Expanding Book Distribution

Hands covered in blue paint and maps of the world against the background of the sky.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

When I wrote a post in October on growing our international reading audience, I mentioned a Facebook group called The International Indie Author, headed by writer Mark Williams.  (You must ask for permission to join the group.)

Mark was kind enough to make some very thoughtful comments on the post. In those, he urged writers to consider not only going beyond KDP, Apple, etc,. but also beyond distributors like Draft2Digital or Smashwords.  Among other things (like using Fiberead to reach a Chinese audience), he mentioned the importance of getting our books on Google Play (which we can’t do through D2D or Smashwords) and OverDrive (which puts our books in over 33,000 digital libraries in more than 50 countries).  

Mark also stated that, unlike Smashwords, getting in OverDrive through PublishDrive or StreetLib means that our books won’t be in the separate ‘self published’ section of the site.

The following week after Mark’s comments, I made sure to upload my books to both PublishDrive and StreetLib.  The process was easy; if you’re used to uploading to retailers, it won’t be difficult for you.  I uploaded epub files that I’d used for other platforms, filled out all the book metadata (description, author bio, etc.), and uploaded my cover.  You’ll fill  in how you want to be paid and your tax information.

The royalty structure is fairly common to distributors.  There are no upfront fees and the distributors are paid from your sales.  More on the details here: StreetLib and PublishDrive

Then I pretty much left it alone.

Checking back in a couple of months later, I found that I did indeed have sales on both StreetLib and PublishDrive, mainly for Google Play and OverDrive.  I found that I had many more Canadian sales than usual, too.

PublishDrive, in particular, has a nice bit of analytics. They told me what my best price point was ($4-$5, believe it or not. That may be because they were my most recent releases).

For a minimal investment of time on my part,  I expanded my distribution and made what was actually a very tidy profit.

Are you on PublishDrive or StreetLib? Do you use distributors at all, or do you upload directly to all your platforms?

Expand book distribution with PublishDrive and StreetLib: Click To Tweet

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23 thoughts on “Expanding Book Distribution

  1. Hi Elizabeth – thanks for coming back to this and updating us .. I’ve taken note this time! It’s amazing what’s out there, yet I’m thankful we have you and other bloggers who share their ideas and strategy … as Mark has done for you and us … have a good New Year and thanks for all you do – cheers Hilary

  2. I started using Streetlib 4-5 months ago as an avenue into GooglePlay since I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to be in it before they closed it to new authors ‘temporarily’. Since then, I’ve been migrating my books out of Kindle Select as their latest 90-day cycle is up and loading them to D2D, Smashwords and Streetlib. I did some to Kobo and B&N directly but most through D2D because it’s just easier. I give up a tiny bit of my earnings that way but I’m okay with that.

    I got sales right out of the gate directly off Smashwords for everything. D2D and Streetlib sales have been slower to come but I’m now seeing a thin trickle. Everyone I’ve talked to said it takes 3-6 months to start seeing sales when you go wide. They’re right. They’re coming now but those first few months outside of Kindle Select and away from Kindle Unlimited were pretty lean.

    I like that Streetlib has such a huge international focus, something the other 2 distributors lack and that Amazon only scratches the surface of. Using them is definitely the better long term play for international markets. I did have one issue early on and a very fluent English speaking rep was a big help (it’s an Italy-based company). Too, I’ve been paid by them (and D2D and Smashwords) correctly and on time.

    I have not used PublishDrive but I have heard of it. What can they give me that using the combo of Amazon/D2D/Smashwords/Streetlib can’t?

    1. Anne–I’ve heard the same (I’ve never been part of Kindle Select) about it taking a while to see sales when going wide. Usually that’s the case when I start using a new distributor, too.

      PublishDrive includes Bookline.hu, Bookmate.com, BookShout!, casadellibro.com, ciando.com, CNPeReading, e-letoltes, E-sentral.com, Ekonyv.hu, Elefant.ro, Gardners.com, Google Play Books, ipubs.hu, Libri.hu, Lira.hu, Multimediaplaza.com, Odilo.es, overdrive.com, playster.com, redshelf.com, rockstand.in, tookbook.com, tradebit.com and 240k digital libraries in the USA, Europe, China, Latin-America and Asia. They also have a new Chinese outlet.

      My biggest sales have been from Overdrive there (of course, you’ll be on Overdrive with StreetLb). It’s best to use StreetLib or PublishDrive instead of Smashwords to distribute to Overdrive because the books don’t end up segregated from others in the catalog as ‘self-published’, which apparently isn’t exactly a draw for libraries still.

      1. Thank you for your response. Yes, I reach Overdrive via Streetlib. They used to be accessible from Smashwords…not sure what happened there but they’re not anymore.

          1. I’ve recently been reading up on ‘Pronoun’ a free service (they’re a division of McMillan as of April of 2016). The list to Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo and GooglePlay and don’t take any cut of sales at all. You get your normal earnings after the retailers cut. I’m thinking about using them with new books going forward because of other advantages they have but I’m not planning on removing all books currently with Amazon at a minimum because I’d lose all the reviews I already have. Momentum with being on the other sites for a few months is another consideration as well, as I mentioned in a previous comment.

            Have you considered Pronoun and what are your thoughts there?

            1. I’ve had something of a relationship with them in the past–when they were Vook. Talked on the phone with some of their folks, did some beta testing for them (this in 2014: http://elizabethspanncraig.com/1894/free-tool-writers-vooks-author-control/) . I think they’ve struggled to find their direction as a startup, but have finally hit on something good here. You may have read more about them on Jane Friedman recently: https://janefriedman.com/pronoun-distribution/

              The advantage right now that I see is the ability to go free on Amazon through them without doing KU. Like you, I’m not wanting to lose reviews, but I’m definitely keeping an eye on them. According to some, they’ve already been influential–Smashwords is now paying monthly (dropping minimum earnings requirement) in response to Pronoun’s presence.

  3. Thanks so much for this, Elizabeth! I didn’t even know about those distributors (see how ignorant I am?), but it sounds as though it’s really worth exploring them. And if you’re able work with them without a huge investment of time, so much the better.

    1. Margot–Honestly, I didn’t know about them until a few months ago. The sales have been good…and you have the potential for international sales (your connections and the fact you write mysteries), so I’d definitely give it a go.

  4. Thank you for the tip. Although I’m still leery about Google Play. We had one book with them and they discounted it, making Amazon discount to match. Took me forever to figure out why. And even after removing the title, Google never paid us.

  5. Such an eye-opener. Thanks so much for sharing, Elizabeth. I love learning about this business :) Wishing you continued success throughout 2017 – may it be filled with good health, laughter and lots of sales (worldwide of course) :)

  6. Great info! I’ve been wondering how to get my books on Overdrive. I’m not a fan of Smash’s “meat grinder” and all the hoops involved, so I moved my books to D2D. I still feel like I’m guessing about which distributors to pick. Tolino? Page Foundry? 24Pages? No idea. I like how author-oriented D2D has been (I had a question I needed to ask once – they were very responsive).

    I’ve been deliberately keeping my books out of Google Play, because I read comments elsewhere about there being royalty payment issues or price adjustments without the author’s consent, such as Diane mentioned above. But to get on Overdrive and some of those other markets sounds like something I should pursue!

    Thanks as always for passing along some great info!
    ~Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy–I do all the distributors available (Tolino…Germany…is especially good, I think). D2D’s customer service is fantastic and I know they don’t have a big staff. They work hard there!

      Overdrive has been my biggest selling outlet so far. :)

      Thanks for coming by!

  7. Follow-up question – sorry! With PublishDrive (just checked the site and can’t tell without going through the process), can you pick and choose the distributors? For example, I won’t want to load it on Apple through PD, because I plan on loading it on Apple directly from my Macbook. Thanks!

    1. Kathy–You can pick them, yes. Their terminology is a little odd (Budapest based, I believe, so you’ll see some unusual phrasing sometimes). So when you decide to opt out of distribution for a particular retailer, they say you’ve ‘banned’ those retailers. :) And I think ‘banned’ is in red, ha! At least we’re the ones doing the banning.

      Also, since they’re international (many of their authors aren’t from the States), you’ll have to pick ‘self-employed’ in their tax section so that their reporting will work out.

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