Did you know that it’s possible to sell ebooks directly through the main 3 outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes? You don’t have to work through a third party aggregator (as iTunes/Apple strongly recommends), or any other distribution channel like Smashwords, Book Baby, Lulu, or Lightning Source. You can go direct to each of these places and cut out the middle-man, getting all the royalties for yourself.
It’s surprisingly easy to do. All you need to do is 1) set up an account at each outlet and 2) provide files and book information.
Before we go into the logistics of each outlet, let’s talk a bit about pricing. Right now, the sweet spot is between USD $2.99 and $9.99. I rant extensively on pricing in this post: Ebook Pricing and the Agency Model. If you can keep your retail price between 2.99 and 9.99, your royalty rates will be the highest. Here’s a breakdown of how that looks per outlet:
- Amazon: 70% royalty (less delivery fees) between 2.99 and 9.99. Outside this range, the royalty drops to 35%. For VERY large files, the delivery fee may be so high that you’ll make more money at the 35% royalty rate.
- Barnes & Noble: 65% royalty between 2.99 and 9.99. Outside this range, the royalty drops to 40%.
- iTunes/iBookstore: 70% for all price ranges. HOWEVER! You must price your book on iTunes at the lowest retail price that you offer in any other outlet, including print. iTunes does not want to be undercut in their pricing model.
I recommend you start with Amazon – they’re the easiest and sell the most books. Here’s their link:
Pay attention to KDP Select while you’re here. A lot of authors (especially unknown authors) have had great success using KDP – you offer your book for free for a specific amount of time. This can generate potentially thousands of downloads and provide momentum for paid sales when the time period is up.
WARNING: If you are already working with iTunes, using KDP Select is against your iTunes contract. Look at the iTunes contract for more details about this – iTunes prevents you from selling on another outlet before you sell in the iBookstore.
Upload a MOBI file to Amazon. This ensures that Amazon does the least amount to the file in the “conversion” process. Amazon usually takes about 24 hours to put a book out there for sale. Very quick to market!
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble is the next one you should set up. A lot of the same information will be here that you used on Amazon. There are just a handful of additional fields: print book page count, Author bio (this can be at the end of your product description on Amazon), author city/state of residence (optional), and age group.
Quick note on B&N account set up: make sure you get your tax id number and address information correct. This can prevent your account from being approved. Your info needs to match what the IRS has exactly.
Upload an EPUB file to Barnes & Noble.
By far the hardest to set up – but well worth it. iTunes sales have surpassed B&N for many book categories. This is a 3-step process and has a couple important prerequisites: you must have an ebook specific ISBN (note that this is optional on Amazon and B&N). You must deliver the book via a Mac. iTunes has a piece of software called iTunes Producer that creates a file that uploads all book metadata (description, ISBN, epub files, cover, etc.) to iTunes. iTunes Producer only works on a Mac. Don’t let that stop you, though. Maybe you can borrow a friend’s Mac, or if all your friends are PC, let me know and I can help.
First, you’ll want to apply to be an iTunes Content Provider:
This will take 1-2 weeks, depending on iTunes.
Second step: once you get approval, you’ll need to go in and set up all your information: sign the contract, set up your bank account, fill in your tax ID info.
Third is book delivery. This is the step that requires a Mac. iTunes Producer has made this fairly easy…there are still a couple spots that could be easier (rights and pricing, for example – you have to set it up by country/currency), but at least it’s validating all your info when it delivers the file, so there’s no guesswork as to whether your file passes validation or not.
Upload an EPUB file to iTunes.
These are admittedly a lot of steps, but the beauty of it is that you only have to do the set up process once. After that, the royalties are deposited directly to your bank account and you can go in and view sales data any time – even down to how many sold on what day. This can be invaluable as you are working your marketing plan – you can easily see what worked and what didn’t.
Please comment if you’ve tried this direct method of marketing your books. Did you run into snags? Would you recommend it to others? Or if you haven’t tried it, do you have any questions that I can answer for you? Looking forward to your feedback!