So you want to publish your e-book but don’t know where to start? These days there are dozens of options for self-publishing, so we’ve rounded up the various services for you to contrast and compare.
While many authors report excellent experiences with the various companies listed here, it’s always important to read the fine print to determine which service is right for your book—and your budget. Are you willing to pay upwards of $1000 for add-on options that promise publicity or editorial support? Or are you looking for a cheap and quick way to get your book to the masses? Do you need a service that lets you add audio or high-resolution photographs to your book or have you just written 100,000 words of One Direction fan fiction? How important is it for you to have control of your content and edit it whenever you like? What about the individual bookstore design? Whatever an author’s individual needs, there’s an appropriate e-book publishing service—and often more than one.
Kobo Writing Life
Kobo claims to offer one of the world’s largest e-bookstores, with nearly four million titles available across 68 languages and 190 countries. Kobo Writing Life offers a user-friendly, five-step process for uploading e-books, and the company will convert your manuscript into an e-pub file for free with no additional cost to the author. Kobo has recently simplified its royalty structure, offering authors 70% of the list price on books priced $2.99 and higher with no cap. Royalties are 45% for books priced between 99 cents and $2.98, and authors can also choose to offer their e-books for free. Unique to Kobo is its partnership with the American Booksellers Association, which means thousands of independent bookstores make Kobo e-books available for purchase on their Web sites, helping enhance discoverability. Kobo also sponsors author events at independent bookstores
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon’s KDP lets authors convert and distribute their e-books across all Kindle devices and Kindle apps for free. Amazon offers two e-book royalty rates: 35% of list price in all territories or 70% of list price minus delivery costs in set territories (and 35% of list outside those territories)
The 70% royalty option comes with pricing restrictions: books must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 to qualify for the higher royalty rate. Authors can make changes to their book at any time, and the publishing process is one of the quickest available, with books appearing on Amazon within 24 hours.
KDP Select (kdp.amazon.com/select) allows authors to opt in to a 90-day exclusive digital distribution deal with Amazon in exchange for a few perks. These include KDP Select making authors’ e-books available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, where Amazon Prime members can check out their books for free with no due dates. Authors earn royalties on every book borrowed. The program also offers authors the choice between two promotional features: Kindle Countdown Deals or free book promotion. Authors are also eligible for 70% royalty for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico. The big catch to all of these benefits is that while enrolled in KDP Select, authors must agree to distribute their e-book exclusively through Amazon.
Smashwords is one of the world’s largest distributors of indie e-books with distribution to retailers like Kobo, iBookstore, Nook, and, just recently, Scribd. The company does not currently distribute to Amazon. The advantage to using a distributor is that it saves authors from having to upload their book with each retailer separately. Smashwords also offers consolidated sales reports, which allow authors access the sales information from various retailers all in one place. Smashwords offers royalties of 60% of list price from major e-book retailers and 85% net from sales directly from Smashwords with some exceptions. The company offers global distribution in 51 countries. It offers free conversion to various e-pub formats from a Word doc but requires authors to format the pre-conversion document themselves. It offers a free style guide for this purpose or it will provide a list of recommended e-book formatters who charge a small fee. Authors have the option of selecting a free sample section of their book for readers to give their book a test drive before deciding to purchase. Smashwords also offers a free marketing guide by the founder of the company that includes 41 marketing tips.
Blurb places an emphasis on its print book options, but also offers fixed format e-books, which are sold through the Blurb Bookstore and Apple’s iBookstore. Blurb charges a one-time $9.99 e-book publishing fee. While more limited in discoverability than other platforms, Blurb is ideal for authors who have a design-heavy project like a cookbook or children’s book, and authors can also create enhanced e-books with audio and video. Authors are able to choose from existing design templates using the company’s Bookify tool or opt for more options with the downloadable application BookSmart. Royalties are 80% of list price minus Apple’s 30% fee from books sold via the iBookstore—payments are either made via PayPal (subject to a $1 processing fee) or check ($5 processing fee). For authors who are looking for a supportive online community, Blurb also offers an inspiration hub with creative writing exercises, a tips and tutorials page with numerous webinar tutorials, and the Blurb Indie café, which gathers together indie publishing resources and tips.
BookBaby offers global distribution to the major e-book retailers including Amazon, Kobo, Nook, and iBookstore. With three publishing packages to choose from, authors can supply their own e-pub file for free or opt to pay $99 for the conversion. Royalties are 85% of net for the free and standard packages and 100% of net with the premium package ($249). All packages include access to the company’s Book Promo program, which includes a social media marketing guide, coupons for book trailer production companies and publicity services, and “guaranteed book reviews.” A great feature is the free “BookShop” page, which includes information about the author’s book and buy buttons for the various retailers. BookBaby can assign e-book ISBNs for $19. E-books take from five to 10 days from upload to appearing in stores, depending on whether the author supplied a file that needed conversion. BookBaby also offers basic cover design for $149 and deluxe cover design for $279. Once authors have published their books they will incur a fee for any subsequent changes to the text (10 changes costs $50, for example). Like Kobo and KDP, BookBaby offers authors additional marketing opportunities to promote and sell their work.
iBooks Author allows authors to create and publish their own e-books for sale in Apple’s iBookstore. The process is a bit more involved compared to other e-book services, but it’s a great option for design-savvy authors with multimedia-heavy books like children’s books or cookbooks. Authors can choose from several templates, including classic textbook, cookbook, or photo book and have the ability to add charts, tables, audio, and video to their books using widgets or “drag and drop.” To begin, authors must fill out a Paid Books Account application, which is reviewed in approximately two business days. Once authors receive a confirmation email, they must download a “delivery application” in order to deliver the book. Authors must have an Apple ID along with a valid credit card on file to sell books. iBooks Author does not offer a conversion service, but Apple does offer a list of approved “aggregators” who will format and deliver your book to the iBookstore for a fee — these include Bookwire, Ingram, INscribe, Smashwords, and BookBaby. Royalties are 70% of list price with no fees. ISBNs are not provided.
Lulu offers four levels of e-book creation and distribution services, ranging from a free do-it-yourself version to the $219 Amplifier, which includes one paperback copy of your book and the option for print distribution to Amazon and BN.com. Lulu offers e-book distribution in the Lulu store, B&N’s Nook bookstore, and Apple’s iBookstore. It does not currently offer distribution to Amazon. Royalties are “90% of the revenue from sales of your e-book” less the commission from sales through B&N and Apple. If a document has images, tables, and footnotes the company recommends contacting Lulu customer support to find out about its “premium” package. E-books take from one to two weeks to be reviewed, approved, and uploaded to the author’s Lulu account for distribution, which makes the wait period a bit longer than other options. Any revision to the text after initial publication requires initiating a new “creation process.” If you haven’t opted for the free DIY service, you are required to purchase a new package in order to make your changes.
NOOK Press is the e-book platform from Barnes and Noble and its e-books are available for sale in the United States and the United Kingdom through BN.com, NOOK.co.uk, NOOK Reading devices, and NOOK apps. Launched in 2013 as an upgraded and rebranded version of PubIt!, NOOK Press offers a free, simple interface that makes it easy for authors to convert, upload and edit their work. Nook offers two royalty levels based on list price: With a list price between $2.99 and $9.99 royalties are 65%. With a list price below $2.98 or greater than $10.00 (but not more than $199.99 and not less than $0.99) royalties are just 40% which is just a bit higher than Amazon’s 35% for the same price range. There are no deductions for delivery fees. Nook Press offers “Live Chat” support services as well as a collaborative social networking option (similar to Wattpad or Scribd) that allows authors to work together and comment on or edit one another’s work.
This design-oriented digital and print publisher distributes across all the major e-book retailers as well as the Vook bookstore. Vook provides free ISBNS although its publishing packages are among the most expensive in the marketplace. Authors can publish their e-books starting at $299 with add-on services like marketing consultations or copyediting available. The basic package includes conversion from most file formats to an e-pub file, two free previews and rounds of revisions, daily sales tracking, an optional (very basic) free cover design, and the ability to include up to 10 images and three audio/visual clips in the text. Additional changes after publication will incur a fee determined by the production coordinator. Authors can track the sales of just one book for free and additional books for a $9.99 monthly fee. Authors can run price promotions and have the ability to offer the book for free. Vook takes 15% of revenue from titles sold in its storefront.
eBookIt is a straightforward e-book service that distributes to Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google, Sony, Ingram, and Kobo. The company offers a free DIY guide to formatting your own e-pub file and a free conversion service although there is a one-time $25 distribution fee. For full formatting and conversion it offers a paid service of $149 plus the $25 distribution fee. ISBNs are provided. Custom cover designs are available for $99. eBookit keeps 15% of the net profit and payments are made to authors using PayPal. Additional paid services include audiobook creation as well as press releases and media blasts. The eBookIt CEO also authored a free e-book sharing 50 of the best promotional and marketing ideas for independent authors. The eBookIt bookstore is a bit difficult to navigate with a limited selection of titles in list format with no cover designs, descriptions, or pricing visible. Authors looking for a design-oriented distributor bookstore that encourages discoverability might want to look elsewhere.
Scribd has long been the go-to spot for sharing text-based documents, but it’s been in the news recently for its new, subscription-based premium reader service (unlimited books for $8.99 a month). Now that the service has been monetized, e-books are available either to purchase separately (outside the subscription model) or via its subscription service and are available in both the Scribd store and Scribd apps with royalties at “80% of revenue.” Unlike with other publishers that require an e-pub file, authors can upload any file type (pdf, word doc, rtf) for free and make changes easily by uploading a new file —while still retaining the document’s statistics, comments, and URL. Scribd emphasizes its facilitation of discoverability with over 80 million monthly readers and a curated homepage of selected titles based on the subscriber’s interests. It also bills itself as a social publisher that supports comments on author’s work and allows embedding of documents in blogs and other websites. Authors must register for a free Scribd account. Authors control pricing and preview options and have access to “instant analytics.”
AuthorSolutions and Its Subsidiaries
This e-book platform from self-publishing giant AuthorSolutions (now owned by Penguin) distributes to all the major e-book retailers including Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon as well as Penguin’s Book Country bookstore. Booktango offers free ISBNs and five publishing packages ranging from a free DIY version to the $359 Eye Catcher. Royalties are some of the highest rates on offer with 100% of list royalties on books sold through Book Country and 100% of net on books sold through Booktango’s online retail partners. An extensive selection of add-on services are available, including book trailers, a publicity team, an author website, and a service that promises to get your book in front of “Hollywood agents, producers, directors, and writers.” Booktango is a straightforward platform that emphasizes the importance of authors getting paid for their hard work. Free guidelines and video tutorials are provided.
Trafford offers e-book conversion and distribution as part of its standard print publishing package. E-books are automatically priced at $3.99 and royalties are 50% of net. Full distribution takes about 4 weeks from time of upload and e-books are available on Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, and Scribd, as well as in the Trafford bookstore. Considering that the basic print package runs $549, along with the lower e-book royalty rate compared to other publishers, this would be an option for authors whose primary concern is a print edition.
This is another pricy option from AuthorSolutions that focuses mainly on print publishing but also offers e-book conversion and distribution. Packages start at $899 and many add-on services for editing and publicity are available. iUniverse sets the default and maximum price of all e-books at its discretion and royalties are 50% of net. With terms and royalties similar to Trafford, iUniverse might also be of interest to authors who are primarily interested in print editions of their work.