10 Secrets of Publishing in Aggregate Platforms
Written by Tommy Kok on Aug. 31st 2020
Aggregate Platforms (AP): A middle-man service that helps you publish your books to other retailers.

Example: If you publish your eBook on Draft2Digital (which is an AP), it will help you publish that single eBook to over 30 different retailers.

First things first: How most aggregate platforms make money is by charging you 10%/20% fees of your net royalties. For example, let's assume you sold an eBook on Kobo via Draft2Digital for $4.99 and Kobo pays you 50%. You will receive ($4.99 x 50%) x 90% = $2.25.

Now that we've gotten the basic grounds covered, let's have the context covered. Back in 2018 and 2019, no one was really talking about aggregate platforms. It's basically not a platform which will give you any results... (we're talking about making a few thousands a month minimally). Everyone and everything was focused on Amazon...

It didn't take a long time before Amazon became a red ocean filled with blood. Blood of self-publishers who were devoured alive. Now... Amazon in terms of eBooks, paperbacks and audiobooks is still without a doubt the most scalable platform because of their market share. However, the people who are crushing it on Amazon works a shit ton of hours a day and runs hundreds if not thousands of ad campaigns. In short, it's a ton of work. I respect that and that's one path to take.

Back in 2019, due to personal reasons, I knew that I needed a better way. A blue ocean. A way to run my business without too much of my time.

That's when I started to take aggregate platforms seriously. The results were better than I've expected.
Well... I've attached a few screenshots above. If anything, it is to open up the possibilities of aggregate platforms. My old belief was that Amazon was the only way to go. Only when I saw small, incremental results did I went ALL in and really took aggregate platforms seriously. I hope that those screenshots inspires you the same way it did for me.

The best thing is that you can sleep well at night because Amazon is notorious for shutting accounts down. You've probably had a few scares with Amazon. I definitely had my going back and forth with them. It's crazy after you realize how insignificant you are to their system. So that's the context and it's extremely profitable outside of Amazon. With all the grounds being laid, let's get right straight to the meat now...

1. Fundamentals First.

People hate to listen to this but the makeup of your book is the individual constituents. If the parts suck, the sum is hideous and the curse follows you around. What I'm trying to say basically is that if your cover, title, description, content, bonus sucks from day one, publishing on aggregate platform will not help with the sales at all. Understand that aggregate platforms are really just a middle man for you to publish onto other retailers like Kobo, Barnes and Nobles, Apple, Scribd, etc. It's not a "instant-cure" to the problem. If the root cause is because the systems and processes are not solidified which is 97% of all self-publisher's problems, then the results will be pretty much the same as Amazon. Nothing much. This brings me to the next key.

2. No Magic Pill.

Amongst all online businesses, self-publishing is probably one of the most sensible one. Think of dropshipping where you basically sell customers something more expensive though they can just get it from another platform. It doesn't make much sense. Unless you psyche yourself enough to understand that it is not a magic pill, you will run around trying to chase after something that doesn't exist. Understand that it's all about mastery. Mastery of the fundamentals, mastery of outsourcing, mastery of the simple nuts and bolts of your business. Especially for us non-fiction publishers, we solve pains and problems.

3. Magnifying Glass Effect.

Publishing on aggregate platforms is really like the ultimate acid test. The reason why is because unlike Amazon, the only real way you can drive traffic is through your email list. Sure, you can run facebook ads but you have no tracking. You don't know how much spend produces how much revenue and royalties. Therefore, the chances of it working is extremely low. To put it simply, if you didn't focus enough on your research, title, description etc right at the very beginning... then it's going to be painful because the sales will still be dismal.

4. Publish Hardcovers on IngramSpark.

This is literally top secret. The reason why very little people do it is because it is perceived to be very difficult to do so. It's not. Here's how you do it. Number 1, you hire a VA on UpWork to get the new cover done. Number 2, you hire a VA on UpWork to get the formatting done. Number 3, you publish it on IngramSpark. There you have it, in less than $20. By the way, if you don't have the source file (photoshop or illustrator) of your book cover then it's going to be really tough. You can send the pdf of your paperback book cover to your VA but it won't be as good. The reason why you publish hardcovers on IngramSpark is because you will get some sales. On top of that and more importantly, your listing is more powerful. Imagine you are the algorithm itself and with all things equal... this book listing has only 1 version (eBook) while the other book listing has 4 versions. Which one would you rank higher and show to more people?

5. Audiobooks on Aggregate Platforms are Powerful.

There's tons of reasons why. However, I'm going to try to convince you why with just one reasoning. Audible (Amazon's platform to sell audiobooks) and ACX (platform for publishers to hire narrators) are pretty new in recent years. Do you think Amazon is going ALL OUT for audiobooks in the past 3 years? Just imagine this. Just take a look at the companies they have acquired in the past 3-5 years. They've grown pretty badass in the past 3-5 years in so many other areas. Competitors know this. And so, many of them really focused on only audiobooks. Just google "audiobook retailers" or look at the list of retailers that FindAway Voices publishes to and you will understand what I mean. I don't mean to dismiss Amazon or Audible because they are still the biggest but there's a ton of opportunities even without them. The best way: Go with Amazon's ACX but non exclusive and then go wide. Unless your brand is super solid on Amazon, that's my recommendations for 98% of publishers.

6. The Sexy Couplet of Libraries and Audiobooks.

Audiobook publishing in aggregate platforms is all about big numbers. Libraries will pay you $0.10 to $0.30 for each book borrowed. (it depends) You might say "that's not much" and you're right. However, that's for books borrowed not purchased. The exposure is so much higher. If you make about $10k per month selling audiobooks on aggregate platforms, I estimate about 8,000 "customers" of your audiobooks. Of course, "customers" means people who've borrowed or purchased but not necessarily "listened". However, that's a huge ton of audience to get their emails and get exposure.

7. Leverage Email List to Aggregate Platforms.

The strategies which worked extremely well on Amazon but then became banned in Amazon can be utilized for aggregate platforms. Hint: The reason why it got banned is because it was so effective at getting positive reviews. I'll give you an example. This is an example of how self-publishers get a lot of reviews during launch from their email list in the past... What they basically do is send a competition or lucky draw contest to their email list. If readers leave reviews by X date, then he/she might get a chance to win a kindle fire (aka anything as reward). This was super effective but it caused the reviews to be very biased and so Amazon stopped allowing this. Imply and explicitly ask for honest reviews only if you're going to do this. Aside this, using email list as you would normally use is extremely powerful when it comes to aggregate platforms. Broadcast emails when your book is live on certain retailers can be very powerful. Understand that having just one review on a retailer which is not Amazon is usually very powerful.

8. Know the Rules.

Different aggregate platforms have different rules. Know their rules inside out. You never want to be on a bad term/relationship with the aggregate platform. For example: Draft2Digital doesn't allow bundles so don't publish your eBook bundles there. Another example: IngramSpark doesn't allow journals and no content books so don't publish it there. (if you publish low/no-content books)

9. Stick to the Best.

I've tried so many different platforms and I can confidently say that... Draft2Digital is the best for eBooks, IngramSpark is the best for paperbacks and hardcovers and FindAway Voices is the best for audiobooks. There are many other alternatives. Way more than what most people know of but just stick to these 3. There's a lot of reasons why and it'll take hours to explain. However, you will understand why once you start publishing and getting results in these 3 platforms.

10. Don't Forget What You're Doing.

The advantage of aggregate platforms is there it is more passive. Well... don't get tricked for "passive income" because you really still need to work. However, the passivity level of aggregate platforms is much higher than that of Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). One very important lesson and principle to uphold is that... you are solving a problem for someone. I like to think of my mum, wife or daughter reading the book. Therefore, don't serve the soup you won't drink. This is pretty much a principle for publishing in general. It is a great reminder for you if you are thinking of publishing into aggregate platforms.

If there's anything that I hope you get out of this article, it is that there's no magic pill. Fundamentals first. If you've spent the hours developing and honing your craft, then you will win. Thanks for reading this article, hope you've enjoyed it and may these 10 secrets bring you more light and money in your publishing business.

Tommy Kok

Tommy Kok helps people start and scale successful book publishing businesses. After 500 books published and 5 years of experience, his advice holds water. 

If you're interested in starting your own publishing business or scaling up and publish profitably then definitely reach out and request a free strategy session today.
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