Where to Sell Ebooks? Not Everywhere

e-reader devices for ebooksFrequently writers ask me about a certain new e-publishing company for selling ebooks online. Without naming names, there are dozens of new start-up companies every month, popping up worldwide with all the needed services for authors to sell ebooks. Packages include converting file types, formatting, optional editing, cover design, setting up a webpage in their e-bookstore and also uploading to the major retailers. The fees vary from a flat subscription to a small percentage of the sales. Either way, they do make money from your ebook and in most cases, using them really doesn’t make much sense (in my opinion).

You might ask, “Why not? Isn’t it smart to sell ebooks everywhere possible?” To some degree that’s true, but the energies needed to market ebooks online can easily be gobbled up with more proven methods like blogging, participating in forums, writing articles and more. Trust me, this other stuff is mandatory for Indie authors just starting out and will take up plenty of time in cyberspace. There’s no need to spread yourself too thin.

Here’s the fact of the matter and a better reason not to worry about submitting ebooks to all these new companies. They don’t make e-reading devices. These days, millions of people buy and read ebooks. Take a rough guess (estimating here) which devices 98% of those book customers read on? The answer is a combination of Kindles, Nooks, Sony Readers, Kobo Readers, iPads, iPods, other tablets and then further on down the line things like cell phones and computers. The fact is this; Kindle owners buy from Amazon. Nook owners buy from Barnes & Noble. iPad and iPod owners buy from Apple. Kobo and Sony Readers buy from… you guessed it, Kobo and Sony. Of course there are some exceptions to this rule (almost everyone buys some from Amazon), but the vast majority of ebook purchases are from the exact same companies that supply the devices.

And it makes sense for the customer. The likelihood of having a perfectly formatted ebook for their device is much higher this way. If there’s any problem, returns shouldn’t be an issue. Customer service with those major players is typically far superior to start-ups, especially from foreign countries.

Want more proof? Over 99% of my ebooks are sold from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords and my own websites. As for the half-dozen of these other ebook retailers, my ebooks basically don’t sell at all, or hardly ever (occasionally at Scribd). My advice is just to upload to the biggies: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, Smashwords and such along with selling pdf and epub copies from your own website and blog. Besides, all of that can be done for FREE.

However, one way to maximize potential from these smaller ebook retailers is to allow a sample, like 30%, of your ebook to be read for free. Then at the end of the sample, you can include links to the major retailers where it can be purchased. This is my method at Scribd, and it seems to be working as there are thousands of documented reads for 6 titles and even a rare sale happens. See my documents here at Scribd. This approach will save you time to focus on the more important things for selling ebooks online, like regular blogging.

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3 Responses to “Where to Sell Ebooks? Not Everywhere”

  1. Sarah R. Yoffa Says:

    Actually, Jason, gotta correct you here. The iPad and iPod (and I assume you meant to say iPhone as well?) markets are not at all the same. Tablet users have more in common than you might think–and as an iPad owner I can tell you, NO ONE loves iBooks. In fact, almost no one uses it. That’s why it was so critical and exciting when Mark Coker announced that Smashers would be having our eBooks converted into an app that could be accessed through the Android marketplace (and I own an Android smartphone as well).

    iPad users, generally, are either using a free app called Stanza (which reads EPUB format, the same format used by Nook readers) or like myself, use the free Kindle Reader app from Amazon which of course reads MOBI format (the Kindle format). Personally, I also use the free Kindle app for Android on my phone. In fact, it’s the one and only thing on my phone I can actually read without first putting on reading glasses. I’m pretty sure the Android tablet (Motorola and other hardware mfrs) users choose the free Kindle app, too. I’m not sure what the Blackberry Play table users choose but there’s a free Kindle app for BB too!

    The Amazon software team outdid themselves. It was NOT by mistake, I assure you. They were very clever and it is quite definitely paying off for them–and will continue to do so!

    The other point about Amazon’s software approach — and book management for Kindle customers with the whole “buy once, read anywhere” philosophy – is that I can contact the Amazon Kindle store using any of my devices (my Windows 7 laptop, my Android smartphone or my iPad tablet) and Amazon will actually download my Kindle book directly to my device–any of my devices! That is, Amazon lets me “register” my devices and, forex, “sees” my iPad as though it were a Kindle device. Or my Android. Or my Windows 7 laptop.

    While you’re right, Jason, that the online retailer’s ability to communicate with the customer’s chosen eReader device is critical to an author’s decision about whether or not to use them for selling our books, I think the point is more how the retailer chooses to handle downloads to the devices, not so much which device(s) to focus on.

    Barnes & Noble’s store is terrible though Nook readers are happy. I’ve got the free Nook app on both my iPad and my Android and I hate it on both!

    On the flip side up there with Amazon’s approach, Smashwords has a great method. They offer all of the formats–same “buy once, download anywhere” as Amazon–and I love the ease with which Smashwords makes all formats available. In fact, with Smashwords, I can buy once and try EVERY format on every device I have! Then there’s Fictionwise, which is one of the largest and oldest eBook retailers online, but they don’t make it easy to download books you already own if you happen to upgrade your computer/device/eReader. The DRM’d files are just not customer-friendly.

    But pirating and DRM is another whole can of worms. Now you have a topic for next time! 🙂

  2. Sarah,The Webbiegrrl Says:

    ur welcome! i love discussing how, when & where ppl read ebooks! the answer seems to change overnight!


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