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October 7, 2013
By Alex Palmer
Here is a roundup of the major e-book platforms that are available, and what they have to offer.

A self-publisher has a growing number of options for how to get his or her book out to the public, but that can present its own challenges. With so many e-book platforms—old, new, and updated—to choose from, which is the right fit? Here is a roundup of the major e-book platforms that are available, and what they have to offer self-publishers.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) — Amazon’s e-book publishing platform offers a royalty rate of 70% of list price minus delivery costs, with a few exceptions. One of the chief advantages of working with Amazon is the incentives it offers to authors through its KDP Select program. Authors who offer their books exclusively through KDP can have them included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (earning money every time their book is borrowed), and get access to promotional tools such as free copies for readers during specific periods. The disadvantage of this is that the author is limiting his or her discoverability by only offering the book through one platform.

Smashwords — The largest distributor of indie e-books in the world now carries more than 180,000 titles in its catalog. Through the company’s free “Meatgrinder” program, authors can convert their Word document into any of nine e-book formats to transfer into any of the major e-bookstores. Authors receive 85% of net sales made directly through Smashwords, and 70.5% through affiliate sales to retailers like Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Kobo (full distribution details here). It also offers authors a helpful, free book-marketing guide that is worth a read.

NOOK Press — The recently rebranded version of PubIt!, this platform from Barnes & Noble distributes books through the NOOK Bookstore, so it is more limited in distribution than platforms like KDP or Smashwords. It varies its royalty rates by the price of the book, offering 65% royalty for titles priced between $2.99 and $10, but just 40% for those priced below $2.99 or above $10. The new interface makes it simple for authors to convert, upload, and edit their work, plus it has now added the ability to collaborate with other writers, sharing their work through a new Web-based authoring tool.

Vook — This platform emphasizes its design offerings for both digital and print books, in addition to marketing and distribution. Authors can enhance e-books with video and audio features, or get “bookstore-worthy copies” of their print book on demand. The company puts great importance on the personal touch it offers, and urges every prospective author to sign up for a free consultation before it provides a quote. Vook distributes through all the major online book retailers, with royalties ranging from 45% to 85% of the list price (its wholesale relationship with Amazon ensures that regardless of the e-retail giant’s discounts, the author is still paid by the price he or she sets). Its dashboard also provides daily reports on e-book sales.

iBooks Author — Available as a free download for Mac users, this platform is geared toward those looking to create graphic-heavy projects, whether children’s books or interactive novels. The design process is similar to laying out a PowerPoint presentation, beginning with template choices like “craft” or “cookbook” and adding in text and images, as well as animation and 3D objects. It can then be distributed for free through Apple’s iBookstore, though unlike other distributors, it does not provide authors with an ISBN for their books, instead directing them to Bowker’s Identifier Services page (which charges $125 for one ISBN and $250 for 10).

BookBaby — This platform allows authors to distribute their e-book through Amazon, Apple iBookstore, and other major e-bookstores. BookBaby’s unusual payment model makes it a better fit for authors expecting strong sales of their books: it does not take a cent from royalties, but charges a $99 initial sign-up fee and $19 for every year afterwards. Special offers are available for authors seeking more hands-on assistance, including the Standard Package for $199, which includes e-pub conversion and e-book proofs; or the Premium Package for $349, which provides lifetime membership and a free author website among other offerings.

Lulu — This platform offers a free e-book conversion as well as a number of for-pay premium services covering everything from editing a manuscript to creating a promotional author video. According to its revenue calculator, Lulu takes about 10% commission on books sold through retailers like Apple’s iBookstore, in addition to the 30% that Apple itself takes.

Booktango — This e-book platform from self-publishing giant Author Solutions allows authors to convert, upload, and edit their manuscript, distributing through Nook, Amazon, and others. Booktango advertises that it offers the “best royalties in the book industry,” with 100% of royalties from its own online bookstore going to the author, as well as 100% of net royalties from other online retailers (after Amazon and other have taken their 30% or so).

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