Today I am sharing step 4 in my self-publishing series, which will be on the topic of choosing a publishing platform. If you haven’t read my first 3 posts on writing, editing, and cover design, I would recommend checking them out first. Now without further ado, let’s get started.
This is a step that every self-published author needs to go through in order to actually publish and have their book available for sale in ebook, paperback or hardcover formats, but what do I mean by a publishing platform? It can be called different things, but I’m basically saying you need to decide what company you’re going to use to create and distribute your books, unless you plan on buying a printing press and doing it yourself (or emailing pdfs of your books to every reader with PayPal payments).
Let’s give you more of a visual here by talking about the three biggest Print on Demand companies self-published authors use. Side note: Print on Demand simply means that your book is printed whenever someone purchases it. The company does not keep stock of your book on hand and you do not need to purchase stock of your book in order to sell it. Print on Demand companies also offer ebook versions of your book as well.
KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing
KDP is the most used platform for self-published books and it’s done through Amazon. KDP allows free upload of your documents at any time, ebook preorders, and both ebook and paperback options. KDP will also supply you with a free ISBN number if you so choose, which is the identification number that every book must have. Most people choose KDP because it is free and easy. It’s what I used exclusively for Silent Night, but it does have its drawbacks.
First, when you use KDP it means that your books will only be available on Amazon. You can of course buy copies of your books to sell yourself, but it makes it harder to get into bookstores and libraries as they would also have to buy from Amazon.
Another drawback, which is related to marketing, is the fact that KDP does not offer paperback preorders, only ebook. This means that readers can’t order the book ahead of time and have it delivered on release day. It also means they can’t participate in your preorder giveaways, unless they want an ebook copy, so it definitely narrows your focus somewhat.
D2D – Draft 2 Digital
D2D is the second platform I chose to publish my books on and it focuses mostly on ebooks, though there is an audiobook option and I think the company is also segwaying into paperbacks as well soon, but don’t quote me on that.
D2D allows you to publish your ebooks on multiple vendors including but not limited to: Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Scribd. This allows you to “go wide” with your novel, which simply means selling your book in more than one place. It also removes the need to set up an account with each company individually, which you can do, but is very time consuming and hard to organize. D2D eliminates the hassle for you and each upload is free.
D2D also has a feature where you can download different file types of your book like mobi and epub, which is great if you want to offer free ebook ARC copies of your book to readers before release.
Now, I have yet to use this platform myself, so my knowledge is limited to research and what I’ve heard from other authors, but I do plan on using it going forward with my career, so perhaps I’ll update you on it in the future.
Ingram is a Print on Demand company much like KDP, but again like D2D, they help your books to go wide (outside of Amazon). Ingram is great if you want to get into bookstores and libraries as it partners directly with them. Other great aspects of Ingram include the ability to offer paperback preorders and the ability to create hardcover additions of your book.
However, uploading to Ingram is not free, unlike the above two options. The first upload of your manuscript is $49 and any subsequent uploads are $25, which includes even the smallest of changes like correcting a typo. So you really want to make sure your book is finalized before you start uploading it to Ingram.
Ingram also has further requirements to publish with them. First, you will need to purchase your own ISBNs for your paperbacks and hardcovers (ebooks don’t need them). Second, Ingram requires you to be a company, essentially. This means that you will need to register your authorship as a business so that Ingram can put your business name in the publisher field when creating the book. This is unlike KDP which takes on the role of ‘publisher’ itself.
Another downside is that I’ve heard Ingram is notoriously hard to work with from poor customer service, huge mistakes, and a not very user friendly site. Again, I have not experienced any of this myself, but I know people who have been very frustrated by Ingram, so keep that in mind. There will be a learning curve.
So, those are the big 3 in the self-publishing scene at the moment that I know of personally. There are others around, like Lulu and Smashwords, as well as working independently with Nook and Kobo as stated previously. It is important to note that most of these print on demand companies will be free or include a small upload fee like Ingram Spark. Beware of vanity presses. If a company is asking for hundreds of dollars to publish your book, walk away. They are not a vendor. They will print so many copies of your book and then it will be up to you to find ways to sell them, with no online presence whatsoever.
Also remember that while uploads to KDP and D2D are free, the companies do take a cut of the profits(as do all print on demand companies), but they only make money when you do. Check out the royalty rates stated and make sure you price your book high enough to cover printing costs and give yourself a reasonable cut.
I want to finish with my plan for the big 3 platforms to give you an idea of how you might want to utilize them. Moving forward, I will still be publishing paperbacks and ebooks on KDP because they are my preferred vendor. I will also still be publishing ebooks on D2D so that they can go wide. Thirdly, I will start using Ingram for paperbacks (so I can do preorders and get into bookstores) and for hardcovers (surprise!) However, I will be waiting until all files are finalized on KDP before uploading to Ingram, so I can minimize the uploading fees.
As you can see, it’s possible to use one platform exclusively or branch out to multiples, whatever best suits your needs, and you can always change things down the road. Do some research to narrow it down and I would also recommend checking out other authors to see which platforms they use and like.
The fifth post in this series will go live at the end of this month and it will be on formatting. In the meantime, I’ll be back next week to talk about podcasts!