Unfortunately, that’s a question you need to ask yourself long before you actually finish your novel or short story. It used to be that while you were writing your novel, you were researching the market and deciding what agents or publishers you could send it to once you were finished. But, with the advent of e-books and small presses, that has changed. Now you have the options of trying to go the traditional route, trying to find a small or mid-sized publisher for your work or bringing it out yourself. The ultimate decision is yours but there are a number of factors to consider in making that decision.
Ten years ago, traditional publishing was really the only game in town. Self-publishing wasn’t a viable option for most authors and it brought a really bad taste to the mouths of readers and others in our field. The reason was simple. Most of those going the self-publishing route were really simply falling victim to the vanity press scams that had been around for so long. Authors who had tried finding a traditional publisher and who couldn’t understand why their wonderful work hadn’t been accepted would fall for the promises of the vanity press. It wasn’t until they wound up with a garage full of books the author herself had to buy and now had to go out and try to sell that they realized they had been taken. It was expensive and very few ever managed to make their money back. Going this route was considered the death knell for anyone who really wanted a publishing career.
Then along came e-books and Amazon’s Kindle. Smashwords and a few other sites had been around before but none had captured the market the way Amazon did. Then Amazon did the one thing traditional publishing still gnashes its teeth over — it opened the Kindle Digital Platform to indie authors and small presses.
And thus began the publishing revolution that is still causing ripples and waves throughout traditional publishing and reader buying patterns.
So what do you do to get your book out there if you are going indie?
BookBub has a pretty good article about the various sites you can use to distribute your books as an indie author. (Note: the same information is valid for small presses.) I don’t agree with everything in the article and there is one piece of information that is a bit misleading, but it is a good place to start looking for information.
The misleading information in the chart is where it says Amazon pays every 60 days but that Draft2Digital pays every month. Both are correct but with explanation. Amazon basically pays two months after sale. So, when Amazon pays royalties at the end of this month, it will be for sales made in June. But, and here is where the chart is misleading, if you have sales each month after the initial 60 day waiting period, you will be paid every month.
Regarding Draft2Digital, it pays every month — once it receives payment from the outlets you have said to distribute your work to. That doesn’t mean you get a payment the first month you are with D2d. It depends on the rules of those outlets and I’m not familiar with any of their affiliates that pay out the first month you are in the store. So, be prepared for the same 60 day delay you get from Amazon.
I will admit that, for my e-books, I am exclusively with Amazon right now. The reason is simple. After looking at my sales from the other outlets, I realized I was basically losing money by having to deal with the conversion and accounting for the other outlets. A minimum of 95% of my sales were coming from Amazon and those few sales I was getting everywhere else simply did not justify the time and effort it took to convert to the appropriate formats and the time and effort it took to keep track of the financial end of things.
Yes, I know I could upload a DOC file and let Smashwords or D2D convert it to the appropriate formats. The problem with that is you have no control over the conversion and you have to be particularly careful with checking every page after they convert it to make sure everything look good. By converting to ePub myself, I had full control and I could tweak the file as needed before uploading it to the site for distribution. Yes, I still had to check to make sure nothing went wrong — always assume Murphy will come visit — but not to the detail that I had to using another format.
For print, I use Createspace. Part of the reason for that is the ease of use. Part is the lack of cost — unless I buy an ISBN from them. Then it is only $10 — and the ease of getting the book listed with Amazon. I am considering trying IngramSpark and will update everyone if I do. However, as an indie, the vast majority of my sales come from e-books and that is where my focus remains, at least for the time being.
All that said, the BookBub article is a great place to start when considering how to get your book into the hands of your readers. From there, it will be trial and error as you upload your files, check them and then track them for awhile to see what sales outlets are best suited for your work.