You have lots of options.
First and foremost…
You sign up for KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) here.
Every self-pub writer and small publisher I’ve known agrees that most of your income is going to come from Amazon. Everyone has a Kindle, it’s something available worldwide with stores in all kinds of countries, and it is a giant juggernaut to contend with. This is where 70% of my writing income comes from every month.
- Terms change but, as of writing this, right now there are two royalty options. In the first, if you price the book $2.99 – $9.99, you will get 70% in most countries (minus a download fee, and unless you’re selling illustrated ebooks, this will be quite tiny) unless you go Select (more on that below); anything over or under that price has a royalty rate of 35%.
- KDP pays monthly, sixty days after the end of the month, by cheque or electronic funds transfer, no threshold, from each individual Amazon store (US, UK, CA, Germany, etc). In my experience, the money is very consistent; the one month I had a problem, I wrote to them and they not only took care of it quickly, they also found a previous error and I got several hundred dollars more I was owed earlier in the year.
- Their sales dashboard is super easy to use, so you can see exactly what you’ve sold and what money is coming to you when, along with a list of past payments.
- They also offer pre-order now, up to three months in advance, with a requirement that the final file be delivered ten days before release.
- You only need one account and you can publish under multiple names (or imprints) without anyone knowing, for those who prefer anonymity.
- You have the option to make your files have DRM (Digital Rights Management).
- You don’t require an ISBN.
To KDP Select or not KDP Select?
The regular ol’ KDP is what I mentioned above. KDP Select is Amazon’s exclusive program. It allows you to offer your book to be in the Kindle Unlimited program, borrowed (which you get paid for), up to five free days per quarter, Kindle Countdown (another promo thing), guaranteed 70% royalties (again, if you stay in the above price range). Sounds pretty sweet since this is where the bulk of your money is, right?
Well, only you can decide what’s best for you, but KDP Select requires exclusivity, which means you can’t sell your book anywhere else. Even on your own website. This means customers who have other ereaders often won’t be able to get your book (and, IMO, it’s not usually a good idea to tell people who want to give you money, sorry but no).
The other issue with being beholden to KDP exclusively is that when they change their terms, like they just did, and you find you’re making less money…well, there’s nothing you can do about that. All your eggs are in one basket. In publishing, it is extremely important to have multiple streams of income in case one goes dry. YMMV but make sure you read all the pros and cons of exclusivity before agreeing to it.
I’m Canadian and can’t distribute direct to Nook, so I can’t give you much help here; I use Smashwords and Draft2Digitial. Since I don’t know the particulars, I’m going to leave this blank and if anyone in the comments has experience selling with Nook direct, I’ll defer to you.
You can sign up for Kobo direct here.
- Kobo sells worldwide and they take epub files.
- Terms are 70% for $2.99 and up; 45% if below that.
- You can have one account and sell under multiple names anonymously.
- You get paid monthly, forty-five days after the end of the month,
if you’ve met the threshold of $100(Note: since this was posted, they’ve changed things–payments are still monthly but it’s a different mass payment system and there is no longer a $100 threshold), and paid by electronic funds transfer (this, however, has taken me months to get sorted out with them, and it’s still not consistently paid).
- They offer pre-order several months in advance.
- You can easily set up promotional sale prices or offer your book free.
- Their sales dashboard isn’t bad–not quite as useful as Amazon’s but it gives you a good sense of what’s selling where.
- You have the DRM option.
- You don’t require an ISBN.
The people at Kobo are very great to deal with and super friendly.
You might benefit more–give the sales threshold–of having several titles for sale rather than just one, but I highly recommend Kobo anyway.
You can sign up for Smashwords here.
Smashwords lets you distribute to various other stores, like Scribd, Kobo, Nook, and others, and they also sell through their site.
- Their dashboard where you can see what’s selling where is handy; I find determining upcoming money owed a bit more confusing.
- They pay quarterly, approximately thirty days after the end of the quarter if over $10 for PayPal and $75 for cheque. I get paid by PayPal and it is always consistent (and usually early).
- When setting up a title, you can clearly see what percentage you’ll make with various online sellers depending on the price you choose.
- They offer the chance to make pre-order available (in fact, they’ve just added an option where you can set up pre-order WITHOUT a manuscript).
- Royalties are 85% (I think) of Smashwords sales, 60% from other stores.
- You WILL need multiple accounts if you want to keep your pen names totally separate. If you don’t mind them linked, you can sign up for a publisher account there and still sell under multiple names.
- They can provide a free ISBN.
IMO the biggest downside is formatting an MS for Smashwords. This is one of the services I offer, I have formatted over seventy books for myself and clients, and I STILL run into issues. A little while ago, I ended up altering a cover for a book that had passed both Smashwords formatting checks and was in the premium catalogue but not the file itself, and found it was kicked back for formatting problems. I wrote to SW to ask what the problem was considering a. their list of errors is not at all clear, b. I hadn’t change the file itself. After a few more inquiries for clarification, I was told (rather condescendingly) that different people review the files and some will kick them back for errors while others will pass them.
So there are lots of benefits to Smashwords, but their formatting requirements are a pain in the ass and can get kicked back arbitrarily. Be prepared for possible headaches.
You can sign up for D2D here.
I just started using D2D because I was sick of dealing with Smashwords but I still needed to be able to sell to Nook and iBookstore customers as I make decent money both of those places. As such, I don’t have a lot of experience here yet to pass on, but thus far I’ve been happy with them.
- They allow pre-order months in advance.
- You only need one account and can sell under multiple names.
- They take 15% of net royalties from distributors and give you the rest (it’s about on par with Smashwords, I think).
- They pay monthly, threshold of $25 for cheques and $10 for EFT/PayPal.
- They take epub files (or will make one for you).
- They can provide a free ISBN.
All Romance eBooks / OmniLit
You can sign up for ARe here.
- All books uploaded are listed both at All Romance eBooks and OmniLit.
- If you don’t want your pen names linked, you need multiple accounts (otherwise, if you don’t care, you can sell multiple names under one account).
- They pay quarterly, forty-five days after the quarter. I’m paid by PayPal and it is always on time.
- Friendly staff and there are many advertising and promotional opportunities.
- You can upload various files, which ever you want–mobi, epub, html, pdf, and others.
- They don’t require an ISBN.
- They can distribute to the iBookstore if need be.
- Fairly user-friendly upload interface and sales dashboard.
- They offer pre-order months in advance and an option for users to gift ebooks.
You can sign up for Google Play here.
Admittedly, I am new to GP and don’t know much yet. I haven’t found a lot of info, either. The site is not very user friendly and their pricing is very confusing–it seems they automatically discount books, so what I saw other authors do was up the prices by $1 on each book and that seems to even it out. I get paid the same percentage I do with the average store. Sales aren’t huge yet but I’m paid by EFT monthly, no threshold, and it’s consistent. You can sell anonymously under multiple names. Unfortunately, I’m never sure what I’m getting because the sales analytics section of the site isn’t helpful at all.
The primary reason I decided to try a couple of titles on Google Play is because it’s a little-used bookstore which means e-pirates have been illegally selling books there and not often getting caught. At least with legit titles sold by ME, I know confused readers aren’t buying illegal versions. And, as I said, it doesn’t hurt to find surprise money in my bank account monthly.
Options to Sell Direct
Your website – there are loads of shopping cart systems (I use WooCommerce for WordPress). Some are free, some aren’t, but they aren’t nearly as complicated as you might expect. With mine, my users can download any ebook format I offer, pay through PayPal, and if they create an account, they can come back and download the file again in the future. I can limit the number of downloads if I want and have all kinds of control, plus I get paid immediately AND there is no fee going to a middle man. Readers unfortunately have to know how to load the books themselves onto their ereaders, which is occasionally a problem, and I don’t sell to VAT countries anymore (more on this below).
Payhip – a great solution to sell direct without installing your own shop. They take 10c per book (IIRC), you get paid direct with PayPal, and they’re taking care of VAT for users now. I believe Kindle users can also get the files sent direct to them, but I’m not entirely sure so don’t quote me on that. You can upload previews, offer coupons on certain books, and the site is very user-friendly.
What the hell is VAT? Value-Added Tax. It’s a thing in the EU and was recently required to be collected on ebook sales. There are questions about how likely anyone is to come after some little ebook seller in Canada, it was primarily pushed through to go after the big stores not collecting tax, but it’s a headache some didn’t want to risk. Essentially the tax is included in the listed price most of the time. On Smashwords, you can choose to have VAT come out of your end of things or have the user charged; on Amazon, likewise you can see the price with or without VAT and choose what to do.
All of these places, other than when you sell direct, require tax forms to be filled out. If you’re outside the US and selling in any of these stores other than Kobo, you’ll need an ITIN (I’ll do a future post on that) and to fill in a W-8BEN. Some of the stores allow you to fill it in online, others require you to mail in a paper copy.
I know this is a lot of information and seems like a lot to take in, but setting up an account somewhere is a one time thing (and you don’t have to do it all at once), and once you’ve been through the process of setting up a book for sale, you’ll see it’s not that hard at all. I highly recommend, before going with your big novel, trying all this with a short story or small novella, just to get the experience in.