Making Digital Books: Devising a Distribution Strategy for Your Ebooks

Making Digital Books: Add your ebook to the top of the stack!

Let’s take a step back from all the formatting, the cover-making, and the description-writing for a second. Let’s make sure you’ve got a good strategy in place for distributing your ebooks.

Places like Amazon’s Kindle Store, the Nookbook Store, and Smashwords aren’t publishers, of course. You are the publisher.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, the Google ebookstore, DriveThruComics, the iBookstore, and all the various other websites out there are the distributors. For a small fee, usually a percentage of each ebook you sell at their site, the distributor hosts your ebook file and gives potential readers access to your ebook.

So what’s the best strategy for using those distributors to help you sell your ebook? Do you use ’em all (and possibly go nuts keeping up with all those versions of your ebooks), or do you just use one? Or do you mix it up?

The answers to those questions depend on your inventory of potential ebooks, your time, and your comfort with diversifying.

What Ebooks Are in Your Inventory?

Take a look at your novel or novels that you want to sell with digital distributors. You may also have some stories sitting there on your hard drive you’d like to sell. How many potential ebooks are you looking at here? A dozen? Or maybe six dozen?

The more ebooks you have, the more work you have in front of you. For me, I wanted to get all my previously published stories formatted as ebooks, so I set up my Free Fiction Friday series, where I did one ebook a week for the entire year of 2011. Yes, I’ll be glad when this year’s over!

I also made each story free for a week before I turned it into an ebook, to try to drum up interest, and bring readers to my website. I also limited my distributors for these stories to Smashwords (who of course get the stories out to over half a dozen affiliates like Sony, Kobo, and B&N) and Amazon’s KDP program (I opted out of Smashwords’ distribution to Amazon).

For my novels, I wanted to keep better tabs on their sales, so I used Smashwords, but opted out of Amazon and B&N so I could publish them there myself.

If you have just a few stories or a novel or two in your inventory right now, you may just want to try getting those ebooks out to every possible distributor you can.

Finally, make sure — of course! — that you own the ebook/digital rights to all novels and stories you’re selling as ebooks.

How Much Time Can You Devote to Ebooking?

Make sure you don’t overdo it, both with the amount of ebooks you try to get out there all at once and with the number of distributors you try to use to sell your ebooks. There is a good bit of formatting to be done for each distributor, as you’ve seen in my previous topics. But there’s also the learning curve with learning each distributor’s system.

It’s easy to put your writing on hold so you can get your ebooks formatted and uploaded, but fight that urge. Do your new writing first, then do your ebooking.

If time is short, just focus on one or two distributors. I like Smashwords, because they push out your ebook to all their affiliates. If you just stick with Smashwords for your ebooks, you’re off to a good start.


What’s Your Comfort Level with Diversifying?

You probably don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Any distributor from the list of sites we’ve been discussing could go bankrupt tomorrow or change their royalty policies, or any other unexpected event could happen. I mean, look at how fast the industry has changed, just in the past year.

So diversify. Get your stuff out to as many distributors as your time and your inventory allow. Novels sell better than stories, and you get more money for a novel ebook sale than a story ebook, so I think you should try to control the process as much as you can for your novels. Use Smashwords for your novels, but opt out of Amazon and B&N so you can upload to those sites yourself. Use newer sites like DriveThruFiction — these sites could be the big players of tomorrow.

Also, keep an eye out for other sites that may be coming online, like the possible Kobo self-publishing option that may be available soon.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment. You can always edit and update an ebook and its cover and description as needed. You can even pull down a novel or story that you feel isn’t working (though I suggest you wait a couple months before doing something like that).

For me, I wonder if I have too many stories in my Amazon, B&N, and iBookstore listings. They could be cluttering things up a bit, possibly overwhelming potential readers. Maybe I would’ve been better off focus on just novels?

But those are all personal choices I’ve made. Figure out a strategy for your ebooks, and see what happens. And let me know what’s been working for you in the Comments section, below.

If you have any tips or questions, feel free to share in the comments or via Facebook or Twitter! And thanks for reading.

Back to the Making Digital Books Table of Contents.

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