The internet is the reason that self-publishing is a viable business today. Amazon has been quick to capture a large portion of the self-publishing marketplace, to such an extent that many self-publishers think that getting onto Amazon is the only way to sell their book. This is, of course, far from the truth; there is a multitude of ways for a self-publisher to sell their book. In this article, we discuss the best and most effective book distribution strategies for self-published authors.
Selling on Amazon exclusively
The strategy of selling on Amazon exclusively has sparked a huge amount of debate within the self-publishing community. Many self-publishers sell on Amazon exclusively to take advantage of the KDP Select program, which makes your book available in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) as well as Kindle Unlimited (KU). This allows subscribers of KU to read your book for free, and you get a share of something called the Amazon Global Fund if a subscriber reads more than 10% of your book. Remember that the payouts from KU and KOLL are usually below your book’s listed price. This means that your main source of revenue will still be direct sales of your book.
KDP Select also lets self-publishers make their books available for free for a limited time, or sell them at a discounted rate for a set period. Both of these are very handy strategies for drumming up sales.
The argument against exclusivity
There are two main arguments against Amazon exclusivity:
- Dependence on a single source of income: Putting all of your eggs in the Amazon basket leaves you open to any changes and disruptions that may happen at Amazon. Consider how you might be affected if Amazon suddenly decided to take a bigger cut of your sales, or even if the unthinkable happened and Amazon itself went out of business.
- Missing out on reaching a wider market: It may be hard to believe, because Amazon has such a massive presence in the United States and Europe, but not everyone owns a Kindle or shops on Amazon. You would be missing out on selling your book to a significant portion of the market if you went exclusively with Amazon.
Other places to sell your book (in addition to Amazon)
- Other online stores: The main alternatives to Amazon are the Apple iBookstore, Kobo and Nook stores. Our advice is to go through an ebook aggregator like Smashwords to get your book listed on these stores. It makes things a lot simpler for you, especially if you are not a US or EU citizen.
- Your own website: Many authors we work with want to sell their books for download from their website. We strongly recommended against this option; it is akin to opening a lemonade stand outside your house when you could have your product listed in Walmart. In other words: if your book is only sold on your website, it will have very limited reach, and you will never achieve the critical mass of sales that listing on an online store can give you. A second reason is a security issue: you are giving readers direct access to your digital files, which means that they can share copies of your book as many times as they like. This can lead to lost sales, not to mention the hassle of actually getting your book to them.
Bonus: the advice we give our clients
As a bonus for reading this far, we want to share some of the strategies we advise our clients to use.
- Launch your book exclusively on Amazon. This may sound like odd advice, given what we have said earlier in this lesson, but Amazon is an excellent place to gain traction if you have no audience yet, using the tools available to you on KDP Select. It is also super easy for your readers to leave reviews, so it is a great place to start collecting these, too.
- Release your book on other platforms two to three months after your Amazon release to build momentum (you will need to leave the KDP Select program in order to do this). Don’t forget to publicize that you are releasing your book on other platforms.
- Make sure your have chosen the correct categories and embedded the right meta-data in your ebook (for more on meta-data, click here).
What are your distribution strategies? Leave a comment and let us know.