Distribution for small presses

Ebooks are a boon to smaller publishers, especially those who want to reach a global audience of readers. One of the main reasons for this is the emergence of several high-quality, low cost digital distributors who aim their services at the global market and provide easy online access for publishers.


We’ll take a look at four distribution services that open up the global market to self-publishers and small presses:

  • Smashwords
  • Lulu
  • BookBaby
  • Kindle Direct Publishing

Each of these companies combines its distribution service with ebook conversion (in a couple of cases, you can’t use the distribution services separately). Some also offer fee-based publishing services including design, editing, and marketing.

In this section, we’ll focus only on their distribution services. The ebook conversion services are covered separately in the production module.

All of these companies deal with international publishers. They each have particular strengths and allow you to nominate which outlets they deliver to, so you might find that a combination of distributors suits you best.


SmashwordsSmashwords (smashwords.com) provides two tiers of distribution: standard and premium. Its premium service can get your ebook into most of the major outlets.

Smashwords provides free ebook conversion as part of its service, but if you already have a professionally-converted EPUB file, you can use the Smashwords Direct service for distribution-only.

If you’re a publisher or agent with a list that includes titles from several authors, you can use Smashwords’ Publisher Pages. These group your titles so that they can be displayed together, and handles collective management, reporting, and payments.

Click to view more about Smashwords' distribution service


LuluLulu (lulu.com) was one of the original self-publishing websites so its roots are in printed books and it provides distribution support for both printed and digital books. It’s primarily aimed at authors to whom it sells a full range of production and marketing services.

As we noted in the section on production, one service that’s useful to publishers is its Adobe DRM option, allowing you to sell directly with DRM protection.

Click to view more about Lulu's distribution service


BookBabyBookBaby (bookbaby.com) takes the opposite approach to Smashwords and Lulu: It charges fees for both ebook conversion and ebook distribution, but lets you keep 100% of the income from sales.

And of the three services, it’s the only one that will (currently) distribute your ebook to Amazon’s Kindle store.

Click to view more about Book Baby's distribution service

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Kindle Direct PublishingKDP is Amazon’s self-publishing portal. While it’s designed around an ebook conversion service, you don’t have to use this. You can simply use KDP to upload Kindle (or EPUB) ebooks that you’ve converted elsewhere.

Click to view more about Amazon's distribution service

Other ebook distributors

Here are some other distributors targeted at the self-publisher and small press market.

  • Draft2Digital. (https://draft2digital.com). This recent entrant offers a service similar to Smashwords, including a free, automated conversion service, but adds Amazon to its roster of ebooksellers.
  • PigeonLab. (http://www.pigeonlab.net) Offers distribution only (does not do ebook conversion) to Amazon, Kobo, Apple (including iBooks Author) and Barnes and Noble. Provides a central control panel for you to manage all of your titles and track sales and royalties. Charges a one-off fee of US$99 per title plus 10% of net receipts.
  • EbookPartnership. (http://www.ebookpartnership.com) UK-based ebook conversion and distribution service. Distributes to a wide range of US, Uk and international sites. Charges an annual fee per title (approximately US$40) and distributes 100% of royalties. Self-publishers with fewer than 5 titles pay a first-year fee of US$99 per title.


Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.


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