!LONG POST WARNING! 😀
If you’re just starting out in self-publishing, it can be a bit daunting nowadays with so many places to sell your work. It used to be simple: Amazon or nothing. In fact, before Amazon, it was ‘post your manuscript or comic pages to publishers, and wait years for nothing to happen’. But now there are so many options, with smaller sites trying to compete with the larger ones for market share.
The only advice I can give is based on where I currently publish my work and services. Which are the biggest? Which are the best? What are the pros and cons? Can I get through writing this long post without a cup of tea to prop me up? (Unlikely) So let’s get cracking:
WHERE I SELL MY EBOOKS
- Amazon KDP
- The daddy of them all, making up over 97% of my sales and 94% of my ebook income. To self-publish, you need a .DOC of your manuscript (specifically formatted) and a separate cover image, as well as your bank details for payments.
- They now have the option for you to set the publication date in the future, so you can do pre-orders.
- They don’t generate an ISBN for you, so if you want to use one, you’ll have to get it elsewhere, although this isn’t a requirement for digital books.
- KDP Select – if you wish, you can go exclusive to Amazon via this service for 90 days at a time (i.e. you are not allowed to publish anywhere else online, including via your own website). This gives you access to special promotional options: Countdown Deals (timed price drop, then incremental increases back to original price) or Free Book Promotions (for max 5 days in any 90 day period, doesn’t have to be consecutive). I currently have two books in this program, Higgs & Soap: Galaxy Delivery (HSGD) and The Resurrection Tree and Other Stories (TRT), mostly because they both had zero sales on any other platform, so it was no loss to me to go exclusive.
- Kindle Unlimited – you are automatically enrolled in this if you sign up to KDP select, and it means that Kindle Unlimited subscribers can download your book for free, and you then get paid per page viewed. I’ve actually had quite a few page views for HSGD and TRT, which more or less make up for what the sale price actually is.
- Personally I’ve never encountered any issues with them – the whole submission process is straightforward and quick.
- These guys are a service where you can upload your manuscript and cover, and they will not only publish them on their own site, but also submit it to other ebook platforms for a small cut of each sale. This is really handy if you don’t want to hassle of going through four or five different submission processes, each with their own slightly different requirements and quirks.
- They don’t submit to Amazon, but their main targets are Apple’s itunes store, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble (NOOK) as well as several other smaller library and subscription services (one point each if you’ve heard of Scribd, Overdrive, Odilo, Yuzu, txtr or Tolino).
- I’ve had occasional problems with submissions, to do with an identical manuscript being passed then failed (or vice-versa) simply because it was a different person checking it over.
- They do generate an ISBN for you if you wish, for free!
- They have a great system where you can generate ‘coupon codes’ for your ebooks, where you set a % discount (or free) and you can then use the code for your own sales and promotional purposes, or to give to reviewers for instance.
- Generally I get very few sales on their own site, but the remaining 3% that don’t buy from Amazon are from the itunes and NOOK stores.
- A similar service is Draft2Digital, who have a much better looking website and process, but as far as I know, they are broadly similar to Smashwords.
- Apple itunes
- I publish here via Smashwords as above, and get a trickle of sales in the US.
- Barnes & Noble (NOOK Books)
- Again sold via Smashwords. If you wish to self-publish directly to them, their own service is called NOOKPress (formerly Pubit!).
- There used to be a NOOK UK, but that disappeared in March 2016. Most of my sales were and are US based anyway.
- Also through Smashwords. This is actually a fairly big ebook service, heavily promoted with the devices sold through WH Smith in the UK. How many ebooks have I ever sold on here in three years? Two.
- Google Play
- Easy to forget about this one, especially since I hardly ever make a sale here, but there are BILLIONS of Android devices out there, so it’s worth it.
- Their submission process is a bit of a pain (and it’s offline at the moment), involving very specific file names that must match a generated store code and contain descriptors of what the file is (‘content’, ‘cover’, etc.) Seriously, that’s the kind of stuff that’s easy to make a mistake with, and could even more easily be automated at their end.
- This is actually part of a collection of specific sales sites (others are -RPG, -Cards, and -Comics).
- Somewhere else where I get a spattering of sales throughout the year, although I haven’t yet reached the payout threshold. Pretty straightforward to submit to, with some handy back-end sales tools and options.
Lost to history: Sony ereader, Nook UK, Oyster and more 🙁
WHERE I SELL MY DIGITAL COMICS
- The big momma of the digital comics world. Now owned by Amazon, which means little to you as a seller, other than you can log in with your Amazon account, and if you list your comic both here and on Amazon, a little “Buy on ComiXology” link appears under your title.
- However, the link with Amazon doesn’t extend to ease of submission. Wow, talk about a ‘black hole’, this is like the old days of submissions to the ‘Big Five’ book publishers where you sent your work and got no feedback at all. Essentially, you create a ‘Publisher’, create a title, upload your PDF, then submit and wait for weeks. Many. Weeks.
- You see, each submission is checked by a person for suitability (banned content checks and overall quality checks I guess), and indie comics are low down on their priority list, as they also publish Marvel, DC, Image and others. I do understand the need for this for indies (and apparently, the process is speedier for subsequent submissions – i.e. you’ve proven you’re good and not trying to slip nasty stuff onto their service) but the utter lack of communication, other than a status change on the ‘submit’ page, is really bad.
- Oh, and also, when it’s approved, you have no control over the release date. They choose that. I discovered via accidental bored browsing when Powerless: Some Kind of Hero was coming out (there was no notification email or anything), giving me just a few days to promote it. On the largest digital comics service online. Poor.
- Also, whereas on Amazon, you can see instant sales stats and get monthly reports, ComiXology only do quarterly reports (my first arrives end of November) and there is no ‘chart’, so you have no idea for up to three months how your comic is selling.
- So yeah, you have to be on here for outward visibility, but inward visibility for indie self-publishers falls way behind the new parent company. Here’s hoping this can improve.
- Amazon KDP
- What, again? Yes, you can sell digital comics on Amazon, as well as ComiXology, which is somewhat confusing, although they do link to their newly purchased site. It’s a similar submission process to ebooks, and thankfully within a similar time frame.
- Also thankfully, you get access to the fantastic daily stats they provide. Surprisingly, I’ve had 16 sales on here, which makes me even more interested to find out how it’s done on ComiXology.
- As with DriveThruFiction – same submission process and data behind it.
- Now this one is interesting. I knew of this site as one you can submit indie games to, but had no idea they had expanded to comics (and ebooks).
- Submission was an absolute dream! One of the easiest-to-use back ends I’ve seen (and I’ve seen many back-ends, “oo-er-missus” etc.) – I created an account and had my comic up there within half an hour.
- I had no idea Etsy sold digital items until I investigated them. Unfortunately they have a tiny upload file size limit, which meant I had to split the comic into two files, which is not ideal either for sellers or buyers. No sales here yet, but not expecting many to be honest.
- These guys have been around for a while, but have quite an odd site. There is no ‘browsing’, no overall store. You create an item to sell, and link to it from elsewhere (your own website for instance). So it’s great for simply selling stuff direct, but there is no chance of ‘discovery’ by anyone.
Also: there are various mobile/tablet only sites for comics I have yet to fully investigate, which might be good for digital sales.
WHERE I SELL MY PHYSICAL BOOKS AND COMICS
- Another Amazon company, and where I get all my books printed. They are a Print On Demand (POD) service, who sell directly, but I simply use them as a printing service for myself, as authors get discounts on their own work. HIGHLY recommend getting a proof copy by the way – a tad pricey, but very, very worth it.
- Submission is not quite as simple as KDP, as print books need to be formatted differently, not to mention all the cover and paper settings, but once that’s done you get the option to opt-in for distribution services to bookstores and libraries for free.
- Once everything is set up correctly, their approval process is surprisingly swift. And being part of Amazon, as soon as you create a title, it checks to see if it already exists on their digital store and automatically links the two, so that shoppers can order a POD paper copy if they wish.
- I did look into printing my comic through here, but the formatting and sizing was a nightmare, so I gave up in the end. There are no default comic book sizes available, and a test submission came back with some odd errors I couldn’t ultimately be bothered figuring out.
- UK based, and apparently the ‘No. 1 Indie Comics Marketplace’ (their own words). There are various pricing options from FREE and upwards for more web storage space for your digital titles. Yep, they now do digital sales, but I haven’t yet put mine on there yet. There was a reason, but I can’t remember what it was, so I didn’t included it above.
- Setup involves creating your own ‘store’ via a WordPress (blog) based back-end and then adding pages for each title. Luckily, I have run my WordPress blog for years, so this was fairly straightforward for me, but I can see this being quite confusing and actually off-putting for those who have never done this before. It’s very different to other submissions processes and might take the less technically inclined some time or outside help to get set up properly.
- Another UK based website for selling paper comics. The two main differences between these guys and Comicsy are: 1) ComicHaus don’t use WordPress, so set up is 1000x simpler, however, 2) there is no option to bulk list titles. This means if you have 50 copies you are willing to sell, each one needs to be listed individually. So what they give with one hand, they take with the other.
- Not just for knitted animals, cute clay animals, animal hats etc., little did I know that Etsy had a category for physical comics too! Pretty easy to list, but not sure about the visibility on a site that is more catered for arts and crafts.
- Obviously, I sell most of my books and comics at conventions. They are the best place to be honest, as that’s what most of the visitors are there for (depending on the event). But this could be a separate blog post all by itself, so I’ll just leave it here for now.
“But where do you get comics printed?” I hear you cry – well I go to Comic Printing UK! They came recommended to me, and also print work by many well-known independent comic creators, so have the skills and knowledge to tackle pretty much anything. And they are super friendly, helpful and patient with first-time creators, so don’t hesitate to contact them with your queries.
And that’s just the tip of the sales iceberg. For artists, you can sell your art and art services via places like Fiverr, Etsy, DeviantArt, Patreon and others. For game developers, the main platforms are Steam (the Amazon of the digital games world), Humble, itch.io and Good Old Games (GOG). But all these I’m not so familiar with, so I’ll just drop those links in here for you to look at yourself.
Well, I hope this super long blog post had been informative. Feel free to ask questions or leave other recommendations and reviews in the comments below, or drop me an email if you want more detailed info an any of the above.