The Self-Pub Big 3. My road to self-publishing

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

When you’re taking the road of traditional publishing, there are many places to consider, but the Holy Grail of traditional publishing is “The Big 6,” also known as Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. When one thinks of becoming the next Stephen King or Dean Koontz, following in the self-pub to trad-pub footsteps of Amanda Hocking, one or more of those big names will be at the forefront of one’s thoughts.

Fortunately, us self-pubbers have a ‘Holy Grail’ also, although I think it’s better to consider them the Triumvirate of Power. Why? Because it sounds so much more awesome. Go ahead and try it. Stand up and say, “I am a self-published author and I wield the Triumvirate of Power.” Did you feel that tingle? Cool, isn’t it?

Anyway, our ‘Big 3’ consists of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. If you want to make the most bang for your buck, then these three locations need to be among your destinations. I know there are a few people out there that swear by the power of KDP Select, and I did consider it for a short time, but ultimately I was uncomfortable with giving Amazon more power than they already have. After all, if I wanted someone else to be able to tell me what to do with my writing, I would have just taken the traditional road.

My journey as an indie author has just begun so your mileage may vary with this plan, and it’s not set in stone for me, either, so changes are possible down the road. For the moment, however, the journey of manuscript to eBook sitting on a digital shelf goes in this order –

  1. Amazon
  2. Barnes & Noble (PubIt!)
  3. Smashwords

Why this particular order? Glad you asked, because I might be able to save you a stumble on your own journey. When I released my debut horror short story, Dead Man Walking, I went with Smashwords first. Why? Because of their distribution channel. I thought my short story would show up in the most places right at the start of this journey so I wanted to get that ball rolling as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, my luck with Smashwords hasn’t been as stellar as others indicate. I made a mistake and an approximate page count in the description. I know eBook pages vary depending on things like font size, etc, which is why I said approximate. Smashwords dinged me so I went back and took the page count out. It’s been two weeks and the title still sits under ‘Pending Approval.’ So much for the distribution channels.

After Smashwords, I headed to Amazon. I had my first sale at Amazon within 24 hours. Lesson learned. Amazon goes to the top of the list.

I finally got tired of waiting for Smashwords and went to PubIt! to get my eBook into Barnes & Noble. It was listed for sale within 24 hours. Okie-dokey. B&N gets the #2 spot.

Now, I wait for Smashwords to do their distribution thing, but I’m content with the set-up as it is now. I can use Smashwords to catch the eye of those readers that actually book shop at Smashwords, and I can use their convenient coupons to provide free copies for reviews and promotions. Do I want to be listed with Sony, Kobo, Apple, and the others that Smashwords works with? Of course I do, but I don’t consider it to be a matter of urgency. I’ve never heard anyone say they kicked butt with their sales at the Apple iStore. On the other hand, some says B&N is their powerhouse, while others say Amazon is theirs. Whichever way it might go, I definitely want to make it a priority to be listed with those two places… which is why my list is in this particular order.

Feel free to drop down to the comments and share your path to self-pubbing. What works for you?

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One Response to “The Self-Pub Big 3. My road to self-publishing”

  1. Donnie Light Says:

    Marty – you have nailed the order. I’ve used the same three, and Amazon is way ahead. I love the Smashwords distribution – but like you describe the process is slow. And if you want to experiment with a price change… well, it takes a while for price change at Smashwords to filter out to their partner sites. Could take weeks for the change. At Amazon and B&N – it’s hours, not weeks.
    Good article – and good luck on your path…


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