When I first started looking at means of self-publishing, there was one name that jumped out at me: Amazon. It seemed like an easy option. It is highly likely that Amazon will account for a large percentage of the sales for any indie author, and that, for a while, seemed good enough for me.
Amazon have two main offerings: CreateSpace for print publishing and Amazon KDP for Kindle. Of these, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is the easiest. I have decided that I will us both these routes, but not in isolation.
I have not included any of the paid assisted services here, since I do not (as yet) intend to use them.
For print publishing there are a few other options: Lulu, Ingram Spark, and Blurb. I have tried both Lulu and Blurb.
N.B. You may have heard of Lightning Storm as a possible print-on-demand option. This is also owned by Ingram, and they have, it seems, decided to push indie authors to Ingram Spark instead, reserving Lightning Storm for small publishers. You may still be able to get an account there, of course. If you can, you will get a wider spread of discounts available.
Lulu has a clear and easy process for publication and may be ideal for authors who want a few copies of a book to give or sell to friends and family. The issue is that the print costs at Lulu are far too high. They cannot compete with the others and are therefore not viable for me.
Blurb are excellent at publishing photography books, but I have no experience of using them for anything else.
I have decided to use Ingram Spark for non-Amazon print books. This will, according to my research, work well alongside Amazon. I can publish the same book (with the same ISBN) through both channels at once providing that I limit the Amazon sales to their own stores only, using Ingram Spark to provide books to the rest of the world.
This sounds optimistic, and it is. As a UK-based author, I want my books to be available in Waterstones and other UK bookshops. Pricing them and providing the ability for the shop to return unsold copies is difficult if I still want to make any money. To get any kind of a return, I would have to price the books too high for anyone to buy them. For now, I accept that having them available to order through UK bookshops will have to be good enough.
For ebooks I found the following options: Amazon KDP, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Ingram Spark.
I will be using Amazon KDP, since it would be stupid not to, but I will try to reach other major distributors (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.) via other routes. I will also try to publish on Google Play, but will have to do that myself. Since I want to use all these stores, I will not be signing into Amazon’s Select program on KDP, which gives you a few benefits in return for your book being exclusive to Amazon for 90 days.
I will also be using Smashwords, mostly for their reach and royalty payments.
I am, I should say, wary of the Smashwords “Meatgrinder” (as they call their auto-converter from Word to EPUB). I have, instead, created my own EPUB files and will use that wherever possible.
This sounds like a growing competitor to Smashwords and, as such, may be well worth considering. Their reach is slightly smaller, but that will change.
They have a huge reach for ebooks as well as print. The major downsides are that they charge an annual fee for keeping your book in print and that they pay much lower royalties than Smashwords. For me, the annual fee is what makes them non-viable. The history of publishing is littered with pulped books that just didn’t stay on the shelves long enough to get noticed. Ebooks should last forever.