At this point in time Amazon’s system is the dominate one in the world of self publishing. However it isn’t the only show in town. The question I would like to offer a few words on is whether it is the only one worth bothering with.
To date I have published ebooks via Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and paperback via Createspace; the links for them can be found at the end of this post. Now this post is probably pretty worthless without some numbers. So as of end of 19th May 2013 I have sold – and I would like to put emphasis I mean sold, not given away – over Thirteen thousand units for the Amazon Kindle, twelve via smashwords, thirty five for Kobo and about forty for Createspace (a few went to friends and family so lets call it thirty). Now I would point out that my launches have always been a bit ragged and I have yet to put my second book or novella up on smashwords so it is far from a perfect like for like comparison but based on those numbers the Amazon system wins hands down so obviously it isn’t worth putting your work anywhere other than Amazon. Right?
I don’t think so. Now there are those – especially in traditional publishing – who view Amazon as the Devil incarnate. I don’t subscribe to that view either. I think that a couple of different factors have to be considered.
1) It isn’t a great idea to hitch your wagon solely to one system. Amazon may be dominant today but what about tomorrow or next week or ten years from now? Like I said in my last post we have to think long term as well as short.
2) Like I said not the Devil incarnate but Amazon is a big rich company that barely knows I exist. It will do what suits it, not what suits me, however for as long as other systems are out there, Amazon knows that the self publishers owe it no loyalty and can abandon it just as quickly as they arrived.
3) Until your work goes up on a platform it is impossible to know how well it will sell. Obviously if it is not there it won’t sell at all.
4) Exposure. What kind of person can I guarantee will never buy my books? The one who has never heard of them. When one of my books appears one a person’s screen I stand a chance of making a sale. The more places my books can be found, better the chance of a possible reader/customer coming across it. Think of it as a minefield, the better the density the more likely someone is to step on one (for the record my writing will not remove your leg)
Now the flip side of this is time and labour. With the exception of actually writing the book, setting up the file is the most time consuming part of the whole process. It is also one of those unromantic parts of self publishing that I doubt anyone enjoys. Obviously based on my numbers none of the others have paid for the time spent on setting them up however given time they might. Obviously there is an element of trade off to this. Publishing via a route that has too small a chance of yielding a financial reward is not a good use of my time. Still this is all part of the judgement a self publisher has to make. We are currently in the first generation of e-publishing. One of the problems I foresee is updating. As new ereaders – or their conceptual successors – come on stream file formats will change and odds are, to keep our work available, we’ll have to be ready to change with it.
I will admit that this post has more than a whiff of Do-as-I-say rather than Do-as-I-do since Amazon is at the moment the only place where everything I have is available but it is a reflection on the difficulty of multiple platforms.
The Nameless War, available on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and paperback.
The Landfall Campaign, available on Kindle, Kobo and paperback.
The Job Offer, currently only available on Kindle.