Monday, August 19, 2013

Thumbnail Reviews of Independent Publishing Platforms.

Kindle Direct Publishing now has spell-check.

Nook Press (formerly Pub-It)

I opened up an account on Nook Press, mostly because people I liked said it was a good idea. An interesting feature, besides regular publishing through Barnes & Noble’s Nook platform, is that you can use the interface to write a book from scratch.

I don’t know how useful that is, but in terms of cloud-based innovation, it has its interest.

The problem with Nook Press is that as a Canadian author, I couldn’t complete the process to set up a vendor account, and without the vendor account, you can’t publish on Nook.

Audible (audio books)

Audible is recommended pretty highly by users. Unfortunately, when I set up an account, again, I couldn’t see any way for Canadian authors to get paid, or even successfully get through the sign-up process. And if you can’t get through the sign-up process, you can’t publish. The only other thing I can say in my defense is that I can (and have) enabled text-to-speech on all my Kindle books. The issue is not that serious, at least not yet.


When I signed up for OmniLit, I only got so far into the process. There did appear to be provision for Canadian and foreign authors to sign up with the correct payment information including country, province, etc, and there was provision for ITIN numbers and exemption from tax withholding, etc.

Unfortunately, (and it may have just been a temporary site issue,) but I couldn’t complete the sign-up process for unknown reasons. I’ll have to go back in a month or two and try again.


Smashwords has some great strengths, one of which is the access to multiple distribution channels. One of the downsides is they have all the books involving bestiality, incest, and other raw forms of smut.

I’ve written some erotica myself, but too much is too much!

The problem with distribution channels is the author gives up some control. One of my science fiction books appears on iTunes. Unfortunately, it’s tagged ‘adventure.’ Adventure readers aren’t necessarily looking for SF, and SF readers can’t find the book. I can’t fix this without contacting Smashwords staff, which becomes a pain in the butt after a while.

Smashwords is relatively easy to sign up for and they have all of those distributions channels. This is a good thing, as actual sales from Smashwords site itself have been few and far between in my own experience. Also, a mix-up with ITINs and W8BEN forms, means that they withheld tax when they shouldn’t have, and now they’re saying the money is ‘un-retrievable.’ This is not good, (I don’t even really accept that information,) but on the plus side they do have accommodation for Canadian and foreign authors. I have a lot of experience on Smashwords, and there are a number of minor irritations with the site.

For example , when you upload a new marketing image, the auto-vetter brings up the last deficiency report for your .doc file. Yet the file has been accepted into Premium Distribution.

This is an important point. When I uploaded a new image for Core Values, I got a bad report on the interior file.

I spent hours with the file, looking for whatever was wrong with it, and I concluded there was nothing wrong with it. The reason I panicked—and I tend to remember that sort of thing, was that I had distributed 6,200 copies already. The idea that 6,200 people had bad versions of a book I wrote was disturbing to say the least.

Three or four days later the thing was accepted into Premium Distribution again. Yet the little uncertainties bother me. My reputation as an author and a publisher are riding on each and every product. I take great care with my files before uploading, and yes, I make mistakes too.

Another thing is abuse by immature authors. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a 200-word short story listed at $1.99. I’m sure glad I don’t have their nerve in my tooth. I’m not the sort of guy to upload every freakin’ thing I ever wrote.

Also, if staff members lose, misplace, or file in the wrong place an author’s W8BEN, the author is just plain fucked. There is apparently no recourse and no accountability in Smashword’s internal processes. They’re not used to criticism either. Staff members get all defensive when they would be better served by listening.

People gush praise for Smashwords.

But they’re invariably inexperienced authors who honestly believe they’re going to make a killing. Smashwords isn’t the stodgiest looking website—that honour belongs to Google books.

Smashwords is clearly a bit of a victim of their own success, and it’s high time for a makeover. My advice is not to get too dependent on any one platform. Don’t become complacent and think that this self-publishing world is carved in stone. New platforms come along every day.


I signed up for Kobo several years ago. It would give an added measure of independence for Canadian authors. I think it’s a Canadian company. Unfortunately, at that time certainly, although the site may have changed, I had the impression when uploading books they were sent one chapter at a time, with all kinds of meta-data for each chapter.

(This is all different now.) At that time I concluded it didn’t make a whole lot of sense when I was already distributing to Kobo, (worldwide at this point in time) through Smashwords. Now, or during the winter, it might be a good time to look into Kobo again, just to see what’s up over there.

Kobo’s Writing Life. (Looks like some major improvements there, and I will check this out when I get time.)

The more titles you produce, the more work it will be to open up a new distribution platform.

Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle is easy to use. It has by far the most daily store traffic, all hours of the day.

A recent innovation on the site is spell-check—that’s right, spell-check when you upload a book. From Amazon’s perspective, this must represent a response to criticisms of independent ebook authors, some of whom don’t realize there is spell and grammar check on their home computers!

Just sayin’, ladies and gentlemen. One of my pen-names just published a story on Kindle. Since I haven’t uploaded him anywhere else, I may experiment with KDP Select, which involves prominent store promotion of free titles. Some authors report great success with Select.


I have a customer account on iTunes but haven’t signed up to publish there yet. I may check that out in the winter. What I am looking for is provision for Canadian and foreign authors to get paid, and not to have 30 % withholding tax. I don’t live in the U.S., I do not receive services there and quite frankly I don’t owe Uncle Sam a darned thing until I sell a lot more books than I am due to the basic personal deduction. (Consult your own tax expert.)


Lulu is fairly easy to work with. I have a couple of Print on Demand paperbacks there. That’s the first POD site I ever used. The stock (free) templates are unimaginative but they do have the 4” x 7” size, which attracted me there in the first place. They have been making some changes.


Createspace has a step-by-step, guided process that is easy to learn. Interestingly, you can also do CDs, presumably from MP-4 type files.

I have used Createspace to produce ten PODs. They’re all 5” x 8”, otherwise they would have to be 6” x 9” or some other size. That site gives a good overall impression, although I am sometimes hard pressed to find a link for my own books! If I promoted those books more I would probably have less trouble. Books published on Createspace are automatically linked to their ebook counterparts on Amazon—Smashwords provides for such links as well. The royalties on Createspace are much higher compared to the exact same book on Amazon. The challenge is getting someone to buy them.


You can upload books to Goodreads. I have only four titles there. This might be a good site if you spent a lot of time there, giving all your friends five-star reviews and vice-versa. The trouble with being on too many platforms is that ultimately, I don’t go to Goodreads that often. I never successfully changed covers there, I couldn’t get it to work. I’ve never made a single sale there as far as I know. There are a fair number of troll reviewers on Goodreads as well, a problem shared by other platforms across the board.

When I tried to upgrade cover images I ended up with no images at all. Not so good. It’s been a while since I went there. Things may have changed, as Goodreads is now owned by Amazon.

Google Books.

What an ugly website. Every page looks like it was designed by blood-and-iron guys who cut their teeth writing letters to the editor using COBOL or HTML or something.

Worse, authors are not actually selling books. They are providing content to give Google an excuse to put up ads. While there is provision for book links, the reading interface is the clunkiest and most old-fashioned. It even looks grainy and unfocused. It’s meant to imitate the book-reading experience.

Authors are paid by page-views and click-throughs on ads. I never made a penny there. The process of uploading books was a pain in the ass if you’re doing it yourself. If you’re paying a nine year-old Chinese kid ten cents an hour to do it, maybe it’s not so bad.

In my opinion, not recommended. I emailed them and asked to close my account, which they did.


Amazon, iTunes and Smashwords have affiliate marketing schemes, where you can flog other people’s books and perhaps enjoy a greater measure of success, especially if you pick the better books to begin with. Some of the other platforms may have them as well.

I haven’t really tried any of them yet, as my primary focus is on writing new material and developing my skills as a writer and publisher.

It can’t be ruled out for the future. It’s easy enough to set up a book-blog or review site, then you simply attach your own affiliate code to the end of product links and voila! It looks like you’re objectively reviewing books for the good of readers everywhere and providing courtesy links to the authors you most love.

The trouble with these secret get-rich-quick schemes is when everyone is doing it, the world is flooded with spam, and we’re getting enough of that already.

Lightning Source. I’ve never used it, so I can’t comment reliably on it.

There are quite a number of other independent publishing platforms. In the interest of brevity I cannot list them all, but readers please feel free to add them in the comments if you like.

There is an article by India Drummond listing alternative book publishing platforms. I cannot vouch for them, but check them out if you will. The next couple of years will bring strong and increased competition in this field and it is wise to keep abreast of new opportunities.

Lately I've been having real problems with Blogger, so the links are all missing in this article. By careful key-word search, readers can find all of this on their own.

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