The services you’ll use to distribute your print books and ebooks is an important one. As long as you have purchased your own ISBNs you are free to change companies at any time. This chapter reviews distribution services that reach many retailers. Note that I’ve listed direct to retailer companies as well, for your convenience. These retailers do not or should not be used to reach retailers other than their own. Because change happens, please subscribe for updates to this list.
Related: See my blog post explaining book aggregation and distribution for recommendations for combining aggregation and distribution services with direct-to-retailer solutions.
Reminder: This consumer’s guide is a companion reference to the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, 4th Edition, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to create, publish, distribute, and market, and sell your book.
IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
See Direct to Retailer.
Amazon Kindle Create
See Direct to Retailer.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
See Direct to Retailer.
Amazon KDP Print
See Direct to Retailer.
Amazon KDP Select
See Direct to Retailer.
Amazon Kindle Kids’ Book Creator
See Direct to Retailer.
Find out all about BookBaby in the section Full-Service Design, Formatting & Distribution.
A distribution system built on blockchain that allows authors and publishers to configure the security, traceability, attribution, and distribution settings (including lending and reselling) of a digital document.
Bublish is an online ebook creation and distribution platform along with a strong beta and social media marketing features. See Beta Readers and Beta Publishing for details.
Draft2Digital (D2D) is a popular ebook and print book creation and distribution service admired for its ease-of-use and customer support (email and telephone). Upload your manuscript, your cover, and basic sales information, and they do the rest.
Author Pages at D2D’s sister site Books2Read.com gives you an Amazon Central-like author page with a universal book link (UBL) that you can paste into your website so that your readers can instantly find your book in the store where they shop. That way you don’t have to paste in the icons of every store and link it to your book. Yay! Tedium eliminated.
Your book gets distributed to Amazon KDP, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, 24Symbols, and Tolino. You can choose to opt out of any of them. (For example, if you’re already distributing to iBooks and Kobo via IngramSpark or directly.)
They give you the EPUB to distribute in other places, such as IngramSpark, Amazon KDP, your own website, or using a service like Gumroad. You also get a PDF suitable for uploading to Amazon or IngramSpark.
D2D sends pre-orders to almost all partners from 90 days to a year in advance. They are famous for their 24/7 customer support. You pay a 15% commission on net royalties (approx. 10% of list price) upon sale.
Listen to my podcast episode with D2D. Changes since broadcast include the ability to create and distribute print books.
You can use Gatekeeper Press to distribute your books, too. Find out more about them in Full Service Formatting, Design, and Distribution.
Kbuuk is an ebook publishing subscription service with good analytics tools. Fees are set at $0 (2 books), $5 (unlimited books), and $10 (unlimited books) per month. Upload a docx or EPUB file, or their services include EPUB conversion, sales in their store, wide distribution (including Kindle, Nook, and Kobo), and 80% royalty, even at the $0/mo level. Premium and pro plans include marketing tools and a dashboard analytics tool called PubHub that helps you build your platform by showing you how customers read your book and how many sales you made.
Ingram is the giant in the traditional book distribution world and IngramSpark is their simplified tool for self-publishers and small press. They can print and distribute paperback and hardback books in many different formats, and ebooks, too. You may have heard about their publisher tool called Lightning Source (LSI), which is the engine that runs IngramSpark. Don’t use LSI unless you are a small press publishing five or more books per year.
IngramSpark lets you set the higher discounts and returns programs that bricks-and-mortar bookstores require. So if you’re sure that you have a market in these stores, and you’re willing to do the promotion work to reach them, IngramSpark can be a great choice.
NOTE: If you’re aiming to sell your books via the online retailers, you only need to set your discount to 30%. If you’re marketing to bricks-and-mortar bookstores, you’ll need to set the discount to 53% and opt-in to the returns program.
IngramSpark can print your books on-demand to any of their many locations around the world and have them sent to your destination using local postage rates. They also offer offset printing services.
When you print with IngramSpark your $49 print (POD) setup fee is deducted and refunded after you order 50 books. (This is a reasonable number of books to order for gifts and publicity.)
You can set your print book and ebook to pre-order status up to 12 months in advance of publication. This is currently the only way to get your print book in pre-order status at Amazon other than the unwieldy Amazon Advantage program. You can make changes to your book up to 15 days before publication, as Ingram will start printing the book 10 days before publication to supply the retailers in preparation for their orders.
It’s also important to understand that IngramSpark pays 40% of list price (rather than sales price). Sales price is calculated on the price that the retailer sells your book for on their site, so the profit you make will depend on the discounted price on any given day. When you’re paid based on the list price, you consistently get the same profit on each sale.
IngramSpark offers customer support by phone and email. Hours are tied to their Tennessee location and hold times can be very slow, especially on Mondays. Emails may not be answered for a couple of days.
If your self-published author business grows into a small press, IngramSpark can move you into Ingram Publisher Services (IPS), which provides full distribution services including warehousing and sales into major and independent booksellers.
Get free title setup with IBPA membership.
Related: Find out why I recommend that most authors use Amazon KDP Print plus IngramSpark for their print distribution solution in this blog post.
See IngramSpark, above. If you are a small press you may want to use Lightning Source instead of IngramSpark.
Lulu is is a popular book distribution service that has been around a long time. Unfortunately, Lulu partnered with Author Solutions, a predatory vanity press, to provide pre-publishing packages (do-it-for-you formatting and design) along with expensive and largely non-effective marketing services. Their printing is very expensive as well. I recommend avoiding their do-it-for-you services until they break their partnership with Author Solutions.
Pronoun was shut down by owner MacMillan on January 15, 2018. They were a great ebook creation and distribution service (that started way back with Vook) and I miss them.
PublishDrive is a global ebook aggregator that will distribute your ebook to more than 4oo stores including major retailers Apple iBooks, Google Play Books, Kindle, Scribd, Barnes & Noble, plus 240k digital libraries (schools, universities, public libraries including OverDrive and Ciando for 10% after net sales. Use them to reach the Spanish subscription service 24Symbols, Tookbook, Casa De Libro, RedShelf, eSentral in SE Asia, and India’s Rockstand. Upload an EPUB or they’ll convert your book for you. If you don’t have an EPUB they’ll convert your Word doc to EPUB. Using their calculator showed me it would cost about $125 for a 60,000-word book. You get paid monthly.
Listen to my interview with PublishDrive’s founder on The Author Friendly Podcast. Changes since publication:
Subscription pricing: pay a monthly fee and keep all your royalties.
Scribl distributes your ebook to Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and hundreds of others, and it also offers your ebook and audiobook (and podcasts, too) in their store to customers hungry for free and low-cost books using a crowdpricing scheme that encourages readers to take a chance on new, undiscovered authors.
When your book is first published on Scribl, it will be free for a brief promotional period. The more good ratings and downloads it gets, the higher the price goes, and vice-versa. The most popular books among readers cost about as much as you would pay for a typical popular ebook at your favorite online bookstore. Books that have not yet sold as well cost less.
While I really like Scribl’s idea of crowdpricing, they have an unusual contract in that they lock you in for four years and it keeps rolling along and never ends. If they pay you royalties of over $600 a year, the agreement keeps extending another four years. So for a successful book, the contract never ends and the author has no way out.
Here’s the troubling language. “You agree that You may not terminate this Agreement for four (4) years from the last one (1) year period during which Scribl paid, on average, at least fifty dollars ($50) per month (six hundred dollars ($600) per year).”
But Scribl claims that crowdpricing produces 30 times more total revenue for content than with conventional, author-priced systems. Because customers trust the prices, so they’re more willing to pay. They also report that most downloads are paid downloads—unlike conventional systems, where most of the downloads are free.
Their CrowdPricing Everywhere system earns 70% royalty (often more than if you posted directly) along with a listing in their crowdpricing site with price-based ratings. You earn 75-85% of gross revenue (not net), minus PayPal fees. They keep 15%-25%. If you just provide your ebook you get 75%. If you supply your ebook and audiobook, you get 85% and other benefits. You are paid every 48 hours.
I think I’d enjoy trying this out for a year, to give the marketing via crowdpricing a chance, but a four-year renewable commitment is just too much.
Listen to my interview with Scribl’s co-founder on The Author Friendly Podcast.
Slicebooks is the manifestation of the imagined future of digital publishing with the reader’s ability to create custom ebooks and print books.
I listed this company because authors can use their service to slice existing books into ready-to-sell packaged chunks at $1 per file.
They also have a “create a store app” service that lets you deliver books by author, publish, category, keywords, or even ISBNs (for your own books) for sale in an app.
With subscription pricing in tiers between $9-$999 per month, it’s really a system for medium to large publishers who have enough books to slice to make it worthwhile.
Here’s how it works. Publishers upload their books into Slicebooks (for a fee of $10/book) to slice and dice them into chapters and sections. You can remix your book(s) into completely new titles with new covers and sell them along with the individual slices in the Slicebooks iTunes-style retail platform. You get your EPUB and PDF files to do with as you wish (such as to sell them in your own store).
Consumers can mix and match slices from the books with any other slice sold in the Slicebooks store. Embed your own store to offer your content sliced and remixable. You’re paid by the slice, too. Travel books? Anthologies? Cookbooks? Imagine the possibilities.
So your travel essay on Rome might be mixed with the Rome chapter of the Lonely Planet guide to Italy and some recipes from an Italian cookbook. Pretty awesome.
If you’ve written an ebook, the fastest and cheapest way to get it distributed quickly everywhere is to pair Smashwords with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). As a distributor, Smashwords will distribute your ebook to the most important major retailers and library platforms, except Amazon. After you upload to Smashwords, also upload your ebook to Amazon.
Although Smashwords’ primary business is ebook distribution to retailers and libraries, they’re unique in that they also operate their own small ebook store where authors earn royalties up to 80% of list price.
You can upload either a Word file or an EPUB file. Smashwords will automatically convert your Word file into multiple ebook file formats (including EPUB and MOBI, the most important) so your book is readable to customers of the Smashwords Store on any e-reading device. Then they distribute the EPUB version to its retailer and library partners.
The Smashwords Style Guide (available as a free download at Smashwords), provides step-by-step instructions for how to professionally design and format your manuscript prior to upload, though I like to use Book Design Templates instead, which is a lot easier.
Format first for Smashwords, and then use that same formatted Microsoft Word file to upload to Amazon. (Hint: For best results with Amazon, save your Word file as “filtered HTML” before you upload it to Amazon).
Do get the Style Guide includes useful tips on paragraph styling to help your book render better on Kindle reading devices. If you don’t have the time or patience to learn how to format with Microsoft Word, another option is to hire a low-cost freelancer from Mark’s List at www.smashwords.com/list. Formatting for novels starts as low as $35 and goes up from there depending on complexity.
The second option is to upload an EPUB file directly to Smashwords. If you’ve already hired a professional ebook designer to create an EPUB file for you, or you’ve already created your own professionally designed EPUB file, this is a fine option, especially if your book requires a lot of charts and graphs. Smashwords also gives you the option to upload both a Word file and an EPUB file. In this way, you can replace the Smashwords-generated EPUB with your own custom EPUB.
TIP: Use a different ISBN for the Amazon Kindle version of your book.
For sales of your ebook through Smashwords distribution to iBooks and all other major retailers, you’ll 60% of the list price (the retailer takes a commission of 30% list and Smashwords takes a commission of 10% list). Smashwords pays monthly.
Once your book is successfully converted, Smashwords offers it for sale immediately in their Smashwords store, and then sends it to a very large number of ebook sellers—except the Amazon Kindle store. So, remember to upload a separate file (with a different ISBN) to the Kindle store via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, too.
Smashwords has the most impressive ebook distribution in the market and is always expanding. Find a current list of retailers, libraries, and app stores, here.
Smashwords offers a number of unique (and free) ebook marketing tools, the most prominent of which is Smashwords Coupons which allows you to run custom book promotions. They also offer a merchandising feature called Special Deals. Create a public coupon for your book, and Smashwords gives your book extra promotion within their store.
Smashwords founder Mark Coker provides lots of informational and how-to videos on their Smashwords YouTube channel.
Listen to my interview with Smashword’s founder on The Author Friendly Podcast.
StreetLib is an ebook and print book creation and distribution service based in the USA and Italy with reach into online stores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Turkey, and Latin America. When you set up your billing profile to receive your royalties you’ll get specific instruction if you are in the US (like providing a W9 form), and you’ll be then automatically moved to StreetLib USA.
You can compose or paste your book into their free cloud-based book creation tool, and it’s capable of formatting comics, cookbooks, and poetry. Export to EPUB, MOBI, fixed layout, and PDF for print. They distribute to the Big 5 ebook retailers (Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Apple iBooks, Kobo) along with hundreds of other stores. Their take is 7%-10% of the cover price to US authors.
StreetLib also has a partnership with Perlego, a subscription service that gives readers access to over 90,000 professional and academic books. You get paid depending on the number of pages read based on 55% of the membership revenues. (Streetlib keeps 65%.)
As an author on StreetLib you can claim your own book page, edit the content, and earn 15% of sales revenues. You can add other books from their extensive catalog to sell for a 15% commission. This is a great way to offer a curated bookstore to make additional income. (Similar to Aerio.)
A sales widget (similar to Gumroad) is also included to embed in your website, so you can ask your website visitors to buy from Streetlib so you make more money than with Amazon and company.
They offer a la carte formatting, editing, cover design, EPUB correction and validation. And, get this. They offer book translation services via a partnership with Babelcube. Babelcube does not charge for translation but takes a percentage of your translated book’s sales revenue.
StreetLib partnered with Bowker in 2017 to become their book publishing platform. So when you purchase ISBNs you’ll see an ad for them on the site.
They’ve also got StreetLib Market where you can find professional editors, book cover designers, marketing pros, or sign up as one.
Listen to my interview with StreetLib on The Author Friendly Podcast.
Creating a book and building a profile on Tablo is free, with global distribution ranging from $99 to $299 per year. Every distribution plan includes all required ISBNs (but I strongly recommend you purchase your own [blog post]) and authors keep 100% of their sale proceeds after retailers’ margins. Authors can also order paperback copies from Tablo directly using their print-on-demand service. All of this can be accessed through Tablo’s new online writing and publishing platform that allows anybody to upload or write a book for free that’s then automatically typeset for all formats.
Type & Tell, UK & Sweden
British authors may be interested in Type & Tell, the UK-based start-up that created the English-language edition of the Swedish self-publishing service created by Bonnier Books Ventures, a branch of Bonnier Books. (Swedish authors, go to https://www.typeandtell.com/sv/.) Authors can use their cloud-based writing and editing (book creation) tool or upload their own document, get cover design, professional interior design, and worldwide print and ebook distribution. Their publishing packages range from £199 to £3399. You can also choose a la carte services like cover design (£285) and editing (£789 for 50-75k words). Distribution is handled by Ingram Content Group.
Walmart eBooks by Rakuten Kobo
Is a German ebook aggregator that distributes to the usual suspects with 85% to you (generally) and to foreign markets you may not be able to reach with other ebook aggregators. They offer an author page where you earn 70% of net sales when your book is priced over $2.49, and 40% if less than that.
How to Distribute Your Book
The Self-Publishing Boot Camp courses will help you with every aspect of self-publishing. Check out the distribution course in the bundle.