Which Self-Publishing Platform – Or All Of Them?


“Where can I find your books?” A reader’s question – and a writer’s dilemma. After all, readers are likely to find your books where you, the author, have put them.

Levity aside, as far as self-publishing authors are concerned, I’ve found that many of my peers will simply choose one publishing platform and then stick with it, relying solely on that single channel of distribution to get their books out there. But is it enough?

Unlike writers who are immensely lucky enough to follow the so-called traditional publishing route, indie and self-publishing authors do all the work themselves, and every measure of success is definitely earned, precisely because it is worked for. As an indie self-publishing author, it’s like being an entrepreneur and a small business owner – and I can assure you that marketing and achieving greater reach for my books is a job never done!

But why?

Surely self-publishing service providers are all similar and provide the same options?

No.

To take a closer look, let’s start at the beginning: I started my self-publishing career with Lulu.com in 2005, and was satisfied with the reach Lulu provided me – my books were sent to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Ingram, and – not knowing anything about self-publishing at the time – I sat back thinking that covered everything. But it took quite some time for me to realize that it didn’t.

You see, while self-publishing platforms like Lulu sell your books on their own website, they also distribute it to what they call “partners” – mainstream book distributors – and each of these also has their own network of destination book stores and websites etc.  Lulu, like every other similar platform catering to self-publishing authors, has a list of “partners” who receive and distribute your books along their own networks – and every one of their networks is different – and your reach will depend on which service provider you choose to distribute your books.

How so?

The matter of which platform to choose becomes clearer once you realize that aside from what services are offered, each platform also differs in which distributors they are connected to. Most if not all tend to distribute to Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Baker & Taylor etc… so there is certainly a good deal of overlap between them – but there tends to be some differences too. In most cases the disparity could be small – but in others, rather large. As a writer trying to get your books in front of as many readers as possible, is it wise to limit your options?

I’ve been at this lark for some time now as you can probably guess, and I’ve yet to find a single one of these platforms that covers ALL of them!

So other than picking one platform and sticking with it, what other options are there?

Between 2007 and 2011 I was wholly distracted from my writing by my involvement in human rights activism, and in the meantime, my books on Lulu had remained – but due to a lack of marketing on my part – since while doing any marketing for them on my private social media profiles I’d been accused of “self-promotion” by fellow activists – and had fallen stagnant. By 2012 I was already knee-deep into a lengthy revamp of all my books promotional material, and was also trying to analyze what had gone wrong… It was only in 2014 that I began to research alternatives to Lulu. 

Then in late 2014 I was picked up by a small (traditional) press based in the US, and I took all my then available titles down from Lulu so that they could be edited and re-released by the publisher – which was a disappointing experience to say the least. Only three titles were ever released by them via CreateSpace between August 2014 and March 2016, when the publisher cut back on their ‘non-horror’ writers, and I was once again without a publisher. Instead of throwing in the towel, I resolved to use this as an opportunity for a comeback in self-publishing!

I was annoyed because I’d waited for two years to have my previously published books (on Lulu) re-released by the publisher, and they were simply not moving fast enough – or with as much interest, care or dedication – as I could do it! In many ways, being bereft of a publisher again was the best thing that ever happened to me – and I dove back in! Naturally, in March 2016, I started where I’d left off – at Lulu.

Lulu is and has been my base as far as launching my books is concerned. This is mainly because they’re free, firstly – and secondly, because they also provide the facility for publishing print books, which most other similar service providers do not. Nevertheless, I took the tour and looked around. Since 2016 I’ve listed some or all of my books at other platforms too, including briefly, Smashwords, EBooks2GO, Draft2Digital, and most recently, a publishing platform called StreetLib. (Edit: previously I described StreetLib as a “new kid on the block” not knowing they’d been around since 2006! Oddly enough, I’d never heard of them before finding them not too long ago in an intensive online search for self-publishing service providers!) You should take a look at StreetLib – they have a very long customizable list of end-destinations on their channel listing – and they also have a subdomain aimed directly at South Africa!

All my books are now generally available via these platforms and their associated distribution channels internationally – and as far as the more recent additions are concerned, soon will be.

What do I stand to gain from this?

Essentially what I’ve done is to spread all my eggs across multiple baskets, to stretch the old adage. Starting with Lulu, I selected all the distribution destination options available to me. Next, at Smashwords, I selected all the other options they offered, aside from those already opted into on Lulu. Via EBooks2Go, I did the same thing – selecting only the distribution channel options not already selected for those titles at the other two… and so on down the line.

Below is an example of how I kept track of which distribution channels I selected at each of the service provider platforms I published through:

(* denotes selected channels)

Lulu:

*Lulu shopfront & bookstore
*Amazon (print & eBook)
*Barnes & Noble
*Kindle
*Kobo
*Ingram Network (Ingram Spark)
*Apple Books

Smashwords:

*Smashwords shopfront & bookstore
Barnes & Noble
Kobo (& Kobo Adult)
Amazon (after 2000 sale only)
Apple Books
*Library Direct
*Baker & Taylor
*Overdrive
*Scribd
*CloudLibrary
*Gardners Extended Retail
*Odilo
*Gardners Library

EBooks2Go:

*EBooks2Go shopfront & bookstore
*iBooks
*Google Play
*Bibliotheca + 3M
*Mackin
*Hoopla
*EBSCO
Amazon
Baker & Taylor
Barnes & Noble
Ingram Spark
Kobo
Overdrive
Scribd

Do you see what I did there?

In theory, this should extend the reach of my book distribution – for over 30 titles – well beyond what it would be if I’d limited myself by staying with any single service provider platform!

Care should be taken however to note that some self-publishing platforms don’t allow books published via others to be published through their service – but most do. The ones I’ve mentioned in this article do – of course it’s important to know that if you do distribute the same titles via multiple distribution platforms, care should be taken to ensure that you don’t duplicate your selection of destination distribution partners between them! For example, if you have “Amazon”, “Kobo” and “Ingram” selected on two different service providers (for example Lulu and Smashwords) for the same title, this will raise little red flags and apple carts might be upset!

Another thing I’ve done is to approach small e-stores that sell electronic or digital media to sell my books through them. I just signed with a local eBook seller called Hally Park, based in South Africa yesterday, and uploaded all the book files to them this morning. They should be up soon, at which time I’ll be sharing the link somewhere on my website, and in my next newsletter! 

Have a look around the web – and wherever you find my books, please remember to leave a review! 😉

Happy reading!


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

Show your appreciation for Christina’s work!

All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2020.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mark Williams - StreetLib
    Jun 25, 2020 @ 11:12:16

    A great overview, Christina, and thanks for mentioning StreetLib!

    New kid on the block? LOL! Actually StreetLib is the grand-daddy of the aggregators, having launched way back in 2006, before even the Kindle store existed!

    In 2020 StreetLib offers distribution and services not just for ebooks but for POD and audiobooks and reaches over 50,000 consumer points (inc, library and schools) through our 75 partners.

    We have digital publishing portals for literally every country in the world, including of course South Africa – https://www.streetlib.com/south-africa/.

    Globally there are 4..6 billion people online, including 526 million across Africa, and at StreetLib we’re on a mission to ensure everyone who wants them has access to digital books and every author and publisher anywhere in the world can publish their books digitally.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: