I am very excited to share this guest author post, by the lovely and talented Tenaya MKD. Fresh from releasing her debut novel, New Identity, Tenaya knows a thing or two about where an indie-author can self-publish their book.
Once you make the decision to self-publish, the information overload can be overwhelming, I’m so excited for this post because Tenaya simplifies and breaks down some scary self-publishing jargon into manageable pieces!
Where to Self-Publish
By Tenaya MKD
I had a hard time choosing a topic to cover for this post. There is so much information that I want to share about publishing now that I’ve successfully published my first book, New Identity. Self-publishing is hard work, and I want to help my fellow Newbies any way I can! But I had to choose just one topic.
Where to publish is only one of the many big decisions that you’ll have to make as an indie author. You’re going to have to choose between publishing exclusively to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to take advantage of Kindle Unlimited, or publishing wide. And if you opt to publish widely, you’ll have to decide if you want to publish directly to each retailer or if you would like to use a third party to distribute the book to them.
So, let’s talk about where you can publish your book, and things I’ve learned about each while publishing my debut novel. While this blog won’t be able to make any choices for you, hopefully it can give you a helpful starting point for your research.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Amazon holds a huge portion of the indie market, especially in the USA. I’m sure most people would agree that it is the most common place to sell indie books. You can publish e-books and paperbacks through KDP, but hardbacks are not yet available. (Hopefully soon! *Fingers crossed*) They offer royalties based on the price of your book: 35% on books priced $0.99-$2.98 or over $9.99 and 70% on books priced between $2.99-$9.99. KDP allows preorders for e-books up to a year in advance, but paperback preorders are not available at all.
When you publish through KDP, enrolling your book in the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program is an option you have. I can’t cover all the ins and outs of this program here, but just to give a quick overview: KU is a subscription program where readers pay a monthly fee for the ability to read any book enrolled in the program for free. As the author you are paid by page reads instead of per download.
If you enroll in KU, you are required to keep your e-book exclusive to Amazon. When you enroll, you sign a contract to remain in the program for 90 days, so for that period you could not publish your e-book to any of the other vendors on this list or give your book away. You’ll have to decide if that exclusive strategy is one you would like to use in your career.
This program has recently become really popular and some authors have a lot of success with it, but there are reasons to be cautious when entering the program too. Just be sure to do your research.
Barnes and Noble Press (US Only)
B&N publishes beautiful paperbacks, hardbacks (I’m not sure if they offer dust jackets), and e-books, offering a 70% royalty on all. I was so impressed by the proof copy I ordered from them. In fact, I planned to get all of my author copies from them. Unfortunately, it takes ages to set up a “vendor account” so that you can publish. Their proof copy is technically a “personal copy”, and for that reason you can order it without having a vendor account, but if you would like to upload a book for sale (which is the only way to get access to the discounted price for author copies), they require a W-9 and your bank information to be set up.
Uploading your book and filling out this information isn’t difficult. Their site is quite user friendly. But they ask you to email a copy of a W-9 form to a specific department to be reviewed, and once you submit that form, it can take weeks to process it. I ended up having to order my author copies elsewhere in order to get them in time for my release. If you decide to upload to B&N directly, my advice is to get your account started long before your release day! Once your account is approved, you can upload a book for preorder. They allow one year for e-books and six months for paperbacks.
I have heard that they are the only vendor that makes it difficult to change your tax ID information once your account is made. So, if you intend to start out as a sole proprietor and then later form an LLC, and if extra hoops are something you’re eager to avoid, that may be a reason to consider using a third party to publish to B&N until you’re ready to finalize your business information.
E-book only stores
Apple Books is a bit tricky. I opted to not publish to them directly, so I can’t speak about the process exactly, but I do know that you need a Mac in order to upload through iTunesProducer. There is a way to work around this that involves a web portal, but I hear that is a less than ideal option.
Another thing to consider is that they are not very pen name friendly. If you do not want your legal name to be made public in the book’s listing, you would need to have a Fictitious Business Name (or DBA) to make your chosen name a legal title.
Some positives are that Apple books has a curated feed that isn’t solely reliant on algorithms. So, while you only get one primary category and no keywords, you can apply for promotional consideration to be made more visible in the store. They also provide marketing tools to their authors. They offer preorders a year in advance, and they pay 70% royalty on all books.
Kobo now has a partnership with Walmart, so Kobo e-readers, e-books, and audiobooks are available at Walmart stores. They also have a subscription service called Kobo Plus that is now available in several countries. In this program you are paid by minutes read and you are not required to be exclusive to Kobo to take part. I didn’t personally upload to Kobo directly, but I’ve been told their uploading process is really simple. They pay 45% royalties on books priced $0.99-$2.98 and 70% on books $2.99 and up. They allow preorders up to one year in advance.
Google Play Books
Google Play is only available directly. Draft2Digital no longer uploads to them. You can create an account as a Google Partner using an existing Google account. So, if you already have an author email set up through Gmail, this works out really well. (That was the case for me.) The upload process is pretty straightforward. You can choose multiple BISAC categories but no keywords. Preorders are allowed a year in advance. They pay a 70% royalty in the US, CA, & AU. 52% to all others.
Third party aggregators
Draft2Digital and Smashwords
Third party aggregators allow you to upload your e-book to one place to be distributed to all of these retailers I’ve mentioned (except Google Play) and more. Including Overdrive, which is what libraries commonly use for e-book lending. There are multiple of these companies out there, but I think the most commonly used are Draft2Digital (D2D) and Smashwords. I personally recommend D2D.
The main downside to using these companies is that they take a portion of your royalties (10% of your retail price). However, I personally believe that, especially when first starting out, this cost could be considered well worth it. You just have to decide if the convenience factor is worth it to you.
I decided to use D2D to distribute to some retailers, because while the act of uploading to each of the retailers isn’t too terribly complicated, the sheer amount of work it takes to create accounts and upload to all five places was daunting. D2D gives you the option to fill out your metadata, author info, and upload your content one time. Also, the idea of collecting reports to track sales from each individual vendor was overwhelming to me. D2D allows me to see a lot of my sales information in one place.
Draft to digital also provides an awesome (and free) formatting tool for e-books! It helps you add front and back matter, add fancy chapter headers, and add themed scenes breaks. It’s a great feature, and I believe you can use it even if you don’t publish through D2D in order to make epub and mobi files.
Also, if your privacy is important to you and you would like to publish to Apple Books, using D2D would be a way to avoid your legal name being attached to your Apple Books listing.
If you decide to use a third party you are not required to use them to publish to every vendor. You can pick and choose from the list they offer. I personally went direct to KDP, and Google Play, but used D2D to publish to the others.
To be frank, IngramSpark can be a real pain. But they are largely considered a necessary evil if you want truly wide distribution for your physical books. They are the way to ensure your book is available worldwide, and to any libraries or bookstores who want to order it. They are also the option for physical copy preorders. Barnes and Noble does allow them, but only in their own store. Publishing with IngramSpark will list your paperbacks and hardbacks for preorder everywhere, including on Amazon. They are also currently the best option for hardbacks with dust jackets.
I am frustrated by the customer service this company provides and their utter lack of quality control when it comes to author orders. When I ordered 25 author copies, six of them were defective… And when I tried to get replacements, one of the books they sent me was someone else’s book. But I will say that when they get a book done correctly, their quality is beautiful.
They charge a fee of $49 to upload initially and another fee to re-upload a file. Though, there is usually a free upload coupon code floating around if you look for it.
I would never recommend you upload an e-book to Ingram. With options like uploading directly and Draft2Digital available, there is just no need to use Ingram. It would only complicate things.
I know this is a lot to take in. But I hope that being armed with these details can help as you make this big choice for yourself. Take this publishing journey one step at a time, and it will come together. Whatever you decide, I’m confident that you have a bright career ahead of you!
More about Tenaya
Tenaya MKD is a lifelong book addict and lover of fantasy, sci-fi, and superheroes.
She has written since the age of one when she sat on her journalist mom’s lap to help her type up her stories, but it took the infamous Year That Was 2020 (and an encouraging nudge from her loving husband) to inspire her to conquer her fearful hesitancy and write her first novel—finally making her long-held dream of being an author come true.
Her hobbies include reading to her beautiful son, drinking coffee that’s gone cold and calling it iced, collecting notebooks she deems “too pretty” to actually write in, art journaling, and enjoying the delicious, plant-based food her husband cooks when he isn’t making music.
Tenaya hopes that by pursuing this career of her dreams, she can show her son (and anyone else who’s watching) that where there is a will, there really is a way. It’s not just a saying.
Check out Tenaya’s debut novel, New Identity
Purchase a copy of your very own HERE!
If you found this post useful, let me know in the comments below. Message me with any content you would like to see in the future!