There are many ways to sell your self-published print books and e-books, and the associated fees and royalties vary wildly. The highest margins come when you sell from your own online store. You can employ an e-book aggregator/distributor, or upload the e-books yourself to each online retailer. Don’t forget to get into the new (for self-publishers) library market. It’s easy to collect the money. You can get paid automatically by direct deposit into your bank account.
Create Your Own Online Store
Most self-publishers rely on distribution services to sell their books, but the most profitable place to sell is on your own website. You can use an e-commerce website builder like HostBaby, Yola or Shopify to sell digital downloads and physical books. If you like WordPress, integrate one of the many store plugins to sell direct. New options are popping up all the time, like the relatively new Gumroad service. Or you might consider Leanpub, a new, “iterative” publishing system. Then of course there are direct-from-your-web-page options like PayPal. If you’re using a service like HostBaby, they’ve got a turnkey solution.
It’s a good idea to let readers choose where they’re going to buy and in what format. Here’s how I do it on my page. Note that autographed print copies are available from my own (PayPal-enabled) store, and there are options to buy from any retailer they like in print and e-book formats:
Employ a Distribution Service or Aggregator
There are several advantages to working with aggregators (for e-books) and distribution services (for print books) instead of working directly with individual online e-book retailers:
- upload once, distribute everywhere for about 15 percent on sales
- centralized accounting
- better rates with retailers
Smashwords pays authors an 85 percent royalty when your book sells in their store and 60 percent, more or less, when they sell your book via a retailer (like B&N, Apple, etc.).
BookBaby charges from $99 to about $300 to set up the average book. PressBooks partners with BookBaby for distribution. Vook, like Smashwords, takes 15 percent of sales in its store with an additional percentage depending on the retailer. Stripe, its e-commerce platform, takes 2.9 percent and charges a fee of 30 cents per transaction.
Aerbook Maker plans to add a distribution service, but as of this writing, you must distribute your books directly to retailers.
PigeonLab distributes your e-book to the major resellers and handles accounting for you, for a reasonable 10 percent fee.
Do It Yourself
If want to do it yourself instead of using an aggregator, you can upload your book directly to each individual e-book retailer and manage each relationship separately. Here are a few examples of the royalties you’ll receive.
- Amazon KDP pays authors a 70 percent royalty on Kindle books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.
- Kobo pays 70 percent for books priced between $2.99 and $12.99 and 45 percent for books outside that range.
- Apple pays 70 percent of sales in the iBookstore.
Use CreateSpace to create and sell the print version of your book in the CreateSpace store (for 80 percent of retail sales) and the Amazon store (for 60 percent). Here are details from their site on sales channel percentage shares:
To figure out about how much you’ll make per print book, use their royalty calculator.
Selling to Libraries
Smashwords Library Direct complements Smashwords’ existing relationships with library aggregators. The service is targeted to the small subset of libraries who want to host and manage their own e-books. Authors get 70 percent of library sales.
If you’re enrolled in Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program you are participating in the Kindle Lending Library. Every month, Amazon sets a budget for how much they’ll pay authors who participate, and the royalties are split among the allocated budget.
When Do You Get Paid?
Generally, terms range from royalties paid by check or PayPal 30 to 60 days after the quarter ends (Smashwords, Vook, and Amazon), to when you’ve made at least $10 (by electronic payment) or $100 (by check), to immediately upon sale (BookBaby). All of these companies will pay you by direct deposit to your bank account or PayPal email address.
This article is a short and sweet version of the information found in How to Self-Publish Your Book: A Practical Guide to Creating and Distributing Your E-Book or Print Book, which details the fees and royalties for popular services based on U.S. dollars. (Though all of these services cross borders so you can sell internationally.)
Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published her adventure travel stories since 1994 on the internet and in print. Find her workshop schedule and buy the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors on SelfPubBootCamp.com.