A Checklist for Indie Authors – E-Book Retailers (Post 2)

To get my e-book into the hands of readers, I had decisions to make. Should I upload my book through a Distributor/Aggregator with bundled services for multiple retailers or load them directly onto the sites of individual retailers? If you have a number of titles from your backlist, this could seem daunting, but bear with me. Some retailers are easy to upload into directly, regardless of the number of titles you have, while others restrict authors who don’t have enough offerings to meet their initial minimum requirements.

As I stated in my first post on this series, if you upload to Amazon and B&N, you’ve covered 60-70% of e-books sold today. That’s a good place to start. I could have formatted my own books to save money, but I went through a service provider to do this as I continued writing my contracted books. My formatters created my e-book files for Sex, Death and Moist Towelettes & Dark Kiss through Amazon (Mobi), B&N (ePub), and Smashwords (.doc), plus my e-book and pdf file for my Print-on-Demand (POD) non-fiction book with a cover design for the front, spine, and back of One Author’s Aha Moments.

To optimize an indie author’s outreach and distribution efforts, I’m listing other options beyond Amazon and B&N in this blog series. Stay tuned for more in the weeks to come when I post about Distributors & Library Sales, Retailers with Volume Restrictions, and I draw some conclusions from all this in my final post on the indie author topic. I plan to launch a page on my Fringe Dweller blog where I will list indie resources and maintain them.

Below are the e-book retailers that allow anyone to upload content, no matter how many offerings you have or your publisher status. (Kobo will be mentioned in the next post, but there are many interesting changes happening that will put them on this list soon.) Please be aware that each of these sites operates under different formats and you should get familiar with their guidelines.

Amazon’s Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP)Amazon’s primary e-book format is Mobipocket (Mobi) files, with or without DRM. Amazon currently dominates the market on e-book retail sales. Authors and publishers have access to an effective online retail outlet. Their royalty percentages are split by price point. Currently, that is 70% if your e-book is priced between $2.99 & $9.99, or 35% for all other price points. There is a small delivery charge based on size of file and royalties are paid monthly.

Barnes & Noble – B&N’s upload service is called PubIt!. PubIt! is similar to the Amazon KDP and gives indie authors the ability to upload a higher quality of ePub file that will not be lost through an automated conversion process where standards might be lower. The system also accepts Word, HTML, RTF, and TXT documents, which will be auto-converted to the ePub format.

Apple’s iBookstore – Apple’s iBookstore is open for authors and publishers to upload their own content. You must have a Mac computer to use the iTunes Producer program to upload the files. The signup process may seem intimidating, but an indie author can earn a higher royalty percentage by going direct and not through a distributor/aggregator. If you are unable to use Apple’s system because of limitations, the iBookstore provides a link of Approved Aggregators you can go through.

Google – Google’s e-book store allows readers to purchase PDF and ePub versions of your book, protected by the Adobe DRM. (Digital Rights Management is a term for any security measures designed to inhibit piracy.) The Google e-book store is part of the Google Books Partner Program. HERE  is a link on their system requirements.

LuluLulu uses ePub, PDF, and Microsoft Reader (LIT) formats, with and without DRM. Lulu is well-known for its Print-on-Demand (POD) services and an indie author can sell e-books through them. Lulu takes a cut of sales and there could be an additional fee to use the DRM option. Lulu is an Apple-approved aggregator for the iBookstore.

ebookMall – A $19.95 submission fee is waived until June 30, 2012. ebookMall uses ePub and PDF file types. Lightning Source could be an alternate source into this retailer.

ScribdScribd uses PDF files only and cannot sell other formats.

Smashwords – Smashwords works off a specific Word document style (HERE) that must be in accordance with the Smashwords Style Guide. That Word doc is auto-converted into 9 different formats at the author’s option. In addition to selling books at its own online store with the lowest fee of any retailer listed here (15%), the Smashwords Premium Catalog offers authors and small publishers a way to distribute their titles across a variety of retailers, including Apple’s iBookstore, the Sony eBook Store, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others.

In my next post, I will go into more detail on the various issues with a middleman distributor. Be aware that an indie author can have format issues by going through the conversion process and this can translate into downstream retailers taking issue with e-book quality from that distributor and YOU. Bottom line is, uploading directly to a retailer with relative ease might be your best option. You’ll see why in my next post when we talk about issues beyond formatting, like cumbersome and untimely price changes when going through a third party.

Some of this sounds daunting, but remember, if you’ve got your book onto Amazon and Barnes & Noble, you have your digital baby with the largest e-book retailers. Fine tuning your retailer outreach can be done as you have time. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Many of these sites will take time away from your writing, so weigh the benefits against the time it takes for you to focus on this, but once you see how things go, you can fine tune where you will focus your retail and promotional efforts.

If you’re an indie author, please share your experiences with the retailers I mentioned and what has worked for you. If you are exploring the idea of self-publishing, do posts like this help you or intimidate you?


by Michelle Gagnon

Like many other writers, I’ve set up a Google alert based on my name. Generally this lets me know when a review of one of my books has posted, or when they’re being sold on ebay (the latter more than the former, sadly). However, due to an error on my part when I was establishing the account, it turns out that I receive news pertaining not just to me, but to pretty much every Gagnon in the English- and French-speaking world.

I was going to adjust it, but some of the tidbits trickling in were so interesting I decided to stick with the original search parameters. After all, I’m probably related to all of these people somewhere down the line. One of my aunts did a full family tree awhile back, and apparently nearly every Gagnon in North America is descended from one of three brothers who immigrated from Normandy to Canada back in the 1600’s. I even have a list of what they brought over on the boat with them- the most interesting item being a jar of worms, since they weren’t certain there would be any in the New World and, as farmers, this was a matter of great concern to them.

What I’ve learned: Gagnons tend to do well in school. Nearly every day I get a post about someone making the honor roll. Sadly, they also have an unfortunate predilection for a life in crime, although apparently they’re not very good at it, since according to local crime blotters the overwhelming majority of them get caught. I wonder what kind of trajectory that indicates. How does Matt Gagnon go from the Dean’s list to knocking over pharmacies? It’s a conundrum.

One name tends to pop up more than the others, however, especially this week. Marie-Michele Gagnon is an alpine skiier from Quebec (where those farmers initially set up homesteads-apparently in some parts of Quebec, “Gagnon” is as common a name as “Smith” in the US.) This year, the twenty year-old made the Canadian Olympic team, and will be representing them (and us) in Vancouver.

I confess to experiencing a swell of pride when that news came over the wire. I’ve been inadvertently tracking Marie-Michele’s career for some time now. She started popping up regularly as a finalist (and occasional winner) of downhill events. Since our names are so similar, it piqued my interest even though I’ve never been much of a skiing fan in the past (this is largely thanks to an unfortunate experience the first time I hit the slopes, when my best friend at the time took me down a black diamond as a joke. It turned out that it wasn’t very funny, and I haven’t been on skis since).

I was beyond thrilled to learn that Marie-Michele won the Nor-Am overall title for 2008-09 season–although I ‘m not entirely certain what that means, it certainly sounds like she’s doing well. And it’s reassuring to know that although I clearly didn’t get the skiing gene, at least one of my distant relatives did. Maybe I’m descended from the wrong brother.

Marie-Michele will be participating in the Ladies’ Slalom and the Ladies’ Giant Slalom next week. I’m feeling quite nervous for her. Come prime time, I’ll be sitting in front of the television, clutching my honorary jar of worms, fervently hoping that she doesn’t experience one of those terrible wipeouts that seem to occur regularly in these events. I hope you’ll join me in wishing Marie-Michele the best–after all, she’s a tribute to Gagnons everywhere. And if this doesn’t work out for her, I sincerely hope she resists the temptation to turn to the dark side.

I’m tagging her in this post, because who knows- maybe she’s been inadvertently tracking me as well.