So, now that I’ve decided to self-publish my books for adults (as opposed to my children’s books, which I’m going to continue to publish traditionally), it’s time to look more closely at the different options available.

The Olden Days…
Cast your mind back just five or six years, and the self-publishing side of publishing was an entirely different beast. It was a stagnant pond littered with the corpses of wannabe authors, who had fallen vicitm to the money-grabbing sharks lurking below the… ah, forget it. You get the idea. People who wanted to self publish usually wrote a book, then paid a company a lot of money to print a few hundred or few thousand copies. They then tried to sell those copies with varying levels of success.

Some, like children’s author Mark Robson, did a fantastic job of it, which led to a traditional publishing deals and a career writing children’s book. Most who tried, though, just ended up with a lot of books in their garage, a crippling personal debt, and a few broken dreams.

The Kindle Revolution…

The first version of Amazon's Kindle
The first version of Amazon’s Kindle

All that changed when Amazon introduced their Kindle ebook reader, and opened the floodgates for anyone to self-publish content for it. Suddenly, all the barriers which had previously prevented people becoming published authors were removed. You no longer had to find an agent, get interest from an editor, or even write anything remotely good. You could just chuck out any old shit, and the ebook early adopters would probably buy it, because there wasn’t a whole lot else for them to choose from.

Traditional publishers were slow to jump about the good ship Kindle, and so those early enterprising self-publishers were able to make some money very quickly, without necessarily expending much effort. It was a real golden era for the self-publishing entrepreneurs, but a pretty grim one for anyone hoping to find a decent ebook to read.

The Revolution Evolution. Or something.
Fast forward to today, and things have changed quite a lot. It’s rare these days for a traditional publisher to put out a print book without a Kindle version to accompany it. While Kindle remains the most popular ebook reader, there’s now a lot more competition from iBooks, Nook, Kobo and others, and Kindle is no longer the only game in town.

Amazon has tweaked its payment rates, introduced Kindle Unlimited lending, and brought in a number of other changes which tend to focus more on the reader’s experience over the author’s (and rightly so, I think). Despite that, it still remains probably the single easiest way of an author to self-publish their book, and to potentially earn money from it.

As well as making it easy to publish, Amazon makes it easy to promote your books with free giveaways and limited time price reductions. You can only do this, though, on the understanding that your ebook is exclusive to Kindle, and not available to buy from any of those competitors mentioned above.

You can sell print versions of your book anywhere you like, but then I’ve already mentioned how expensive they can be (although we’ll talk about Print on Demand in a later post). If you want to use Amazon’s promotional tools, though, then the electronic-version of your book has to remain exclusive to them for 90 days. After that, if you want to use those tools again, you have to continue to grant them exclusivity.

While it may seem mad to only publish on Kindle when there are so many other options, evidence suggests that Kindle sales tend to eclipse all other sales outlets put together – hardly surprising when last year Kindle sold 74% of all the ebooks sold in the United States.

So What’s an Author to do…?
For me, the two big questions I still have to answer are:

  1. Will I publish both in print and digitally?
  2. Will my ebook be exclusive to Amazon, or available via other outlets?

In answer to the first question, I think I’m going to stick to digital only for the moment, much as it pains me. I’ve always loved print books, and rarely read ebook fiction myself (although any non-fiction I read is almost exclusively digital), and the idea of my work not being available in print depresses me a bit. Still, it feels like an unnecessary complication at the moment, and the time and effort it takes to format the book for print, source the best printer/print on demand service, and all that other stuff could be better spent marketing my ebook output. To begin with, at least. A few months down the road, I’ll probably look at printing in some more detail.

On the question of whether I’ll keep my ebooks exclusive to Amazon, though… I have no idea. My instinct is to spread the love across a number of different ebook platforms, but then I lose access to Amazon’s marketing tools, and (I think) am excluded from the Kindle Unlimited lending programme, which can potentially be more lucrative than actual sales.

Right now, I’m leaning towards being exclusive to Amazon for the first 90 days, then opening things up to other ebook readers, but I’m by no means fixed on that.

What do you think? Are you already self-publishing? I’d love to hear how and where you’re publishing. Leave a comment down below!

Weighing up Self-Publishing Options
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