7 Most Popular Platforms To Self-Publish Your Ebook & Make Money
Want to start growing your audience? You got a message you know you should share with the world?
If you’re a blogger, writer, and/or an entrepreneur, you might be thinking about self-publishing a book.
A book in itself is unlikely to make or break you, but it is a powerful extension of your business or blog.
Entrepreneurs like Eric Ries (Author of Lean Startup), Nathan Barry (CEO of ConvertKit), Tim Ferriss (4 Hour WW) have used books to earn money and gain authority.
At the thin wedge, it’s also an opportunity to create the most impactful type of business card you could possibly have.
But there are so many platforms…
Which is the best path for an entrepreneur or blogger?
You’ve heard of Amazon KDP, of course, but what about the rest?
What about Gumroad, or Inkshares, or Smashwords?
Let’s clarify the most important thing…
Your choices fall under 3 categories:
Direct to ebook retailers: 95% of sales are through Amazon (80%), iTunes (10%), Nook (3%), Kobo (2%)*.
Aggregators: These platforms allow you to upload and distribute to the large (see above) and small ebook retailers + libraries at once. Easier to do but there is a higher cost involved.
Off-beat: Smaller platforms like Gumroad, Leanpub, Kickstarter, and Unbound are more off-beat methods of publishing and selling your book. They don’t suit everyone, but for some authors, they work out particularly well.
Many authors I researched seemed to combine going to Amazon KDP directly + using an aggregator for all the other platforms. This is a good place to start, but opinions vary author to author.
If you’re selling technical work (e.g. coding), I would suggest a platform like Gumroad where you can easily offer a bundle of digital products.
But more “traditional” books may require more “traditional” platforms.
To help you decide where to start, here is a roundup of the 7 most popular places to sell your ebook.
The 7 Most Popular Places To Sell An Ebook
The Amazon store accounts for *80% of ebook sales across English-language countries.
It’s no wonder that Amazon’s KDP remains the most popular platform for authors to sell ebooks on.
Here you can convert and sell your book to millions of potential readers.
Pricing: Amazon pays out a royalty of 70% on all Kindle titles priced between $2.99 to $9.99. For eBooks priced below $2.99 and above $9.99, Amazon pays out only 35% (royalty table here). Note: the 70% plan is based on the publisher’s net income and the 35% plan is based on the gross sales price of the book (so 35% could be a better rate).
Other features: KDP Select allows you to take a 90-day exclusive digital distribution deal — in return, you’ll get your books available in the Kindle Lending Library, where Amazon Prime members can “check out” their books for free with no due dates. (You get paid royalties for every book borrowed.) You can also choose between Kindle Countdown Deals or a free book promotion.
There is also the option of using Createspace for creating and distributing print books.
Verdict: Most authors will use Amazon to sell their books, but the question is whether to go directly to them, and whether to opt into their exclusive program. More experienced writers seem to say ‘no’ to both of these, but if you’re starting out and not worried about smaller platforms, it might be the easiest option. You could also mix and match this with a platform like Gumroad (see below).
To sell your books abroad on Amazon, you’ll have to create a central author account and upload to these individual sites:
If you’re based outside the US, but would like to publish on Amazon US
2. Apple’s iBooks Author
Apple is growing and gaining more market share.
They account for *10% of all ebook sales… small, yes, but the popularity of Apple products makes it an enticing platform.
Pricing: iBooks royalty rates are a flat 70% for all prices and all territories. Publishing on iBooks requires the iTunes Producer program, which is only available for a Mac. Unless you have the software to make your PC run Mac programs, you’ll need to take one of two steps to get your books on the platform. You’ll either have to borrow a Mac to publish, or you’ll have to go to a third-party publisher like Draft2Digital or Smashwords.
Verdict: Worth taking seriously, because within the Apple ecosystem, the iBooks app is downloaded more than the Kindle app. If you have a Mac, and the time, go directly here; otherwise, use an aggregator (see below) to get your books listed.
Apple vs. Amazon
3. Kobo Writing Life
Tag: Publisher, Online Retailer, Global
Kobo has only 2% of the ebook market at the moment, but there is a good reason to still consider this platform — international sales.
Upload your files onto Kobo Writing Life and have your book available in 190 countries.
Authors like Joanna Penn report good sales through Kobo.
Pricing: Their Royalty rates are 70% if selling between 1.99–7.99 (GBP) or 1.99–12.99 (USD), and 45% if outside of this range.
Verdict: They have a small reach in the UK & US, but with their reach in Asia, the other Americas, and beyond, they seem particularly good for long-term writers. However, unless you’re a career writer, I would suggest publishing to Kobo via an aggregator rather than uploading directly.
Tag: Publisher, Retailer, Aggregator
This is the original and oldest aggregator site with a larger reach than Draft2Digital.
Smashwords was set up by author Mark Coker in 2008 and allows you to distribute your titles to the many smaller ebook retailers like B&N, Baker and Taylor, as well as library networks like OverDrive and Gardeners.
Pricing: You’ll be charged 15% of the sales you receive (after the retailers’ cost has also been taken out).
Verdict: Smashwords comes up against Draft2Digital as one of the top 2 popular aggregator sites. Opinions are divided: Some authors are loyal to Smashwords, while others prefer the more modern website of Draft2Digital. Smashwords distributes to more sites, but to be honest, Draft2Digital covers the most important ones (iBooks, Nook, Kobo).
Tag: Publisher, Retailer, Aggregator
Recommended by Kindlepreneur Dave Chesson, this is one of the top 2 ebook aggregators.
They’re the new kid on the block, but they’re already making waves.
They’ll convert your book and distribute it across iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and other smaller stores.
It’s good if you’re short on time but want your book to be available everywhere.
Pricing: Like Smashwords, they take 15% of everything you make.
Verdict: See verdict for Smashwords. If I had to choose, I prefer Draft2Digital for the easy to use interface.
Tag: Ecommerce Platform
This is a simple platform created by teen genius Sahil Lavingia to connect creators and buyers.
You can integrate your ebook sales into your website or social media account.
It’s popular with artists and coders alike for selling books and digital products, and it is particularly useful if you want to sell bundles of products to go alongside your book like audio, video, additional documents, etc.
It was used by Nathan Barry (founder of ConvertKit) to sell over $500k of products and books.
Pricing: Costs are either 8.5% + 30 cents per transaction for the free version, or if you have the premium version at $10 (USD)/month, the fee is 3.5% + 30 cents per sale.
Verdict: It’s a perfect addition if you’re offering a digital bundle around your book.
7. Unbound (UK) or Inkshares (US)
Tag: Crowdfunding, Traditional Publisher, Distributor
Eric Ries ran a famously good Kickstarter campaign for his second book The Good Leader. If you have a tribe and a following, then you might consider these publishing-only crowdfunding sites:
UK’s Unbound is the maverick publisher known for commissioning award-winning titles in the UK.
Across the pond, we have the US-based Inkshares with a similar proposition.
They both act as traditional publishers with a full team of publicists, sales people, designers, and editors, but you need to be actively involved in raising money beforehand — you have to prove that there is demand for your book.
Pricing: The catch is, not only do you have to raise a large amount to pay for the book, your royalties are at 35% (Inkshares), 50% (no frills option Quill, also part of Inkshare), and 50% (Unbound).
Verdict: Something to consider if you have an existing tribe who already wants your book.
The Best Online Platforms To Publish Your Ebook
Any one of these platforms will get you out and into the market.
It’s best to choose one and try them out for a little while to see if it’s right for you.
And after you’ve tried one, come back here and let me know what your experience was like. I’ll be waiting for you in the comments!