Here is my final free sample chapter, Chapter 5 (of 10) of my new book on self-publishing. Consumers will now have seen enough chapters to determine if the book is for them. This chapter is titled “Your Ebook Distribution.” Your most important decision for ebooks is whether you will publish your ebook to all markets (including Apple and Barnes & Noble, for example) or whether you will publish exclusively with Amazon. Amazon will try to incentivize you to publish exclusively with them.
Lee Foster Publishes Book on Self-Publishing
Lee Foster has published a new book about the independent publishing movement. After completing 16 books with traditional publishers, why did Lee switch to producing four books “independently” published or “indie”? Why does he now recommend this path for most authors? The book describes Lee’s advice on the publishing of printed books (print-on-demand), ebooks, books-as-websites, apps, and audiobooks.
The book is titled An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option. The book can be seen on Amazon and on Lee’s Amazon Author Page. A more detailed announcement about the new book can be seen on Lee’s website.
The book is both an Author’s journey in this gradual transition from traditional to indie publishing and a practical how-to guide for Authors who may wish to follow a parallel path.
Self-publishing is now an ascending practice and will continuing to thrive, in Lee Foster’s assessment of the current market. More and more Authors are pursuing the independent publishing dream. Technology developments make “indie” publishing more plausible with each passing year. Increasing market access for indie Authors continues to erode the domain that traditional publishers once ruled exclusively.
The book covers the logical subjects that developed in Lee Foster’s practices, as the table of contents suggests:
1. How Traditional Publishing Worked (and Sometimes Still Works)
2. Why Independent Publishing, Also Known As Self-Publishing, Arose
3. Why Independent Publishing Today and Tomorrow May Be Your Most Viable Option
4. Your Print-on-Demand Book
5. Your Ebook Distribution
6. Your Book Content as a Website/Blog, Funded Partly by Advertising
7. Your Social Media Outreach
8. Your Book Marketing Strategy
9. Your Need for Quality Design in Independent Publishing
10. Your Book’s Possible Specialized Adaptations, such as an Audiobook, Chinese Translation, and App
Many modern Authors are restless with their traditional publishing options. They may find some comfort in the self-publishing trajectory described in this book. Lee Foster had a very positive experience with his traditional publishing partnerships in the past. It’s just that with all the new opportunities, indie seems much more appealing to him.
An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option
ISBN for printed book 978-0-9760843-4-1, retail price $14.95
ISBN for ebook 978-0-9760843-6-5, retail price $3.99
Your Ebook Distribution
Almost every Author today will be asking, “How can I best distribute my book as an ebook?” A few Authors will still think that a printed book should be their only goal. However, the gradual emergence of ebooks as a purchasing category tends to make the print-book-only decision seem unwise. Why not present a product for all possible consumers? An increasing number of readers will buy ONLY ebooks because of the amazing convenience of ebooks. You can carry hundreds of them around on a single device. Many book readers love their Kindle devices, which are easy to read under variable light conditions. The market penetration of smart phones, especially of the new and larger iPhone 6 and comparable large Samsung phones, makes smartphones a practical reading device. For many young consumers, the smartphone will be their reading device and possibly their total device.
There is also an underlying “environmental” aspect favoring ebooks, which may become more prominent. A growing audience now eschews “dead tree” books, meaning printed books. The righteousness of this ebook lobby could increase. Ebooks require very little “consumable” input, meaning no trees, no shipping, and no warehousing. Ebooks cause a trivial environmental cost, compared to printed books.
The aspiring Author wishing to present an ebook needs to understand a fundamental concept that is not intuitively obvious: an ebook will generally need to be “flowable.” While a printed book will have a fixed layout, an ebook needs to have a layout that conforms to the device of the user. This is what “flowable” means. (There are some ebooks published with “fixed” layouts, such as some children’s books, but that publishing decision tends to limits the audience to readers with certain higher-end devices.) An Author needs to internalize that the consumer may wish to choose a size of type, with older readers choosing larger type for their display. A consumer may also have a favorite type font.
So an Author will be wise to accept that “flowable” is something to embrace rather than fight against. It is often best to keep the layout in an ebook quite simple. If the ebook has texts and photos, for example, consider dedicating a page to each photo, and have a layout that is text, then photo, then text, then photo, each on a separate page or a cluster of pages for an extended text. There will be no left- vs. right-hand page in an ebook layout, which will tend to be viewed one page at a time on most devices.
The aspiring Author wishing to sell ebooks may also be surprised to learn that, once again, the relationship with Amazon will likely be the most important relationship that the Author makes. The Amazon association must be managed wisely. Amazon sells a large percentage of all ebooks. The exact statistics are not easy to verify. Some observers place Amazon’s total percentage of sales at 60% of the ebook market. Others say it is much higher, especially in the United Kingdom, the second largest English language market. There Amazon is reported to have 95% of all ebook sales. Amazon is a welcoming place for Authors to put their book in the Amazon Kindle system. Amazon has paid me about $1.44 for a typical sale of a $2.99 ebook, or about 50% of my declared retail price. Check the exact current formula of payout, with variables, that would apply to you when you upload your ebook.
A first decision an Author must make is whether to go “exclusive” with Amazon or “non-exclusive.” I recommend non-exclusive. Frankly, I think that an Author going non-exclusive is making a healthier economic, political, and cultural decision for our society. I think an Author will be well-served to diversify and sell the ebook also in Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, and many other outlets. Amazon will “incentivize” the Author to go exclusive, offering a higher royalty rate in some foreign ebook markets and permitting only its exclusive books to be in a major newer Amazon structure, called Amazon Unlimited, for “subscription” viewers. Consumers like to buy movies through “subscription” on Netflix and buy music in a similar pattern through Spotify. So, perhaps consumers will also want to read ebooks by subscription. Why own the ebook when all you want to do is read it? The subscription model for ebooks appears to have been proven viable by two pioneering companies, Scribd and Oyster. I get some revenue from both of them for my ebooks. When these pioneers proved successful, Amazon jumped in with its own Amazon Unlimited subscription service. I regret that I am unable to participate in Amazon’s subscription ballgame because of their exclusivity requirement.
Because there are many possible vendors for ebooks (perhaps 15 primary viable outlets) it is usually advisable to consider an aggregator who is specialized in putting your book into many or all of them. For example, there is an ebook distribution system in Brazil called Copia. Maybe you don’t want to spend your valuable time learning how to submit your one, or few, ebooks directly into Copia and into every other emerging worldwide vendor. Maybe it is better to let an expert aggregator (such as Mark Coker of Smashwords, who sells almost 400,000 ebook titles) study all the submission requirements and all the details on all the worldwide systems and submit your ebook. The potential ebook vendors will continue to change. For example, in 2015, the “subscription” book service Oyster opened up a robust ebook-selling store. Aggregators of ebooks keep track of these developments.
There are two highly skilled aggregators that I recommend and have used, purchasing their services. They are BookBaby (http://www.bookbaby.com), which can submit your ebook to everyone, including Amazon non-exclusively, and Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com), which can submit your ebook to everyone except Amazon. If working with Smashwords, you would submit your ebook directly yourself to Amazon Kindle Direct, non-exclusively. I have used both services, and am now focused on Smashwords and Amazon direct, but not exclusive, for my next books.
I published my first two ebooks with BookBaby. They did a good job. BookBaby offered a “conversion” service, which turned my book manuscript into the appropriate form for an ebook. Color photos needed to be inserted into one of the ebooks, and they did that. They also offered an attractive price, then about $200 total, now perhaps $299, with them sending me back 100% of the net revenue. Deals offered to you now can and will change. How BookBaby can ever be sustainably profitable with this past deal to me is of some concern to me. An enterprise needs to be profitable to survive. Of course, they offer other services, such as cover design and an ability to do some print-on-demand books, which I did not use, but which might be helpful to other Authors. BookBaby was the only supplier I was aware of that offered me one-stop-shopping, submitting my ebook to all vendors, including Amazon Kindle Direct. BookBaby came through on all it promised to me.
For my latest ebooks, however, I have switched my strategy from BookBaby to Amazon Kindle Direct (but not exclusive) and to Smashwords (for all other vendors). I did this for a reason, and my reason suggests than an Author needs to be attentive to details that may affect some books, but not the books of all Authors. My first two ebooks were fairly stable in their content. One was a travel literary book, Travels in an American Imagination, whose content would never change. Many Authors publishing fiction, for example, will have a book that will never change. The other of my first two books was a travel guidebook, Northern California Travel, The Best Options, but with fairly evergreen content, projecting little change. However, my next ebooks would be quite changeable and would require frequent updates. These updates are not sufficient, from my perspective, to be characterized as a “new edition,” but they would require important timely data touch-ups.
BookBaby says that all updates of my books need to be characterized as “new editions.” This would necessitate a new ISBN number (this is the unique identifier number for your book, which I will discuss in my Design chapter). A New Edition also means a major “new ebook” payment to BookBaby. By contrast, Amazon Kindle Direct permits me at any time to upload and replace my ebook interior file at no cost. Smashwords also permits me to upload and replace my ebook interior file at no cost. So I have now switched to Amazon Kindle Direct and Smashwords. One enjoyable aspect of Amazon Kindle Direct is that I can check at any time on sales of my ebooks (or print-on-demand books) on Amazon. With BookBaby, I have to wait 60 days or so to get a report and payment for the Amazon sales.
Each of these systems has its quirks, which the independent Author will need to put time and attention into learning. For example the Smashwords interior file for an ebook will need to have the language “Published by Smashwords” or something similar on the copyright page, which is required by Smashwords.
Each of these three great systems (Amazon Kindle Direct, BookBaby, and Smashwords) has a community of Authors, with a lot of self-help tutorials and ongoing blog discussions, that can provide a helpful group of comrades and ongoing professional development for the Author.
Given that there is some complexity in the preparation of an ebook (as well as a print-on-demand book), each Author will need to make decisions about where he or she is located on the spectrum of needed Author Services. Three identifiable approaches can be do-it-for-me, do-it-with-me, and do-it-myself. This decision about services will be discussed in more detail in my Design chapter.
The best strategy for publishing your ebook may change. Anyone who requires rigidity and certainty for the extended future in modern independent publishing will be frustrated by the gradually changing scene. For example, into this ebook fray has stepped the giant Ingram system. I have my print-on-demand book with Ingram Lightning Source. For you, their newer Ingram Spark program will offer a print-on-demand book option. Ingram Spark appears to have a viable ebook distribution option as a possibility. This may be worth considering. As Authors, we need to pool our Author experiences, and assist each other in making the best choices, for quality and economy, in the evolving scene.