How to Get Your eBook into the Hands of Your Readers: Understanding Your Distribution Options

You have your eBook ready for publication, but you still have one more vital decision to make; getting it into the hands of your readers.
Knowing exactly how you will sell your book before getting it published is an essential step in your authorship journey because it saves you a lot of time.

Earlier, we looked at how to write your ebook.

In this post, we’ll share a few distribution channels available and how to decide the ones to use. First, it is necessary to point out that your distribution strategies can be as complex or as simple as the time and effort you invest.

For the purpose of this article, we will consider these options:

  • Amazon exclusive
  • Individual Retailers
  • Using an aggregator
  • Sell directly on your website

What is ebook Distribution?

eBook distribution is providing it to online retailers for selling. These retailers are of two types- self-service and aggregators.

Before getting your book published in online stores, you must have an appropriate ebook format and cover design. Online distributors use two types; the EPUB and.MOBI formats. So, consider which one is acceptable by the retailer you choose. Since 2020, Amazon can only accept EPUB formats which they convert into a.MOBI. The latter is exclusively an Amazon feature, while the rest use EPUB.

You also need a professional book cover which you will need to find out from the distributor the dimensions for the file to upload. That implies finding a pro designer who will also not break the bank.

Lastly, an ISBN. It’s not a necessity for most retailers because they will offer a free one when you publish. You can still purchase yours. And the advantage is if you do, your book will show up with you as the publisher instead of the publishing platform.

Assessing Your Ebook Distribution Options

Amazon Exclusive
Due to its popularity, the first logical step in your publishing journey is a stop at the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing(KDP) store. That is whether you want to be exclusive with them or not. Currently, Amazon controls 80% of the ebook market in the US and UK. So should you go exclusive or not?

When you get to upload your book through KDP, you will have an option of KDP select.
The ‘KDP Select’ is an option for authors to list their books only with them for at least three months. That means if you go this route, you can not publish anywhere else(including promotions or selling on your website). And Amazon, of course, will try to entice you into an exclusive deal.

So, in exchange, this is what they offer:

Countdown deals
Every 90 days, you have an opportunity to discount your book, and Amazon will promote it among its customers during the period. And, you get 70% royalty even on books below 2.99 dollar selling price.

Free promotions
The free promotion means every 90 days, you can list your book as a free giveaway in the free books section. On these five days, your book can become quite visible in the free store.

Kindle unlimited and kindle owner’s library
As a KDP select client, Amazon will automatically enroll your book into these two services. The kindle unlimited and owner’s library are highly popular subscriptions with readers, meaning more visibility. Additionally, authors in these services get a percentage of the KDP global fund according to the number of pages that people read of their book.

Higher royalties in territories that usually have a low royalty percentage.
As a KDP select author, your book will earn 70% royalty in Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico, where non-KDP select members get 35%.

The Downside
All these are great benefits accompanying distributing your ebook exclusively on Amazon, but there are limitations to expect like:

  • Because of the restriction to sell through other channels, you will not reach readers in other areas.
  • You can’t sell directly on your website.
    The good news is your restriction is for 90 days, after which if the shoe doesn’t fit, you can always review your options.

Individual Retailers
Aside from publishing on Amazon, other retailers with a substantial audience you can upload your eBook include; iBooks from Apple, Kobo, Google books on google play, etc. When you choose to work with individual online retailers, you have to use their sole publishing platforms.

The benefit of publishing directly to individual retailers is getting a higher percentage in royalties.

The downside is:

  • You will have to upload the eBook to each site separately and repeat the process on all the others. That includes the metadata, descriptions/book blurb, discounts and promotions, and any changes- a process that takes time and effort.
  • Not to mention the separate sales report that can be hard to track.

Using Aggregators
As the name suggests, aggregators combine different retailers in one platform to ease the process of publishing on several platforms. The aggregators are facilitating your book distribution at a cost. And the charges for this service vary between a share of the royalties(sales) or a flat-rate fee.

Some of the known aggregators are Bookbaby, draft2digital, eBook Partnership, Smashwords, and PublishDrive.

All these aggregators service a particular region, so it may be better to research your book’s target audience before settling on one. Draft2digital, Smashwords, and Bookbaby sell primarily to English-speaking areas. eBook Partnership is UK-based, while publishDrive is international, reaching other global markets.

The advantage of aggregators
They consolidate all information for the book in one platform to post across the online retailers. The same goes for the sales reports.

The downside is:
Aggregators can be uneconomical for new authors.

Selling Directly on Your Website
A website is a simpler alternative, especially if you have an online presence and have already built regular followers.

The benefit of using your website to distribute your ebook:

  • You have control and flexibility you can’t find with online retailers
  • You can use your book to grow and build your audience further.
  • It can be the most profitable option since you don’t have to split royalties.
  • Because of the flexibility, you can experiment with different marketing and promotion strategies by learning a few digital marketing tricks.

Ultimately selling your ebook through your website is the cheapest and most flexible distribution option. The only downside is you have to invest a little more in building traffic and an audience before experiencing sales numbers that matter.

The Verdict

Which option should you consider for distributing your eBook? We say, spread your wings.
List your eBook in as many places as your pocket allows. But, at the same time, be careful of a few factors such as the market reach for individual retailers, the cost for aggregators, and the popularity of your genre readership on Amazon.

Whatever you choose, research first.


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