At PageCurl, we take the scary out of publishing. Part of how we do that is by helping you understand all of the various decisions you’ll need to make to take your book from manuscript to publication.

Today let’s talk platforms.

The main publishing platforms are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes.

  • Amazon – This is the big one. Everyone knows Amazon and by far, this is (in the United States anyway) the most popular platform. Amazon allows you to sell both Kindle versions (mobi) and paperback versions through CreateSpace.
  • Barnes & Noble – The Nook e-Reader is sold by Barnes & Noble. Nook uses a different format (ePub) than Amazon. They do not sell paperbacks through their own platform like CreateSpace, but if you publish on CreateSpace, eventually your book will appear on Barnes & Noble through resellers.
  • Kobo – You might have heard of Kobo through their e-Readers. They’re small, light, and relatively inexpensive. Kobo is a major force in Canada, and is definitely gaining in popularity in the United States.
  • Smashwords – Smashwords allows your book to be sold in a variety of formats. You can upload one source file and then your readers can download in mobi format, ePub, or PDF. You can also allow your book to be read online. In addition to allowing your book to be downloaded in all of these formats, Smashwords can also distribute your book to a variety of other sites including: Apple, Diesel, Page Foundary, Baker-Taylor, Oyster, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble.
  • iTunes – You can sell your book through iBooks by uploading it to iTunes or by letting Smashwords do the work for you.

So, you want to publish. What should you do? Which platforms should you choose? Well, that’s a question that’s way too complicated for one post, but let’s tackle some of what you should think about before making a decision.

Amazon is a given. Unless you’re writing hard core erotica (something Amazon isn’t too keen on publishing and may block your project for), you want your book on Amazon. Why? Because that’s where the vast majority of folks in the United States buy books. You can set your price as low as $0.99. Your royalty will range from 35% for books priced under $2.99 to 70% for books priced $2.99 and above. We’ll talk more about the relationship between Amazon and CreateSpace in another post, but suffice it to say that if you want a paperback version of your book, CreateSpace is by far the easiest method. Kindle Direct Publishing (what Amazon calls their publishing platform) also allows you to make your book exclusive to Amazon. You get a few benefits from that, including the ability to run sales. More on that in another post.

Barnes & Noble appears to be declining in popularity. They aren’t putting a lot of effort into their Nook development these days. That said, Nook users tend to be pretty loyal and as the publishing process isn’t difficult, unless you want your book to be exclusive to Amazon, there’s no reason NOT to upload your book to Barnes & Noble.

Kobo is huge in Canada. HUGE. We’ve heard from Canadian authors that they sell a fraction of the number of books on Amazon that they do on Kobo. Again, the publishing process is super simple on Kobo so unless you want that exclusivity with Amazon, you should definitely make your book for sale on Kobo. Also, Kobo offers authors one other big perk that Amazon and Barnes & Noble don’t – the ability to make your book available for pre-order. Pre-orders are great for building buzz and of course, generating early sales.

Smashwords offers you a lot of benefits, even though you might never have heard of them. First of all, they will distribute your book to a variety of other sites (including Barnes & Noble and Kobo if you want). Second, they are the easiest way to get your books on iTunes. Third, they have a very easy-to-use couponing system. While Amazon doesn’t allow you to send your readers coupons or give them books for free (say for contest winnings), Smashwords does. Generate a coupon, specify a duration and a percentage of discount-up to 100%-and you’ll have a code you can give to your readers. We’ll cover Smashwords in detail soon. They also allow pre-orders.

iTunes allows you to sell your books on the iPad and iPhone platforms through iBooks. Much like Nook readers, iPad readers tend to be very loyal. There are some intricacies to getting your book ready for sale on iBooks though. If you don’t use a Mac for your publishing platform, it’s a lot simpler to just publish through Smashwords and let them distribute to iTunes.

We hope this quick overview has helped you understand all of the various publishing platforms you have open to you.

Are you already published and want a little free publicity? PageCurl’s Cover Clash and WriterWednesday might be the free boosts you’re looking for!