Thursday, February 4, 2016

Self-Publishing Platforms: Amazon, Smashwords, Etc.

After doing this a couple of years, I can safely say that I can now give a more accurate account of which platform worked best for me. I published books on both platforms, varied pricing and done some marketing. Here is what I've found after five years:

I have four Afrikaans novels and one English novel self-published at both Amazon and Smashwords. The English novel is an erotic novel and thus the demand is slightly different than those of contemporary novels. Afrikaans novels is a niche market with limited readership and the experience I had with publishing those novels might be different if they were published in English.

How Easy is it to Self-Publish E-books on the Platform?

As for ease of publishing, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is the best. Their interface is straight forward with no real hassles. You need your manuscript in Word, properly formatted so that it displays well and a striking image for the cover. They make adding the rest of the writing to the image childsplay. (Although these days children tend to grasp these concepts much easier than their parents do)

Smashwords takes a little practice and if you want to go that route, I would suggest you read the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker before you start writing your book.

This guide feels like it's written in Greek (for an English speaking person) the first time you read it, but after you've gone through it and applied the tips, you'll find that even publishing at other platforms is easier because the manuscript is cleaner and devoid of any strange code. You'll get a lot less gibberish when the book converts. If you implement the changes while writing the book, your publishing experience will be so much more fun.

Where to Distribute your Book?

Kindle Direct Publishing publishes, well...on Amazon. Their books are sold in the Amazon online stores of which there are thirteen in different countries. Amazon is however the popular choice for obtaining e-books as their checkout procedure is so easy, their delivery system almost instantaneous and their customer service usually on the ball.  

Smashwords distributes to various other online retailers including Kobo, Apple, Barnes and Noble and various libraries. Your books are for sale on the site as well, but I found that most of my sales originated from the expanded distribution channels. 

Both platforms introduce your book to a vast audience, so it is wise to consider both options. 

Then there is KDP - Select. This means that you will publish your e-book exclusively on Kindle for a period of 90 days. During this time you have to ensure that the digital version of your book is not available elsewhere on the internet. I would suggest that if you want to go this route you do so when first publishing the book. Only publish on KDP and be safe in the knowledge that there couldn't be another version floating around. You may  not even sell from your own website for this period. 

I found the benefit of KDP Select negligent with the Afrikaans titles, but it definitely worked with the English title. You get to do Kindle Countdown Deals where you can run promotional prices, you can run Kindle Free Book promotions, your book gets included in the Kindle Prime program where you earn for pages read. Would I recommend this for the initial 90 days? Hell yes! You need eyeballs on your book and what better way to get people to read your book for free and gather some reviews. Would I permanently ignore the other platforms in favor of KDP Select - No!

Where Do You Earn the Most from your Self-Published E-Book?

That depends entirely on what type of book you have, how good you are at marketing and how tenacious you are. To me, both platforms performed reasonably well, but the majority of the sales originated from Amazon's Kindle store. It is very important that you publish new material regularly as this is what keeps the sales turning over. Once a book loses momentum it is difficult to get the sales graph moving upwards again.

Although I didn't depart any earth-shattering information in this post, I hope you enjoyed reading more about self-publishing. I am by no means an expert, so if you are in any doubt, please consult an expert on the matter. 

Until next time — happy writing.