If you are an indie author, you are lucky to live in a time of the self-publishing boom. You have an unprecedented opportunity to release a book without a traditional agency and still make it, and make it big if the stars align just right.
Moreso, the number of options you have is truly overwhelming, which is great but also, well — truly overwhelming. Numerous online retailers to choose from; plenty of aggregators that promise to handle all the meticulous, slow work for a cut of your future profits.
You may wonder:
“What’s the best solution for me? How can I maximize the chances of success with this book I poured so much soul into.”
To make this task slightly easier for you, we will examine the self-publishing industry and core differences between distributing via online book retailers and aggregators.
In 2007, Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing, which allowed indie authors over the world to publish without the need to prove to agents that their books were worth the time and effort.
It was the beginning of a writing Renaissance. Since then, the indie book market exploded. In 2014, due to the previous simplification of the self-publishing process:
“Self-published authors have surged to 31% of ebook sales on Amazon.com, and are now earning more ebook royalties than writers published by the “Big five” traditional publishers.”
Some two years later, in 2016, “almost 300m self-published units generated 1.25 billion in sales in 2016, in the US, in a $6 billion industry.”
Some authors, who previously failed in traditional publishing due to the lack of proper marketing, achieved great results in the self-pub niche. A bright example is a thriller writer, Mark Dawson, who sold over 300,000 copies of his series.
However, it is worth mentioning that besides great writing skills, the success of Dawson is to a big part the result of his rigorous marketing and fan base-building practices.
The onclusion is, the world of self-publishing is full of opportunities for you to grab. But, where to start?
Today, you can have your book on the market within 24 hours, which was a wild dream not so long ago.
There are two and a half options for distributing your self-published book for the world to see:
A straightforward approach: you pick retailers and then manually upload your book to each of them. It means that you manage all the accounts yourself and also receive all the profit that the retailers of your choice grant you.
An aggregator is an intermediary that distributes your book to as many online retailers as you decide (Of course if the number does not exceed the aggregator’s coverage. Different aggregators work with different retailers, and some have a wider reach than the others). In exchange, the aggregator charges you either a fee or a % of your book sales.
By the hybrid self-published book distribution method, we mean publishing directly to a book retailer of your choice and using aggregators for the rest.
When it comes to deciding: should I publish directly or use an aggregator, there are several points you should consider:
If you want to hit as many retailers as possible fast, go with aggregators. Not much to tell here.
So you can weigh the pros and cons, and roll with whichever seems like the best option for you.
However, here’s the thing, it’s quite possible that the “hybrid approach” is the most optimal for the majority of newbie indie authors. Why so?
Well, the self-published books market is dominated by several big players.
And depending on the circumstances, one of the aforementioned platforms will generate the most profit for an indie author. Your task is to determine, which platform is the most popular among your target audience and self-publish there directly. For the rest retailers, you can use an aggregator of your choice.
For your convenience here’s a short overview of top online book retailers and aggregators for self-published authors.
The creme de la creme of book retailers in terms of market share include:
You can consider any of the aforementioned as the primary target of your self-publishing strategy and then go for the rest with an aggregator. Speaking of which…
Some of the most popular self-published book aggregators include:
Some retailers and aggregators require ISBN, and some don’t. If you plan on selling printed books, you need an ISBN.
If you want your book to have an ISBN, you can either buy one or rely on your distributor or handle it. Some distributors provide ISBN for free. If you strive for complete independence and a sense of ownership, we strongly advise on the first option.
In this case, you will be listed as a publisher of the book. Also, if you decide to switch platforms, you can take your ISBN with you. However, remember that each format of your book needs a separate ISBN.
Also keep in mind that some countries, Canada for example, provide ISBNs for free.
The world of self-publishing is a competitive place not only for indie authors but for publishers and aggregators as well. It means that the industry constantly shifts and adapts to stay closer to the top. What it means for you, that in order to find the most viable proposition, you need to monitor the market and look for offers that work the best for you.