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  • Writer's pictureJenna Moreci

Self-Publishing Basics: Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, & more!

HelloOoOo everybody!


You guys have been asking me for a deep dive into self-publishing, and I hear ya. Self-publishing can be complicated, and it's hard to find straightforward, consistent information. But there's a lot to cover, way too much to fit into one video. So today we're covering the basics. How do you choose which platform you want to utilize for your book?


Typically, self-published authors go the print-on-demand route, which basically means that you use a publishing platform that will print your physical books as they're ordered. As opposed to printing a stockpile of books and keeping them in your garage, hoping they'll sell eventually. Print-on-demand platforms handle the printing and shipping for you. And in terms of ebooks, they ship those off to your readers. You don't have to lift a finger.


There are a ton of publishing platforms out there, which can make the decision super overwhelming. But a good starting point is differentiating between a direct retailer and a distributor. That's what we're talking about today. I’m breaking down the difference between publishing direct versus publishing through a distributor, their pros and cons, which one might work best for you, and why you might end up using both of those options concurrently. I'm also going to compare various platforms side by side, so you can learn which ones are the easiest to work with, which ones produce the best quality books, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Thus, I'm going to give you a straightforward breakdown of self-publishing. Specifically the difference between self-publishing through a distributor, and self-publishing direct.


A quick disclaimer: this information will eventually become outdated. The publishing industry is constantly changing, which means one day some of the information I'm presenting here will be irrelevant. Basically, if you're reading this post two or three years from now, be sure to do additional research, because I guarantee some of these details will have changed.



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Number 1: Retailer VS Distributor

First things first, what's the difference between a retailer and a distributor? A retailer is a store that sells your book, whether it's a physical store or an online store. Examples of retailers are Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.


A distributor is a third-party platform that distributes your books to retailers. If you publish your book through a distributor, they then in turn send off your book to different retailers of your choosing. Examples of distributors are IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords.


Number 2: Publishing Direct VS Publishing Through Distributor

What's the difference between publishing direct and publishing through a distributor? Publishing direct means we're publishing that book directly through whichever retailer is going to sell it. That means you are publishing your book directly to Amazon. You are publishing it directly to Barnes & Noble. You are publishing it directly to Apple Books. When you are publishing through a distributor, they are a third party, not a storefront. You are publishing your book through them, and they are shipping it off to multiple retailers. Sometimes you get to choose which retailers they send your book to, other times they'll just send them to as many retailers as possible.


Number 3: Pros and Cons of Publishing via Retailer

What are the pros and cons of publishing directly to a retailer? The pro is financial. Retailers are going to take a cut of your royalties, but outside of that the rest of the money is yours. And for some people that's all that matters.

The first con is the difficulty. If you publish direct, that means opening up multiple accounts on multiple platforms, which means you have to publish your book over and over again, which takes a lot of time and effort. After that, you're going to receive a host of reports and royalties from all these different accounts on their own different schedules, which can be pretty confusing. Additionally, some retailer platforms are easier to use than others. For example, Amazon KDP is the easiest platform to use by far, whereas Apple Books is a total pain in the ass. The last con is range. Most retailer platforms will only allow you to publish your ebook through them. If you want to publish physical books, Amazon has this feature, but most other retailers don't have it available yet.


Number 4: Pros and Cons of Publishing via Distributor

What are the pros and cons of publishing through a distributor? The most obvious benefit of using a distributor is ease. You publish your book in one place, and just like that it's shipped off to a bazillion different retailers. You don't have to juggle ten or more accounts, you don't have to deal with a million different sales reports, and all of your information is easily trackable in one place. It's also important to note that to my knowledge, there are some retailers where you can't publish direct to. So if you want your book available in their storefront, you need to use a distributor. Additionally, if you want to publish paperback and hardback books at multiple retailers, you're probably gonna have to use a distributor. To my knowledge, the only direct retailer that allows you to publish physical books through their platform is Amazon. And right now that option is only available for paperback. However, I believe they have hardbacks kinda in beta testing.


The most obvious con is financial. As we've already covered, retailers are gonna take a cut of your royalties, but so are distributors. Distributors aren't a charity. They are distributing your book in return for compensation. For example, Draft2Digital takes 10% of the list price for every copy of your book sold.


Number 5: Which Method Should I Use?

I know right about now you’re saying, “Cut the crap, which method should I use?” This completely depends on your goals as an author. First, let's get one thing straight. Almost every single indie author I know publishes their Kindle ebook directly through Amazon. Amazon's publishing platform is called Amazon KDP. And as I already said, it is by far the easiest publishing platform to use. They have the most transparent reporting and the easiest tools, and they have a really good royalty percentage. On top of that, Amazon is the most popular book retailer by far. Well over half of my ebook royalties come from Amazon, which means you're probably not gonna wanna split those royalties with a distributor. Basically, if Amazon is gonna be one of your retailers, you'll likely want to publish through them directly.

Second point: Do you wanna sell physical books, like paperbacks or hardbacks? If the answer is yes, that means you're probably gonna need to use a distributor. And the most popular distributor for physical books, to my knowledge, is IngramSpark. IngramSpark has a direct link to the Ingram network, which means they can distribute your physical books to tons of locations, including brick-and-mortar establishments. If you plan to sell as many physical books as possible, a distributor is the way to go.


Number 6: Ebooks

Now we look at the remaining ebooks. This includes Apple Books, Kobo, Nook, and so on. When it comes to these ebooks, I tell writers to look at it this way: What is worth more to you, your money or your time? The writers I know who value money more than their time publish their ebooks directly to every retailer they can. If there are any retailers you can't publish directly through, they use a platform like Draft2Digital. The writers I know who value their time more than the extra 10% royalties will publish all of their non-Amazon Kindle ebooks through a distributor like Draft2Digital and call it a day.


Number 7: My Personal Method

What is my personal publishing method? As of the release of this video, I published my Kindle ebooks and my Amazon paperback directly through Amazon KDP. I publish my paperback and hardback books through IngramSpark. And I published my non-Amazon Kindle ebooks directly through Draft2Digital, which is a distributor. Yes, that means I am taking a 10% cut in royalties, but given that I make most of my ebook royalties on Amazon and my time is already stretched really thin, I'm okay with that.


Number 8: Which Platform Is Best?

This brings us to the next question, which platform is the best? Years ago I broke down my experience using multiple platforms based on their customer service, the quality of their books, the royalty percentages, and so on. And I'm doing it again. I am going to compare the three platforms I use: Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, and Draft2Digital. Please note that I am not encouraging you to choose one over the other because as you know, I use all three of them. Consider this breakdown an insight into what you can expect if you decide to use any of these platforms.


What type of book does the platform publish?

Starting with Amazon KDP, you can publish Kindle ebooks and paperbacks. They're currently running beta testing for hardbacks as of the release of this video, so I'm guessing that's gonna come eventually. But it's not here yet. Draft2Digital offers ebooks and paperbacks. I've personally never used their paperback service, so I can't comment on that. IngramSpark offers ebooks, paperbacks, and hardbacks. So if you'd like to self-publish a hardback copy of your book, right now IngramSpark is the obvious way to go.


Can the platform make your book available for pre-order?

With Draft2Digital and IngramSpark, it is totally popular to make your book available for pre-order. Amazon KDP allows you to make your ebook available for pre-order; however, this feature is not available for paperbacks. Hopefully, they update this soon, because they are way behind on the times.


Is the platform user-friendly?

The most user-friendly platform by far is Amazon KDP. Everything is quick, straightforward, and easy to understand. Reports update quickly with timely data, and all of their graphs are really easy to understand. Honestly, they knock this category out of the park. Draft2Digital is also user-friendly as far as publishing goes. They make it super easy to publish your book, but other features on their website could definitely use updating. IngramSpark on the other hand is well known for its shitty user interface. It definitely takes time to get used to, so if you are a first-time user, carve out a big chunk of time to tinker with the website, read the FAQs, to ask people for help, because you're gonna need it.


How reliable are their reports?

Your publishing platform should generate reports letting you know how your book is performing. Amazon once again has the best reports by far. They’re available through your KDP account. They offer spreadsheets, they offer graphs, and you can manipulate them based on the time. Honestly, their reports are the easiest to use, plus they update super fast. IngramSpark is really, really slow with their reports. This makes sense because they're a distributor, so they have to gather information from the retailers and bring it over, so it's gonna take a while. What I can say is they will email your reports directly to you on a monthly basis, which makes it super convenient because at least you don't have to go searching for them. Draft2Digital has the worst reports by default. Like IngramSpark, they are super slow and they don't email the report to you. So what the fuck?


What's their customer service like?

Amazon has the best customer service. They respond super quickly, they're very thorough, and I've yet to experience a problem they couldn’t fix. Draft2Digital's customer service is meh. They'll get the job done, but it will take time and they'll move at their own pace. IngramSpark on the other hand wins the award for shitty customer service. They take a long time to respond, and they are very eager to pass the blame on to any other platform or retailer even when it is 100% their fault. I've had multiple situations where I literally had to get a representative from Amazon or some other retailer to vouch for the fact that it was not in fact their issue, but an issue that IngramSpark created. That was the only way I could get them to help me, or admit that they made a mistake. If you're contacting their support team you're gonna need to channel all of your patience.


Describe the quality of their physical books.

Again, I've never published paperbacks through Draft2Digital, so I can't help you there. When I first started publishing through Amazon, honestly their paperbacks looked kinda cheap. However, years have gone by and their paperback quality has improved significantly. I think Amazon has more issues with consistency, but the quality of the materials used is a lot better. But IngramSpark by far has the best printing quality. Honestly, their books can look interchangeable with traditionally published books. They're beautiful and professional, and I love ‘em.


How are their ebook royalties?

We are not talking about physical book royalties, because that is going to depend largely on a million different factors outside of the distributor or publishing platform you choose. We can talk about that in another video. If you publish your ebook through Amazon, you can receive around 70% royalties, so long as your book is priced at $2.99 or higher. If your book is cheaper than that, then you will receive around 35% royalties. If you publish through Draft2Digital, they will take 10% of your list price. So basically whatever retailer they distribute to, they're gonna take a cut of your royalties. Draft2Digital is also gonna take about 10%, and whatever is leftover, that's what you get to keep.


If you publish your ebook through IngramSpark, according to my research, they will give you 40% of your ebook royalties. That means 60% is going to the retailer and to IngramSpark. This is largely why so many writers prefer to publish their physical books to IngramSpark, and their ebooks elsewhere, since you'll probably get higher ebook royalties that way. It's also important to note that it costs between $25 to $49 to publish a book to IngramSpark. Many writers don't mind this for physical books, because the quality is so great, but it's still an additional expense to consider.


Number 9: Wide Distribution

And last but not least, does this platform offer wide distribution? Wide distribution means your book is distributed to multiple retailers, as opposed to just one. As we already covered, Draft2Digital and IngramSpark are distributors, so it's literally their job to have wide distribution. However, Amazon is a retailer. It doesn't benefit from sending your book to multiple stores. They don't want other retailers to make money off of your book. They wanna make money off of your book. Because of this Amazon KDP does not offer wide distribution for your ebook. However, they do offer expanded distribution for your paperback, if you opt into their program. With all that said, this is the final breakdown of Amazon KDP, versus Draft2Digital, versus IngramSpark.


Again, I use all three platforms for different reasons. I use Amazon KDP to capitalize on their royalties. I use IngramSpark for their physical books because they have great quality and they distribute all over the place. I use Draft2Digital for any of my non-Kindle ebooks because they have wide distribution, and they only take 10%. Your publishing needs may be different from mine, and that's fine. But this should give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to use any of these platforms.


So that's all I've got for you today!

Author Jenna Moreci.

If you’ve been curious about how to distribute your book in a way that maximizes your advantages, these are some tips that should help you out. Again, disclaimer: this information will eventually become outdated. The industry is constantly changing, which means the information I'm presenting here will one day be irrelevant. Be sure to do additional research before making your decisions. Internet 101, right there.

How have you been publishing your books? Let me know your favorite platforms in the comments below.



 

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