Mark Leslie Lefebvre
Authors regularly ask “what the best option is when it comes to distribution for their self-published eBooks.”
My usual answer is, “it depends.”
There are definite pros and cons to publishing direct. Using a third-party distributor can have its own pros and cons. The trick is to leverage those specific pros and cons within the goals, plans, strategies, and tactics you want to employ for every single book you publish. Remember, you can always decide different things for different books.
So, what are some of the determining factors to help you decide direct versus distribution?
● Control & Speed of Updates
● Marketing & Promotions
● Time & Labor
Control & Speed of Updates
When you publish direct, you typically have tighter control over updates to such things as pricing and metadata. When publishing through a third-party distributor, you are making updates to a centralized system, feeding updates downstream to the various retail or library channels. The updates usually take longer, and the control is one-step removed from the retail platform.
Margin / Revenue
You typically earn 70% of the retail price when you publish direct. Third-party distributors usually keep about 10% of that revenue. That 10% can add up over time. (Contrast this with Time & Labor below).
When publishing direct, you typically can see either “real-time” or close to “real-time” sales data. If you are publishing using a third-party distribution platform, for the most part, sales will be coming in the next day or sometimes later.
Marketing & Promotions
Many of the platforms have marketing and promotions that you can’t get when you publish to their platforms through a third party, or even when a title is traditionally published to that platform.
It’s best to explore which ones offer direct promo opportunities and which third-party distributors solicit for promotions for the retailers and libraries they submit titles to.
A platform that has some sort of enhanced or two-factor authentication might be more secure and is another element to consider. Also, the ability to assign a virtual assistant or other type of helper access to your account without having to give them your login and password is critical.
Apple Books for Authors and Google Play are the only direct publishing platforms that offer users the security-enhanced option of allowing other people to access your account. Draft2Digital is the only major third-party distributor that offers a similar, extremely flexible option for account sharing.
Time & Labor
One of the factors authors often don’t consider is the time and labor involved in having to manage multiple accounts for a single title. It might not be an issue with one or maybe a handful of books, but what about managing a larger number of titles? What about having to make the same changes on at least five major retail platforms? That labor time can add up to more than the 10% margin you’re giving up.
In the same way that there’s no single publishing path (traditional or indie) for every one of your books, there’s no single distribution strategy that works best all of the time. There’s only that specific project, that book, that particular Intellectual Property and how you plan on leveraging it.
Your needs, your goals, your preferences will probably dictate how this element and others play into your own publishing strategy.
This article is a dramatically abridged summary of an 8000-word chapter in the book WIDE FOR THE WIN: Strategies to Sell Globally Via Multiple Platforms and Forge Your Own Path to Success. Find your copy at books2read.com/wideforthewin
Mark Leslie Lefebvre
Mark’s first short story appeared in print in 1992, the same year he started working in the book industry.
He has published more than twenty-five books under the name Mark Leslie that include thrillers and fiction (Evasion, A Canadian Werewolf in New York, One Hand Screaming), paranormal non-fiction (Haunted Hospitals, Spooky Sudbury, Tomes of Terror) and anthologies (Campus Chills, Tesseracts Sixteen, Obsessions). Under his full name he writes books to help authors navigate publishing. And they include The 7 P’s of Publishing Success and An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores.
His industry experience includes President of the Canadian Booksellers Association, Board Member of BookNet Canada, Director of Author Relations and Self-Publishing for Rakuten Kobo, Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital and Professional Advisor for Sheridan College’s Creative Writing and Publishing Honours Program.