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.
Lulu – Lulu 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.
Scribd – Scribd 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?
This week the Killers are blogging about The Kill Zone’s new e-collection of original short stories, Fresh Kills (available on Kindle, Smashwords, and Scribd). I’m excited and honored to have my short story, ‘Blood Remains,’ included in the anthology. At its heart, ‘Blood Remains’ is a ghost story. I was inspired to write it after reading a newspaper headline (it would be a spoiler if I told you what the headline was). When I read the article I started to wonder, “What if?” As in, what if this happened, and then that? That thought process energized my creative “boys in the basement” (Jim discussed this creative process in his Sunday post). The end result was a paranormal story: A victim of childhood abuse returns home after many years only to discover that while memories fade, blood remains.
The story breaks ground for me in a couple of ways: It’s my first published short story; it’s also a new genre for my writing. A bit of background: I had been developing “Blood Remains” as a novel until Jim suggested that we publish an e-collection of short stories. I narrowed the focus down to what would have been the end of the novel, and reshaped it as a short story.
About making the e-jump
Plunging into the e-book world can be as intimidating for authors as it is for readers (And for publishers, too: Here’s a recent update on the Amazon vs. Macmillan spat). I received a Kindle DX from Santa for Christmas, and I felt very tentative as I downloaded my first few books. I soon discovered to my delight that some classic books are available on Kindle for free. Then I learned how to enlarge the text so I don’t need reading glasses. Now I’m an e-book convert, carrying my Kindle around with me everywhere. A Kindle application for PCs is available for free, by the way (Click here). Of course, Apple has now debuted the iPad, so the e-book war is officially on. It’s going to be like Rome versus the Barbarians. (Although I’m not sure which side is Rome, and which the Barbarians). It’ll be interesting to see what the e-book landscape is like a few years from now.
Have you made the e-book plunge? How’s the water?
I was still recovering from Sunday’s 4.7 earthquake in LA when I heard the news that must have sent a shiver of apprehension through the publishing industry: scrbd, the publishing web site that gets around 60 million hits a day, began selling books online. Authors who upload their books will get an 80/20 split of the revenue from books sold on the site. That’s 80 per cent to us, folks.
NPR’s Marketplace pointed out that the two-year-old scribd has an advantage over other e-book publishers because its e-books can be read over many different types of reading devices, including laptops and “smart” phones. By contrast, Amazon’s e-books can be read only on a pricey Kindle.
We’ve been talking quite a bit on this blog about e-books, and debating their merits. I think that scribd’s move into selling books online, in a range of formats, at a price split that dramatically favors the author, has the potential to upend the publishing totem pole. The scribd platform could finally provide the grassroots publishing momentum that puts more revenue and power into the content creator’s hands, rather than the distributor’s.
In her farewell Newsweek column this week, Anna Quindlen described how, in the journalism field, young people have “created online outlets from the ground up…they are quite properly part of the action, not because we made room for them, but because they made room for themselves.”
Most novelists aren’t all that young, but scribd’s publishing model could provide the way for them to “make room” for themselves in the publishing paradigm. We’ll now be able to publish our own ebooks on a site that reaches sixty million potential readers. Sixty million!
But perhaps not all authors would consider taking hold of the reins of their publishing. I can imagine that even established authors might hesitate before taking the plunge into publishing on scribd. Would there still be a publishing contract, for example? Would uploaded works suffer from a stima from being “self-published”?
What do you think? Do you think the scribd book store has potential to change the publishing business paradigm?
Have you browsed through the new book store? Do you think it will become a morass of self-published drek as it develops, or is it going to become a juggernaut to be reckoned with?
Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Alexandra Sokoloff, Thomas B. Sawyer, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, and more.