9 Questions Every Indie Author Must Ask
When starting out with your plan to write an eBook you will not know where to start which is why you may think that a self-publishing service is the easy way to go. I am always finding new self-publishing services pop-up as well as just as many disappear as writers become more educated on the options available to them.
My goal is to provide you with all the resources, advice and tools you need to successful complete every phase of self-publishing without the need for a self-publishing service. In saying that, there are some reputable providers out there that can make the job of eBook publishing easier for you if you wish to focus just on your writing. The drawback with these service providers is that they will want a slice of your sales and also a likely up-front fee.
So what are Self-Publishing Services?
There are many providers on the market who claim to be self-publishing service providers but are in fact over-priced businesses that provide you with little return on investment. There was one very well-publicised case of a large service provider that sold expensive marketing packages to authors.
They were then just out-sourcing this service overseas which ultimately lead to many complaints from customers who felt that they did not get what they paid for. So the message is to select a reputable provider and do your due diligence before committing.
Essentially there are two main categories of service providers:
eBook Distribution Services
There are those service providers that come under the category of eBook distribution services which will also include an eBook formatting, eBook conversion service and act as a distributor where they will send your eBook to the major online retailers to sell your eBooks. I have used Smashwords and have also heard positive feedback about Bookbaby and Draft2Digital. Examples:
Other well-known service providers include: CreateSpace, Lulu and FastPencil.
2. Retailer Service Providers
These providers include the major online retails from Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press. I have used Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing but again have heard mostly positive feedback from those listed below.
Before you commit to a service provider here are ten questions you must ask.
1. Can you make changes to your eBook once it goes on sale?
Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble allow you to upload new and revised files as often as you like. Just be aware of other service providers who may want to charge a fee for any updates or changes you wish to make.
2. Who controls the price of Your eBook?
You should always retain the right to price your eBook. Some services will require you to sell your eBook above a certain price point (e.g., 99 cents or higher) which is reasonable but beyond that you may start to lose too much control. Another important point to make is that some retailers will want to lower the price of your eBook if they find you selling it elsewhere for a lower price.
3. Is the service exclusive or non-exclusive?
Does the service provider (exclusive) ask you to only sell your eBooks in their store while preventing you from selling in other stores? You ideally want to remain control of who sells your eBook and distribute it to as many online retailers as possible.
4. What is the term of the contract?
As an example, Amazon’s Kindle Select requests for a 3-month exclusive if you join the Kindle Select program. If you decide to go with an agent to publish your eBook then they will seek a longer term. This is understandable as they want to know that if they do all the work for you that they get a return on their investment and avoid you suddenly changing your mind once you start to see sales increase. When it comes to eBooks I would recommend you do not commit for longer than 2 years.
5. Will you or the service provider own the eBook files?
Make sure you still retain complete control and ownership fo the eBook files regardless of what services you are wanting. Be prepared to walk away from a service provider who wants to own your files.
6. Are there any additional up-front fees?
ALL fees should be clear so that you do not get any nasty surprises when it comes time to paying. And just because their up-front fees are low does not mean that you are getting a good deal as some providers will often take too much of the royalty.
Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press and Apple’s iBookstore are all free to use but they make their money by taking a cut of your sales.
Smashwords is free to use and distributes to all major e-book retailers except Amazon. Smashwords pays you 85% of your list price on sales directly through the Smashwords site, minus PayPal transaction fees and 60% of your list price on sales through retailers.
7. What file formats do they accept?
Before signing any agreement, you must know upfront what file formats they accept and do not accept as this may determine what extra fees you may be charged for formatting or conversion services. Microsoft Word (or any text file) is commonly accepted while EPUB (does not use DRM) is often referred to as the industry standard eBook file format.
8. Do they use Digital Rights Management to protect your eBooks
DRM (digital rights management) was created and designed to prevent piracy, or illegal copying and distribution of your eBook. The never-ending debate with DRM involves just how much of a negative impact does it have on the reader. Many consumers do not like DRM which can impact on your sales. By the way, if you use the Kindle Direct Publishing program they will automatically convert it to their proprietary DRM-locked format.
9. Where is your eBook distributed?
You have the choice of uploading your eBook directly to Amazon KPD, or Apple’s iBookstore but what if you use an online eBook distribution service? When you use a multiple-channel eBook distribution service such as Draft2Digital, Smashwords or BookBaby then they will tell you exactly which retailers your eBook will end up in. I personally used a bit of a hybrid strategy in that I used Smashwords to get my eBooks into the major online retails and Amazon Kindle Direct as this was the only retailer that Smashwords could not get my eBook into.