Last month after my 90-day KDP Select tenure expired, I was finally able to publish Star Brigade: Resurgent on non-Amazon publishers such as Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Google and Smashwords.
Now how was the publishing experience for all of these eBook retailers? Which was the easiest? Which had the best user interface? Which on just plain sucked? Let’s do a deep dive, shall we?
- Ease of Use: Publishing an eBook on Kindle is frighteningly easy. Once you’ve filled in all the appropriate book information, then you need to upload a cover image and your manuscript (in Word, PDF and a few other formats). If your cover art isn’t up to Kindle’s size or DPI standards, they will let you know.
- Sales Data: Sales data is very accessible and can be separated by paid sales, free sales and Kindle Unlimited/Kindle Library Lending borrows.
- Manuscript Review: Kindle Direct Publishing gives a user great QA tools, such as a Preview App that allows a user to see what their novel looks like on both the Kindle app and one of several Kindle devices.
Along with that, there is a spell checker that scours for potential typos.
- Pre-Orders: A new feature previously available only to traditionally published and superstar indie authors is Pre-Orders. You can have your book available for Pre-Orders up to 90 days.
- KDP Select: With KDP Select, an author gets access to two kinds of promotional programs. One is the KDP Select 5 Free Days Campaign. I took advantage of this during my KDP Select tenure and saw huge success (even though I never saw a dime). The other program is the Countdown Deals. An author gets 7 days where they can price their book.
- Availability: Amazon, the largest eBook retailer in the world, is everywhere. You HAVE to be on Amazon in order to be successful in the North American and European markets.
- Kindle Unlimited/Kindle Library Lending: If your book is available exclusively on KDP Select, your book is automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. Now, this is a great complement to an author’s income since we receive about $2 once a user reads 10% of any book they borrow.
- Pricing/Royalties: An author gets 70% royalties if their book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Plus, you can manually update the price of your book for each country where its available.
- Kindle Unlimited: In order to enroll in KU, an author has to be in the KDP Select program, which means your book can only be available on Kindle.
- KDP Select: An author has to be enrolled in KDP Select in order to take advantage of its promotional campaigns. An author also can only pick one promotional deal per 90-Day KDP Select term, meaning if you choose the Kindle Free Day promo, then you can’t choose the Countdown Deals until the next 90-day term with KDP Select. Plus, you cannot start using your Countdown deals until your book has been on Kindle for 30 days. Kind of a pain for authors who want to start their book promotions with a bang.
- Editing: The biggest problem I have with Kindle’s publishing process is that an author cannot make any changes to their manuscript once its uploaded to the KDP interface. You have to re-upload your entire manuscript in order to fix any typos or formatting issues.
- Live Updates: If your eBook is already live, you have to contact Kindle directly and wait at least two weeks before they successfully verify your book changes and send a mass update to readers who’ve already purchased your book.
- Availability: iBooks is the number 2 or 3 eBook retailer behind Amazon. Its essential for an author who wants to extend their reach outside of Amazon. However, iBooks is still not as widely popular outside of North America or parts of Europe.
- Other Positives: None after that since I didn’t use the iBook Author program to publish my book (which is the only way to publish to iBooks if you have a Mac).
- Access: In order for an author to even use the iBook Author program, they have to have an Apple computer. If not, then the author has to use a third-party retailer like Smashwords (which I ended up using). I get that Apple is super pedantic about their ecosystem, but that’s a huge barrier to entry for any authors looking to expand into the Apple market share.
- Ease of Use: I tested out the iBook Author program on a Mac Book. This program does not allow you to simply upload your book like other eBook Publishers. Instead, an author has to recreate their book chapter by chapter. Really, Apple?
- Page length: Your book comes out much longer in the iBookStore than on other eBook retailers. For someone like me, that would scare the daylights out of potential readers who think a 544 page book is actually 787 pages.
- Pricing/Royalties: From what I can see, the iBookStore doesn’t give too much flexibility in pricing. If your book is $3.49, it will only appear as $3.99 in the iBookStore. Also, because I had to go through a third party distributor, they get 10% of my royalties which leaves my gross receipt at 60%.
- Ease of Use: Like with Amazon, Kobo is very easy to use. The Kobo Writing Life site details every step of required information and assets before your book goes live.
- Pre-Orders: Kobo allows an author to place their book on Pre-Order. The amount of time it can be on Pre-Order is unknown.
- Promotions: Kobo allows you to modify the price of your books whenever you want for however long you want. Sounds like a win for the author and the readers!
- Editing: An author can edit their manuscript within the Kobo Writing Life interface after uploading it.
- Royalties: An author gets 70% royalties if their book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99
- Categories: Kobo offers more categories and keywords than Amazon. For example, an author can have their book in about five categories of Sci-Fi and not just two.
- Sales Data: Sales data is very accessible but not as detailed as Kindle’s sales data.
- Availability: One of the biggest issues is that despite how many good strides Kobo has made (like purchasing Sony E-Reader’s US eBook business), Kobo still makes for a very small percentage of the eBook market. Kobo has pretty solid availability in Canada, but it will not make or break an author’s sales.
- Publishing: After you press Publish, it takes close to a day before your book appears on Kobo, sometimes longer. On Amazon it takes 12 hours or so.
- Also Bought Engine: Kobo doesn’t seem to have an ‘Also Bought’ engine like Amazon or even Google Play. This makes discovery of your book by readers interested in your book’s genre rather hard.
- Ease of Use: The Nook interface is very user friendly, like Amazon and Kobo, with easy and visible steps for an author to follow so publishing their eBook is easy.
- Pre-Orders: Nook allows for setting up Pre-Orders. The amount of time it can be on Pre-Order is unknown.
- Promotions: Nook lets a user modify the price of your books whenever one wants.
- Editing: An author can edit their manuscript after uploading it.
- Availability: While Nook currently enjoys a double-digit share of the eBook market, its still a distant second (maybe third?) to Amazon. Of the top eBook retailers, Nook is definitely one of those an author should be on. But if the company keeps heading down its current path, there soon might no longer be a Nook option to speak of.
- Royalties: Unlike other eBook publishers, Nook only offers 65% royalties and not the usual 70% if book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99.
- Ease of Use: The interface for adding an eBook is not very user-friendly for first-timers. Setting up your eBook in Google Play is rather confusion at first. But once you understand what goes where and such, its fairly simple.
- Promotions: There is an option for promotions set by country, which is a nice option. Plus, unlike Amazon, iBooks or Nook, price updates appear almost immediately.
- Availability: One of the biggest issues is the availability. Like with Kobo, Google Play is not a huge player in the eBook game. An author does not need to be on Google Play.
- Pre-Orders: As far as I could see, there is not a Pre-Order option for Google Play.
- Ease of Use: Like I stated before, this is not an easy interface to use. Google might want to make this eBook creation process much easier for first-time users.
- Editing: Google Play does not offer the option to edit your manuscript after uploading it.
- Pricing: Google Play automatically discounts your book price when your book goes live. Now to most that would be a good thing, except that if that price ends up being lower than your Amazon eBook’s price then you get dinged by Amazon for having a lower price elsewhere (yes, they will find out). Therefore, you need to find a price that will ensure your discounted price is equal to Amazon’s so that they don’t lower your books price to match the discount on Google Play.
- Manuscript Uploading/Updates: Google Play’s manuscript reviewing system is very particular, making it a time-consuming effort just to upload one’s manuscript onto their site. It took me several attempts in a few different formats (DOCX, DOC, PDF) before my upload was approved.
QUICK NOTE: I didn’t include Smashwords in my review. While it is an eBook vendor, it also serves as a third-party distributor, making its criteria a lot different from the other direct eBook publishers.
Of the eBook publishers I reviewed, Amazon and Kobo had the best manuscript publish interfaces from my experience.
Kobo has a very simple interface, but one of its failing points is the availability of the vendor as well as its lack of related book engine to help customers find your book.
Amazon loses points for the lack of manuscript editing and forcing exclusivity on an author in order to access their promotional deals. But its ease of use and wide availability are undeniable. Plus, the recent addition of Pre-Orders for all authors was a welcome addition to a great platform.
I’m curious as to what other authors’ thoughts are on which is their favorite eBook vendor to use. Discuss below!