The #1 mistake of self-published authors for worldwide book sales

worldwide book sales

Successful self-published authors are tapping into larger markets, which include many other retailers beyond Amazon. “Less is more” is a cute phrase for minimalists, but don’t limit yourself when it comes to online retail options for worldwide book sales.

Updated January 2021.

A lot of self-published authors are making a very costly mistake when it comes to eBook and printed book distribution: They ONLY sell their books through Amazon. In other words, they’re putting all their eggs in one basket.

Mind you, it’s a very BIG basket. Amazon is the biggest and most important online bookstore in the industry, with approximately 67% of the eBook and printed book market share in the United States. You must have your book in all the Amazon stores around the world.

But there are many other baskets – stores where millions of eBooks and printed books are sold in the US each year, including iBooks, Google Play, Barnes & Noble and dozens more. What are the most successful self-published authors learning in 2017? Many opportunities for worldwide book sales lie outside of the USA. They do call it the worldwide web, after all.

Industry statistics collected from around the globe show a diverse and dynamic marketplace.

For example, while Amazon is the dominant player in the UK, it is just one of many outlets in the European Union, along with Tolino, Adlibris, and BOL. And while Amazon is a major player worldwide, its numbers are not the same in other countries as they are in the US: Amazon owns about 40% of the German eBook sector, while down under, Amazon has 34% of the Australian and New Zealand digital book market.

The trend continues around the globe. In Canada, Amazon has less than 40% of the market, with strong competition from retailers such as Indigo and Kobo. Kobo, which also owns Overdrive, a distributor specializing in libraries, has 26 million users and a library of 4.7 million e-books and magazines in 190 countries.

Need another reason to consider the global marketplace? Think of it another way: There are huge English-speaking reader bases across the planet. Yes, the USA is number one on the list, but here are the rest.

English speakers by country

India – 125,000,000
Pakistan – 94,000,000
Philippines – 89,000,000
Nigeria – 79,000,000
UK – 59,000,000
Germany – 46,000,000
Canada – 28,000,000
France –  23,000,000
Australia – 18,000,000
China – 15,000,000, with another 250,000,000 learning English in state schools.

Bottom line: Self-published authors need to think beyond the jungle (Amazon) and onto the world marketplace!

Introducing our new Spanish-language editing service

Global distribution is essential for authors in many other languages as well. Of particular note is the huge growth in Spanish-language titles that are coming through BookBaby. And it’s no wonder: With a growing population of 53 million Spanish speakers, the United States constitutes the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, after Mexico. The market for Spanish-language books in the United States is only expected to grow as more people immigrate, pass the language on to their children, or learn their “heritage” language anew.

As a result of the marketplace surge, BookBaby has introduced Spanish-language editing services to give Spanish-speaking self-published authors the same premium editing services enjoyed by their English-language counterparts.

  • Choose from all our editing options — line editing, copy editing, and proofreading — at the same low prices as our English-language services.
  • Get fast turnaround times — 6–10 working days on most projects.
  • Our team of Spanish-language editors is part of the same network of editors we work with from around the globe. These editors work with traditionally published authors in every genre, including many on the New York Times best-sellers list.

Here’s where your eBooks should be sold

Amazon. Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world, and the Kindle is by far the most popular eReader on the market. Your eBook should be available for sale and able to be enjoyed on the Kindle and many other readers through the Kindle reader app.

iBooks. Apple’s iBooks is the premier eBook destination for iPad, iPhone, and iTouch owners in over 50 countries around the globe. When your eBook is listed on iBooks, your readers can purchase it through the iBooks app, available for free through iTunes.

Barnes & Noble. Still one of the biggest eBook retailers in the US. Your eBook needs to be available on B& and easily purchased by millions of NOOK owners around the world.

Kobo. Kobo owns about 20% of the worldwide eBook market, behind only Amazon, and is the leading eBook retailer in many countries, including Canada and Japan.

Here’s where your printed books should be sold

These are the best online stores and distributors for your Print On Demand books.

Amazon. A must for any kind of book sales. Your hardcover or softcover book can be for sale on Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world, alongside literary classics and bestselling authors.

Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble is the largest retail bookseller in the United States, with over 650 bookstores throughout the country, plus 700 college bookstores.

Books A Million. Books-A-Million is the second largest book retailer in the nation and also sells on the Internet at The Company presently operates over 250 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Powell’s. Based in Portland, Oregon, Powell’s Books is the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world.

Ingram. As the world’s largest distributor of books, Ingram can get your book into practically any store, making your book available for sale in over 39,000 online retailers.

Baker & Taylor. Baker & Taylor distributes books to more than 36,000 libraries, institutions, and retailers in more than 120 countries.

“Less is more” is a cute phrase for minimalists. But when it comes to book distribution, the words for self-published authors to live by are: “More is more!”




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ISBNs And Book Discovery: A Conversation With Bowker’s Beat Barblan
Author-published Books — A Conversation With IBPA’s Lee Wind
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Is BookBaby Legit?


  1. Nice concept, but while your suggestion is the ideal, the HOW is missing. Also, how does Amazon punish you for leaving KDP? How do you get distribution into the retail bookstores you mention? Those are the two biggest questions that pop up in my mind. If you have links, etc. addressing these questions, would appreciate them.

    • Hello Larry. Lots of good questions there. HOW is the toughest one to answer. We’re about to publish results of a huge Self Publishing survey in a few weeks. I can share some early results: The most successful authors are the ones who hired professional services to prepare their books. They also kept working a variety of marketing channels – true effort seems to have been a proven ROI for the most successful authors. Watch this blog for much more on this survey. KDP is truly interested in gaining as much content as they can. Our authors don’t seem to be “punished” for leaving KDP except you would lose out on a lot of potential sales! BookBaby does distribute to all of the stores mentioned in my post through one account. Best of all – we pass along 100% of your eBook sales revenue from these stores.

      • HIRED professional servces: that requires having the money to do that. Those who do not have the money, well, they could even be the next Hemingway, but they won’t be able to get noticed, innit?

        • Ruth, ask yourself where you buy the books you read. Then ask yourself why. I think this will go a long way to explaining that hiring professional services and mainstream channels are the keys. It is the honest truth about life that money (a representation of power transfer in society) is the key to success. But with little or a lot what matters most is what you do with that power in order to make more power for yourself. And apply that to your book when you have it. I hope that made sense.

        • Absolutely right. I’ve said this so many times I can not count. The literary climate with agents is so hamhocked, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne or any of the others would never sniff a bookstore, since their work would be judged on five pages or an opening chapter at the mood and arbitrary whim of some person’s flavor of the moment. Today requires money behind you, which many of us don’t have precisely because we have not sold a book yet. Ruth Miranda is a really amazing-sounding author name by the way. Hope you break free one day.

    • I think Steven means to be saying “Kindle Select,” which is a bonus program for having Kindle as your exclusive ebook format.

    • Thanks for this well researched and well thought out article. My own experience has been contrary to the thrust of this post and I thought you might want to be aware of it.

      Last spring (of 2016) I released my memoir “My Four-Minute Life” in both paperback and digital format. I did not have the financial resources to have my book professionally promoted, so my only option was to research the available protocols and option, then do the best I could, on my own.

      Upon its release, the book was immediately available via the Ingram catalog and in one or the other or both formats via Amazon, iBook, Barnes and Noble (Nook), Kobo, and in store or online mail order from Village Books (my local brick-and-mortar retailer). Links to each of these sources was provided on the “Purchase” page of a professionally designed website.

      The book received numerous excellent reviews from readers and the press, many of which were incorporated in a heavy Facebook promotion (via dedicated and personal pages) and posted on their own page on the website..

      I sold nearly two hundred copies myself. The book was the top-selling book in Village Books’ “Local Author” promotions where the paperback sold well, both in store and online. The book also sold well (not as well as I would have liked, but I was seriously ill and unable to perform a lot of the follow-up that I would otherwise have done) on Amazon in the USA, fairly well on Amazon Canada, and even a few copies on Amazon UK.

      Here’s my point: To my knowledge, not a single copy in either format has ever been sold by iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Ingram. At least that’s my assumption, based on the fact that they have never reported a single sale and I have never received as much as a penny from any of them.

      So, while I think your suggestions likely apply in a general sense and with a much larger sample size than I can provide, there are exceptions to every rule. As a practical matter, it would seem I’m one of those exceptions because, in my case anyway, it simply hasn’t worked out that way.

      Honestly, if I had it to do all over again, I would not even bother with iBooks, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.

      Many thanks for all you do!

      • Jesse F McRae – exactly the same for my book. Earning about £50 each month through having it exclusively with Amazon KDP and not a bean from the others. I took it off sale with the others after six monts and am back exclusive with Amazon.

    • I agree with the lack of the “how” in this article. As to KDP, it’s not KDP, >per se, that’s punishing you so much as it’s Kindle Select: you get higher royalty for having your ebook as a “Kindle exclusive.” Whether or not that’s worth it is a decision you almost have to make book by book.

  2. Steven,
    thank you for your excellent, well-researched article. I’ve published 2 cold-war thrillers (Patric Sanders: ‘Chasing the Sun’ and ‘Singed by the Sun’) on Amazon Kindle. After initial volume sales are now stagnant. I’m an ‘old guy’ and would love your advice on how to sell worldwide to other eBook outlets like iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo. What would be the best way? BookBaby?
    Thanks again.
    All the best
    Manfred / aka Patric Sanders

    • Hello Manfred – Well I do admit to being just a little biased but: Yes, BookBaby can get your book out to the maximum number of online retailers through one single account. We go to all of the folks you mentioned – iBooks, B&N, Google, Kogo – and a bunch more like Hoopla, Overdrive and many more. There are a lot of great articles on this blog that might help you spark your sales, too.

      • Are you able to use all these other outlets and still sell on Amazon’s Kindle?
        Same question for paperbacks if sold on Amazon and distributed through Create Space?
        What about distribution through the other sources?

  3. Hi – Thanks for your spot-on insights! I ave been trying to upload to Google Play for a few months, and the message I receive is that they are not accepting new authors. Do you have any idea what this is about, or when they might begin accepting submissions once more? Thanks!

    • Hello Yvonne – I’m not sure when or even if Google Play will be accepting direct submissions from authors. You can get Google distribution through BookBaby – we just added this retailer in late 2016 and our authors are enjoying tremendous sales through them.

  4. Hi, Steven. I have to agree. You should try to get them out everywhere. I plan to use Amazon first though, then branch out. I understand kdp can advertise for you. Then I’ll get it onto ibooks and other stores.

    • Hello Nick – You can advertise through the KDP service. It’s a ‘pay to play’ kind of thing where you design your own ad and set a daily budget for how often and when your ad will be served. I can share with you: BookBaby is about to launch a new service in mid 2017 that will take advantage of all the various Kindle programs through a BookBaby account. Stay tuned!

      • I want to focus on Millennials buying their ebook for their phones. Do you have any smart ideas on this? THX

  5. Your ideas are great, Steven. As the others have requested, do you know anyone who can teach us how to do these things? I have my book on Amazon and Createspace.

    • Hello sadie. Our blog has a lot of really good selling ideas and tips if you scroll back through it. There is no ‘magic bullet’ or any one tactic that’s guaranteed to produce sales. It often comes down to the amount of focused effort authors put forth in a variety of marketing channels.

  6. Your article title reads, “The #1 mistake of self-published authors for worldwide book sales.”

    It depends how you look at it. My Amazon sales for Kindle editions have now earned me around $137,000 whereas my iBook sales have earned me around $15,000 and my Kobo sales have earned me around $2,400. Yet the foreign rights sales of the print editions of my books have earned me around $150,000. (My books have now been published in 22 languages in 29 countries.) I achieved this by not utilizing a North American foreign rights agent and instead using my own creativity and critical thinking skills. So, the #1 mistake I would have made as a self-published author for worldwide book sales would have been not using my creative and critical skills for pursuing foreign rights sales of the print editions of my books. Incidentally, my books (mainly self-published) have now sold over 950,000 copies worldwide, mainly because I have come up with 75 to 100 unique marketing techniques that 99 percent of authors and so called “book marketing experts” are not smart enough or creative enough to come up with. In fact, in the last week I have generated another two new unique marketing techniques to add to my total.

    • Hi Ernie,

      Would you kindly share. Hope this doesn’t come across as rude, but I don’t mind paying for the info…after all, time is money as they say, and you spent time developing these ideas. Please, do let me know.

    • I have published my eBook The Counter Terrorist through BookBaby/Amazon on 8/11/2017. Till date there is no information on any sales if at all of my book. What should I do now so that my book sales take off?

    • Would you share your successful methods with others? It sounds like you have put much time and work into the marketing processes after creating excellent books. I will understand your reluctance to share. If you do , please tag me (IRENE BARON) or send an email response. I will appreciate your kind consideration.

    • Hi Ernie, congratulations on your success. All authors would love to experience some success and see their book sales blossom. I have 2 books and a couple ready for publishing but won’t publish until I know it is going to be successful as the sales for current books are stagnant, despite being advertised on all the suggested sites as the article above suggests. I received a finalist award in the International Readers Favourite Book Awards for one of the books but not much is happening. Critical thinking yes, that too but mine obviously not in the correct direction. Would love some direction.

    • To Ernie,

      How did you get your books translated? Where can one find info about foreign rights. I’ve had sales in the UK, and Australia, and Canada, but they’re all through Amazon. If you have a blog or link, please share.

  7. all these markets are great. Now what is the method to tell these others I have a book in and Exactly how do I reach them? I don’t expect an answer but…

  8. Hi Ernie, perhaps your success can be shared with other writers who are without the critical thinking skills you have developed by you writing a book about how you achieved this. How did you do it so we can do it also. I have three books out there in amazon that are not moving…they are Christian books. The alternate route would be to align the sales through the “Christian” sales media but that would defeat the purpose of my writings. Why? Because my writing is not slanted toward any particular “branch” of Christianity, nor New Age, etc. If you write the book, put me down as your first customer to buy it!

  9. Let’s get down the the gritty nitty shall we? Of course you say NOTHING about how to contact these other great sources. I am published with a small press and they put my book on and Now, how do I tell these other sources my book it there? Give me some very specifics. do I have to send them my completed manuscript separately? Do they have to approve the story for publication on their site/medium? Or in this case am I considered a traditionally published writer from say McMillan, etc.

    Only reason I’ve asked is I have had this story OUT for 9 months and zero sales. I need to know what my options are and how to exercise them or am I just screwed? Thanks

  10. Love this article. When I self published I went with Amazon and Createspace (for POD) and then Smashwords for many others distributors. Smashwords is doing zip. I wanted to go with Ingram but struggled to get my book formatted correctly. My book formatter never had a problem with them before, but I kept getting errors on the printing color, so the print would come out grey and not black, so I gave up. Can I add Ingram Sparks to cover the gaps in distribution, or should I withdraw my book from Smashwords and start fresh with Ingram? Can BookBaby help with getting my book on Ingram?

  11. Hi Steven,
    You are amazing – one more time –
    Do you have advice on which book I should launch first? BOOK OF ESSAYS: “High Fashion-High Adventure” I was a leading runway and print model and outdoorswomen; currently a published magazine writer. OR my second project, A MEMOIR: “My Grandmother, My Mother, Myself” The Other Side of Love – What makes more sense for a debut book, please?

    Thank you, Helen

  12. I am now having my story(called The Secret Place, for children from 8-12) edited for the last time but I would love to know how to self-publish my story and then what to do from there. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Leslie Anne

  13. I have self-published three memoirs about my growing up years to age twenty. I’m now 84 and enjoyed writing them. I tried many things and have gotten next to nowhere. Book reviews were great, especially for my first book. The first nine reviewers each gave my book five stars. Lack of exposure is my main problem. A leading person in the book business suggested a person to go to. She was a PR. She, the purchase of my books and postage reached $5,000. Books sold: None. I was on TV, podcasts, mentioned in magazines and local newspapers. For an ordinary guy, I had an extraordinary life.

    My books are loved by all who read them. They tend to read all of them three times each. If I can learn more about joining BookBaby would there be a problem regarding my books having publishing dates of 2012, 2013 and 2016? I’m also looking to simplify my life. Marketing has taken up most of my time and it’s as if time is running out. I’m in good shape, but who knows what’s coming up next. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks,

  14. I’ve written a memoir, published and printed by iUniverse. I used their program but it is stagnant because of lack of funds. It is very informative and spiritual. They have approached me to release it for either a movie or documentary, which I refused, doing some research on who would groom it to be used. It’s completely true, no fantasy. Written as experienced. Good reviews on Amazon etc. Title: My God Makes House Callsl. Author: Nalley T. Osland Nalley’s Is an iBook also supposedly in all the places iUniverse agreed upon in their program. Many say when they begin reading can’t put it down. Gives information Christians aren’t taught. Brings reality to their theology. I’m 81, saved when 25. In situation which needed help in witchcraft situation. Help nowhere to be found in churches. Answers in book. Not taught in seminaries. America needs to know. How can I move this book out to them? Widow in waiting.

    • Nalley,

      I was washed by the blood of Christ five months after my discharge from the Navy. Compared to you, I’m still a youngin at 67. I have to agree with you about many things are not being taught in the seminaries. I was kicked out of several of them for living in a fantasy, for what I shared with them, “Just doesn’t happen in real life.” I am working on my own book, still in the early days.

      I hope you get it out there. After reading in here, kind of has me wondering about if we need to band together to get something going. Do some of our own brain-storming. Well, it is all in God’s hands anyway, so we need to follow His lead. God Bless you, and may the Lord season your dreams.

      • Richard, Thank you for your encouragement and support. I do lean on the Lord and have ministry sharing with others who pass on what they are learning. God is opening knowledge and His Anointing to those desiring to help set those in bondage free. It’s working! I’m thankful! Again thank you for your concern.

  15. I think the answer here is simply go though BookBaby (which I plan to do once mine is complete) as they take care of distributing through all of these channels. I’m a CD Baby Pro member and this works the same with my music/albums; they release your music pretty much on every source that exists.

  16. Wider distribution sounds great until a writer (like myself) living in Australia attempts to sell an eBook beyond KDP. We are then required to apply for a US tax number and that is a frustrating mission in itself. (I know – I tried and failed.) Amazon has an agreement with the US whereby our Australian tax numbers are sufficient. As far as I know, none of the other distributors have negotiated a US tax arrangement to suit authors. The other problem is payment for eBook downloads. It’s a real mess when you consider the different requirements of the various distributors / booksellers. So much easier to sell exclusively through Amazon and avoid all the tax difficulties and payment confusion.

  17. Steven,

    I hope there is a follow-up article about the HOW. This is certainly a nice list, but I will say, that I have tried to get my paperbacks in B & N, and it’s near impossible. I am a featured author at a fancy book signing event and they will NOT stock my books. I must supply even when I have listed them with B & N. The traditionally published authors on the other hand, do not have to supply their books. B & N orders them and will put the unsold ones on the sales floor after the event.

    In-depth advice would be greatly appreciated.

    I’m also interested in translation. Do you have sources or links for that info as well.

    Thank you for your inspirational article.

  18. Over six years now I have had seven (different genre/paperback/eBooks) books with Xlibris and as to this day I have only received a cheque for $23.00 for my effort. My question to you is, How can I rectify this outcome? I am 82 years young and believe myself to be a prolific writer (many more books written needing minute editing/Several scripts) Being financially embarrassed/several boxes of my works stored at home, I cannot pursue any more paying publication.
    The standard Publishers, Austin McCauley (England) are in the process of printing one of my works.

    • Shirley, the truth is that today everyone must have a professional marketer they are working with or do it themselves. You cannot rely on the “publishers” and “distributors” to market anymore. They only put it out there and that is not marketing. Anyone nowadays can just put it out there. You read of this all the time when someone says they ran a Facebook campaign and you find out they just put it up on Facebook and wrote some posts about it. That is not a marketing campaign – not even close! I work with artists, including authors to do what the distributors claim to do, but don’t. I actually market to targeted demographics appropriate for your book. Using professional strategies and developing messages and CTA’s that drive the interested prospect toward a close on a sale of your book, I create results. In short, I know what I’m doing. There is still a place for services from bookbaby and Lulu and Ingram, but purely in the actual publishing of the book and to some extent in distribution. The truth is today that it is better to have someone run your marketing and sales individually for you. You are welcome to contact me at my website through the contact form or at gene [dot] craig [dot] la ATGMail[dot]com

  19. This is truly funny. I have my book in every e-book venue and in Ingram. Do you know where 95% of my sales come from? Amazon. No matter how much promotion I do nor how many leads I direct off to other sellers, Amazon is 95% of my sales. BTW, despite the aggravation of B&N, not one sale… nada… zip. Same for Google Play. While it’s okay to list your books everywhere, just don’t spend money doing it.

    • All my sales come from amazon or kindle. I have 2 books out right now The Unfinished Book Series vol 1&2 there are many different things that work for everyone. Here are a few that work for me. I also do this with out paying any money since I was taken for all my savings when Tate Publishing went out of business and they refunded no one. Press releases. These are big. Write a good one for your releases. Face book twitter and make a website. Word of mouth is my biggest advertisement. I always keep my readers involved in my books I always talk to them. Again in 10 months of my first release I sold 180 books cost of advertising $0.00 second book released in nov 2017 copies sold 20 to date. Advertising $0.00 I hope this helps

  20. Hi Steven,

    We’re having a hard time predicting how many copies of books we will sell. The books will be non-fiction (professional development books). They are short, so they will sell for around $5. They are strictly e-books; we’re not making any printed copies.
    We’re looking to find out some estimates about how many copies a self-published e-book sells. I’m aware the numbers vary a lot from one book to another but we’re hiring a digital marketing expert to advertise them, so hopefully we will end up at the high end of whatever range it is.

    We also want to find out how many sales other authors are getting on Amazon Kindle versus Barnes & Noble Nook versus
    We plan to only sell on Amazon but we’d like to know if the books will also sell on the other sites.

  21. I wrote a debut crime thriller that got rave reviews from avid readers of that genre, about a dozen or so.
    Launched it on Amazon to build initial sales through downloads only as I didn’t have enough money to print, distribute and promote hard copies.
    Sales have been exceptionally poor. Tried a facebook campaign but FB is mainly used by teens and twenties. My readers tend toward late 40s to 60s. Most use FB 2-3 times a month. Tried google adwords, professional website, still no joy.
    Decided to take the plunge and spent 4 grand on a marketing/publicity company. Might as well have burned the money.
    Trusting others to do the donkey work for me just wasn’t cutting it. So, finally, i just got on the phone and started calling up bookstores, book clubs, coffee shops and libraries to arrange book signings. Lined up 4 over a one week period, briefed a local journalist for each area and one week prior put big notices in the windows of each vendor.
    Brought my stock along, complete with a friend to assist and shifted 400 books in one week and local word started to spread.
    The moral of the story is, there’s a real generation gap between the virtual world of the youth and the real-life face-to-face book-buying public. That gap can’t be bridged without traditional media and physical contact with your readers.

  22. I always get a warm feeling reading your articles. Not only are they full of helpful information but heart, hope and inspiration. They are beyond good!

    “Less is more” is a cute phrase for minimalist -LOVE IT

  23. Good article but stop exaggerating the China market. You’ll need your book preapproved by the Communist Party before it can sell there.


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