebook will be available for sale on the Kindle Store on all Amazon sites.
However, when you publish your Kindle ebook, you will be given the option of enrolling in KDP Select, which is definitely not the same as the standard KDP.
If you enrol with a simple click into KDP Select, you will be granting Amazon total exclusivity to your ebook. In doing so, you will not be able to offer your ebook for sale on any other retailer for a period of 90 days, or longer if you also have auto-renew ticked.
If you want to be able to sell your ebooks on other retailers, do not use KDP Select.
But, if you want to offer your ebooks on Kindle Unlimited, you will have to enrol in KDP Select.
There are some advantages to KDP Select, but be very sure that you know the differences between KDP and KDP Select before making your choice.
Apple and iBooks
Apple iBooks only sells ebooks, but as it is second to Amazon in market share, it is a very good online retailer to use.
With more and more people reading on iPhones and iPads, having your ebooks available for sale on Apple is a good option.
It is possible to publish directly with Apple, but it is much easier to use an aggregator that will do this for you. You can read about aggregators later in this article.
As yet, Apple does not have an ebook subscription service. For some authors, this is a good thing, as royalties are not going to vary from month to month.
Barnes & Noble and Nook
B&N used to be second only to Amazon, but in the last couple of years, its bookseller market share has declined. This is especially so for its Nook ebook business.
You can publish ebooks directly with Nook, but this option is only available for US authors. For non-US authors, the only option is to use an aggregator.
However, if you publish in paperback on Createspace, Lulu or any other print on demand platform, you can have your books listed for sale on B&N.
It is worth noting that you can also publish a paperback on KDP, but it does not offer the facility to make your books available on any other sales channel or retailer. Yet, Createspace, which is also an Amazon company, does offer the option to supply other retailers including Barnes & Noble.
Coming in after Apple in market share, Kobo is worth using. But don’t expect a huge number of sales.
However, Kobo has a small but loyal user base, so if your ebooks manage to gain some traction, it is possible to gain sales.
Kobo also offers an ebook subscription service called Kobo Plus.
Again, you can publish directly with Kobo, but the easier way is via an aggregator.
Google Play Books
Google is worth a try.
I have always thought that Google Play should perform much better than it does.
You need to publish directly, but it has an absolutely awful and confusing publishing dashboard and an even worse sales reporting system.
You might get lucky, but I have never gained a lot of sales. Sales do sometimes trickle through, however.
The other retailers, and libraries
There are many ebook retailers including Tolino, Scribd, 24Symbols and Playster to name a few. There are also some speciality retailers like All Romance Books and Omnilit.
While much smaller in market share, you might be lucky and find some sales traction.
The last sales avenue is libraries. The best way to get your ebooks into libraries is to use an aggregator that supplies OverDrive, which specialises in library ebook distribution.
Choosing an aggregator.
The best-known ebook aggregators are Smashwords and Draft2Digital.
Both are truly excellent services that offer very good support.
In choosing between the two, you might want to consider which one suits your needs best.
While Draft2Digital is easy to use and requires very little knowledge of ebook formatting, Smashwords offers a wider range of distribution channels including libraries.
You can read more here about Draft2Digital and Smashwords.
Use an aggregator or go direct?
The benefit of using an aggregator is that your ebooks are made available to a solid list of ebook retailers, and your royalty payments are managed in one place. That is, by the aggregator. This is a convenient way to get paid.
But if you publish directly with retailers, you will gain a slightly higher royalty, as you won’t be paying a cut to an aggregator.
However, your royalty payments will be split, and might also be affected by minimum earnings payments.
It always pays to check how and when you will be paid before you make a decision.
Choosing your online retailers for paperbacks is easy. Get your books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble if possible, and as many more as you can find.
With ebooks, however, there is always the difficult choice to make.
Open-publishing, which means having your ebook available on as many retailers as you can find.
Or, Amazon KDP Select exclusivity, which means your ebook will only be available on the Amazon Kindle Store.
This choice is up to each individual author. There is no right or wrong choice as there are benefits to both.
If you have a number of titles, you can always have some in and some out, and see which works best for you in the long-term.
Tip! Don’t forget to ask your local bookstores if they will agree to stock your books. You never know. You can also offer your ebooks for sale directly from your website or blog if you the technical ability to link downloads with a payment service such as Paypal.
Once you have made your choices on where to sell your books and ebooks, then it will be time to promote your books.
That is when the hard work really starts.