A key decision for indie authors is how to distribute self-published books. Should you open accounts with many different platforms (KDP, Kobo, Apple Books, etc) and deal with them individually? Or is it best to use what's known as an aggregator?
This post, based on an extract from the AskALLi Guidebook, Choosing the Best Self-publishing Companies and Services, explains the difference and tells you what features to look for when choosing the best distributors for your self-published books.
What is an Aggregator Anyway?
An aggregator is a company that allows you to upload your books to a single dashboard, from which they are automatically distributed onward to multiple other platforms on your behalf.
New distributors emerge all the time. At the time of writing, aggregators Smashwords, Draft2Digital, IngramSpark, PublishDrive and Smashwords are all ALLi Recommended Partner Members. IngramSpark is unique in allowing for a single upload for both ebook and print.
- If you are time-rich but cash poor, it makes sense to deal with as many platforms as you can individually. This will usually bring you a higher royalty per unit sold, and may also offer additional benefits such as access to promotions deals available only to direct users.
- If you value time more than money, an aggregator may be the best course for you.
You can use these distributors separately or together, in combination with each other and various retailers. For example, most indie authors go direct to KDP for Amazon's platform, but many use an aggregator for other services – they just untick the Amazon box in their chosen aggregator's list of platforms for onward distribution.
To maximize commercial benefit, ALLi's current advice is to go direct to:
- KDP (for ebooks and print)
and use aggregators for the rest.
However, using an aggregator will not give you as much control of your metadata as going direct. An aggregator must take the simplest version of your metadata that causes least problems when bulk-uploading.
“Authors spend a lot of time carefully managing Amazon's metadata, and then go wide, using an aggregator, and wonder why they can't get traction on other platforms,” advises Orna Ross. “Every store is a little bit different. Both Apple and Google Play allow you to use non-English categories. Apple has its own (non-BISAC) categories as well, as does B&N. While going with an aggregator will get your book listed on the retailers, your listing won't be optimized for that particular site.”
What to Look for in a Distributor
When analyzing any distributor, these are the features to consider:
- Cost effectiveness
ALLi's reviews will help you identify the real costs of a particular service and how to analyze good value for money.
- Ease of use
It should be quick and easy to publish and distribute digital files.
The service should have a good reputation among other authors.
The service needs to be reliable in terms of delivering content to readers.
Protection of content and assuring the delivery to the right set of end users is essential, as is a secure commerce platform.
For More Information about Distribution Options
For more information about the various distribution choices for ebooks, print books and audiobooks, read our AskALLi Guidebook, Choosing the Best Self-publishing Companies and Services.
- Paid-up members of ALLi may download a free ebook of this and all our guidebooks when logged in to the ALLi membership website. Ebooks and print editions are also available to buy from all the main platforms.
- Not yet a member? Visit our membership website to find out more about the 21 benefits of ALLi membership, and to see which style of membership you would qualify for.
OTHER PRACTICAL POSTS ABOUT ASPECTS OF BOOK DISTRIBUTION
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive