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The 5 biggest self-publishing platforms: how to submit and get listed

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
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There are two main options for self-publishing through major platforms:

1. Submit and get listed at each one individually
2. Use an aggregator, such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital to become listed at all.

A lot of people will join Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program directly, and then use an aggregator such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital for everything else.

While having everything in one place can be convenient, it means paying 15% of all earnings for that benefit. In effect, the aggregator is acting like a sleeping agent.

If aiming for long-term success and sales, it would pay to put a little more time into listing individually at the main platforms. So here's how to:

1. Amazon KDP


Self Publishing | Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

The biggest sales platform by far, Amazon is responsible for anywhere between 60%-90% of all ebook sales, depending on market. Whichever option you're looking it, it will probably pay to join Amazon directly.

Royalty rate: Between 35%-70% after sales taxes and deductions for file size

2. Apple iBooks

iTunes - Working with iTunes - Sell Your Content - Sell Your Books - Apple

Apple's iBooks is another significant player, but puts up a barrier for entry by requiring that users use iTunes Producer - which is exclusive to Mac OS X 10.9 or higher. If you don't have one, this is where an aggregator could be especially useful to bypass this.

Royalty rate: 70% after sales taxes

3. Barnes & Noble Nookpress

https://www.nookpress.com/

Despite reports of their respective declines, both Barnes & Noble and the Nook are still alive and out there. B&N have also widened their self-publishing option to allow for print editions, which appears to be modelled on similar terms to Amazon's KDP Print and Createspace.

Royalty rate: Between 35%-70% after sales taxes

4. Kobo

Kobo Writing Life – Self-publish eBooks with Kobo

The Kobo is another platform that has suffered over recent years, but still holds sway in markets such as Australia. You can submit your ebook directly through them, though they aren't so forward with their royalty rates.

Royalty rate: Between 45%-70% after sales taxes.

5. Google Play


Publish your book on Google Play today

Google Play should offer a great opportunity for epublishing, not least consider the wide use of Android tablets and phones. However, at the time of writing, Google Play is not allowing any direct sign-ups. Also note that Google reserves the right to discount your book without your consent, which - if happens - could force you to lower your prices at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as they demand price matching as part of your agreement.

Royalty rate: 52% after sales taxes.
 

Ogma

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There are aggregators that provide access to Google Play. Streetlib for example. As I understand it, they normally price your book higher than the price you've set to solve Google's discount conundrum.
 

Brian G Turner

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Just some further experiences:

Amazon Kindle - Simple and easy to use. Just don't touch Kindle Print with a barge pole as it's still not fit for purpose - go through Createspace instead.

Kobo - I've found the experience so far to be totally painless. Simple, easy to do, and no problems.

Nook - Their formatting requirements are a little unique, not least that each chapter must be prefaced with a Section Break rather than a Page Break. I've had to completely reformat for this.

Additionally, the Nook previewer shows all my indents missing, which doesn't make sense as they're in my stylesheets. After contacting Nook support I'm told that the previewer won't properly display stylesheet information. I've contacted Nook support again to clarify this, as if true it means the preview tool is useless and not fit for purpose.

Another problem is that you set up a Nook account and then a separate Vendor Account (for some reason your book submission - and then your profile settings - are in two completely different websites). Just a silly issue than a problem.

However, what is a problem is that when filling in the vendor form, it insists that any Unique Tax Number (UTN) must be 9 or 10 digits for people from the UK. That's fine for individuals, but when publishing through a business the UTN is the company registration number, which is 8 digits. Hence I cannot complete the vendor account at the moment.

Additionally, when querying this, Nook support said that the only way to avoid the 30% withholding tax is to physically send Barnes & Noble a completed W8-BEN and that no electronic copy will be accepted - even though I've been submitting W8-BEN's electronically through over vendors for nearly 15 years!

Also, Nook only publishes to the USA.

So far the Nook process seems fundamentally flawed and unfriendly.

Apple iBooks - Apple say you need to run at least OS X 10.9 to publish directly through iBooks. The problem is, if you need to upgrade, Apple now only provide access to the latest OS X (currently Sierra) - even if your Apple device is incapable of running it.

For example, my iMac is from 2007 and too old and low-spac to run OS X Sierra. It was running Lion. I've upgraded to Snow Leopard but need to upgrade again to Mavericks, which will take me to OS X 10.9 and allow me to publish. My iMac should be able to run Mavericks.

But although Mavericks was released for free at launch, Apple had since deleted it, so no one can upgrade through it any longer. Which seems very stupid on Apple's part, and I've been forced to buy Mavericks from Amazon.

Google Play - is still not taking on authors. The Android environment is closed to self-publishing, it seems, except through Kindle.
 

Brian G Turner

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Well, I found my business did have a UTN, so that's finally moving things forward with Nook and iBooks.

Although I'm told the Nook version is published, there's nothing showing on barnesandnoble.com. Nook.com just has a message about the UK store being closed and send you to the - long since closed - Sainsburys ebook store.

I also never received email notification about my vendor account status, which proved to be important when I needed to update the info. Nothing received when my vendor account was approved, either.

Apple iBooks is proving a pain again - I could have sworn I'd read that at least OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) was required to run Producer, but apparently it's now 10.10 (Yosemite). Of course, Apple no longer provide either in the App Store which is proving to be a royal pain.

However, I may have a device still capable of upgrading to Sierra, so I'll try that. In the meantime, I'm going to have to re-install my original Leopard OS X and Logic 9 on the iMac, as Mavericks makes Logic unusable, and I want my home recording studio back. Hours of install fun to ensue.

Even still, the iBooks interface doesn't look very intuitive and seems very old. I'm beginning to think it would have been simpler and easier just to go through Smashwords or Draft2Digital for distributing for Apple devices.
 
Last edited:

Amelia Faulkner

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Now that I've got to grips with Producer and the iTunes Connect website I do quite like them. But it is a pain in the bottom and is wholly designed to drag you into the Apple ecosystem.

But then if you want to run Vellum you've gotta get in there sooner or later anyway.

Google Play is a law unto itself. Google are notorious for coming up with great ideas then abandoning them due to lack of (their own, not users') interest. Of particular frustration with Google Play is that the price you set is not the price they display in the Play store, and the percentage they snip off to display in the store makes no sense whatsoever. The sheer amount of trial and error it's taken hundreds of authors to figure out the correct price to enter in to the Partner Centre is mind-boggling. The percentage "discount" they apply is completely random at each and every tier, varying between around 16% to 26%. To price a book at $4.99, for instance, requires that you set the price to $6.48. They're not at all transparent about this, and if you question them on it their only answer is: "But you get 52% of your list price, not our sale price, so this is A Good Thing and you should Be Grateful!"

They're also particularly keen on randomly discounting books further, without your consent (which is basically given to them by agreeing to their Terms and Conditions). I've known people lose thousands of dollars because Google discounted their title, then Amazon price-matched. When you're in Amazon's Top 100 that rubbish destroys your earnings, and authors have theorised that Google do it intentionally (it only seems to happen to Amazon best-sellers, not to Google Play best-sellers). It's crazy. It's like Google Play genuinely don't want to sell books.
 

Dennis E. Taylor

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Google Play - is still not taking on authors. The Android environment is closed to self-publishing, it seems, except through Kindle.
I just received a PM on my facebook page from someone purporting to be from Google Play, who wanted me to list my books on their service. I have no particular reason to believe it's not legitimate, except for the surprise factor.

If it is, it would mean that Google Play has perhaps decided to go with an invitation-only business model.

ETA: I'm in KU, so it's a non-started anyway, but the horror stories about GP would lead me to demur anyway.
 

Amelia Faulkner

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I just received a PM on my facebook page from someone purporting to be from Google Play, who wanted me to list my books on their service. I have no particular reason to believe it's not legitimate, except for the surprise factor.
And the fact that they PMed you, rather than just announced it on Google Play.

Have they perchance included a link to a page which looks a bit like the Partner Centre but with a URL that is not exactly play.google.com/books/publish/ ?
 

Dennis E. Taylor

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And the fact that they PMed you, rather than just announced it on Google Play.

Have they perchance included a link to a page which looks a bit like the Partner Centre but with a URL that is not exactly play.google.com/books/publish/ ?
Hm, I didn't even look for a link. Just said, "no thanks."
 
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