Guide to Self-Publishing Marketplaces

Guide to Self-Publishing Marketplaces, guest post by Fred Johnson

As an editor, I’m lucky enough to talk to authors as part of my daily grind. I was talking to a friend and self-publishing writer recently who was frustrated by his most recent novel’s market position—he’d been using Amazon to market and sell his book, but, having had little success, he was wondering about alternative channels that might serve him better.

This got me thinking: if my friend was losing sleep over this, surely many others would be to. So, without further ado, here’s my condensed guide to the most popular self-publishing platforms.

Amazon – (inc. Audible, Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace)

The big dog, the king of the hill: Amazon is the default channel for self-publishing, and is by far the most popular choice. They offer various platforms that are geared towards writers of all experience and calibre, from the free and barebones services of CreateSpace through to KDP and KDP Select, which offers greater commission but demands exclusivity for a certain period in return.

KDP offers 70 percent commission on books sold for between 2.99 and 9.99 (that’s in pounds sterling, U.S. dollars, and euros) and 30 percent on books that are sold for anything below or above that bracket. KDP Select offers extra royalties from the KDP Select Global Fund in exchange for ninety-day digital exclusivity—this means that, for a certain amount of time, your eBook will only be sold through KDP.

The great benefit of Amazon is its size and its sheer dominance—huge numbers of people could come across your book. Of course, the flip-side is that there are far more self-publishing writers to compete with. Also, because Amazon let any old bod host their work, there’s an awful lot of poor-quality stuff on the Kindle Store that could put readers off.

Kobo Writing Life

Kobo offer nearly four million eBooks across 190 different countries and sixty-eight languages. Their self-publishing service, Kobo Writing Life, offers 70 percent commission to writers selling their books for above $2.99—unlike Amazon, there’s no upper cap, which is great news for writers of non-fiction or other more specialized books. For books priced between ninety-nine cents and $2.98, the author receives 45 percent commission, beating Amazon’s own 30 percent offer.

One of the benefits of publishing with Kobo is the company’s partnership with the American Bookseller’s Association, which means that thousands of independent bookselling businesses across the US will make Kobo eBooks available for purchase on their websites.

Nook Press

Nook Press is the self-publishing channel of American books company Barnes and Noble. As such, books published using Nook Press will appear in all of Barnes and Noble’s various outlets, including,, and the various Nook e-readers and apps. This will be a bigger deal in the US than in Europe and elsewhere, as Barnes and Noble don’t have the same kind of global presence that, say, Amazon have.

Nook Press is extremely simple to use, and offers an impressive focus on author support (live chat services are available) and collaborative workspaces (through integrated social network services). Commission rates sit at 65 percent for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and 40 percent for books above and below those brackets.

Apple iBooks

In classic Apple fashion, Apple iBooks offers a high-quality but restricted publishing channel. Apple offer a variety of templates to help in the creation of premium multimedia-heavy eBook designs, but do so by converting your eBook to the .ibooks file format, which brings with it distribution restrictions, limiting your potential audience to other members of the Apple cult.

Unlike other channels, iBooks requires the author to use proprietary software (iTunes Producer), and also requires a formal application that can take several business days to complete. Apple charge no fees for their service and commission sits at a respectable 70 percent across the board.

It’s worth noting that Apple are also at the forefront of expanding eBooks beyond their traditional form—iBooks Author is capable of creating some truly dazzling multimedia ebooks filled with mixed media and slick effects, although these won’t run well on traditional e-readers.

Google Play

It’s a bit more difficult to get Google Play to publish your book, since they have long periods where they don’t accept new sign-ups (they’re on one now, with the vague promise of being “back soon”). This is a shame, since their channel offers integration into the world’s most popular search engine, which of course helps people find your book. Google Play is available in over fifty countries and is central to every Android device, meaning your book could easily be discovered by the millions of Android users.

Unfortunately, authors can expect to receive only around 52 percent royalties on their books, which is considerably less than competing companies offer—however, this is at least a flat rate.


Instead of going straight to distributors, you can sacrifice a cut of your royalties and your sovereignty and choose an aggregator service to manage your book for you and distribute it to a number of different platforms. These tend to offer different rates depending on which distributor they’re selling your book through. The two most popular aggregators are Smashwords and Draft2Digital.


Smashwords is the largest aggregator of indie eBooks, and distributes to marketplaces including Kobo, Scribd, and Nook (although, notably, not Amazon). They provide tools for marketing, sales reports, distribution, and management, and their commission rates sit between 60 percent and 85 percent, depending on whether the sales occurred through the Smashwords store, through affiliates, or through associated retailers.

Payment is only quarterly however, and their formatting process can be a little cumbersome, so it’s less flexible than going it alone.


A smaller aggregator than Smashwords, Draft2Digital make up for their smaller size by offering authors monthly payment instead of quarterly, as well as improved editing features.

They distribute to fewer marketplaces than Smashwords do, although all the major distributors are still here. Unlike Smashwords, they’ll format your eBook for you, which saves you a job. Draft2Digital take a 15 percent cut of net sales for themselves, so you can expect to make up to 85 percent of whatever you’d receive after retailer fees (that’s right, these fees stack--so if Draft2Digital distributed your book on Apple iBooks, they’d take 15 percent of the 70 percent you’d earn per sale through iBooks).

So, hopefully that’s given you some insight into the world of eBook distributors. Of course, there are loads of smaller self-publishing channels out there, but with Amazon’s sheer dominance, these are unlikely to earn you as many sales. That said, fighting the monopoly is often a good thing, so your best bet might be to explore several options at once and see which channels best work for you.

Good luck and go forth!

Fred Johnson is an editor for Standout Books, where he helps authors take their manuscripts from good to perfect. He also writes fiction and poetry, and can be found on Twitter @FredBobJohn.


  1. I've only earned about $10 lifetime with Smashwords. No one has paid me like Amazon.


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