In addition to print books, many authors also choose to publish ebook versions of their books or exclusively publish ebooks. Although print books remain king, ebook readership continues to rise. Ebooks are less expensive to produce, have a wider choice of distribution options, maintain comparable royalties as print (or potentially more), have more promotional opportunities, and give their ebook readers a less expensive and on-demand experience.
Ebook distribution platforms
Let’s first start with the big players in the ebook distribution space. Some sell directly to their customers, while others are aggregators. The benefit of selling directly to customers, and your readers on a particular site, like Apple Books, is that you don’t pay an intermediary to distribute your ebook. On the flip side, aggregators reach more markets and readers in the U.S. and around the world. The following is not an exhaustive list but will get you started with ebook distribution options.
Kindle Direct Publishing
Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, is one of the most popular ebook platforms. KDP is an Amazon company and your direct link to Amazon ebook readers. Amazon boasts about 75% of the ebook sales in the U.S., which serves as a major reason to make KDP your top choice for publishing your ebook. KDP pays 70% royalties for ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and 35% for ebooks priced either higher or lower.
Although Amazon isn’t the only game in town, they woo authors with attractive perks for “going steady” with KDP Select. KDP Select requires you to publish your book exclusively for 90 days, after which it auto-renews, or you can opt out. In exchange, you are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (KU), a popular ebook subscription service. Authors are paid for page reads instead of the entire book through a pool funded through KU subscribers. For authors in popular genres, like romance, mystery, and crime, KU can be lucrative and worth eschewing other ebook sales outlets.
KDP Select authors also benefit from the promotional offers available exclusively to Select authors. Authors can make their ebooks available for free five days out of each 90-day timeframe or use Kindle Countdown Deals to gain new readers and reviews.
However, enrolling in KDP Select cuts you off from all non-Amazon readers. Although Amazon is the champion in ebook sales, about 25% of ebook readers find their books through other outlets. Being exclusive to KDP cuts you off from popular library services like Hoopla and Overdrive, as well as many non-U.S. outlets.
Barnes and Noble Press
Like KDP, Barnes and Noble Press offers a direct route to ebook readers through BN.com. Once a more powerful player in the ebook space, readership has fallen of late. Barnes and Noble offers a 70% royalty across the board, regardless of the price of your ebook, and doesn’t require exclusivity.
Like Barnes and Noble, Apple Books offers 70% royalties regardless of price and doesn’t require exclusivity. Authors can publish directly through Apple Books or access it through aggregators like Draft2Digital or Kobo. Although both Barnes and Noble and Apple Books’ ebook readership pale in comparison to those purchased ebooks on Amazon, they still draw non-Amazon readers. That means that your ebook may see less traffic but also is up against less competition.
Draft2Digital is a powerful emerging player in the ebook space. They play the role of ebook aggregator. An aggregator provides the convenience of uploading your ePub file to a single place, and they distribute your book to various ebook outlets. The trade-off is convenience versus an additional fee taken from the purchase of your book. D2D touts its ease of use and high customer satisfaction rating.
Kobo Writing Life
While Amazon reigns supreme in the U.S. ebook market, Kobo Writing Life is dominant in Canada and a prominent figure in other locations worldwide, like Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. If your book appeals to more than to readers in the U.S., Kobo is worth checking out. Royalties range from 70% for books priced above $2.99 in the U.S. down to 20% for books in the public domain. You don’t need to be exclusive to publish with Kobo—a big plus for authors. You also have access to readers of Kobo subscription service, much like KU, and book promotions to boost your book’s visibility.
PublishDrive is an ebook aggregator that distributes to over 100 countries. They also distribute to popular platforms like Amazon, Google Play, Apple Books, and numerous other ebook outlets. As a new player in the market, they lead with ease of use to authors and publishers. Where it differs is with the payment model. You keep 100% of your royalties but pay a monthly subscription fee starting at $9.99 for up to two books. That may make sense for authors with a high sales volume.
StreetLib is another ebook aggregator with its focal point on helping you reach the widest audience worldwide. With over 250 distribution partners, you can be sure that your readers will find you no matter where they are. Like many other aggregators, they take an additional 10% on each ebook sold through their partners.
So how do you choose an ebook distribution platform?
The answer isn’t clear. While others find great success by going exclusively with Amazon through KDP Select, others swear by “going wide.” Going wide refers to authors who choose to distribute through other distribution platforms in addition to Amazon. If you want to maximize your income across many platforms, you can choose to upload your ebook to each platform individually to avoid the additional aggregator fees. However, if you are like many, your time is at a premium. An aggregator speeds up the process and gives you access to more readers across many different countries.