When starting out with your plan to write an eBook you will not know where to start which is why you may think that using one of the many online self-publishing services 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 larger slice of your sales and also a likely up-front fee.
So what are Self-Publishing Services?
1. eBook Distribution Services
There are service providers that come under the category of eBook distribution services where they will distribute your eBook to the major online retailers. There are certain eBook distribution companies who also ‘on-sell’ self-publishing services and packages so don’t sign-up for anything you don’t need. You will need to look at each provider to see which one best suits your needs.
Other well-known and reputable service providers for books include: CreateSpace, Lulu and FastPencil.
2. Retailer Service Providers (Direct to store)
These providers include the major online retailers from Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press. Along with publishing your eBook in their online stores they all provide additional services such as formatting, marketing and even editing. Some services are built-in for free while others may charge an additional fee.
3. Business dedicated to Providing Services to Self-published Authors
These providers will offer numerous services for a fee from; editing, publishing and distribution, formatting, marketing, print on demand, to producing eBook covers. The majority of online providers provide a service for a reasonable fee while there are some that are charging down right ridiculous fees for a service that does not justify the price. It is these companies you need to watch-out for.
Before you commit to a service provider here are nine 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 or is there ‘exclusivity’ involved?
As an example, Amazon’s Kindle Select states the following:
‘When you enroll a book in KDP Select, you’re committing to making the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP while it’s enrolled in the program. All content enrolled in KDP Select must remain for sale through the Kindle Store only. If the digital version of your book appears to be available for pre-order, for sale, or for free elsewhere (such as on your website or blog, or a third party’s website), then it is not eligible for KDP Select.’
5. Will you or the self-publishing service provider own the eBook files?
Make sure you still retain complete control and ownership of 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 and all sales / future royalties.
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 eBook retailers except Amazon.
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.
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 multi-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 use a bit of a hybrid strategy in that I used Smashwords to get my eBooks into the major online retailers and Amazon Kindle Direct as this was the only retailer that Smashwords could not get my eBook into.