Choosing the right partners for your self-publishing business venture is critical. At this point, you will likely want to have both a paperback and ebook version of your novel or non-fiction book, and this means you’ll be partnering at least two companies: a printer/distributor and an ebook seller/distributor. If you want to produce an audiobook, then you’ll need a third partner. So let’s talk about physical books first:
With the advances in printing technologoy, I recommend using a Print-on-Demand (POD) service. In the olden days of publishing, a self-publisher had to order a certain number of books, which required a large outlay of cash and a place to store them all until they could be sold. And while this avenue is still available, this is a huge financial risk, and it is one you do not have to take. With POD and online bookstores like Amazon and BN, there is no requirement to purchase any books upfront, and in fact, they are only printed when a customer orders one from a retailer.
But isn’t that slow? No. I have found that POD books can be created and shipped in less than 24 hours.
But what about quality? Well, as far as ink and paper, I can see no difference in my POD book and any other paperback out there. However, the covers are all glossy, and many on bookshelves today are matte. There is no raised relief type option. It’s just a very nicely printed glossy cover.
I chose to do business with CreateSpace, an Amazon-owned printer/distributor of paperback books. The book is automatically listed on Amazon and distribution can be expanded to include other retailers such as BN and to libraries etc. I have no complaints whatsoever with CreateSpace. Their customer service is excellent.
You may also choose to investigate Lightning Source for your paperback. Their process is a bit more challenging in that you have to set yourself up as a publisher to use their service. They are also a bit more expensive per book, but I have heard that the quality is similar.
These two printers are responsible for many paperbacks out there today, including those of larger publishers.
If you must have a hardcover, look into Lightning Source or Lulu.com. I elected to forego this option because it made the book too expensive, and one of my goals was to be as economical for the book-buyer as possible.
I use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing for my Kindle edition. The folks at Amazon really got this right. I did have a bit of trouble finding a good guide for formatting at first, but then I came upon the Smashwords Style Guide and my problems were solved. More about that in a bit. KDP’s reporting is fast and accurate, and their customer service is wonderful. Your book is treated the same as any traditionally published offering; you get the same exposure using the “customers who bought this also bought” feature and their search engine is thorough.
Smashwords is my distributor to all other ebook retailers, including iBooks and Smashwords.com. I am pleased with this service; it’s easy and it gets you into retailers that indies cannot access alone. They provide an in-depth Style Guide, which can be used to format any ebook, not just those destined for Smashwords. You upload one file, and the Smashwords Meatgrinder program converts it into all relevant ebook formats. Then, you can elect to open distribution to any retailer you chose, including Amazon and BN.
Yes, you can even make an audiobook version of your novel! How cool is that? I use Audibook Creation Exchange (ACX). ACX is owned by Amazon. Here’s how it works. ACX allows you to narrate your own book or helps you find the right narrator for your project. Audiobook production has the most cost variation of all the platforms. But you have control of how much you spend. You can choose to pay the cost of production out of pocket, or you can use ACX’s profit sharing options and pay nothing out of pocket. You can also decide how to distribute your audiobook. All the details are on the website.
With these partners, you can distribute your book–paperback, ebook, and even audiobooks–to almost any venue.