Diana Horner, co-founder of ebook conversion and distribution service www.ebookpartnership.com, counsels self-published authors to consider all their ebook distribution options, rather than automatically plumping for Amazon.
Invariably, we reach the conclusion that there are pros and cons, and experimentation is sensible. Yes, that's me perched on the fence!
Four years and thousands of books later, the only thing I am completely certain of is that each title has different opportunities and potential in the market. The landscape changes rapidly, and all ebook retailers are fighting hard for market share.
Amazon KDP Select is developing a cosy home for independent authors, with extra touches that tempt you to stay put and work within a familiar system. You have to commit to a minimum period of exclusivity (for ebook versions) of 90 days in order to access the perks of the program. Your ebook will appear in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, and we are seeing growing revenue from borrows. In fact, per-borrow rates can be higher than royalty rate per sale, depending on the list price. The five ‘free promotion’ days can still be a useful option, if planned carefully.
The new tool in the KDP toolkit is the Kindle Countdown Deals option. So plenty there to recommend a single retailer approach – if that retailer is Amazon. Your price will be stable (unless you change it), you can focus on attracting one buying audience, the perks are great. And yet….
“How will you feel if you hear from someone who wants to buy your ebook for their Kobo reader, or Nook (Barnes and Noble), but discover it is Amazon only?”
It is easy to focus on the perks of KDP Select. There are lots of ways to access ebooks bought from Amazon, but do you want to lose one precious reader by restricting availability?
“Libraries are buying more ebooks, could this be a market for you?”
We upload e-books to Gardners and also to Overdrive (global network of 22,000 libraries and retailers), and some of our clients are beginning to see significant sales, from Arkansas to Woollahra, and Surrey County Council!
“What about Google?”
This time last year I was discussing with clients regular price discounting by Google (and Gardners and B&N), which was impacting Amazon ebook prices because Amazon would price match. Authors wanted their ebooks to be available on Google Play, but Google ebook sales were small, and the vast majority of sales of most titles were made on Amazon. It seemed sensible to get off Google and maintain price (as far as possible) on Amazon.
Today, I am not so quick to recommend this course of action. Google is a powerful tool for authors and publishers, and they will almost certainly continue to work on ways to shepherd their vast user database to Google Play to buy things, as a result of a simple search.
“Do you really want to bypass Kobo, Apple, and Barnes & Noble?”
Each of the above has its own loyal customer base. Add together and you could argue that you are leaving money on the table, by choosing to sell on Amazon only.
This is quite a complex subject. As with all aspects of independent publishing, nothing is particularly straightforward! We haven't touched on ebook subscription services, or ISBNs or US tax withholding for authors outside the US.
I strongly recommend that you look into all of the options, and share intelligence with fellow authors and publishers before uploading your book anywhere. Then, keep checking and refining your own strategy to suit your market and the industry developments.