I own a Kindle Paperwhite, and until now I've unthinkingly bought all my ebooks from Amazon.

It recently occurred to me that since ebook distributors take on no risk when making a book available, it doesn't seem fair that they should be earning a percentage of the author's profits (rather than a small monthly flat rate for hosting content and making it available).

I'm curious which site pays authors the highest royalties for ebooks. I'd much rather support the author with my ebook purchases than the distributor.

4 Answers 4


I always buy from an author's website directly if he or she has one. Then there is no distributor or retailer fee paid by the publisher and author. Not many authors have this I know!


I'm published through all the distributors. Selling books on Amazon usually helps me the most because the visibility boost I get from being on the bestseller lists on Amazon then helps me sell even more books. So in general, I prefer to push sales towards Amazon.

But what writers appreciate even more than a few percentage points more royalties on a given book sale is word-of-mouth. So if you read a book you enjoy, the way you can help an author the most is to:

  • Tell your friends
  • Post about it online
  • Post a review wherever you bought it.

Smashwords claims to give the author 85% of what users paid for his\hers books. They also offer to distribute the book through other services (such as Amazon), but then the author only gets 60% of the money. Some of the authors were not satisfied with how this redistributing system (books appeared in those other shops with a big lag or didn't appear there at all).

From clients perspective the service is ok, as they provide book samples (you can read a good bit of the book before buying) and the prices are low. However I've got the impression (I can be wrong of course) that mostly amateur authors publish through this system.


Self-published authors have a number of options available to them. They can publish their books directly through online retailers like Amazon, Sony Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. They can also go through redistributors such as Smashwords and Draft2Digital, which are companies that will create differetn formats for your book and then distribute those formats to each of those same online retailers and others. The royalty that an author gets will vary depending on whether they publish directly or go through a redistributor, and it will also vary based on price, but generally it is between 60-70%. As a self-published author myself, I'm perfectly content with any format as long as someone is buying my books!

Authors who are published through one of the major publishing houses like Putnam or Harlequin will often receive a much smaller royalty which is agreed to in a contract up front. This can range from 6% for a new author to as much as 20% for a developed author. Alternatively, these authors usually also receive a guaranteed advance on their sales, so even if the book is a bust, they will have something to show for it. In spite of this, more and more authors are beginning to reclaim the rights to their back titles and sef-publish them because they have better potential there.

If you truly want to help an author, the best thing you can do is leave a review on whatever site you purchased the book from. Often times the reader reviews are used to help with the recommendation algorithms, so when other readers who have expressed an interest in similar titles visit the site, that author has a better chance of being recommended by the site's built in tools. Telling others about the book will also often help in generating additional sales, and those are always welcome!

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