Minefields in digital publishing (Part 1)

I am not a fan of 3rd party aggregators.  These are sites that make it all too easy to upload your book to them.  The majority of the ones I’ve come across have you accept T&Cs that essentially make them your e-book distributor. The idea of an ebook distributor is pretty ridiculous when you consider they really aren’t distributing anything, once it’s setup, it is delivered to the buyer without anyone’s involvement (there’s nothing to ship).  Also, most of the ones I’ve seen have no way of providing DRM (Digital Rights Management) on your title, which means there’s nothing to prevent the buyer of your ebook to post it online or send it to all their friends.

I’ve been hearing alarming stories from fellow authors… And it’s a reminder why I need to get out more and expose the truth about digital publishing.  There are companies offering digital conversions for a low fee, but then retaining as much as 80% of all the proceeds from each sale of the digital versions.  Whoa! That’s exploitation of technologically naive authors.  The price of ebooks will inevitably fall, and likely fast once the market gets saturated.  There’s simply no room for a middleman.  They might say they are going to do a bunch of marketing for your tile, but really, unless they are setting up a facebook page for you, doing article marketing, and have your title on an SEO optimized site, I’d advise you to ask to see examples. Besides, the work that will likely take them a few hours to complete (the digital book layout), and is nowhere near the amount of time and energy you put in as an author. So why in a million years would you be so willing to give up 50% of every sale?

Spend the 20 minutes it’ll take to upload your own title, with your own bank account, directly to the various marketplaces – you need to have direct access to your own sales data so you can see if your marketing efforts are working.

What else do you need to watch out for?

Vanity publishers who retain a % of every book, despite the fact the author pays to publish. Xilbris, iUniverse, and Morgan James all keep 50%, Tate keeps 60%, on every ebook sale. How often do they pay the author?  It varies, but in some cases, only 2x/year.  This bothers me because these are pay-to-publish companies… you’ve already paid all the production costs associated with your book, so why are they entitled to a hefty % of every digital book sale?  Set your own titles up and you’ll get 100% of your digital profit monthly.

In summary, here’s my advice:

  • Don’t ever accept the assignment of an ISBN (or eISBN) unless you’ve purchased it yourself through certified reseller of ISBN #’s (ie. Bowker).  The person/company Bowker assigns the ISBN to is the publisher on record for the title.
  • Only use the 3rd party aggregators to distribute excerpts of your book, or create specifically branded content so it’s not competing with your own.
  • If you do sign an agreement with a vanity/hybrid publisher (where you pay to publish), be sure you retain full rights to your digital editions.

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