Get a headstart on your 2023 publishing goals!

person holding hardcover book with blank cover

Alternatives to Amazon for Low-Content Book Publishing

Table of Contents

When it comes to self-publishing low content books like journals, activity books, or guest books, Amazon really dominates the market.

This is because they not only allow designers to upload these kinds of books, but they make the process very simple.

They also have a huge share of the online market. Authors of traditional books also find that they make more sales on Amazon than any other self-publishing platform.

But there are definitely people who aren’t Amazon fans.

And that’s ok!

There are ways to build a self-publishing business for low-content books without using them…

Though it’s definitely not as easy.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, however.

In this article, we’ll look at some things you should consider when making the decision to move away from Amazon for your business.

Why does Amazon dominate the market?

In terms of low-content books in particular, there are a few specific reasons why Amazon is the leading marketplace in the space:

  1. Their KDP platform is easy and free to use. You don’t need complicated design files; just PDFs.
  2. They have millions of customers shopping on their platform every day.
  3. There are a lot of resources out there teaching you how to succeed, since it is already so popular. It’s easy to find quality learning materials.

This is why you’ll rarely hear about people running low-content businesses off-platform.

There are definitely people doing this, however!

But why would you want to, first of all?

Well, it may be the case that for some reason, your Amazon KDP account was shut down.

This can happen for a variety of reasons (though isn’t common enough to worry about)…

For example, if you accidentally use an image or text that is copyrighted.

If you lose your KDP account, you still have all those book design files sitting around.

It’s a good idea to find something to do with them.

But there are other reasons you might want to avoid Amazon for your low-content books.

They have pretty limited printing options, which might not work for all books.

You can’t pick alternate kinds of binding, for example.

Lots of journals and planners work better with a coil or ring binding so they can open and lay flat.

Many customers won’t consider buying a journal that has a glued binding for this reason.

Though KDP has now introduced hardcover books, there are still not that many options for printing.

So what are some options outside of Amazon for getting your books printed?

Blurb or Lulu

Blurb and Lulu are just two examples of smaller print-on-demand book printers.

They will allow you to create your books, usually with the same files as KDP.

They also have more printing and binding options.

But even though these platforms do have marketplaces where people can find and purchase your book, they don’t have the same kind of traffic as Amazon.

That means you have to find another way to sell them.

They do offer some integrations with other marketplaces (including Amazon)…

Which would basically allow you to avoid the KDP platform, but still sell on the ‘Zon.

However, the profit margins will be smaller than if you were publishing direct.

Can I use IngramSpark?

IngramSpark is a very popular self-publishing platform for authors.

They can get your books onto Amazon, and also sell books directly to physical bookstores.

However, IngramSpark cracked down on low-content books a while ago. They are definitely not trying to encourage people to use their platform the same way people are using KDP.

They have recently gotten rid of their initial uploading fee, which does open up the platform in a more user-friendly way.

I know there are people who still use IngramSpark for this, however.

My understanding is that these people are publishing more complicated journals.

Not just blank lined paper books.

These could be guided journals…

Or workbooks with text and instruction along with pages to write in.

So there is definitely a way to navigate this platform with the right kind of content.

Start Your Own Store

If you’re really invested in this business and are determined to branch out on you own, starting your own store may be the best option.

Most people don’t follow this path because it is a lot more work than simply using Amazon KDP.

However, you can definitely build up a successful store by thinking of this the same way as any other eCommerce venture.

You’ll want to set up your store on a platform like Etsy, Shopify, Woocommerce, or Squarespace.

All of those options have different fee structures, so you’ll need to look into them to figure out what’s best and viable for you.

Then you will need to set up your store with branding, photos, and marketing copy.

This can all be outsourced, or you can DIY it if you have enough time.

All of these skills can be learned online with some effort and curiosity.

The big decision you’ll have to make about running your own store is whether you are going to hold inventory or not.

Holding inventory means purchasing the products upfront. You’ll need to have some money to get started, and a place to store the products. You’ll also need to figure out packaging and shipping.

The other option is to continue to use a drop-shipping partner.

That means when someone purchases a book from your store…

A partner company will print it and send it out to them.

You can either find a partner company that integrates with your shopping platform, so that happens automatically…

Or you can process each sale individually.

The margins will be smaller because you are sharing the sale with your production partner. However, you will have full control of your store and products, which can be really appealing.

This also means you need to have a marketing strategy in place, because your independent store won’t have the same organic traffic as your Amazon listings.

An exception to this is Etsy, which does have a lot of organic traffic. But you don’t want to rely solely on this; it’s a good idea to develop a marketing strategy here, too.

Over time, you can build your online store into a recognizable brand.

You also have the option to branch out into other products. They could be related to your journals or low-content products, or you can evolve into a broader brand.

As you can see, there are definitely options for selling your low-content books outside of Amazon…

They just take a lot more time and effort.

However, the ceiling is really unlimited when you start to build your own brand outside of the print-on-demand world.

It’s a good idea to pivot your thinking away from being a publisher to being an eCommerce business owner.

Focusing on a smaller high-quality collection of books would also allow you to spend more time marketing, as opposed to the volume strategy that many people use on Amazon.

If you’re looking for a starting point for your low-content book projects, you might want to check out the templates that I sell on Etsy. Get started publishing fast!

About Rebecca Wilson

About Rebecca Wilson

Writer, designer, and book coach Rebecca Wilson has been publishing a broad variety of creative books for more than half a decade. She combines her teaching background and publishing expertise at SelfPubMagic to share her love of bookmaking with other creatives.