Where and how to distribute your ebooks.
(A word of warning: There are SCAMMERS out there–multitudes of them–lined up to take your money by convincing you that indie publishing is TOO HARD. Many of them are affiliated with once-legitimate publishers. They will not only charge you thousands of dollars for dubious, sub-par “services” but often will entangle the rights to your books (and that means you are NOT an indie) and pay you NET royalties–that is very bad because THEY are the ones who determine exactly what “net” is. For a fuller picture about how they operate, read this article by Kris Rusch: A Warning To All Writers Who Need Help Indie Publishing and the follow-up, A Good Offense.)
The three biggest markets where you, the indie, can establish a seller’s account and upload directly are Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
Amazon accepts the following formats:
- Word (DOC or DOCX)
- HTML (ZIP, HTM, or HTML)
- Mobipocket (MOBI or PRC)
- ePub (EPUB)
- Plain Text (TXT)
- Rich Text Format (RTF)
- Adobe PDF (PDF)
All formats are NOT equal though. Since your one file is going to have to serve three distinct device formats, it is very easy to “break” a Kindle book. Read their formatting guide.
Nook Press has replaced the PubIt! program. Because it is new, I don’t know much about it. The FAQs page is clumsy and clunky and a pain to navigate. Fuel up on plenty of caffeine then settle down to read all the fine print.
(The ability for indies to distribute directly through Kobo is a recent development. I have not used Kobo yet–anyone who has and would like to chime in on their experience, feel free)
According to their main page, they will accept and convert almost any type of file. EPUB is their main format.
They look pretty friendly and straightforward. Here is a FAQ in pdf.
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Then you have the aggregators, companies that have contracted to distribute self-published works through channels–some of which are NOT open to indie accounts. Here are two that I personally know people have had good experiences with. There are others. Again, if anyone wants to chime in about their experiences with other companies, feel free.
Smashwords is an aggregator AND a retail site. When you make an account and upload your ebook to Smashwords it will be available for sale on the SW site, plus you can opt to distribute to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Aldiko, Sony, iBooks, Diesel and Stanza.
Smashwords accepts MS Word files, which they then run through their Meatgrinder conversion program to create different formats.
Smashwords Direct allows authors to provide EPUB files to Smashwords. It’s tricky though, and, as I’ve discovered, pretty pointless. The ebooks must still adhere strictly to the Smashwords Style Guide, so essentially the EPUB file must look like a Word format. There are bugs in the system and almost zero support or documentation, other than the Style Guide, which is geared toward Word.
If you are going to use Smashwords, you should download (it’s free) Mark Coker’s guide to ebook formatting.
Lulu is also an aggregator and retail site, but you can also create print-on-demand books through them. Much like Smashwords, they accept Word files and run them through their own converter.
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It is very easy to establish accounts and upload your ebooks to any of the companies in the above list. BUT, before you hit the PUBLISH button on any of them, make sure you read and understand the Terms of Service. Those are legal contracts. Each company has rules with which you must comply in order to distribute your books through their site. Don’t let the details trip you up!