I work part time for an Indie publisher. Despite having an inviting online and social media presence, and having their books available at nearly every online platform, directly through their own website, as well as any bookstore, Bookshop.org, and libraries worldwide through industry-standard platforms, invariably an author will ask: “When will my books be up on That Big Platform?”
This question, because people need to know, and also so that perhaps we can get some work done by not having to answer it repeatedly, merits a public response. Now, we can just point to this blog post, and get on with our day.
That Big Platform (TBP, for short) is always the last to upload information about Indie publishers’ books. I don’t look for them for another month after release, on average. Occasionally, we’ve had previously published authors’ books show up within a week of release, especially if they have TBP Author Central.
TBP may have the “largest” online presence, but they’re actually responsible for the very smallest portion of online sales of books, only about 12%, when compared to the total of all other outlets. They do their best to raise that by putting out the myth that they’re the “best” place to get books. They are not, by a long shot. They’re not even the cheapest, and their customer service to Indies is non-existent. Buying direct from the publisher is not only the cheapest, but it’s usually the fastest, especially considering TBP is so slow about putting up indie & small press catalogues. Added to this, there is literally no portal for indie presses to talk to
Lastly, TBP pays so little per book, with not that many sales, months after these sales take place, that we honestly don’t miss it. We get much better exposure through Barnes and Noble, the Apple iBookstore, other online platforms, and small local bookstores or others that work directly with us or the Authors to get the books on their shelves with the least expense and no delays. Bookstores can purchase directly with the same 40% discount our Authors get & low shipping costs (which is less than Ingram offers unless they buy in large quantities). In addition, we offer net-30, net-60, net-90, and even net-120 terms, so that most bookstores sell all their books before needing to cut us a check.
Many others before me have pointed out how TBP is not your friend, and they are not good for books, readers, authors, or publishers. They’re responsible for some of the worst labor and selling practices in the world. It’s time we stopped kneeling and bowing to them.
Our books are distributed through Ingram, and we are what is known as ‘Wide,’ meaning we do not publish with the distribution limitations TBP requires of its own platform publishers. You may be aware of this divide in the publishing industry: because of the exclusivity TBP requires, and all but the very largest publishers are subject to, most publishers have to make a choice: either publish exclusively to TBP according to their rules, and risk never being seen anywhere else, or publish traditionally, distribute internationally through Ingram, and wait for TBP to decide to pick up the book whenever it updates its database of available books. Ingram is the largest book distribution network; it is how all bookstores and all online media outlets, including TBP, order most of their books. But TBP would rather have full control over as many books as possible on their platform, via their own self-publishing options, so they’ve forced this choice on writers and publishers. Their hope is that some authors will not publish their next book with a small/indie, and publish with them, accept the exclusivity requirements, and lose sales they could have off-platform because no one else picks up the book. And that’s fine for them, but it’s really not a fair choice to Authors.
Remember: you don’t need them. They need you, and that’s their problem. Don’t make it yours. Publish happily with your indie – or on your own – and find your customers organically, honestly, and directly for the best experience, and the least amount of stress and headaches.