Self-Publishing Paths: Week 3, Distribution

Treat your writing like a passion, but treat your novel like a business.

There are two kinds of people in the world (outside of those who write and those who don’t), and they are those who obsess about the details and those who think of details as esoteric thought experiments that have little bearing on the obviously more important process of writing the next novel. But here’s the thing, and it bears repeating once again: Treat your writing like a passion, but treat your novel like a business. In a successful business model, the details are what matter the most.

Indie authors in our modern publishing paradigm are gaining most of their success with ebooks. Therefore, knowing where and how to distribute them is key. Along with that, you need to know what you’ll get in return, i.e., your royalty rates and your payment schedule, plus any costs to you, and of course, how to get your books on each site.

There are many. Amazon is obviously the giant, and they continue to innovate and modernize in new ways to help authors and readers benefit from using them. For example, the most recent (as of this writing, in November 2013) innovation is called “Kindle Countdown Deals,” which allows authors to preschedule their sales, rather than having to log-in and change book prices the day of a sale.

Other major sites include Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Apple’s iBookstore. Each site has different requirements for putting your book up for sale, both in terms of which file formats they will accept, as well as how those files need to be formatted. The cover art for your book must meet certain minimum dimensions for most sites, and others will drastically curtail your royalty returns if your file is extra large due to containing a lot of or large-size graphics.

This blog post is not the venue for listing all of these ins-and-outs and what-have-yous for each distribution site. However, this one gives a brief rundown of the big distribution channels’ details (at the time it was written in early 2012). Much may be the same, much may have changed, but this is a good starting point to learn about the different things you’ll need to prepare to manage, such as ISBNs, file and cover image requirements, etc. (Scroll about halfway down the post, or read through for more information about some of the many ebook-creation software applications).

In lieu of overexplaining everything you can possibly know about the distribution sites, let me leave you with this gem of information, which speaks directly to week 6’s post on marketing. Amazon has, as do the other distributors, a requirement that your novel not be sold on any other channel for less than the Amazon asking price. They have become very savvy about checking this too. If you’ve dropped your price across retailers for a marketing push, the takeaway is that you have to be very careful with timing your promotions so that your prices on all sites are matched. Otherwise, you stand to lose money, as well as put yourself in the position of having to jump through hoops to get Amazon, or other distro sites, to apply your actual asking price to their listings of your novels.

In short, read all the fine print in every distribution site you wish to publish through and know that each retailer means what they say. And be aware that each site is constantly changing and innovating. Stay up to date on their changes so you don’t get hit with any unpleasant surprises.

Full Series
Research.
Create your business plan and publishing calendar.
Learn how to create an ebook or hire someone to do it (including pros and cons of each option).
Research the different distribution sites, their requirements, and how long they take to set up and use.
Learn how and where to find an editor, proofreader, and cover designer.
And finally, learn how to market, including using social networking sights, blog hops, and review requests.

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