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Publishing Wide: Alternative Book Sales Outlets For Authors

Publishing Wide: Alternative Book Sales Outlets For Authors

The Alliance of Independent Authors advises self-publishing authors to publish and distribute their books as widely as possible for a number of reasons. If you’d like to understand more about the wide mindset, you can read our ultimate guide to publishing wide here. Today, though, we’re diving into alternative book sales outlets you can use to sell your books.

Thanks to Crave Books for their contributions to this post. You can find out more about them on their Facebook and Twitter.

Many authors publish exclusively with Amazon because they are not aware of the many other great options that exist. Even if you want to sell on Amazon, you should also get your book on as many platforms as possible. Before we look at the list, let’s review a few reasons for listing on Amazon alternatives.

Reasons to Use Alternative Book Sales Outlets For Authors

There is no denying the exposure that Amazon can offer, which we covered in our post on Publishing Wide.

Here are some of the top reasons to use an Amazon alternative book sales channels:

  • Keep more of your profits. Many alternatives give a higher percentage of each sale to the writer.
  • Build a loyal audience and generate a mailing list. You can leverage the mailing list when you create a new book or promotion.
  • Sell from your existing channels, like social media and your website.
  • Run alternative offers and promotions for your book to sell more copies and build loyalty.
  • Ethical reasons and continuing to support independent bookstores and smaller businesses.
  • Discoverability. Amazon is only the biggest bookstore in a couple of countries. If you’re book is only on Amazon, then you’re missing out a huge population of book readers. “Amazon is only active in 13 countries in the world and only 10 of those are eligible for Prime.” Says Mark Lefebvre in our Ultimate Guide to Publishing Wide 

Alternative Booksales Outlets For Authors: Online

Please support your local, independent book shop where possible. (Find one using the Booksellers Association’s local bookshop search if you are in the UK or IndieBound’s Indie Bookstore Finder if you are in the US).

Your Author Website 

Your author website is the best place to sell your book. When you sell directly through your website, you keep 100% of the profits after processing fees. This is an especially good idea if you already have an audience on your website. For example, if you run a blog that gets good traffic, then selling directly on your site is a natural next step.

You can find a detailed “Ultimate Guide” post on how to sell direct from your website on the ALLi blog here.

Kobo 

Kobo is an eBook marketplace. It has a smaller user base of very loyal readers. It can be a good place to reach interested readers. They also have an eBook subscription service, Kobo Plus. You can publish via Kobo or just use it to sell.

Kobo has a large international market, which can help you expand your reach around the world (especially in Canada where the brand began). One of Kobo’s best features is the ability to link Goodreads reviews on your Kobo pages. It also allows regional pricing. If you are interested in entering a certain region, you can reduce those prices without impact the price of your book elsewhere.

Blurb

Sell your self-published books online with Blurb. in print and ebook formats. Blurb offers fulfillment options for shipping your books to customers. Blurb’s interface is easy to use for all authors. Here’s how selling on Blurb works:

  • List the book with its price.
  • Blurb does not charge distribution fees for printed books. For eBooks, they also do not take a commission. Blurb have a pricing calculator here and they give discounts for volume printing.
  • Blurb sends you a check for the profits you earned at the end of the month if you meet the minimum payment threshold.

Google Play Books

Google Play Books is another place you can sell your books. You must directly publish the book on Google Play Books. The dashboard is not the most intuitive.

To submit books, join the Google Books Partner Program here.

Provide your books in PDF or EPUB format. You can upload both to give readers the choice. Specify the book settings, like which countries you want to sell to and the prices. Google then takes care of the hosting, sales, and distribution.

Benefits of selling on Google Play Books:

  • A large user base.
  • Easily manage content.
  • Google excels in search, which helps people discover your books on their platform.
  • Soon to expand to international reach.
  • No requirement for exclusive rights, you can sell on Google Play Books and other platforms.
  • Free to list books on Google Play.
  • Receive most of the revenue from each sale.
  • Strong security policies.  

Bookbaby

Sell self-published ebooks and printed books via Bookshop from BookBaby. Bookshop is free to all BookBaby distributed authors. you can find out more about their pricing here.

Authors can upload eBooks in multiple formats and set their prices. You can expect to earn 85% of retail sales for eBooks and 50% for printed books. Additionally, readers can purchase your Bookshop eBook on other platforms like Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Benefits of selling on Bookshop:

  • Set your price.
  • Get the money from the sale within one week.
  • Printed books are guaranteed to always be available.
  • Printed books will be up for sale within 10 days of the finalized production order.
  • Easily promote your book with a link generator.
  • Customize your book description.
  • Write an author bio.

Lulu 

Publish and/or sell your book on the Lulu Bookstore. With Lulu, you can create print books, photo books, comic books, magazines, yearbooks, calendars, and eBooks. Lulu is a large, independent bookstore. Lulu offers high revenue shares and many opportunities to get your book in front of readers. After printing costs, you make 80% of every sale on Lulu. Lulu does not charge any fees to make or sell your book. Easily price your book using their pricing calculator.

Aerio 

Aerio is a site for marketing and selling books online. Authors can sell eBooks and print books directly to their customers. However, Aerio isn’t currently open to everyone. It’s for US residents only.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Add (upload) your ebooks.
  • Market your book with a book preview. You can promote your book on social media or any online platform.
  • Create an Aerio online bookstore to sell books anywhere online.
  • Connect with your audience. You can offer giveaways and assess your engagement.

With Aerio, it is fast and easy to set up our store and collect emails for your newsletter. You can customize your widgets and share them on any website or social channel.

IngramSpark

Ingram allows you to sell your book online and in person. It is a huge wholesale book distributor with a global reach. Many bookstores turn to Ingram for sourcebooks to sell. Authors can benefit from Ingram’s connections with bookstores, leveraging their reputation for exposure. Authors should offer wholesale prices to be added to the large Ingram inventory. The wholesale price should be 55% of your normal sales price.

The pricing model Ingram offers is straightforward and easy to calculate. To publish an eBook and print title on their site with full access to services it is $50. For eBooks only, it is around $25.

Fast Pencil 

Fast Pencil is a tool for independent authors to create, distribute, and sell their books. If you do not yet have your book published, you can do so via Fast Pencil by simply uploading your manuscript and selecting a professional page design. Authors only pay for Fast Pencil when they publish and buy books.

Fast Pencil has its marketplace of a wide variety of books. Readers can shop the marketplace directly for new books. Here are reasons authors enjoy selling on Fast Pencil:

  • Free projects. Authors can choose to pay for services if they want, otherwise, it is free.
  • Authors enjoy generous royalties, 80% of net profit.
  • It is fast and easy to go to market on Fast pencil.

Bookshop.org

Bookshop.org is a website that enables you to purchase paperback or hardback books and attribute the purchase (and therefore profit) to a local bookstore, thereby helping that local bookstore.

Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital deals with ebooks and has a POD distribution service in beta. It operates a pay-as-you-sell system, so no up-front payment needed. They do, however, take 10% of the retail price of the book for every sale. They distribute to many of the usual suspects, plus they boast excellent distribution into library systems including Overdrive and Bibliotecha to name two.

Publish Drive 

PublishDrive deals with ebooks, audiobooks and small set of POD publishing. In terms of costs, it requires up-front payment but this then enables them to pay 100% of net royalties. It also offers a one title free set up with limited distribution options. Publish Drive is known for it’s access into Chinese markets in particular but also publishes to a range of well known and slightly lesser known outlets.

Alternative Book Sales Outlets: International Distribution

Publishing wide as a principle is great, but how do you actually achieve that? Alongside some of the aggregators mentioned above, StreetLib is an internationally focused distributor that publishes your book in more niche markets. Here’s a better explanation of StreetLib from ALLi’s International Insights author, Mark Williams

“Based in Italy, StreetLib handles ebooks, comics, magazines, audiobooks and podcasts. StreetLib also has a POD option but this is currently only accessible in Italy as the pandemic slowed down the programme’s development. Expect further developments in 2021. StreetLib operates a pay-as-you-sell system, so no up-front payments needed.

Audiobook distribution includes: Audible, Bibliotecha, BookBeat, Google Play, Il Narratore Audiolibri, Kobo, Kobo Plus, Mlol, OverDrive, Scribd, Storytel, StreetLib Store, Tocalivros, Ubook, YouScribe.

Ebook distribution includes: 24 Symbols, Amazon, Apple, Artcivic, BajaLibros, Baker & Taylor, Nook, Bidi, Book Republic, Casa del Libro, CNPeReading, Decalibro, Feedbooks, Gandhi, Google Play, Hoepli, Hummingbird, IBS, Il Giardino dei Libri, Izneo, Kobo, Kobo Plus, La Feltrinelli, Leamos, Libreka, Libreria Universitaria, Librisalus, Macrolibrarsi, Mlol, Mondadori, Nineva, ODILO, Omniabuk, OverDrive, Perlego, Peru Bookstore, ReteIndaco, San Paolo Store, Scribd, STARY Dreame, STARY FicFun, StreetLib Store, Tolino, Unilibro, Webster, Winvaria, Youboox, YouScribe.”

Alternative Book Sales Outlets for Authors: Offline

Please support your local, independent book shop where possible. (Find one using the Booksellers Association’s local bookshop search if you are in the UK or IndieBound’s Indie Bookstore Finder if you are in the US).

Alternative Book Sales Outlets for Authors: ALLi Member Experiences:

Angeline Trevena, Author

Angeline Trevena

“I approached a local gallery. They specifically supported local artists, and I loved their overall aesthetic of choice, so I took a complete stab in the dark and went and introduced myself and my books. They’d never even considered stocking a local author, but they agreed and then stocked a few other authors, making a special book section in the gallery. They also invited me to participate in events, run workshops, and became fantastic friends. The benefits have gone far beyond selling a few books. I also approached our local library with a suggestion for a small local author event covering sci-fi and fantasy. They actually liked the idea so much that we decided to grow it, and created a sci-fi and fantasy convention with guest actors, crafters, workshops, Dungeons and Dragons games, cosplay, and more. It was so successful, with around 2,000 people through the door, that we made it an annual event. I sell a lot of books there, and have made some really good friends and connections.”

“I write a middle-grade mystery series. Each book is set in a different state and I use real places for the book’s setting. Some examples of where I’ve sold copies to are, the gift shop of a historical home in the Alabama Swift-Coles Historic Home, at a candy shop in Deadwood, South Dakota Chubby Chipmunk Hand-Dipped Chocolates, and Superstition Mountain Museum in Arizona. I’ve not been aggressive in this marketing angle but it is on my To Do list! I often send out a copy of the book to local businesses mentioned in the books and/or local libraries.

The major setting of the Alabama book was the historic home and I visited it several times. I met with the director of home when I noticed they offered several books that were written about the home or the families who lived there. The gift shop was small and she only did consignment. I didn’t know the South Dakota candy shop even sold books, but I sent them a copy because I used the shop in my story. The owner purchases signed copies.

The Museum Shop has many books that pertain to the history of the area for sale so I dropped off a copy and met with the administrator who subsequently purchased signed copies. This is a bit of a niche thing as the locations I often use are notable as tourist sites, because of the history involved (my books contain local historical references via the paranormal ability of my protagonist).

So the only advice I would feel I could give would be to those who use specific locations, even a named village, be open to the possibilities of sales in stores, etc. in that specific area. Even small shops might consider buying if you offer to put a sticker on the front of the book telling prospective buyers the story is set in that area. Locals and tourists alike enjoy reading a story in a setting they are familiar with. Also, take time to polish your SEO. Recently, a historic home I used for inspiration in my Wisconsin book was being taken down. I learned this after I noticed a spike in the sales of that book. Apparently, local articles were published and my book was found via an image I’d used, that linked to my website page and I think if you used good SEO there is a chance stores might find the book also!

 

Author, David Penny

David Penny said:

“I’m selling direct through Tolino in Germany with my translated titles, which is a little quirky if you don’t actually speak German. Thank goodness for web browsers that offer direct translation, even if it is a little quirky at times. The interface on Tolino, by the way, is remarkably elegant and simple.
Germany is now about to overtake the UK as my biggest market, and that’s with only 4 titles translated so far!”

The AskALLi team asked David to tell us more, how did he set up the translations. David said:

“I started looking into translating my Historical Mystery series into German around 18 months ago. We were in Spain for the winter then and met with a really nice German lady who had been the German correspondent on the Washington Post and offered to translate my books. I tried her out and my German friends over there said it wasn’t a great translation and didn’t capture the voice of the books – but she did tell me that the germans love medieval mysteries. So hey!
Move on a couple of months and I discovered my FB friend (and even real friend) Joseph Alexander, who is an ALLi member had set up a group of people to translate all his guitar tutorial books into German – I think he has over 100. As he got close to the end he asked if I’d like to try the service out on my books (he’s also a fan :))
We did the first in series and my german friends in Spain said it was a much, much better job. So I asked Joseph to do the entire series. To date we’re about to finish up book 5 and then move on as fast as he can cope with my demands.
To cut a long story short I worked out my ROI on the translations and it looks as if I will pay off the cost within 18-20 months. What is also amazing is that I appear to have almost perfect read-through of the series. Income on each book is pretty much the same for books 1 to 4. Once I get book 5 out Germany will overtake the UK as my best marketplace. Once I get all 9 books (and counting out) it will probably outstrip all other marketplaces. So yes, it does appear to be the case that germans love medieval mysteries!
We then asked if he had a tip for authors wanting to follow in his footsteps:
“Tips? Choose your translator wisely, and research your markets. Spain didn’t work for me, but I also went through Babelcube for the first in series and it was a total and utter disaster. I had to pay independently for a complete rewrite of that book. Always get a testB translation done – 1,000 to 3,000 words seems to be fairly standard. Then send it to a native german reader to get their opinion. It is so easy to lose the author’s voice if the translator tries to impose their own, which is what happened to my first attempt. And only consider paying up-front for translations if you are already selling a reasonable number of books in your home market and the US, otherwise you are highly unlikely to recover the cost (which is not trivial, but can be regarded as the cost of opening up new markets).”

Oliver Tooley said:

“Most of the books I publish are in some way connected with my local area of Devon. As such, I’ve had some success placing them in local bookshops, selling at local markets, and online from my own website. We have a cookery book which, I understand, the author has placed in artisanal cheese shops and local traditional butchers. One memoir sold well over three dozen copies through the butcher’s shop in the village where it is set.”
Danae Penn said:
“I live in France and write historical mysteries based on the town and area where I live. I contact local bookshops (several in French towns; the French are not keen on buying from Amazon) and make an appointment to see the bookseller. I give him or her a copy as a present and then leave 3 or 5 or 10 copies, however many the bookseller tells me.
I give them a 30% discount and receive a piece of paper setting out the book prices (they cannot be changed by law in France) and the 30% discount. From time to time I contact the bookshop or they contact me about how many books have been sold, how many more they would like to stock and I send my bill by email. I have also done this with one of the largest, best bookshops in France, Ombres Blanches of Toulouse, which has a policy of 33% discount.
I also leave my books with my local tourist office and one in a neighbouring town. 30% discount there too, and some hefty paperwork. I belong to several history associations and my local hiking club. Their members buy my book too during meetings or history visits, and I sign the books. This is great fun, but I have to remember to have change with me.
I give lectures each summer on medieval life and sell my books immediately afterwards. I do signing sessions with local bookshops too which I enjoy very much. French bookshops are often either a coffee shop or a newsagent as well as selling books.”

Robin Phillips

“The OneBookShelf stores are my second-biggest vendor, second only to Amazon. Wargame Vault is the main one for me, but DriveThruFiction would be more relevant to most authors here. I sell more there than at Google, Apple, Kobo, Scribd & Nook combined. I wrote an article about it on Author Help.
They offer a lot of features that I see authors wanting at other stores – it’s easy to make bundles (your own books or including books from other publishers), you can split royalties, email people that bought your books, track where your sales came from…
My main piece of advice would be: Don’t just upload your books and forget about it. Look into the features the site has and take advantage of them.”
This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Dear Friends,

    We are Massachusetts, United States, residents, looking to start an independent religious online bookstore, selling both books and religious merchandise. We would like to have a distributor, such as Ingram or Aer.io fulfill the orders and directly ship them to the customers for us. We are having difficulty determining our start-up costs and were wondering if you would be able to help us know how to find this information or have a source that could help us, please? We also need help with determining how much revenue we would expect to make in a year. Any guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated. We are not authors.

    Thank you very much in advance.

    With best regards,

    Jeanette and David Queenan

  2. Thanks for the comprehensive blog post, Sacha! After recently updating covers, I’m taking one of my series wide again. This post hit at a perfect time. Cheers!

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