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What’s The Best Way To Distribute Self-published Books – Direct Or Via An Aggregator?

What’s the Best Way to Distribute Self-published Books – Direct or via an Aggregator?

partner member badge - look for this when choosing the companies to distribute self-published books

ALLi Recommended Partner Members give you peace of mind when choosing distributors for your books

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:

  • ACX
  • KDP (for ebooks and print)
  • Kobo
  • IngramSpark
  • NOOK

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.
  • Reputation
    The service should have a good reputation among other authors.
  • Reliability
    The service needs to be reliable in terms of delivering content to readers.
  • Security 
    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

cover of a good book to read to help you decide how to distribute self-published books

One of the growing series of AskALLi Guidebooks for Authors

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.  
#Indieauthors - wondering how to choose the best way to distribute #selfpub books? This short post will set you off on the right track! Share on X

From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive

Author: John Doppler

From the sunny California beaches where he washed ashore in 2008, John Doppler scrawls tales of science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror -- and investigates self-publishing services as the Alliance of Independent Authors's Watchdog. John relishes helping authors turn new opportunities into their bread and butter and offers terrific resources for indie authors at Words on Words. He shares his lifelong passion for all things weird and wonderful on The John Doppler Effect.


This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. I got four books, novels, published over a few years by publishers , who charged ‘sharing of publishing costs’.
    I feel books were not produced in required quantities, sufficient enough to be distributed in places where there is demand. I found out this, when during my trips to some places on personal visits, author copy books offered by me were accepted readily by some book shops.
    Is there a remedy for this, someone please let me know.

  2. I have already owned my nine published books and want only eight of which to distribute free of cost with the interest of gain in market profits. Let be known about suggestion regarding the said business deal in a convenience. Thank you,
    Prof. Roshan.

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