Sunday, 27 October 2013

An Essential Lesson in Online Book Distribution

While online book distribution is not directly related to book positioning, it is an essential pre-requisite in order to be able even to act upon your positioning. The essential lesson here is that:
  • Addressing your identified target segment without having your distribution plan mapped out can make your communication less effective.
Firstly, if you can inform your target readers from the beginning on where and when they will be able to get your new ebook, you can save yourself the hassle of having to retouch communications and save your future customers time in having to search for the information in later launch news bulletins. 
Secondly, your online distribution plan will determine how much of your targeted reader community has the potential to be activated. After all, if an ebook I am interested is not available in the format I need, it is unlikely that I will purchase a copy.

Thirdly, knowledge of which distribution channels you will focus on and their individual policies should in turn inform your pricing and marketing strategy. Will you price the book evenly across channels? Will you discount in all channels at the same time or at different points in time?

 However, before we dive too deep into pricing strategy, let's take a look at different distribution options for your ebook.

Direct Sale Vendors


Three of the biggest ebook distributors currently in the market are Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook Press and iTunes Connect. They are the e-punlishing arm of Amazon, Barnes&Nobles and Apple, respectively. All three of these Direct Sale Vendors have a device platform (tablets, e-readers) attached, through which you can easily offer ebooks to millions of readers around the world. Publishing through their platforms also assures that readers owning any of these companies' devices will have easy access to your ebook. 

Beside these three big players there is another major player that has made a name for themselves in indie publishing industry: Smashwords. Smashwords will round out your distribution portfolio of direct sale vendors nicely making publishing to further device platforms like Kobo, Sony, etc. a one-stop task through their platform.

Direct sale vendors offer their services and platforms in exchange for a portion of your book's list price. This system allows authors more control over their book distribution and marketing than ever before, while at the same time keeping it in the best interest of the direct sale vendor to facilitate you in turning your book into a marketing success. 

Free online book distribution


If your goal is to make your book available for free the best address currently is Wattpad. This social writing platform allows you to publish your work chapter by chapter and your readers to subscribe to your individual publications or you as an author. Some established authors like Marian Keyes have actually started to use Wattpad for reader engagement by making free samples or companion pieces to their full-length works available. 

Self-distribution through your author website


Another great option to distribute your own book is to make it available directly through your author website. A personal website is essential and should ideally serve as a one-stop-shop for readers concerning everything related to your publications and author brand. It allows you to reach readers that don't have access to the platforms above or who would have to pay additional fees because they do not reside in the main markets where Apple, Barnes&Noble, etc are operating. On top of that, your personal store takes out the middlemen and leaves you with higher royalities. 

When you feel ready to take this steps here are some useful articles and resources on the topic:

Online Store Builders:

Bonus: Recommended Print-On-Demand Services


If you are already a successful online author with an ebook bestseller, you might be interested in making your book available for readers who continue to prefer paperback formats. 
Platforms like CreateSpace and allow authors to print their works while also hooking them up with a network of booksellers as well as online shoppers.

I personally prefer CreateSpace as it is more flexible and does not ask for an upfront investment. Instead your books are printed according to number of orders coming in. Additionally, CreateSpace provides free distribution in return for part of your book's list price similar to the ebook publishing model. Finally, there is an option to use a customisable CreateSpace eStore on your own website to even let readers coming through your website benefit from the distribution services of Amazon. 

Last piece of advice...


If you are a new author, I recommend that you take your time to build your distribution network. Don't feel like you need to be everywhere at once and on the very first day. Put together a plan and communicate the roll-out schedule clearly to your target readers. People are usually understanding if you let them know that you are working hard on making your works as easily accessible as possible.

You can even use a staggered distribution roll-out as a way to let readers celebrate several "mini-book launches" with you: simple turn the addition of a new distribution channel into an  event by e.g. engaging your readers through social media or offering initial, short-term discounts on newly launched platforms.

Do you know where you will distribute your book first?


Have you figured out your distribution plan?
Share your experience, troubles and tribulations with different distributors in the comments. What is your publishing story?

Good luck with the distribution of your ebooks :)

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