Ebooks and Digital Distribution: What Authors Need to Know Now to Maximize Reach

It’s a conversation I’ve had countless times with countless authors: how to choose the best title for a book. For many authors, the image of the provocative or compelling book title, shouting to the buyer from the retailer’s shelf, drives much of the thinking about book titles. In reality though, other than by word of mouth, the most typical way a book is discovered and purchased is through search on Amazon or Google. When you understand this, a snappy title is less important than a title that works for the digital distribution of your book.

With this in mind, I ask authors to imagine their target reader sitting at their computer and typing into the search box the question or the key words for which they seek an answer. This rarely yields the creation of a provocative title, but it always yields the best book title for search results alignment – and then the subtitle is there for something snappy, witty, or attention-grabbing.

But it’s not just for choosing a title that authors should understand digital book distribution, nor even just to inform discussions around the author agreement. Simply put, the digital distribution plan is the thing that – nine times out of ten – will have the most impact on maximising the reach of your book, and getting it into the hands of as many of your target audience as possible. With this in mind, here is an overview of the many digital distribution partners an educational publisher can pursue in order to grow book sales, including consumer-first platforms like Amazon as well as lesser-known digital distribution platforms for specialty markets.

Digital Distribution: Channels and Partners

I like to use streaming video and documentary film distribution as an example to describe to book authors how savvy book publishers pursue ebook distribution. Imagine, for example, that you were the filmmaker of the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, based on the writing of the author James Baldwin. You would understand the importance of distribution, both for commercial ends, and for delivering your critical social message as broadly as possible. To achieve these dual ends, you would entrust your film to a distributor (similar to a book author trusting their work to a publisher) and ask that the film distributor maximize revenue and exposure via consumer streaming video platforms, public library access platforms, and education institutional platforms. A skilled distributor would go beyond these channels, too, and possibly consider distribution through airlines, prisons, hotels, etc. Each of these constitutes a channel. Within each channel, the distributor or publisher is looking for the right mix of partners to maximize the potential of the channel – so in the channel of video streaming, your distributor might consider Netflix, Amazon Prime, BritBox, Hulu, Disney+ and so on as partners.

At Lived Places Publishing, we focus on five key channels for ebook distribution:

  • university libraries;
  • public libraries;
  • consumer retail;
  • e-textbook fulfilment; and
  • course-pack creation.

In each of these five channels, we look to establish a distribution relationship with as many channel partners as possible; because each channel partner will offer some variation on packaging and pricing models that will appeal to different customers. For example, in e-textbook fulfilment, a sampling of the major channel partners includes Redshelf, Vital Source, Akademos, Chegg, and Kortext. Within these five channel partners (and there are others I have not listed), purchase models range from short-term subscription to perpetual ownership. They also offer a choice for the student purchaser between print and ebook.

The team at Lived Places Publishing is committed to achieving the broadest possible reach and sales of every book we agree to publish. We achieve this through a two-pronged distribution strategy based on a publisher-direct library collection model, which you can read more about here. We also aim to maximise distribution through direct ebook sales from our website: https://nova.livedplacespublishing.com, and, as we have explored here, through leveraging a broad network of digital distribution partners. We seek to operate in the largest market segments interested in our unique course reading content by partnering with every meaningful partner operating in each segment, from institutional to individual consumers.


To submit a proposal and pitch to become a Lived Places author, please see our Call for Authors.

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IMAGE CREDIT: NASA, used under the Unsplash License

Written by:
David parker
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