Ebooks Democratize Distribution for Indie Authors
Today, every indie author has simple and free access to global distribution. Indie authors often enjoy better ebook distribution than traditionally-published authors. Why? Because many publishers still license ebook rights by territory the same as they’ve always licensed print rights. Indie authors distribute worldwide.
The global market is important to the future of English-language books. At Smashwords, as of this writing, we distribute to 50 Apple iBookstores. Almost half of our sales through Apple are from outside the United States. Most of these countries are two to four years behind the U.S. in terms of ebook adoption on a market share basis. This means they’re now just entering the same exponential growth phases of their markets that the U.S. market enjoyed in the last three years. In the U.S., ebooks as a percentage of book sales increased from about 1% in 2008 to 3% in 2009 to 8% in 2010 to 20% in 2011 and 30% in 2013. On a global sales basis, as of this update in early 2013, I Amazon is the probably the largest seller of ebooks, followed by Apple, followed by Barnes & Noble, followed by Kobo.
Within the next few years, the market outside the U.S. for your books will become much larger than the U.S. market. The growth in sales of English-language books isn’t restricted to English-language countries like Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Every day, we’re selling English-language titles into Scandinavia, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy and other countries.
If indie authors now have the ability to get their books listed at every ebook store, why then are some authors so quick to surrender their worldwide distribution in favor of territorial distribution and retailer exclusivity?
This question came to the forefront in December 2011 when Amazon launched KDP Select, a controversial program that requires authors to remove their books from all retailers except Amazon for at least 90 days.
Why Authors Should Steer Clear of KDP-Select
KDP-Select is an opt-in program offered by Amazon. Once authors enroll in KDP-Select, their book becomes available for free download by subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service (a service that provides free shipping, among other benefits). Prime customers are allowed to download one KDP-Select book per month for free. If your book is downloaded by someone, you’re paid your pro-rated share per download from a special fund. In recent months, each download has been valued at about $1.80.