When it comes to going wide and going global we will increasingly need to rely on third party distributors, or aggregators, to reach consumers around the world.
As we’ve previously explored, of the Big 5 indie-friendly outlets Nook is US only, while Amazon, Apple, Google Play and Kobo between them offer us some impressive international reach. Most of us will have the option to go direct with some or all of these and thereby cut out the “middleman” distributor.
But even if we can go direct with them all we need to consider a) whether it is worth the extra work that entails, and b) how much reach we will be missing out on if we don’t also use an aggregator.
Today therefore I’ll be looking at the distribution (not the other pros and cons, which are beyond the remit of this essay) offered by eight of the most popular indie-friendly aggregators across audiobooks, ebooks, and POD. They are BookBaby, Draft2Digital, Ebook Partnership, Findaway Voices, PublishDrive, Smashwords, StreetLib and XinXii.
At which point, full disclosure given the topic: I work for StreetLib. But as always, the information that follows will be factual to the best of my knowledge and any errors or omissions will be corrected, so please advise of anything does not ring true.
A reminder here that none of the aggregators I’m about to cover require exclusivity and of course we can use one, more than one, or all, as suits our consumer programme.
Remember that being indie means being independent. If we put all our eggs in one aggregator basket then we take a risk – remember what happened to Pronoun? We also shut ourselves off from certain consumer points. As we’ll see below, each and every aggregator has its unique consumer points and there is no one aggregator that can do it all for us.
Do keep expectations realistic. If you are going direct with the main outlets like Amazon and Google Play and just using an aggregator to mop up the smaller retail and subscription options then of course aggregator revenues will be lower than if we use them to access the bigger consumer points.
While beyond the scope of this essay, do remember each aggregator offers unique value-added services – everything from formatting tools to discounts on third party services to promotion opportunities to… the list is endless.
Do take special note of the fact that three of the aggregators mentioned here offer their own stores where we can sell direct to consumers and get fantastic margins. The downside is these stores are not readily visible to consumers. But if we make the effort to drive traffic to these stores – what I call Direct-to-Consumer-lite – these stores can be invaluable assets.
One final point before we look at the distribution in detail: Aggregators change and evolve over time. If we’ve looked at an aggregator in the past and found it wanting, don’t write it off forever. Pop along and see what’s new. We may find ourselves pleasantly surprised by what’s now on offer.
Okay, so here, alphabetical order, is what distribution each aggregator offers:
Based in the USA, BookBaby handles ebooks and POD. It requires up-front payment and pays 100% net royalties.
Ebook distribution: Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo, OverDrive, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Ciando, Vearsa, Hoopla, BookBaby Store. In addition, BookBaby offers the opportunity to get into Kindle Unlimited via KDP Select, but note this is an either/or option just like going direct to KDP Select. If you choose this option with Bookbaby you must be exclusive with the ebook title in Select for ninety days.
POD distribution: Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Powells, WalMart, NasCorp, Bookazine, BPDI Corp, Diamond Comics, Christian Book Distributors, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, BookBaby store.
Based in the USA, Draft2Digital handles ebooks and has a POD distribution service in beta. It operates a pay-as-you-sell system, so no up-front payments needed.
Ebook Distribution: Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo, Tolino, Scribd, Overdrive, 24Symbols, Bibliotecha, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla and Vivlio.
POD distribution: will include Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble and WalMart, but at this stage the beta is by invite only.
Based in the UK, Ebook Partnership handles ebooks. It requires up-front payment and pays 100% net royalties.
Ebook distribution: Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo, eSentral, Bookmate, Scribd, Storytel, OverDrive, Hoopla, EBSCO, Baker & Taylor, Askews & Holts, Gardners.
Based in the USA, Findaway Voices handles audiobooks for indies. It requires up-front payment and pays 100% net royalties.
Audiobook distribution: Amazon, Google, Kobo, Audible, Nook, Bibliotecha, Storytel, Scribd, Chirp, Hibooks, OverDrive, Hoopla, WalMart, Beek, Baker & Taylor, BajaLibros, Nextory, AudiobooksNZ, AudiobooksNow, ODILO, Bidi, AuthorsDirect, EBSCO, Follett, Fuuze, 3LeafGroup, Mlol, BookBeat, LibroFM, Perma-Bound, Ubook, Bookmate, 234Symbols, Anyplay, Audiobooks, Hummingbird, Leamos, Wheelers, eStories, Rakuten Play, InstaRead, Axiell, PapayaFM.
Based in the USA, PublishDrive handles ebooks, audiobooks and POD. It requires up-front payment from new clients and pays 100% net royalties. It offers one title free with limited distribution options.
Audiobook distribution: Google Play, Kobo, Gardners, OverDrive, Bookmate, CNPeReading, Findaway, Storytel.
Ebook distribution: Amazon, Apple, Nook, Google Play, Kobo, Kobo Plus, Scribd, Storytel, Bookmate, Dreame, 24Symbols, Perlego, Tolino, CNPeReading, JD, Dangdang, gardners, Ciando, eSentral, DBook, Konyv, Bookshout!, E-letöltés, OverDrive. Hoopla, Odilo, Bibliotecha, Mackin.
POD distribution: Amazon, CNPeReading.
Based in the USA, Smashwords handles ebooks. It operates a pay-as-you-sell system, so no up-front payments needed.
Ebook distribution: Apple, Nook, Scribd, Kobo, OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Gardners, Tolino, Bibliotecha, ODILO, Enki, Smashwords Store.
Caution: the Smashwords distribution page is a little out of date, for example including Bookworld (Australia), Crossword (India), Play (UK), PickNPay (South Africa) and Eason (Ireland) as part of Kobo’s sub-reach when in fact these stores no longer sell ebooks.
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: Audible, Bibliotecha, BookBeat, Google Play, Il Narratore Audiolibri, Kobo, Kobo Plus, Mlol, OverDrive, Scribd, Storytel, StreetLib Store, Tocalivros, Ubook, YouScribe.
Ebook distribution: 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.
POD distribution (currently only Italy, but watch this space): Amazon, Goodbook, IBS, Il Giardino dei Libri, La Feltrinelli, Libreria Universitaria, Mondadori, StreetLib Store.
Based in Germany, XinXii has been a traditional favourite of indies, but I’m including XinXii here just as a cautionary note and with no further details.
I’ve emailed XinXii and had no response to queries. These are my concerns: While the website appears to be functional, the audiobooks link goes nowhere and the list of ebook distribution partners includes New Zealand’s Whitcoulls, which stopped selling ebooks way back in 2013, Club Bertelsmann which closed in 2015, and India’s Flipkart, which also stopped selling ebooks in 2015.
We all understand distribution partners change and websites cannot always be updated immediately, but claiming to distribute ebooks to stores that have not sold ebooks in 5-7 years suggests helping keep us at the cutting edge of new developments in the industry may no longer be at the forefront of XinXii’s operations.
Up-coming International Book Fairs and Festivals
(See this post on how indies can reap rewards from international book fairs).
Oct 22-25 (Nigeria) Ake Arts & Book Festival online
Oct 30-31 (India) Delhi Book Fair online
Oct 30-Nov 9 (Algeria) Algiers International Book Fair online
Nov 04-14 (UAE) Sharjah International Book Fair in-person
Nov 24-30 (Philippines) Manila International Book Fair online