“In my experience, it’s almost always advantageous to go direct where you can. Benefits include faster payments, up-to-date sales figures (crucial for measuring the effectiveness of any marketing), more direct control of which categories you appear in (important for both discoverability and visibility), and the ability to make changes to your metadata quickly, e.g. to change price for a temporary sales price campaign. But there are roadblocks: Barnes & Noble only allows US self-publishers to upload books. Apple famously requires self-publishers to use a Mac to upload,” writes bestselling author David Gaughran.
Are you living outside the USA as an Indie Author / Self-publisher and you don’t want to go through all the hassle with opening a US branch, or US bank account and tax number? The easiest way to circumnavigate this dilemma is to use the help of a book distributor, also called aggregator.
An ebook aggregator deals with ebook authors directly and connects them with ebook retailers such as Apple, Kobo, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There are two categories of e-book (and often also print) distribution services:
Online Retailer Upload:
These services, typically retailers such as Amazon, distribute and sell your work through only one channel (their own) or their devices, such as Kindle Direct Publishing and PubIt! by Barnes & Noble (for US writers and publishers only), Kobo WritingLife and Google Play.
Apple iTunes allows DIY uploading of your iBooks too, if you’re an Apple Mac user. Single-channel distributors / online retailers do not offer any assistance in converting your e-book files, although they sometimes accept several file types for upload. Many other on and off-line book retailers work only through an aggregator / distributor.
These services, such as eBookPartnership, Draft2Digital, Smashwords and BookBaby, act practically as middlemen and upload your work to a variety of retailers and distributors. It reduces the amount of work an author must do tremendously. Instead of dealing with many different single-channel services, accounting systems and payment variations, you deal with only one service and revenues from several online retailers reach you in one amount, which saves writers and small publishers certainly a lot of accounting work.
Quite a few of these distributors also offer basic and advanced conversion services. Some act as full-service companies, requiring no effort from you, the author – for a hefty fee. However, in exchange for the services of a multi-channel distributor, you typically have to pay either a yearly upfront fee per book and/or give up a large percentage of your sales.
Book distribution is not a “set and forget” task. No matter if you self-distribute, or use an aggregator, you need to periodically monitor your book’s presence, out on the digital bookshelves.
Many authors start by using Kindle Direct Publishing, then add on a multi-channel distributor such as eBookPartnership, Draft2Digital, BookBaby, Smashwords (which distributes to all major devices and retailers except Amazon KDP).
When choosing an Aggregator / Distributor: ask, compare and research before you decide which service company you choose. Are you willing to pay for convenience? You pay one way or another: either a yearly fee or a commission per book sale.
- Cost: lump sum per year – or percentage of each book sale?
- Ease of upload, and do they explain it on their website?
- Sales reporting: how often and how detailed? Ask them for an example
- Do they let you set up an author page at the online retailer’s site, will you get the password to do it yourself?
- Payment schedule: monthly or quarterly?
- Sales channels: how many retailers and which ones?
- Revenue: is there a deduction per sale?
- Speed and cost of changes after your book is distributed?
- Pre-Orders at online retailers possible?
- Customer Service – can you talk with a life person?
- Conversion / Formatting quality – VERY important!
- Formatting / Conversion costs: Formatting is when a designer polishes your manuscript to professional standards for both print and eBook formats. Conversion is just taking the manuscript and turning it, with the help of software, into epub or mobi format.
- ISBN’s: An ISBN is not required for e-book distribution to Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook, however Kobo, Apple and other retailers and services do require one. Authors will need an ISBN for their e-book. Some services will provide you with an ISBN as part of the fee for their services, however it means THEY are considered the publisher – and you cannot ever reverse it! Buy your own through ISBN.org!
ISBN’s make you look professional.
ISBN’s get your books into more places, you are considered a publisher.
ISBN’s make your books easier to find – your book gets into a worldwide database
Upfront Cost: $50 per year
Deduction per sale: NONE
Formats accepted: doc, docx, odf, pdf, rtf, mobi, kf8, epub, pages.
Distributes to: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, Gardners Books, EPSCO, Scribd, GooglePlay, eSentral, Textr, Waterstones, BookMate, Indiebound, BookTopia, Angus & Robertson, BookFoundry, Feedbooks, Goodreads, Ingram, Kalahari, StoryTel, Books-a-Million, Whitcoulls, Askews & Holts, and StoryTel – just to list some of the more than 150 partners and 65,000+ libraries.
What’s more: ebook conversion, cover design and book scanning services
Special Offer until 07/31 from eBookPartnership: Save 25% on Worldwide eBook Distribution.
Sign-up for our eBook distribution service and save 25% on our usual prices! This is a limited time offer for orders of new titles placed on or before July 31, 2016. Simply place an order for our eBook Distribution service and enter the promo code “save25dist” when prompted.
Upfront Cost: $0
Deduction per sale: 15%
Formats accepted: Word .doc, professionally designed epub
Formatting: By the author with the help of a formatting guide (unless a fee is paid)
Distributes to: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, mobile phone app vendors and other online venues (must upload to Amazon KDP yourself)
What’s more: Coupon generator for free books
Print Distribution: $199 for any printed book order of 25+ books.
Upfront Cost: $299 (without ebook-formatting $149)
Deduction per sale: 0%
Formats accepted: Word, PDF
Distributes to: KDP, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Copia, Gardners Books, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Flipkart, Ciando, EBSCO, ePubDirect,
What’s more: Print-on-demand and book cover services available. However, their site is tricky built, users are constantly lead into their other (high-priced) services, when just looking for distribution.
Upfront Cost: $0
Deduction per sale: 10%
Formats accepted: Word .doc or .docx, RTF
Distributes to: Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, Page Foundry (must upload to Amazon KDP yourself)
Giacomo Giammatteo wrote a great article about Timed Promotion and Territory Pricing that is offered by Draft2Digital.
There is no easy way to find out the cost (other than the one-time set up costs) for distribution and what they are deducting per sale – unless you sign up for an account and give your credit card first.
Indie publishing strategist Sellbox wrote: Ingram pays out a flat 40% of NET sales (after they have all their costs covered) when the eBook is sold.
Ingram’s website says: E-book distribution from more than 70 online partners.
*And: If you have provided any e-books to Amazon for the Kindle in the past 12 months we will not be able to provide service to Kindle through the IngramSpark program.
**If you currently have e-book content available on Apple, you will need to remove those e-books from the iBook store prior to uploading those same titles into IngramSpark. Also note that any reviews or ratings of that content will NOT transfer when your titles reappear in the iBook store!
It seems their main business is more print book POD / combined with availability for distribution…
Knowing the Rules and Terminology:
“Access to over 39,000 retailers, libraries, schools and universities…” for example means only that readers can order your book via any of these suppliers – NOT that your book is automatically delivered to all of those…
Your ebook will be only uploaded to several major online retailers, while for the rest of the retailers, bookstores, libraries etc. your book is listed as “available” if someone orders it.
Don’t expect much in the fine-tune of each online store’s book selling tools, such as categories, keywords and description formatting, for example—and the ability of your distributors to present your book, the author page and the keywords / metadata attractively…
There are also roadblocks in terms of Amazon KDP Select – think book sales campaigns, free days, Matchbox, countdown deals etc. as it would require to take down all your books from your other retailers as Amazon requires exclusivity when you choose KDP Select.
If you think Smashword’s 15% distributor commission is a bit much, then read our next article where an “Agent-Curated Self-Publishing Distributor – Argo Navis – is taking 30% commission! And where unscrupulous literary agents are getting an additional 15% for not doing anything, other than just handing over the name and manuscript of authors to this distributor…