In my spare time I'm a keen photographer, so my ears pricked up when I heard during the week that photo book service Blurb has linked up with Amazon. Blurb books (photography or otherwise) can now be sold 'print on demand' via the world's biggest bookstore. While this news relates to physical products, it is another example of the rapid rate of innovation occuring in the world of online bookselling.
In the last couple of years it has become much easier to distribute EPUB and Kindle ebooks globally and get paid locally. Using just two distributors, you can make your ebooks available via all the major online sources such as Amazon's Kindle store, Apple's iBooks store, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and others.
You may not have heard of Smashwords, but if you have ebooks to sell (or give away) you need to get to know them. Smashwords is a service that, at no cost, will host your ebooks on its own store and push them out to Apple, Kobo, Nook (Barnes & Noble) and other retailers.
Smashwords also make your ebooks available to public libraries (who buy them to loan out) via the popular OverDrive service and others. And they distribute to subscription services like Scribd and Oyster. New outlets are added regularly.
One of the best things about Smashwords is that all this distribution 'just happens' once your book has been uploaded. They keep track of everything, pass on good royalties and pay via Paypal every month.
Smashwords can convert a Microsoft Word file to epub format for you (strict formatting is required but detailed instructions are provided. Or you can upload your pre-prepared epub file yourself.
I've been using Smashwords for a few years now and recommend them highly. They keep adding new features including marketing tools like samples, discount coupons and the ability to offer affiliate sales. They are also quick to respond if you need to contact them.
The only major retailer that Smashwords don't distribute to is Amazon's Kindle store. There are a number of reasons for this that we don't need to go into here. And in any case, selling on the Kindle store in addition to Smashwords is easy.
The way to do it is to visit kdp.amazon.com. If you already have an Amazon store account you can use that to sign in. Once in there, click 'Add New Title' and follow the steps. For maximum control the best choice is to upload an EPUB or Kindle (.mobi) formatted file, but they accept numerous other formats too.
I recommend you do not choose the 'KDP Select' option. This gives you a better royalty but requires that you only sell your book through Amazon for the first 90 days. In my mind this is too limiting for most authors.
A neat part of the Amazon offering is that Australian authors can now list their books on amazon.com.au and receive payment directly to their local bank account – instead of in US dollar cheques, which are a nuisance to deal with.
Spreading the word
Of course having your books available online, even if everywhere, is only the first step. Your next job is to market your book widely. That's a topic for another day, though Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has a free ebook on the topic available here.
This post really just scratches the surface of this topic, and future posts will cover more of it. Much more information is available on the Smashwords and Amazon publishing websites. However, if you have any questions or comments, please contact me directly, via our Facebook page or in the comments below.