Self-publishing has exploded in the last few years, and has coincided with the digital technology boom that includes the smartphone, tablet and Amazon Kindle (and its competitors). Once harshly viewed as a medium for writers who couldn’t get published via the traditional publishing route, self-publishing is now seen as a legitimate alternative to the publishing houses.
The reason for this wind of change has been partly down to technology and social media. It has allowed self-published authors to promote their work themselves, and if you have 10,000 Twitter followers and a large Facebook presence, there is every chance that you can make a good living from self-publishing works, as long as the quality is good.
Established authors have taken to e-publishing, and the results have been interesting. John Grisham’s novel The Confession was released as a hardcover and eBook, and the first week sales proved that the eBook phenomenon is here to stay, with 70,000 sales compared to 160,000 by hardcover. This shows that technology hasn’t killed the traditional book, and traditional and electronic publishing can live in harmony.
Grisham isn’t self-published, so he has the might of a publishing house behind him. But if you are looking to self-publish, which platform should you choose? The rise of self-publishing has led to many services coming on the scene, but the most established are:
Each of these services have their pros and cons, and each have their own unique selling points. For example, Lulu allows you to publish with them and for your book to be available via the Barnes and Noble marketplace, which puts your eBook in front of a huge audience alongside 30 million other products. BookTango allows you (for $599 it should be said) to have your book formatted so it is available for Hollywood producers and agents. As we’ve seen from the likes of 50 Shades and The Hunger Games, book adaptations are all the rage, and if they have an established audience, it makes them more viable for a Hollywood adaptation.
Comparing Self-Publishing Platforms
When choosing which self-publishing platform to sell your works on, it is important to understand which ones are going to benefit you in the long run. The bigger, more established networks are going to get your book in front of more people, but they may also take a larger cut of the sales. It is worth doing your homework to see which one is going to benefit your eBook (and your wallet) in the long run.
BWMBooks.com have created an incredibly useful comparison chart that shows everything from services to price (and commission), the cost to publish and promote the book, formats available and much, much more. Take a look at the chart here.
It is important to sit down and consider what you want from your publishing partner. Amazon KDP is absolutely huge, but it is also exclusive to them, which means you miss out on finding an audience on other platforms. Lulu, for example, allows you to publish via Amazon but also on Barnes and Noble and Apple. Smashwords allows you to publish even further, with the three aforementioned publishers and Diesel, Kobo, Baker and Taylor and more.
There are some publishers that offer services that might benefit your self-published book yet are rare across the wider publishing platforms. For example, eBookIt has an audiobook service, whereas the majority of others do not offer this service. Amazon allows you to publish an audiobook, but through their company Audible.com, not directly with Amazon. As writers know, audiobooks are incredibly popular, so eBookIt have definitely cornered a market here by offering the service directly.
Free versus Paid Services
Self-published authors who don’t have a large budget at their disposal will likely choose Amazon KDP or Smashwords as their service because it is free to upload and publish their works and you can get your book on the market within 24 hours of the upload. It is a big selling point as the paid services – regardless of how useful they can be – can quickly burn holes in your publishing budget.
Lulu.com is free to publish, but they also offer paid services including cover creation, print on demand and promotional services. You can also create badges and videos that you can use to promote your book via your personal website. Badges are very popular with authors because they catch the attention of the visitor and when they click on the icon, they are taken to the Lulu marketplace and can make a purchase from there.
You can go one step further with Lulu.com and – for $499 – create an author website, consisting of a Homepage (which features your books front cover, promotional copy, and a link to order your book), About the Author page, Product page (consisting of all your published works), Blog and Media section for any videos and articles you have about your career and books. The site is hosted for one year and comes with your own domain. It comes recommended if you don’t already have a website and you have the aforementioned $499 at your disposal, but many authors will likely opt for the free options and simply link to the marketplace via their web copy and social media accounts.
If you are a fan of Penguin books (isn’t everybody?), you might want to consider BookTango, as it is the eBook publishing section of the Penguin company Author Solutions. BookTango is an up-and-coming rival to the bigger, established publishers, and its unique selling point is that it is free to publish and distribute, plus you keep 100% of the royalties, compared to the 10% and 15% from Lulu and Smashwords respectively.
BookTango makes its money in a similar way to Lulu.com, in that it offers authors the opportunity to pay for services including book covers, promotion and – if you choose to – a $49 fee for BookTango to format and publish the book for you. This is very popular with authors who struggle with formatting and uploading their Word and PDF docs to the services.
One of the biggest selling points for a self-publishing platform is ease-of-use. It can be tricky to get your documents formatted correctly and many authors have lost patience (and hair, no doubt) with the formatting guidelines that can be difficult to get to grips with when uploading your document to be turned into a properly formatted book to sell via the marketplace.
In the majority of cases, the difference between choosing a platform and heading to a competitor is going to be cost, amount of royalties and audience reach. For that reason, Amazon KDP, Lulu and Smashwords are likely to be the best platforms for you to publish your works on. Just be sure to do your homework first, because you might find some great deals on some of the smaller platforms and still have the opportunity to publish via the larger marketplaces.